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So I tried a little experiment… November 29, 2006

Posted by L Wolfe in Library Stuff.

I put a question to four, no, five different “information providers”, just to see how they measure up.

  1. the ever powerful Google, in Google Answers form
  2. Yahoo Answers
  3. the new website ChaCha
  4. answerbag
  5. St. Louis Public Library’s web reference service

I certainly could have used a lot more services, but the ridiculousness of some of the answers had me losing patience with the process. Plus I seriously doubted my choice of questions. There isn’t a “right” answer. Here it is:

Why are there so many single shoes on the side of the road/highway?

I know, it’s sounds like a bogus question, but to be honest, I really do wonder about it. Just this morning I saw a tennis shoe, a boot, and a loafer. Seriously. I wasn’t close enough or going slow enough to see if they were lefties or righties, not that it matters, but why only one? And what are these people doing that a shoe just flings off them as they are driving down the road? Are they hiking roadside and don’t notice the sudden loss of traction? Are there more lost soles in the land of pickup truck worship? Are they cheap knockoffs, or has someone actually lost a Manolo strappy sandal while cruising down the block? I mean really, what the …? I just don’t get it. But I digress, and I don’t have too much time on my hands, no matter how this sounds. Here are the results of my experiment:

Google Answers:
To the tune of $2.00 + .50 listing fee, I got the same answer provided by ChaCha and SLPL after about three weeks. I got three other “comments”, one of which speaks of “right” and “wrong” shoes and dubious statistics. The interface of this system is confusing, as the user answering the question with a link actually is asking if I will accept it, but there is no “accept this answer” button. Instead, it appears I have to email the user and then he has to submit it officially as an answer. Yet when I click on his/her username, all I get is his/her ratings.

Yahoo Answers:
After an easy sign in process (since I have a Yahoo ID) I asked my question. I got four amusing, yet not helpful answers. Unfortunately, I cannot link to them, as I logged in and discovered: “Question has been removed”. No explanation as to why the question was removed. Maybe a time limit. It’ can’t be the question itself. With other questions such as: “What do you think about britney hanging out so much lately with paris?”and “Is nicole richie getting skinnyer?”, I don’t think they are too choosy. No matter, I saved the answers a while back in a text file. The experts speak:

  • sex in the passenger seat, one foot out the window, only thing I could think of
  • The other shoe is still atached to the guy stuck on the grill, WWWWHHAAAAKKKK!
  • Maybe their foot got stuck between the tracks and the only solution would be to take off the shoe
  • one legged people throwing away the unusable spare

Not bad, I would rate it a 50% success rate, since the answer I got was after the second try. Apparently my question scared off the first “guide.” Transcripts:

Status: Looking for a guide …
Status: Connected to guide: EphaisiaS
EphaisiaS: Hi there. I will be helping with your search.
You: ok should I ask my question?
You: or do you already have it?
Status: Session ended.

Status: Looking for a guide …
Status: Connected to guide: ChristinaH
ChristinaH: Hi there. I will be helping with your search.
You: do you already have my question?
ChristinaH: Hello, How can I help you today?
ChristinaH: yes
You: ok, great
You: wasn’t sure how it worked…
You: thanks, good link!
ChristinaH: did you want more i am really not finding a whole lot

Guide Results
Sponsored Links
Capital One Credit Cards
Earn miles or cash back. Apply now for “No Hassle Rewards” cards.The Straight Dope: Why do you always see just one shoe by the side of the road?

I got zero points for my question, but “stableboy” got 6 for his answer! Which I consider as stupid as my question. Shouldn’t I get points too? Read his “answer” and several other musings.

And the winner is…
The best service was provided by, of course, St. Louis Public Library. Ok, I am a little partial, but they did deliver a quick, painless, professional response to my odd little question on the first try. No ads, no charge. Here is the email:


Unfortunately, the reference books that we’ve consulted do not provide an answer to this question. However, the website “The Straight Dope” (based on an article that appears in an alternative newspaper, the Chicago Reader) does provide some insight to this question. Here is a link to the site.

We hope this information is helpful, and thanks for your interest in the resources at the St. Louis Public Library.
St. Louis Public Library

So then I read this article on It’s all good:
Get smart: Top 10 research tools
Yep, you guessed it, Yahoo Answers is on the list. Guess they didn’t read my question.



1. lcwk86 - November 29, 2006

I log into bloglines, right after posting this, and see on the Official Google Blog: Adieu to Google Answers
Guess they didn’t think it was useful either…

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