Linux: An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.

Would Yahoo really censor Open Source answers?

Date/Time Permalink: 06/22/07 05:33:34 am
Category: General

Just caught this little nugget scrolling across the feeds. Apparently, there have been cases where answers on Yahoo's Answers service, that suggest Open Source solutions, have been deleted. While I'd not doubt it, I'd be hesitant to give it the thundering accusation that it got on Digg.

I just tried Googling the string 'yahoo answers linux' (without quotes) and got a number of first-page hits which indicate that Linux-related answers are very much alive and well in Yahoo Answers. In particular this thread even recommends Linux over Vista when somebody asks.

As I'm sure most of us are aware, Yahoo is built upon BSD, so it isn't very logical that Yahoo would be hostile to open source.

Mind you, it could be that somebody in Yahoo is biased against open source, or they have some kind of contract, or mis-believe the fabricated rumor about Microsoft and Yahoo merging. But I'm going to invoke Robert J. Hanlon on this one: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

See, I was a Yahooer back before the turn of the century, and in a word, I'd describe Yahoo administration as "slumlord". Yahoo groups, email, home pages, and search results have long periods of building up huge amounts of spam, 419 scams, abuse, hate-speech, and just plain cruft, punctuated by random mass-deletions without warning. I've seen previously flourishing groups get banned for some mis-interpreted word somebody posted, home pages shut down for out-of-context images, etc. I gave up on Yahoo myself almost a decade ago. People I know still use it - due to the old "I can't move because all my friends are on Yahoo!" trap - and I haven't heard about much improvement from them. As far as I can tell the whole thing has been run by bots with buggy filters for years without any human involvement.

In this case, it seems like some policy about not recommending product A over product B, maybe written with some purpose like to kill off the marketing of blue pills which enhance performance, got applied too vigorously. Seriously, who knows? Has anybody ever gotten a live response from a human being at Yahoo about anything?

It still doesn't say good things about Yahoo, however. There are, indeed, solutions to problems that open source, and ONLY open source, can provide, even for a Windows user. When answering questions for Windows users at work, I find myself recommending DOSBox to run an old DOS app, Firefox for increased security, game emulators like MAME and SNES for old games, DJGPP for compiling C programs, live CDs for crashed Windows data, and so on. Typically, it's those niche needs that proprietary software turns its back on, because there's no money in it.

Even I know better than to try to twist some people's arms to get them to leave Windows, but open source programs with Windows ports are merely another solution on the Windows platform - nothing more or less.

But try explaining that to Yahoo "administration" - I have a feeling that what you'd end up arguing with is a script running on a server somewhere that hasn't been touched since the Y2K crash didn't happen.

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