The Answers services vary a lot in how useful they are. I don’t like Yahoo Answers so much because there’s a lot of stuff you have to wade through if you’re doing any kind of serious research. I’m not a big fan of Google Answers either. The forced delineation between questioners and answerers feels strange. (I know you don’t have to be an answerer to make a comment on a question.) On the other hand, the money barrier means that the signal to noise ratio is much better.
I find of all the Ask-the sites out there I tend to prefer the Librarian/Reference type sites (it’s scary how many states now have Ask-A-Librarian services) and Ask Metafilter. AskMeFi because it tends to have interesting questions and thoughtful answers. (And occasionally, granted, whacked-out questions and lunatic answers.) Many of these sites also have archives of asked questions, making them fun to mine even when current questions aren’t interesting.
Question: If I made a search engine just for the domains of “Ask-An-X” type sites, would anybody use it?
Back to the Yahoo Answers API. The API allows developers to access Yahoo Answers content in several ways, including searching for questions and answers by keyword, search by a specific Yahoo Answers user, and search according to category. You will need an application ID to make use of the API, and you will be limited to 5,000 queries per IP per day per API. There’s a demo query box on the developer page that you can play with a little bit.