End of Greenanswers.com Internship! All-time most ridiculous questions.

While doing this internship with Greenanswers.com, I’ve come across many, many questions that I find to be quite ridiculous. Sometimes, it made me wonder what kinds of people are posting questions on this website, and if they ever received any basic understanding of science from their schooling. I don’t mean to be offensive by saying this, but it just boggles my mind that there is a huge number of these types of questions being posted on the website.

Disclaimer: I don’t have anything against the actual website, but the types of questions that populate it. I think that the greenanswers.com people are trying to do a great thing and I’m glad that a site like this exists. I had a great experience working with them and often enjoyed answering questions. I look forward to the future development of the site and will go back to check it out often.

Of the ridiculous questions, here are some of my all-time favorites (mostly from the past two weeks):

• If nature is so smart, why can’t it take care of global warming?
• Why does it get so dark at night?
• What is the best meal for the environment? Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
• Has there ever been proof of dragons? (This was posted under the Mammals section.)
• Are pancakes greener than waffles?
• Self powering energy, is it possible?
• What is the difference between a sun and a moon?
• What is the crop that is essential to human life?
• How long does the West Coast last?
• How are we going to get poor nations to make green changes to their way of life?
• Why don’t more people view soil as a non-renewable resources? Is it because they are dirty?
• From the environmental perspective, is there any need for the United States Postal Service?
• Does a tree scream?
• Is grass the ultimate survivor?


The main issues that I have with these questions are that
1. They are focusing too much on specific details, interactions, or products, and not the larger picture of how things are getting done or being made. They often ask you to pick one choice or another, when in reality the issue is not that clear-cut, black and white.
2. Wording (and poor grammar) – This is easily overcome if I can get the general sense for what the asker meant when they wrote the question. Sometimes I have typos too, I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
3. Questions that are baiting a certain answer. One example (though maybe not the best example), “Are homeopathic, or natural, remedies better for the environment than “industrial” or “modern” medicine?”
(I’m not sure if people are being told to post questions, or if greenanswers.com people are also posting answers, but sometimes this possibility crosses my mind. Also, “guests” post many of the longer questions.)
4. Sometimes people just don’t know things that I might think should be part of basic knowledge. Maybe I am expecting too much from the general population, but isn’t this what the education system is for?
5. Some questions are plain silly. You would never need to know how many chicken eggs are the equivalent of an ostrich egg
6. And finally, some questions just don’t make any sense at all.

Some questions might fall under more than one of these categories, but all in all these are the types of questions that bothered me when I go through the website looking for questions to answer.

For a few weeks, I tried very hard to answer questions well and put a lot of effort into it. I had a goal to reach the #1 spot for reputation among the members. These last two weeks, I have totally given up that goal, after having reached #1 on two occasions, because I lost motivation to overachieve.

That said, I think the 8 weeks I spent answering questions was a generally good experience. I’m not sure how much time I would be willing to devote to answering questions from now on, but I think it has a lot of potential as a resource and can be a useful tool.

Several weeks ago I posted some of my favorite questions that I answered. Here are some more questions that I find interesting:

  • Does fermentation play a role in the natural world?
  • Is Al Gore a hypocrite for owning a mansion while claiming climate change is an urgent problem?
    (My note: Same issue in general for all environmental celebrities, could be another post topic!)
  • Define the “green” movement in 2 or less sentences.
  • How can I make sure my bike will go to someone that will use it?

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4 Responses

  1. chewbear says

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Later on, I found out that it is similar to MyLot (though I hadn’t heard of that til you mentioned it), but people do get paid to ask and answer questions, though not all of the questions and answers are done that way. I was paid to answer questions for a few weeks. Some of the questions are pretty interesting, but I don’t see why this type of site would exist, or could exist, without some incentive for people to keep coming back to it i.e. having monetary incentives.

    Knowing that, I now understand why there were questions like these posted on the site. If people need to meet a quota per day, then they will ask any question that they possibly can without thinking about quality or anything else.

    This model for building a website seems flawed to me because it doesn’t serve a real community and can’t float without grants to keep it going.

    Anyway, thanks for reading and I will check out your blog too!

  2. Layla says

    lol, some of these are actually great questions! (& I had to giggle over some too!!:))

    As for the poor nations – I do see both your point of view that ‘developed nations’ make more waste & pollution, and what Nat above says – even people in poor countries or those ‘on the rise’ don’t like to get poisoned – and what can they do if eg a solar panel factory is poisoning their land and workers?
    (I actually saw it asked online!!)

    As for pancakes and waffles, someone could actually measure amount of energy needed, or specifics can be pointed out to people what factors to consider (eg is the flour organic, how far has it been transported?) Does one need more or less flour and other resources to bake one or the other?

    As for the eggs, someone planning a recipe could have a legitimate question (I think it’s online already though, at least I’ve heard it answered elsewhere – or people selling ostrich eggs would know)

    I have been wondering if greenanswers was a ‘legit’ site or similar to eg MyLot where people ask and answer questions and get a tiny amount of money for doing so (some questions there are ‘highly intelligent’ too, while some are actually oddly interesting!) so I googled it and found your blog!

    Interesting to read your impression of it!

  3. chewbear says

    What I meant when I added that question was that it is audacious for us to ask poor people to change their way of life when they can barely feed themselves. For example, they know if their land is not as fertile as it used to be, but they must continue to farm it so that their family can eat. I agree that pollution and industry usually have terrible standards, but these aren’t necessarily part of their “way of life” that I was thinking of, and might be more determined by the government and governance (or lack of).

    As for your question, I’m not sure you can target the minimum wage worker in this situation. They will always make the most economical choice because they are forced to by their situation. This is more of an issue of regulation and making it difficult for sweatshop products to compete with fair trade goods on the market.

  4. Nat says

    “How are we going to get poor nations to make green changes to their way of life?”

    This actually doesn’t seem so ridiculous. I would think that poor nations have problems with pollution and industry having low green standards, perhaps because of lack of funds and/or green initiatives that would exist in countries with more money.

    As a related but different question, how do you get someone who only makes minimum wage to buy fair trade goods when the goods made in sweatshop conditions are so much more affordable for them?