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Tag Archives: aardvark


What is Aardvark?

Aarkvard is a new social network that enables user to mobilize the skills of their social network to answer any of their questions from the most random (where to go to grab a good coffee in NYC?) to the most specific (What is Y. Benkler’s view on Open Source?).

The concept is based on the idea that asking someone will allow you to make the most of the Internet by obtaining the most trust worthy answer to your question.

Aardvark’s Ambition: being an alternative to Wikipedia, and the search engines based on algorithms.

Why did I have decided to look at it?

While many of us are already using a lot of social networks (Facebook etc…) I was curious to discover what could be the real input of this new tool? What would convince people to actually spend time using it…

As much as I was skeptical about this new tool, the very recent purchase of Aardvark by Google (for around $50 millions) convinced me that it should be worth it to inquire further…

And here we go! I signed in (almost 3 weeks ago) on their website vark.com.

Results of my first approach: MOSTLY DISAPPOINTING!

  • To be asked, your questions have to fit in certain requirements. Your question has to
    • be short
    • contain meaningful key words
  • I obtained relevant answers but the most interesting one contained a link to Wikipedia!
  • After a few days a lost interest in Aardvark and almost forgot that it was an option to find my way through the net.
  • Even if the answers I got were accurate and very useful, I had the feeling that Aardvark seemed to be far to be replacing Wikipedia or Google!

However I had to give it another try (for the sake of my travelogue at least)!

Looking for information I learnt that at first, Aardvark was not a website but something design to be added on IM. What if I had been turned of by their new website?

On my Gmail account I decided to install Aardvark on my Gchat contacts to make the full experience.

Results of my second approach: I discovered a new aspect of this social network that made me reconsider it. Here are some inputs of having aardvark embedded on your e-mail account:

  • No need to go on another website to ask a question.
  • Aardvark appears as a random contact, it is not pushy.
  • You can ask any question that goes through your head faster.
  • You do not have to worry about the format of your questions which you have to do to obtain a satisfying answer from any search engine.

Meanwhile, by connecting to Aardvark I discovered that my friend Harlo was actually an active user of this network. She uses it on a regular basis for about a month now and seems to be pretty happy about it. Talking to her made me realized that the Aardvark might actually have a real input: achieving to mobilize the appropriate person to answer to your specific question.

Indeed the real input of Aardvark relies on the information that their users feed about them. Each user feeds at least its gender, date of birth and location. And of course the more information you give about you and your “topics” of interest the more interesting this new tool turns out to be.

Using those data, Aardvark can determine who are the experts that are the most likely to provide a good answer.

Those 2 features regarding users’ profiles settings give a real advantage to Aardvark to compete with Google or Wikipedia… At least it is the reason why now I am almost converted to my new buddy!

Aardvark case, back in the game!

Being a neophyte in the Web 2.0 world, when I became aware of this new network was to freak out : How can they pretend and make me believe that complete strangers to me will answer to all of my questions? I obviously got scared and attacked the computers in general (lol)

Both Dan and Mushon’s comments put me back on the right track. I was focusing on the wrong question regarding Aardvark. After all, Aardvark is just a new search engine, an alternative to Google, mobilizing people’s knowledge.

Indeed while most of search engines’ results rely on the Internet, Aardvark rely on people. It taps on your preexisting network of friends (by connecting with Facebook, your email account etc…)

The correct question would have been:

Aardvark, a trustworthy alternative to Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia ? Arkvaard versus Google?

I have to admit that my travelogue got me confused: as much as I was enthusiastic when I discovered it (enough to start my travelogue on it!), I was completely turned off by my user experience in the “long run”. Even if some specific answers were interesting there was nothing catchy. And reading strangers’ answers did not really raise my interest! Especially when those strangers send you a link to Wikipedia!

What do they think Aardvark’s input is then?

Looking for more information, I have learned that at the very beginning Aardvark was not a website it was just something you could put over IM and that enabled you to let your network of friends know that you were looking for an answer. But now that it is super easy to create an account on their web interface, anyone can answer your question.

So how are the answers you get supposed to be more reliable?

I am still wondering and will come up with an answer soon!

Can Technology replace Human Intelligence?

Initial Assumption : many new media tools such as Pandora or Feast (Alexandra’s travelogue) are based on algorithms that determine what corresponds you the most. Meaning that people rely on Artificial Intelligence to think for themselves and choose for them.

Even if Aardvark (the new social networks which helps you answering any question) is not based on any algorithm it requires you to have confidence in Technology to find for you the best answer. Are computers going to be as trustworthy as human beings Are machines going to replace human intelligence?

This is by focusing on Aardvark that I came to this question.

I signed in and started to ask questions right away but I soon found out that there were norms and that you had to work on your question for it to be, not only, answered but also asked!

I am still trying to find out how to make the most of it. Obviously, there is rules both to ask and to answer questions :

  1. small questions but with meaningful keywords
  2. the more specific your question the more accurate the person will be
  3. most of all : interact! People that are on Aarkvard are willing to share. Speak and start a conversation with people that gave you the more interesting answers proved to be worth of interest.
  4. answering questions shows your interest in sharing. However I must admit that I did not answer to question yet…

So far I have asked to random but very different questions :

  1. Where can I get a good and cheap hair cut in the Manhattan?
  2. What is Kandinsky’s theory of the triangle?

Unexpectedly, the most interesting to ask was the second! Indeed people who replied were obviously into Kandinky and were happy to share on this subject (while cheap hair salons in NYC are obviously not very exciting!). One of them even recommended specific books and send me a direct link so that I could find them on Amazon!

As much as I can be suspicious regarding that kind of tool, I have to admit that so far it’s surprisingly interesting. The more specific and unusual your question is the more interesting and useful it gets.

Are we going through a new level in the Internet’s evolution? Considering the outragous amount of geographic and social data that is now gathered and can be quickly organized in a useful way on the web we might be entering a new Internet “era”.

Actually, some specialists consider that it’s happening NOW and they call it the Synaptic Web.

According to Khris Loux, president of Echo “The Synaptic Web is a set of observations about how the Web is forming. As the speed, flexibility and complexity of connections on the Web increase exponentially, the Internet is increasingly beginning to resemble a biological analog; the human brain.”

This on-going debate seems to be pretty huge and I would be really interested in having your insight on that!

Your personal 24/7 hotline at fingertips!?

Last week it took me way too much time to turn me off on Buzz -at least for a service that I did not ask for! As many of you, I have been a little mad at Google these days and started partcicularly focus my attention on them… and lead me there.

For my new travelogue I would like to introduce you to the brand new social media tool AARDVARK!

Some of you may already be  familiar with this network tool as it has been opened to the public since october. Some of you may even be part of it actually? However for those of you who -just like me!- had never heard of it, here is the basic concept :

  1. a free service
  2. enabling users to mobilize their social network for answers to their questions
  3. questions of any kind
  4. usually the network provides a response within a few minutes

And guess what? Arrdvark has just been bought by…

Scary hum!?

A good reason enough to think it’s worth it to inquire a bit further on this new tool…

How does this service works? What is the real input offered to users an is it really valuable? What is the relavance of the answers obtained? What is at stake with this new social media tool?

To answer these questions I have decided to :

  • Sign-up and create a profile on Aardvark
  • to ask any kind of questions
  • to evaluate the answers
  • to observe users
  • to keep an eye open on the conversation going on about this new tool to discover people’s reaction to this service