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HAVE YOU MET 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!