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Watch the Aardvark

By - March 11, 2009

Avark

Just off the phone with the folks behind Aardvark, a (relatively) new service that will most likely be the talk of SXSW this week. I’ll have a longer riff on the company shortly, but suffice to say, I find it fascinating. The service rides between your social network(s), search, and the web, cleverly leveraging each to provide a platform for asking and answering the kinds of questions for which traditional search usually fails: the kinds of questions you ask a friend (or a friend of a friend, the real sweet spot here).

Many things make this company worth watching, its backers, its model, and its approach. Particularly noteworthy to Searchblog readers: a large group of the founders are from Google.

More soon.

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  • Jenny

    I have been using this for quite some time. It’s been extremely useful, and for a very wide range of questions. I’ve received great answers on everything from on the spot recommendations for the best sandwich in the mission, to suggestions for valentine’s day gift for my boyfriend, to what parts of Kerala in India to visit, to suggestions for new albums to be listening to, to the best bed and breakfasts around San Francisco. These are things that would require quite a bit of time to triangulate information on the web and determine the appropriate answer for me.

    And the service will only improve as it scales.

    Viva la vark!

  • http://blurb.rahmin.com Rahmin

    Hey John,

    Glad to hear your enthusiasm.

    I’ve also been using this service for awhile and am a *huge* believer. As Jenny suggested, Aardvark is a great way to find answers to questions that are hard to solve with standard search. For example, here’s literally the second question I asked Aardvark over IM:

    “how can i tag my itunes library? I want to add notes to albums/songs like mood, temp, etc and then search by these tags. plugins?”

    Answer:

    hi rahmin, i have 2 idea for you. first, check out this little itunes plugin: http://www.crayonroom.com/moody.php

    then read this LifeHacker post from a while back, it suggests making us of a field in the ID3 tag of the MP3 and then searching in itunes over that field. i think it will accomplish what you are looking for. http://lifehacker.com/software/itunes/tag-your-songs-in-itunes-153970.php

    It blew me away. I would have never discovered Moody on my own and the app solved 110% of what I had in mind.

    And this is just one example. Aardvark has helped me with questions about everything from affiliate ad networks to how to go about purchasing my first road bike. It’s already an indispensable part of my search workflow and, as Jenny suggested, this is just the beginning.

    twitter.com/rahmin

  • http://mutcluck.blogspot.com mutcluck

    I joined the beta a couple weeks ago. Surprised at the useful responses and conversations I got in. Can’t wait til it gets bigger so there’s more people in my city. The fact that you can followup and clarify what you’re asking via chat is what makes it work so well. I like real people on the other end. Actually had a back and forth conversation about cpm and cpc rates for internet video with a relative expert. Definitely an odd interest of mine. I spent hours googling and got a less than a quarter of the amount of info I got in two minutes chatting with the right person. Hoping it explodes in the coming months. Some really great tech at its core in the way it finds and connects you to the right people and the product is pretty intuitive even at this early beta stage. I’m on the aardvark band wagon for sure.

  • Carl

    Gotta echo all the kudos goin’ out here to the Aardvark team—-they’ve put together a great little tool that’s come in handy on many occasions already. I’m thankful to have been part of the beta testing, but can’t wait to see it get out to the general public and really spread…

  • Amanda Sanguinet

    I’ve been using Aardvark since last June and it’s definitely an interesting and fun app. Have you ever been annoyed when you send a question out to your “public” and hear radio silence? Well, not with Aardvark. I’ve received answers to 100% of my questions in real time. For better or worse we live in an instant gratification culture and Aarvark will blend right into that social fabric. That’s all good, but to me the most genius part of Aardark is its name and that of its parent, Mechanical Zoo. Think about it. If your chat list is in alphabetical order, guess where Aardark ranks? That’s right, above my name, Amanda. Darn it! Branding is so often overlooked in early stage companies and it’s great to see one hit the ball out of the park. I have lots of ideas for grooming Aardvark, but will let you weigh in first John! Can’t wait to read about SXSW next week.

  • Dan

    Aardvark is awesome. The speed with which you get an answer to relatively esoteric or specific questions is remarkable. I asked Aardvark where I could find the dissociation constant of lithium hexafluorophosphate on the web and got an answer in about 2 minutes. I’ve also had more success finding good restaurants in SF by asking Aardvark than sorting through Yelp reviews. Aardvark seems to have a mechanism for finding friends of friends who have similar tastes. Cool stuff.

  • http://keywords.vc nmw

    Doesn’t follow the Wisdom of the Language, so I choose not to waste time on following some vacuum cleaner salesman for tips.

    My advice: Get a real name, not some bullshit branding junk.

    (see http://gaggle.info/miscellaneous/articles/wisdom-of-the-language :)

    BTW: I tweeted yesterday whether SXSW would add any insights into how to improve the economic outlook – if this is the best there is, then it looks to me like a #Fail.

    :| nmw

  • mel

    Aardvark is sweet. Speedy, relevant answers to all kinds of questions ranging from obscure scientific ones to recommendations for dinner. I enjoy asking ?s as well as answering ones for which I have good answers!

  • Tanner

    Yep, I would echo this enthusiasm. I’ve actually found that the more obscure and specific my questions, the better the answers become. It seems no question is too dumb or off-the-wall. Aardvark is a powerful bit of convenience, no doubt.

  • http://www.uuorld.com George Maasry

    I agree with all of the positive comments thus far, but let me add this:

    An old friend of mine is one of the team that put Aardvark together, and he invited me to try it out pretty early on their development. I didn’t jump at the first chance because I am one of those ever-busy people (also putting together my own startup company) that just knows if I get hooked onto something like this, it could end up costing me more time than what I get out of it. Recently one day, however, I did try out the service, and was pleasantly surprised:

    One of the best things about Aardvark is that it is completely non-obtrusive. Many social networking programs deliver lots of great services, but with lots of effort required to keep information up to date, etc, and they always end up taking more time to “play” with than is advisable for the busy person.

    Aardvark actually lets me choose how “busy” it keeps me, and yet is quickly responsive, with quality answers, when I need it. I can see this product being adopted not just by the world of techie networking-enthusiasts; but rather I can see it being adopted — much more widely — by just about anyone who finds Gmail chat convenient.

  • http://blog.vark.com David

    Hey All,

    Great comments! Glad so many of you are enjoying aardvark!

    I recently joined as the curator of jungle exhibitions after being one of the most active users for the past 6 months.

    While at VentureBeat, I wrote this about aardvark:

    http://venturebeat.com/2008/11/05/social-search-product-aardvark-think-yahoo-answers-meets-twitter-but-better/

    Feel free to shoot us an e-mail with your feedback =– feedback at aardvartkeam dot com or david @ the same address.

    Onwards and Varkwards!

  • http://ha.ckers.org/ RSnake

    If you happen to be in Austin for SXSW drop me a line.

  • Juan

    I have been using the beta of aardvark and have to agree with most of the comments written above.

    Specifically for me, I am foreign and pretty new to the US and the google world. A lot of “general wisdom” that is out there is not intuitive to me and I don’t have the time to spend googling stuff.

    With this, I get quick, good quality answers to simple and not so simple questions. And it’s free and non-intrusive!

    Arriba Max and the rest of the zoo!

  • martha koranyi

    What a pleasure it is to answer questions instantaneously to an army of most diverse intelligent probing and demanding crowd that gratefully acknowledges them. To be allowed to ask both elementary or complex questions regarding computers, ipods, music science and travel from a willing informed and competent group with answers in real time. I live in Colorado on the continental divide in the middle of the forest an hour from the nearest library and snow-covered miles from my nearest neighbors. I don’t know what I missed most – being asked or answered. Thank you aardvark!!! for both!

  • http://www.artiajans.net/astroloji/?/english/ Astrology

    I’ve used Aardvark for awhile, found it very helpful and easy to use. Getting answers from real people, in near real-time, through the access of a large network, reminds us of how easy it should be to use technology to reach people.