Ask & Answer Questions with Aardvark

April 22, 2010 – 8:39 am by Gabe Anderson | No Comments

Aardvark Aardvark is like having a social network-powered librarian in your pocket (though less qualified than an actual librarian). Both an easy-to-use iPhone app and a website, Aardvark is a question-and-answer service that was acquired by Google for $50 million in February.

Aardvark leverages the power of worldwide social networking to connect users with similar interests to answer questions on just about anything, be it a product or service recommendation or specific data related to light truck sales in 1999, or how to properly price a bottle of 2004 Banfi Castello Brunello di Montalcino.

I first used Aardvark last fall to solicit input on whether it was a good idea to buy a new home theater system from a sale leading up to Black Friday, or to wait until Black Friday itself. I got lots of great input in minutes, and even exchanged a few follow-up messages with a Best Buy employee in Canada. His advice: Buy the system you want before Black Friday since it will generally be higher quality (at a great price) than many of the Black Friday-specific models of TVs, stereos, etc. That’s what I ended up doing.

It’s a fun and powerful concept that adds some human intelligence to simple web searching. You might not always get the answer you want, but you will likely get feedback on your question and at least get pointed in the right direction.

Last night I was browsing through some questions related to topics that I’ve specified I want to answer, and responded to a couple via my iPhone, including this one from the movies category:

aardvark-memento

As my librarian wife pointed out last night as I read some of the questions to her, the types of questions that appear on Aardvark are exactly the types of questions that librarians answer every day. So if you want to get a taste of what it’s like to be a librarian (or at least the reference desk aspect of librarianship), check out Aardvark.

Of course, you could probably get your questions answered by calling your local library, too.

As a test of the response time of the Aardvark network, I posted a new question about 30 minutes ago, when I started writing this post, to see if I’d get a response by the time I finished. Sure enough, I already have two responses to my question (if you enable the push notification feature in the iPhone app, you’ll even be alerted to new responses like a text message):

aardvark-running

There are interesting applications for Aardvark, including for crowd-sourcing technical support, which Google has begun to do for some of its products. I’m all for a community-based approach for tech support, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for direct support from a company (companies like GetSatisfaction offer a blend of the two).

Aardvark allows sign-in and integration with your Facebook account and now, of course, via your Google Apps account as well.

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