Google’s ever-grasping tentacles have reached out to ensnare Aardvark, a technology company that, “lets you quickly and easily tap into the knowledge and experience of your friends and extended network of contacts. Aardvark analyses questions to determine what they’re about and then matches each question to people with relevant knowledge and interests to give you an answer quickly.”
In other words, it can give you answers to very specific questions where the information may not be online in one simple place, and the software will look among your Facebook friends, and friends-of-your-friends, for volunteers to answer it. Friends can be excluded from these contact lists.
A feature in the NYTimes explains the functionality further:
The Aardvark system assumes that no single answer will serve for everyone who poses the same question. It uses information about interests supplied by registrants and from outside social networking profiles to match interests, demographic characteristics, common affiliations and other factors. It also checks whether prospective advice-givers are presently signed into one of three instant-messaging services. (The company says an iPhone version is in the works, too.)
If no one is interested in answering, Aardvark sends the question along to another small batch, extending from friends to friends-of-friends, and then their friends, if necessary. If the best matches aren’t online, e-mail messages are sent.
“On average, we have to contact eight people to get two who are willing and online,” said Nicholas Chim, a senior engineer at Aardvark. “But we look at thousands in order to build the list of the top prospects.”.
You can use Aardvark on the web at www.vark.com, or through IM programs (like Gmail Chat, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, and MSN Messenger), Twitter, iPhone, and any email program.
Google reckon you can ask Aardvark and it’ll come up with the goods, citing some popular examples:
- Travel tips
- Restaurant & bar recommendations
- Product reviews/opinions
- Local services and entertainment suggestions
- Music, movie, TV, and book recommendations
- Technology & programming help
- Business & school research
- Home/Cooking/Gardening ideas