Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Do you have a small social network? Try Aardvark to expand your social network

While listening to another great The Gillmor Gang podcast, Robert Scoble mentioned that when he is travelling somewhere, he reaches out to his network to find out about local activities and entertainment.  With this statement, I had a revelation that my social network would not provide this assistance.  My network is too small to get much good out of it.  Luckily I've found a great new friend to add to my social network named, Aardvark.

I was originally turned on to Aardvark by the guys (Bob Walsh and Patrick Foley) over at The Startup Success podcast. Aardvark allows users to ask a question, the application automatically sends the question out to people within the Aardvark network who may know the answer, then the app routes the answers provided back to the person who asked the question.  Pretty simple, huh.

This is a great service for someone like me who doesn't have a very big social network and every so often has a tough question to find an answer.  In my opinion, not too many people have a large enough social network and thus could easily utilize the power of this social network expander of 

I have recently had some instances where I have tried to search Google, and had trouble filtering through the results to find a meaningful answer.  That is where I now turn to Aardvark.

Some examples I have use it for:
  • finding a hotel during a roadtrip - I was in route to Laguna Beach and didn't have any clue where to stay. Shot a question out to Aardvark for recommendations and received a couple within the next couple o hours. While the timeliness wasn't perfect, one of the suggested hotels was where I stayed and I concurred with the suggestion.
  • figuring out how to modify my MS Office default search setting - I received a couple of answers that were not totally helpful, then one answer came in that was dead on an very detail. Huge help for me.

Aardvark allows users to ask questions via multiple channels (from the web, IM, email, Twitter, or iPhone).  I utilize Google Talk as my method of interacting with it.  This very easily integrates Aardvark into my daily life allowing me to ask or answer questions easily from a natural communication method for me.

A couple of big things for Aardvark to figure out and improve on:

  • Learning more about it's users - today, I'm guessing Aardvark only knows as much about it's users as those users fill out on their profile.  If Aardvark can begin learning by aggregating data from multiple sources (i.e. Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, etc.), the power of this knowledge will multiply
  • Increasing users - a larger pool of people to answer questions will increase speed and accuracy
  • Help users rate the answer they received - this will allow Aardvark to know who the appropriate people are to answer certain types of questions

As I was researching to write this post, I learned that Aardvark was recently acquired by Google.  Hopefully Google will have a way to improve upon this immature product and integrate it into the mass amounts of data Google already has.  (Look for a future post about Google's portfolio of companies)

All that said, I recommend you try Aardvark and see how it works for you.  It has worked well for me, while there have been some bumps in the road, I think the improvements will come very quickly as the number of Aardvark users grow and hopefully Aardvark continues to allow people like me to reach out to a wide web of unconnected people.