Since not everyone has their own in-house librarian, Aardvark is a service that may be of interest to you. Publicly launched in October 2009, Aardvark didn’t take long to get a lot of attention and was just acquired by Google this month. Aardvark, found at vark.com, is a social search engine that doesn’t seek to return pages but instead responses from people with knowledge in that area. Essentially, Aardvark takes the typical question and answer service like Yahoo! Answers but moves it into real-time and across multiple mediums, like IM, e-mail, and web. In the company’s own words:
What is Aardvark?
Aardvark is social search: ask any question and Aardvark will discover the perfect person in your network to answer in minutes. Aardvark launched a private beta in March, 2009, and has been growing rapidly since. Today people use Aardvark via vark.com, the Aardvark iPhone App, IM and email.
Aardvark is all about the network and tapping into the knowledge that people in your network have. Aardvark simplifies the current search engine process by removing the need to talk to machines. You don’t need to craft the perfect query so that a computer will return a list of webpages with the answer you want. Instead, you ask people in normal language and you’ll get an answer back from people whom you can also ask for clarification if you need it.
You simply type your question into the box above and then tell it to ask someone. If this is your first time using the service, you’ll need to create an account. You can either sign in with Facebook Connect, Tie it to your Google account, or create an account with Aardvark.
After asking your question, Aardvark will categorize the question and then send it out to people with expertise in that area. Within minutes, the answers will start rolling in. From your logged in access to the page, you can say anything back to people answering like ‘Thanks!’ or ask for further clarification. There is also a public, shareable page so you can send the answers to others. It also makes use of a short URL service to make it convenient. Here’s the page for my question: http://vark.com/t/f2b7b4
You should also try to contribute to the Aardvark network and answer questions when you can. You can enter topics that you have knowledge of or are in your area of interest. You also might want to add your geographic area so people nearby can ask your opinion about things as well.
The main Aardvark page has two tabs, one to ask questions and the other to answer. You’ll get questions that are in your topics of expertise and you can answer right over the web to help others out.
Along with answering over the web as seen above, you can also answer via an iPhone app or over IM, using the Gmail Chat /Google Talk, AIM, MSN, Yahoo Messenger services.
You can read a pretty interesting write-up of the technology infrastructure behind it all or find tips on proper etiquette for Aardvark interactions.
I have been very impressed by the speed of responses and the diversity of qualified individuals that can answer questions that would be hard to phrase just right for a Google search. Next time you have a question that you need to search the web for but think a person could answer it better, try Aardvark.