Tobey mailed me an invite to Aardvark the other day which left me puzzled for a short time. The email basically stated that Tobey had invited me and trusted my opinion on blogging, computers and technical advisory. That's actually a very nice way of inviting users to join a service that they know nothing about. Aardvark basically is a way to ask questions to a community of experts who then answer this questions. What makes it different from Yahoo Answers and search engines is the social component and the ways questions can be asked and answered.
Registered users can ask questions from several popular Instant Messaging clients such as Google Talk, Windows Live, AIM or Twitter, practically all email clients (no matter if they are online or desktop clients) and the Aardvark website. One major component is the friend network that user's can utilize to have their questions answered. When posting a question Aardvark will analyze that question and try to find the best possible friends who can answer that question. Questions will also be directed to friends of friends, co-workers, people living in the same location and people who are topical experts.
Answers will be either send to an Instant Messenger of choice if the user who asked the question is online at that time or to the email account if the user is offline in the client. The time it takes to get a response depends largely on the question, the time the question is asked and the friends of the user. All questions that have been asked during tests (with only 1 offline friend present at that time) were answered by dedicated users of the service in less than five minutes.
The concept itself is pretty amazing and users can contribute by answering questions. The main benefits of Aardvark over similar services like Yahoo Answers are that the answers (seem to be) more professional, that questions can be asked from Instant Messengers, Email or the website, that the answers arrive in less than five minutes on average and that the community does not seem to be spammed by webmasters promoting their own services.
Aardvark offers a great alternative to Yahoo Answers, similar services and doing research on the Internet.
Update: Google has acquired the Aardvark service, technology and website in 2010. The Internet giant later on decided to discontinue Aardvark. The site and technology is no longer available.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.