There’s an impressive new website called Aardvark that helps you answer the question: “Does anybody know…?” by tapping your online networks. This is not a search engine. The results are not a list of websites that may or may not get you the answers you need. The results are from real people in real time.
So, how does it work? Sign up at the Aardvark site [click here]. It requires that you have a Facebook [my page] account (other networks will be integrated in the future). From the Aardvark site you can ask a question by simply typing your query into the box. If you add your instant messaging (like Google Talk, AIM or Windows Live Messenger) and or email account information, you can ask questions via IM and email, too. According to the site, “Aardvark first looks for a friend or friend-of-friend who can answer your question. If there are only a few people in your network, Aardvark will send your question to your very extended network (friends-of-friends-of-friends-of…) to make sure that you get an answer.”
So, how well does it work? My first question was: “What’s the best Italian restaurant in midtown Manhattan?” Within moments, I received an answer from Sara: “Becco is really great, on 46th between 8th and 9th(?). possibly 9th and 10th. it’s a little pricy but if you want to eat in midtown that’s the norm.” Not bad.
Then I asked, “Where is the best place to see the 2009 Macy’s 4th of July fireworks display in NYC?” I happen to know that, this year, the barges from which the fireworks are launched will be along the Hudson River (not the East River, as in years past) and according to Macy’s, the best place to view the show is on the west side: 12th Avenue below 59th Street, so this was a bit of a test. The first answer came from Ling: “bring a chair to sit on the FDR, or watch it from someone’s rooftop.” That would have been good advice last year, but the FDR is on the east side of Manhattan. The second answer came from Josh: “Battery Park is a good place, also top of the Empire State Building.” Again, Battery Park — at the southern tip of Manhattan, was good viewing for last year’s show, but this year? Not so much.
So, is Aardvark a failure? Time will tell as the site matures, but so far, I don’t think so. The site and integration with Facebook, email, and IM is great. So, mechanically, it works – I can ask questions and get answers very quickly and efficiently. The quality of the answers is another matter. It seems that Aardvark may be better at getting opinion answers (best Italian restaurant?) than facts (where can I see the fireworks?). Besides, there are some questions that are best left to Google (I could have–and did–easily found the relevant information about the prime fireworks viewing with a quick web search).
The thing that sets Aardvark apart from Internet search engines is the human touch. Sometimes, that is a good thing, and sometimes, well, it’s not. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to asking and answering questions on this interesting new website. And I’m looking forward to exploring how this sort of approach can advance KM efforts. So, in the spirit of the human touch, please let me know what you think of Aardvark (feel free to sign up with this link: http://vark.com/s/hUnq) and leave a comment below.
Photo: Tut99 on Flickr
LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms