Tag Archives: aardvark

Aardvark – Social Media Q&A (this ain’t your sister’s Magic 8-Ball)

Remember the ’80’s?  Of course you do: big hair, the start of MTV, Coke v. Pepsi, Back to the Future, and glam rock (even if you didn’t live through these wonderful times you can “relive” them with I Love the ’80’s).  One of the things I fondly remember was my sister’s Magic 8-ball, a little toy invented by the son of a clairvoyant in 1946, which made a big retro-come back in the ’80’s.  This was a plastic 8-ball filled with water with a little window at the top.  You would ask the 8-Ball a question, shake it up, and then see which sagely phrase came through on a blue icosahedral die (20-sides) inside.  It had phrases like, “As I see it, yes,” “Better not tell you now,”and “Outlook not so good.”  We made lots of decisions as kids based on what the 8-Ball said.

In today’s world, 20-vague answers just won’t do.  The social media and information overload of 2010 requires millions of answers to satisfy our hive mind.  My newest mobile obsession is a little social Q&A network called Aardvark.  It works like this:

  1. Create an Aardvark Account
  2. Ask questions about anything
  3. Answer questions that the system sends you based on your profile data

It’s that simple.  You can get into the business of “friending” people, but even as a lone-wolf on the network you can receive answer requests and ask anything (I only have one friend on there so far – hi Wade – but would love more: go join!).  Also, registration links Aardvark to your Facebook profile, so details can be filled in from your existing profile of what you may want to answer.  You can add other tags as well so that the system will send you additional topics  as well.
This is a far cry from shaking the 8-ball.  It gets addicting answering questions – you become an expert in everything!  Just to give you some examples of interesting questions I have answered in the past week (click the links to see my answers):

  • Hobby – “I’ve been bored lately.  Does anyone have some good hobby ideas to start up?”
  • Witness – “How do you cope with things as you witness your parent getting older and time getting shorter over the years..?”
  • DJ Qilk and Gift of Gab – “I am trying to contact the artists DJ Quik and Gift Of Gab to request to use a song for background music for a couple of storyboards. This is nothing that I won’t be selling just storyboards. I can’t seem to find an email address any where. Can anyone advise?”

As you can see from the list above, Aardvark keeps your history of questions asked and answered along with links.  It also gives you the option of posting the thread to Twitter, Facebook, or keeping it private.  Still not satisfied?  There is an Aardvark mobile app for iPhone that lets you ask and answer on the go.  You can also receive text messages or emails when activity happens in your Aardvark profile.

And now for my constructive feedback:

  • Sometimes Aardvark tells you it is sleeping (huh?) and doesn’t send out your questions or let you answer.  I am not sure if this means a human being has to push all those messages through?  Their FAQ says that sometimes the system is unavailable b/c the team is making upgrades, but in the 1-week of my being a Varker it has been down quite a bit.
  • The mobile app can be a bit … here it comes (the corporate speak) “kludgy” – sometimes repeatedly asking for my login credentials and then not working.
  • Profile – while I love the simplicity it is a bit oversimplified.  I’d like to be able to have some other data populate in the main profile field as well (like links to this blog!).

Overall, I think Aardvark brings something novel to the SM scene.  More than just another network it creates a personal knowledge base and facilitates meeting new people.  Yes – Linkedin has a Q&A function, but there is just something so streamlined about Aardvark’s approach that makes me want to engage.  Should this community hit a critical mass and do a good job at being a ready-made API for other community sites (something it seems to be doing well) then it can really be something else.  Will it tell you your future like a Magic 8-ball?  I don’t know: why don’t you try asking it?

What are your thoughts about Social Media Q&A?  Is it useful?  Are you an asker or an answerer?

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Google Wave Let Me In … Now What?

It finally happened, I got a Google Wave invite from my good friend and colleague, social media guruess Alin Wagner-Lahmy (feels like being asked to the prom just a week before the big night).  For those of you who live under rocks (and you too Mom), Google Wave is the latest innovation from Google Labs.

It allows users to engage in a real-time, editable conversation, which appears on each participants screen.  As Google says, email was invented 40-years ago; Google Wave is what email would look like if it was invented today.

That’s great stuff, but think about it: what does email really allow us to do?  Whenever a new technology comes along we need to look at the tasks we are doing with old technology and see how the new offering changes that.  Here is my simplified list of tasks that can be accomplished with Old-mail (email):

  • Sending 1-to-1 communications, similar to letters
  • Sending 1-to-group communications, similar to … well email chains
  • Filing conversations and information
  • Data storage and search
  • Advertising, solicitation, and spam

Now what does Google Wave bring to the table that changes all that?  For one thing, the 1-to-group communications become a lot smoother.  My biggest pet peeve about email is the Reply All snippet.  You know the guy.  After a detailed starting message, and then maybe an insightful question/reply or two, he sends the simple reply all “thanks,” to which the original message owner replies, “your welcome,” to which snippet guy replies, “can’t wait to get this done,” (still replying all, still clogging everyone’s inbox).  But that isn’t even the worst thing about email.  Then there is fracture gal.  She’s the one who asks an important question, but only to the message originator, so that by the time someone hits reply all to include the rest of us, we have half the conversation and have to send a few messages back and forth just to clarify what we missed.

Google Wave eliminates these issues by keeping a single copy of the conversation for everyone.  Edits made to the conversation can be replayed so you never miss anything, but more importantly, there is no clutter b/c everyone participating in the wave sees the same thing.  This has so many uses beyond just eliminating clutter and adhering to Inbox Zero principles (look for a future post “GTD with Google Wave”).  Some quick applications that come to mind:

  • Virtual conference documenting, feedback, and interacting
  • Business meeting and  classroom note-taking
  • Crowdsourcing a book or other projects
  • Party and event planning
  • Family tree, multimedia albums or mommy books for the kids – invite the grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, et all to Wave on it
  • Public Waves proposed legislation … see what the people really think!
  • Others?

This is a new technology.  When the wheel came about we had to stop dragging our wagons in the dirt.  When the printing press hit, copyist positions and the work of monastic librarians changed forever.  After the Internet the third world became the virtual workplace.  We must define what Google Wave will do to email.  Some places I have sought direction:

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