He Had a Question, She Had an Answer

By askdotcom // August 18th, 2014

Of all the great emails we receive daily from our 100 million monthly users, few were quite as memorable as the one we received from Anthony Mak of Toronto, Canada:

"I was hoping to use Ask.com to propose to my girlfriend. I was hoping I could have a picture of us with the words ‘Kelly Im, Will you marry me?’ when searching her name in Ask.com. Is this possible? If so, how much would it cost? Thank you."

With some details from Anthony and pictures of the happy couple, our Knowledge Engineering team built a custom Smart Answer that would trigger with the appropriate query. When they were finished, it looked like this:

Anthony approved and then it was hurry-up-and-wait time until the proposal date! About a week later, we received the update we were all waiting for. After a romantic date night, Anthony convinced Kelly that she should work on her LinkedIn profile and start with a quick search on herself to see what came up. With his iPad already queued up to the Ask.com homepage, Anthony coaxed Kelly to search her name and, well, the rest is history! 

Congratulations to Anthony and Kelly!

 -Ask.com

Full Story // Leave comment

Big News Today: Ask.com Acquires Ask.fm

By askdotcom // August 14th, 2014

As you may have read in the NYT today, Ask.com has acquired Ask.fm, the world’s largest social Q&A service with more than 180 million global monthly users.
 
Ask.com has been in the business of finding answering to questions from millions of people over the course of our 18 years, and we are proud that as a result we’ve built our brand to become synonymous with Q&A online. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that as Ask.fm started gaining increasingly significant traction over the past 18 months, we became concerned about the potential to confuse users. Accordingly, we considered, even pursued, several different courses of action; but all the while, becoming much more familiar with the product and its various use cases.
 
What we discovered was an incredibly engaged community, one growing growing rapidly all over the globe. Today, after just a few years in business, Ask.fm has an astounding 180 million users who are asking 20,000 questions per minute and making 670 posts every second – this puts Ask.fm on par with some of the biggest, most well-known social networks in the world.
 
What also was, and has been, abundantly clear, is that the need to materially enhance safety on the Ask.fm site is paramount – critical, really, to unlocking the service’s true potential. And the good news, is we’ve already started the process of making changes on the safety front, on day one of acquisition. Today, I am excited to share the following:

  • Because we believe in a safety-first philosophy, it is important that this philosophy starts at the top of the organization.  Accordingly, we are putting in place a new leadership team that shares this vision, and will have a fresh start to enact policies and procedures that are consistent with it.  As a result, the founding leadership team of Ilya and Mark Terebin are no longer involved in the operations or ownership structure of the company. I want to thank them for building such a vibrant company, for their help and support in completing this deal, and wish them success in their future endeavors.
  • We are thrilled to announce we’ve hired Chief Trust and Safety Officer Catherine Teitelbaum, formerly Director of Safety at Yahoo! to drive global Ask.fm trust and safety initiatives. Catherine’s years overseeing countless safety initiatives at Yahoo!, combined with her years as a trained educator and school teacher, make her the perfect leader to shape the future of Ask.fm’s trust and safety strategy.
  • We have also appointed Annie Mullins OBE, Children’s Digital Worlds and Safety Expert and former Global Head Vodafone Content Standards, to the role of overseeing safety efforts in the UK, in addition to supporting Catherine on a global level. Annie is responsible for producing the Industry Social Media Good Practice standards for protecting children across the industry in the UK and Europe, as well as advising US companies such as Facebook, and Google on these matters. Annie has made recommendations to Ask.fm over the past year; we are now working together more formally to ensure her recommendations get put into practice.
  • We plan on investing millions of dollars into enhancing moderation through a robust, human-powered approach and state-of-the-art automated filtering technology. Our key focus is to dramatically increase the amount of content we can review on the service through these efforts and start making real traction in terms of intervening when we abusive patterns of interaction or cries for help – doing our best to connect users in need of support with the right kind of services.
  • Also announced today is our partnership with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler in the creation of parallel agreements under which Ask.fm will implement a set of best practices focused on increasing the safety of its services. Both the agreements underscore Ask.com’s commitment to partnering with government and law enforcement in an effort to create a safer and more engaging product experience on the Ask.fm site.

Safety issues are real for all global communications platforms and we are committed to solutions, not excuses. We have every intention of dedicating the time, manpower and resources to make Ask.fm a safer, more engaging experience to the benefit of not only its existing users, but millions of new users who have yet to discover it.
 
I am of the firm belief, and our investigation of the usage data confirms, that 180 million people aren’t on Ask.fm to be horrible to each other.  So by making the site safer, we also make it more engaging to use, and allow Ask.fm’s compelling and unique take on social media—the ability to express yourself through the lens of what other people want to know about you—to shine through. With the right technology, guidelines, programs and procedures in place, we can root out bad actors to create a meaningful, compelling and fun place to connect, communicate and learn more about each other.
 
DOUG

Full Story // Leave comment

Women 2.0 Comes to Oakland

By askdotcom // July 11th, 2014

Women 2.0’s City Meetup has arrived in Oakland! As long-time supporters of Women 2.0, we were at the event to help welcome them to our city. Speakers Angie Chang, Director of Growth, Hackbright Academy, Co-Founder, Women 2.0 and Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners and Farnaz Ronaghi, Co-founder and Director of Engineering at NovoEd spoke to a packed room of both women AND men at Pandora’s offices.

With such a diverse, talented and passionate group of professionals here in the East Bay, we’re excited about these types of networking events and we can’t wait until the next one!

- Ask.com

Full Story // Leave comment

Ask About My Taste?!

By askdotcom // June 4th, 2014

Hi! My name is Quiajah and I am 13 years old. I go to Bret Harte middle school and I am in the 8th grade. I am in a leadership class where we participate in the Spark program. This program gives us a look at a company and the different jobs for our future. I chose Ask.com, an Internet company, so I could learn about how a technology company operates. I noticed that Ask has more than just engineers. There is a need for writers in a tech company as well. For this project, I wrote a blog to understand the writing and editing process. Ask.com interviewed me about my favorite foods and I worked with my mentors to edit and post the blog. Hope you enjoy it!

Q: Tell us a little more about yourself?

I am from Oakland, CA, and my favorite things to do in my free time are draw, cook , and eat. My favorite foods are tacos, hot dogs and hot wings. 

Q: What do you like about Ask.com?

One thing I noticed and liked about Ask.com was their blog (blog.ask.com).  I enjoy sharing my opinion so I want to share with you my reviews on my favorite foods.

Q:  So how do you rank your favorite foods?

Based upon their flavor, texture, cook time.

Q: Why is cook time important to you?

Because if you wait for food for too long, sometimes you don’t want it anymore.

Q:  Do you like your tacos soft or crunchy?

I like my tacos crunchy! My favorite thing about tacos are their crispy shell.

So Tacos win for texture!!!

Q:  What is your favorite flavor of hot wings?

I like Buffalo Sauce Wings and I like to dip it in ranch dressing.  Sometimes I will eat the celery, but only if I dip it in the ranch.

So Hot Wings win for flavor!!!

Q: How do you like your hotdog cooked?

I like it grilled. It is fast and easy and I like the way the charred part tastes.

So Hot Dogs when for cook time!!!

Q: At the end of the day, which food would you choose to be your favorite?

Hot Wings! They are easy to eat, delicious, and spicy. I recommend getting wings from Wingstop in Oakland! They are the best!!!

- Quiajah, Student at Bret Harte Middle School, Oakland 

Full Story // Leave comment

Askers Hack for City of Oakland

By askdotcom // June 2nd, 2014

As part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, Ask.com’s Chuck Smith and David Morgan participated in the annual Oakland Answers event this weekend. 

image

Oakland Answers is a hack-a-thon to develop web pages that quickly and easily answer Oakland residents’ questions about the City of Oakland (think “Where can I register to vote?”, “Where can I pay my parking ticket?”). There’s also have a write-a-thon where teams come up with potential questions from the community and then write quality answers to those questions. Ask.com does exactly this for our 100 million global users each month - we just had to lend a helping hand to our local community. 

image

And the community certainly came together. Together over 80 attendees submitted 108 Questions & Answers to increase the Answers databank by 50%. Now the citizens of Oakland have easy access to questions around parking, cycling, the dreaded DMV and much more. 

Looking forward to next year!

-Ask.com

Full Story // Leave comment

Ask.com Lights a Spark in Oakland!

By askdotcom // May 30th, 2014

image

Since 2012, Ask.com has worked with our program, Spark, to bring underserved middle school students out of the classroom and into the workplace. Our goal is to partner students with volunteers for individualized mentoring, which allows students to explore a variety of careers in a fun and hands-on experience! 

Susan Salop, VP of International Operations at Ask.com, initially brought Spark and Ask together in a partnership that has been a huge success. Susan recently attended our Spark “National Strategy Day” in San Francisco, an event that brings together board members, partners and funders for a day of learning, conversation and networking. 

On a panel during this event, Susan shared the story of Ask.com’s support of our program: “While Spark had grown in San Francisco, bringing the program to Oakland in 2012 was a challenge as Oakland lacks the volume of corporate offices that are so plentiful in San Francisco.” When Ask and Spark came together, Ask became one of Spark’s largest mentor sources in the Bay Area. “In fact,” Susan explained, “the demand for Ask.com employees to volunteer as mentors outweighed the number of eligible students in the company’s first session!” 

In addition to her participation in National Strategy Day, Susan is also a mentor in our Spark program. She says she is “personally committed to expanding Spark’s reach, especially at tech companies in Oakland.” Susan recently mentored Axel, a 7th grader at Bret Harte Middle School in Oakland, and loved bringing students into the Ask.com headquarters! 

Ask.com is an anchor of support for our program,” said Kim Davis Charlot, Spark San Francisco Bay Area Executive Director. “Spark changes lives. With the visionary support from Ask.com and other companies, in the 2013-2014 school year Spark was able to enroll 235 Bay Area students in this transformational program.” 

A big thanks to Susan and her team at Ask.com for being such an essential part of spreading Spark throughout the Bay Area! 

- Sara Draffin, Spark San Francisco Bay Area Program Director

Full Story // Leave comment

Go Fish!

By askdotcom // May 20th, 2014

Last week, Ask and Dictionary.com employees teamed up with the East Bay Regional Park District for a sunny day of fishing and activities for special needs children.

We joined about 130 kids at Lake Temescal for face painting, arts and crafts, and of course, fishing! This was our 9th year participating in the Fishing Derby, and we can’t wait until next year! 

-Ask.com

Full Story // Leave comment

Earth Day Special: Bits and Bytes in Las Vegas

By askdotcom // April 22nd, 2014

Ever think about what the Internet looks like behind the scenes? You might be surprised by the massive amount of work Internet companies are doing to bring us websites like Ask.com. A gigantic network of computers (servers) hums away at all hours of the day and night to bring information from every remote place in the world into our homes. This large network of machinery is not without its environmental consequences. Some estimates say that Internet data centers, the facilities that are home to the computers that serve the Internet, used an average of 30 gigawatts of power in 2012. That’s enough to power an entire country! 

Titan, our existing server named after deities in Greek mythology, was built for Ask.com expansion many years ago. We rented a former NORAD missile control center and trucked in thousands of servers to bring more answers to the world’s questions. Part of my work here at Ask.com involves global strategies for data-center collocation. That means that I get to help make our website lean, mean, and better for our world’s ecosystem. Last year our team analyzed our servers and found an exciting opportunity. Innovations in technology both at Ask and worldwide created the possibility for us to retire this behemoth in favor of a leaner and more environmentally-friendly facility. We discovered an ability to close a huge data center capable of running almost 50,000 servers and replace it with only 150 lean-and-mean hypervisors.

Introducing Zeus - son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea! In March of 2014, a crack team of Ask.com engineers ventured screwdriver-in-hand to Las Vegas, Nevada to build Zeus, our next-generation data center. Zeus will be home to only 150 servers and operate at extremely-high efficiency. Not only is this better for our ecosystem, but it’s a great excuse to head to Las Vegas for frequent maintenance. 

Check out the team in action as we installed Zeus!

Happy Earth Day Everyone!

- Jack Roehrig

Jack Roehrig runs platform and infrastructure services at Ask.com as Director, OSE and Information Security Officer.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_consumption

http://www.greenhousedata.com/images/uploads/GHD_Data_Energy_Infographic.png (sources listed at bottom).

Full Story // Leave comment

Moving Up The Ladder

By askdotcom // April 9th, 2014

Ask loves bringing in young minds and giving them the opportunity to learn and grow within the company. Former intern Joey Hinojosa was recently hired as a full-time Search Marketing Specialist at Ask! We talked to Joey about his journey to and through Ask, and some suggestions for turning an internship opportunity into a permanent position.

Q: How did you get your position as an intern here at Ask?

Joey:  I originally applied for another position, but I was coming right out of Sac State and was kind of under-qualified for the position. I never got called back for that job, but I’m glad I still met with Ask because two months later I got an email with an offer for a marketing internship, so I took it!

Q: What was your major at Sac State? How did that prepare you for your internship here at Ask?

Joey: I started out as a Psychology major, but switched into Business Marketing my senior year. I definitely learned the fundamentals of business marketing through classes like advertising, B2B marketing, consumer marketing, business statistics and marketing case studies. However, I feel like I learned the most at internships I had while I was in college. That’s where I learned how to plan and execute marketing campaigns which really prepped me for my internship and job here at Ask.com. Also, once I started my internship at Ask, I was able to grow my skill set to include display advertising and implementing marketing campaigns as well as learning how to navigate through a corporate business environment.

Q: How did you work to secure a full-time position?

Joey: There was a lot of hard work involved. I had weekly 1:1’s with my manager, where we set both short and long-term goals. I was proactive in learning new tools that would make me an asset to the marketing department and Ask. I would set up regular meetings with my peers to help me in areas that I was struggling in.  I would help people out in other departments, which showed that I was a reliable person who was willing to go above and beyond for the company. I was involved in a lot of the extra-curricular activities hosted by Ask so I could get to know more of my fellow colleagues.

Q: Any advice for future interns?

Joey: Cross train—don’t work in just one department, which will limit you. Try to get as much exposure to other departments or within departments. Network within the company and don’t be afraid to ask questions. And go out for drinks or coffee once in a while.

Q: Favorite things about working at Ask?

Joey: The unlimited paid-time-off (PTO) policy. For someone young who loves to travel, that’s super important. The overall environment here is pretty relaxed which is really nice.  And I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a great group of people that I can learn from and relate to. Oh, and the kitchen—I love the snacks!

- Ask.com

Full Story // Leave comment

Which Coast is the Best Coast?

By askdotcom // March 10th, 2014

image

Ask has quite a diverse employee base, not just in terms of where people are from but also about the places and experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. Ask’s Account Manager Karl Kleinschrodt has spent time living, working, and playing in three of the most exciting cities in the U.S. - New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We asked him to give us a run-down on how the East and West Coasts compare.

Q: Food?

SF- Living in the foodiest neighborhood of San Francisco, the Mission District is paradise. From tacos to pastas, almost any cuisine can be found and enjoyed. Just remember on the weekends to book a table on Urbanspoon, as the rest of the Bay Area comes to visit and everything is packed.

LA- Celebrity chefs serving celebrities was the total LA food scene. It was almost more important to be seen in a restaurant than to actually eat there—clearly some celebs didn’t.

NYC- The ability to be able to pick up the phone and get any food cuisine delivered to you at any time was amazing. The one thing to note is that they don’t know how to make Mexican food, so if you’re craving a late-night burrito, you might need to hop on over to SF. 

Winner: San Francisco—diversity wins.

Q: Work?

SF- Working both as a consultant in Silicon Valley and now here at Ask.com, the tech focus in the Bay Area is one of a kind.

LA- The lack of large major agencies in LA started my start-up career. It was cool to be a part of the start of ‘Silicon Beach.’ Start-ups are longer hours, more stress, but you definitely see the output of your day.

NYC- Working at large digital agencies in NYC was fast paced and a great first working experience. Being able to work on Fortune 500 Brands at such a young age is something that I will not forget.

Winner: Depends on your style/industry. If you’re interested in tech, I don’t think any other city compares to the Bay.

Q: Nightlife?

SF- Dive bars. Need I say more?

LA- Pretentious Hollywood clubs. Need I say less?

NYC- Amazing in every way. Grab a drink in the East Village, take a cab to Chelsea, and end the evening on a rooftop. Incredible.

Winner:  New York City—the city that never sleeps has perfected sleepless nights.

Q: Weather?

SF- It’s really not as cold as everyone says, but because California is synonymous for beach weather, SF gets a bad rep. I am spoiled since I live in the sunniest neighborhood in the city, and get to view the fog coming in over Twin Peaks. A pretty impressive site.

LA- Perfect in every way (except the smog). I miss my pool in West Hollywood every day.

NYC- Freezing in the winter and humid in the summer. You really get the worst of both worlds.

Winner: LA, but major points-deduction for smog. If you can handle a few degrees cooler, SF provides the cleaner air.

Q: Public Transportation?

SF- Love BART, but it doesn’t connect everywhere I need to go in the city. Uber please!

LA- What public transportation?

NYC- Gets you literally everywhere you need to go in the five boroughs. Absolutely love MTA.

Winner: New York. Take some notes, BART!

Overall Winner: Have to give it to San Francisco. With a mild climate, delicious eateries, and interesting people tucked in every corner of the city, San Francisco takes the cake.

An interesting take from our very own Karl Kleinschrodt!

-Ask.com 

Full Story // Leave comment