It is so exciting to watch the Ask.com Q&A community grow and observe users’ interactions and behavior. In particular, we see that users who interact with answers from real people (a feature currently in beta) are more active than those who don’t engage with our Q&A community - in fact, users who engage with human-powered answers visit the site twice as much as those who don’t. It starts to get even more interesting when we drill down into the different types of Q&A activities occurring across user segments. We see mobile driving a significant portion of our Q&A service registration.
The mobile users of Ask.com Q&A go beyond consuming information – overall they are actually producing more content (questions, answers, comments) than typical site users. In fact, mobile users of our service overall produce 3x as many answers as our site users. Further, they generate more than 4x the volume of answers per question than site users (who, by the way, already contribute a healthy 2:1 ratio of answers per question). Similarly, our mobile users provide twice as many comments as our Q&A site users.
On the flip side, site users engage in asking questions more than answering and commenting. In fact, they ask twice as many questions as our mobile users. Although site users appear to prefer asking questions over other activities (answering/commenting), they still contribute to answering and commenting activities significantly.
It seems site users like to ask, and mobile ones like to answer and comment. It will be interesting to watch this evolve as we continue to grow Ask’s presence across more mobile platforms.
Here at Ask.com we pride ourselves on answering a huge range of questions from the mainstream and trendy to the geeky and obscure. On a geeky and obscure note, May 25th is Towel Day, a day when fans and admirers of Douglas Adams and his classic book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy carry towels in their honor. Why towels? Well according to the book, a towel is ‘about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have’. If there is anything else you want to know about this obscure holiday, likeWhen was the first Towel Day celebrated? or Who is Douglas Adams?, just ask!
In 2003 I started working on the Smart Answers team here at Ask.com. We spend our time doing research and pulling together answers. Even still, we are a quirky group, we like having tea and doing crafts. For instance, I have a bit of an obsession with painting my co-workers as various pastries, baked goods, or other sweets based on their personalities.
Ask.com Volunteers with the Fishing Derby for Special Kids
For the fifth consecutive year, the Ask.com team helped sponsor and participated in the Fishing Derby for Special Kids, hosted by the East Bay Regional Park District. The event took place at Lake Temescal in Oakland, CA, where the Ask volunteers were paired up with kids with special needs for a morning of fishing, arts and crafts, face-painting, and games.
It was a gorgeous, sunny day and many of the kids were anxious to catch their first fish with the help of the Park District volunteers and their Ask buddies. Some were more inclined to indulge in the bubble table, decorating their own personal tote bags, or just tossing a ball around.
It was great to get out of the office with our colleagues and spend time with some very special kids at this fun event. We look forward to continuing this wonderful tradition!
The latest version of our popular flagship mobile app, Ask for iPhone, is now live! Download it from iTunes here.
Since its initial launch last November, we’ve had a tremendous response and more than 500,000 people have downloaded the app. Now it just got better.
We made big strides in making this version more personal and social by allowing users to “follow” each other and browse by personal connections. Now, users can pinpoint people with specific expertise or knowledge, follow them and sort by their content – all from a mobile device. This is one step in our overall strategy to give users more control over their Q&A experience on the mobile device, so they can tailor results to reflect only the most trustworthy content.
In addition, general app updates include: — A retooled results page, including answers from both search results and real people more tightly integrated into a single experience — The ability to modify a question after its asked to better focus responses — Spelling suggestions for questions — Increased answer speed — Log-in with Facebook or LinkedIn
This news coincides with another big Ask.com initiative for smart phone users: mobile-friendly changes (coming soon) to the Ask.com site. We’ve noticed that, in addition to embracing the iPhone app, users are increasingly seeking Ask.com via the mobile web; recently we’ve seen a major uptick in traffic from mobile devices to our web page. In fact, over the last two quarters there’s been close to 100 percent growth in visits to Ask.com from mobile devices, and a 50% spike in iPhone alone. As such, we’ve slated in a bunch of new updates for those browsing Ask on a mobile device, including increased performance, cleaner design, and a user log-in better optimized for the mobile experience.
As always, we want to hear from you. Test-drive the latest features and let us know what you think, right here on the blog.
Industry watchers have picked up on a recent policy change from Quora saying the company is now OK with “self-promoters” touting their affiliations — if those individuals are transparent about those connections in their answers. This is a fairly significant pendulum swing from earlier this year, where all but personal accounts were banned from the site.
It’s an interesting pivot for Quora, and an issue deserving of careful thought, especially for any service looking to scale beyond a niche audience. At Ask, our point of view is actually quite similar to Quora’s new stance: self-promotional (or branded) sources are often times experts, able to provide the most informed and effective answer to a question. We’re still in test mode with our Branded Q&A program which allows select brands to answer questions relevant to their topical expertise (i.e. cars, travel, food). Although its early, with verified, clearly branded accounts, and a transparent user voting system, it appears both brands and individuals seem to have struck a nice balance in our community thus far.
To commemorate yesterday’s big day, we put together a short video with former CEOs (as well as the current one) weighing in on the past, present and future of Ask.com. Featured in VentureBeat and Forbes, we thought we’d include it here too.
Thanks to all of the CEOs who participated! Enjoy!
Tuesday, May 10th marks the official 15th birthday of Ask.com, which immediately gets me thinking, “Has it really been 15 years?” It’s hard to believe that 1996 (our founding year and a time period remembered as the dawn of “irrational exuberance”) was actually 15 years ago.
I joined the company in 2006 (as it was just turning the tender age of 10) to run products under Jim Lanzone. It was a pivotal time as we launched a series of product innovations in the race to compete with Google. Today, five years later, we’ve come full circle from our 1996 origin back to what we’re known for: delivering the best answers to the millions of questions our users ask, this time with a twist. We’re now blending search-based answers and human-powered ones – the only Q&A service to attempt to do so.
As I look back, Ask’s ability to tack across this ever-shifting landscape throughout the last 15 years is impressive - the hallmark of any business with staying power. Doing this while maintaining users and traffic (6th largest property and 90 million users) is no small feat. As the person at the helm today, this gives me confidence in our ability to navigate the future.
And what is the future for Q&A – specifically Ask.com’s flavor of Q&A?
During the next few years, Ask will increasingly be able to deliver answers and information based on what you tell us about who you are, where you are and what you’re doing. Factoring in this kind of context will mean things like:
— The ability to control the social graph around your Q&A behavior, such as routing and filtering questions and answers based on people you know and your relationships with them.
— Asking questions about a specific location, browsing questions and answers from people nearby, directing specific questions to people near you or people who visit the places you frequent most.
The underpinning of this, naturally, is mobile and this is an area Ask will continue to tackle aggressively over the next few years: a growing suite of mobile apps designed to accommodate a variety of use cases, ubiquity on all mobile platforms and operating systems, and more integration and transparency with third party developers. We want to be your de facto mobile Q&A experience. That’s what we’re aiming toward.
As we look at where the growth opportunities lie in terms of social, local and mobile, it occurs to me that Ask is really 15 years young. Yes, we have a well-known brand, plenty of traffic, and 15 years of experience understanding consumers, but it’s our start-up like thirst for innovation and commitment to building quality products that will get us where we need to go. Fifteen years brings with it plenty of hits and misses, but through it all Ask has always been consistent about one thing: building good, solid products.
So Happy Birthday Ask. Let’s bring on the next 15.
One of the single biggest reasons you see so much attention being given to Q&A sites is that regular web search is just not that great at answering questions. Between the over-abundance of content farms and the limitations of algorithms, the time it takes to extract a simple answer from ten blue links is becoming increasingly tiresome.
At Ask, our goal is to find the answer on the web if it exists, or route the question to real people if the answer can’t be found on the web. But to us, “finding the answer on the Web” does not mean serving up links. It means crawling web content in a specialized way to find the exact answer to a question or set of search keywords, and put it at the top of our search reply page. It also means working closely with our content partners - leading content/media companies, technology providers, and brands – to develop answers created from trusted, premium content. So if you have a health related question, you might see an answer from our partner Healthline. Need to now about a particular model or make of car? Then you might see one from DriverSide.
Does this approach make a difference to the consumer? Our internal research says it does. For example, users who see our partner-driven, editorially vetted Smart Answers (examples below) have significantly higher satisfaction rates than those who see pure algorithmic search results. Bottom line: When they have questions, people like to see straightforward answers from trusted content sources, with the option to link off to the partner site for more information.
The launch of the human-powered Q&A feature on Ask.com has created a recent, interesting shift in question categories as our users start asking more subjective questions of each other. This means we’re on the hunt for new partnerships in content areas where we see the most volume. In particular, we are actively pursuing new partnerships in the areas of food/recipes, sports, parenting, home improvement, consumer electronics and fitness.
For more information about how to work with Ask and the benefits of becoming a partner, feel free to message me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our partner page here.
A couple things I noticed about Mom’s Day:
1. Even if you’re generally bad with holidays, you’d feel really bad to miss this one (I certainly do).
2. You’re supposed to spell it Mother’s Day (not Mothers Day or Mothers’ Day).
3. Some countries created Mother’s Day celebrations really in order to promote motherhood in an effort to increase the national birth rate.
4. Anna Jarvis who proclaimed Mother’s Day in America, ended up being so upset over the commercialized “Hallmark Holiday” her creation had become, she opposed its celebration.
5. Most of the $1.5 Billion spent on Mother’s Day goes to the flower, candy, spa and gift card industry, which are, of course, its top marketers and promoters.
Every year this day causes a dilemma in my life, because, as my mom would tell you, she “has everything” and she “doesn’t need anything”. Also, she doesn’t like flowers (because they remind her of hospitals and graveyards) and she doesn’t like any chocolates or candy (because they would make her fat). She also doesn’t want a gift card for a spa treatment, because she “could do that anytime”. What makes it worse is that I live 6,000 miles away, so I can’t just take her to dinner! What to do?
So I said to myself, let me see what Ask.com mothers say I should get for my mom. Take a look at the answers here. Guess what most of them said: “Just spend time with your mother”…
Well, next year, I’ll book a flight and sit on my mom’s couch on Sunday. The perfect gift for your mom, is yourself.
Consumers now have an unprecedented number of websites they can consult when they want to ask a question, look for an answer, or answer a question online. Here at Ask.com, it’s been exciting to see the Q&A category gain momentum, as new entrants like Quora and Stack Exchange join established players such as Yahoo!Answers and WikiAnswers. Q&A is a space that Ask.com knows better than anyone, having originated the category in 1996 with the launch of Ask Jeeves. Based on the results of a recent study conducted by Global Market Insite* internet users agree, citing Ask.com as the top brand they associate with questions and answers online. The measure we pay most attention to is known as Unaided Awareness, and it refers to any brand names that survey respondents can list off the top of their heads without additional prompting. Ask.com earned the top Unaided Awarness rank with mentions from 53% of respondents, followed by Google at 44% of respondents and Yahoo! Search at 28%. We were particularly surprised to see the limited awareness of some of the bigger names in the Q&A category and the near complete lack of awareness of new Q&A brands like Quora and Stack Exchange.
Another interesting learning from the study is an emerging dissatisfaction with general search results. While still a minority of respondents, 32% of survey takers strongly agreed they were finding it increasingly necessary to dig through search results to determine if they are relevant, while an additional 25% of respondents strongly agreed it is becoming increasingly necessary to consult more than one search engine in order to find a good answer. These insights, combined with the finding that 37% of survey respondents strongly agree that some of the questions they ask online might be better answered by a person than a machine, suggest we’re on to something here at Ask by renewing our focus on delivering really great answers for our users. We’re working hard to deliver increasingly specific, knowledgeable, and trustworthy answers, regardless of the type of question our users ask.
MediaPost featured these insights in a recent article about the Q&A category which highlighted Ask.com’s continued category leadership
* The study included 1,255 respondents ages 18 – 65 from GMI’s national online panel who claim to use a search engine at least once per week.
We were really excited to sponsor the second annual Technovation Challenge Pitch Night in Berkeley last night. If you’re not familiar, the Technovation Challenge is a program designed to offer young women the experience of participating in a “start-up” company and understand what it takes to be a high tech entrepreneur. Its mission is to promote more women in technology by giving high-school girls the skills and confidence to navigate the world of technology entrepreneurship early on.
Last night’s event was one of several similar events hosted by Google, AOL and LinkedIn in recent weeks. The students’ challenge? To build a mobile app prototype using Google Inventor for Android, and pitch that app and corresponding business plan to a panel of judges, including our own Chief Product and Technology Officer, Lisa Kavanaugh. The winning team is moving on to the National Pitch Night at the end of the month, where they will compete to have their app professionally developed and distributed on the Google Marketplace. Pretty exciting stuff.
Meeting and talking with the girls last night, it was clear how important this program has been in encouraging their interest in technology and developing their confidence to pursue a path in computer science and business.
Kudos to Iridescent, the organization behind this wonderful program, as well as all our fellow sponsors and supporters. But most of all, major props to all of the up and coming product- and engineering-focused young women. I can’t wait for you to join the workforce!
Angela Loeffler, Senior Vice President, People Operations
Did you know that even though Cinco de Mayo is widely celebrated in the United States, in Mexico it’s a regional holiday limited primarily to the state of Puebla? It commemorates the Mexican army’s victory at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The battle is considered important because although the Mexican army was half the size of the well-equipped French army, the Mexicans were able to defeat them.
The holiday is frequently confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is on September 16th. So while we you are eating your chips and salsa today, consider what Cinco de Mayo is really about and by all means ask a few questions.
I had the privilege of attending AppNation last week to moderate a panel called: Beyond The Check-In: How To Harness Real-Time Mobile Data.
Joining my panel was Di-Ann Eisnor from Waze, Rob DeMillo from 4INFO and Akash Agarwal from Location Labs. After launching the Ask.com iPhone app in November of last year and Ask Around for SXSW this past March, it has become clear how important mobile and the location based model is to our products.
Ask.com mobile users are up to 5x more engaged than those using our other products, so joining this panel was a great opportunity to hear from others tackling similar problems and focus on key topics including monetization, privacy and how products are evolving as explicit signals like geo location become more prevalent in mobile devices.
Di-Ann shared insights into how game mechanics improved engagement and participation in Waze, a social mapping application.