Showing posts tagged answers

2013’s Most Popular Questions and Search Terms Unveiled!

By askdotcom // November 21st, 2013


As another year draws to a close, Ask took a stroll down memory lane for a look back at the questions and searches that drove your curiosity the most in 2013. Babies reigned supreme in the search world this year, with top overall news and celebrity searches about North West and Royal Baby Prince George.

Ask users followed the buzz around Miley’s VMA performance and made sure to set their DVRs for the series finale of Breaking Bad. You also turned to us to answer questions about this year’s more serious matters like Typhoon Haiyan and the recent government shut down.  

Check out the full 2013 list - did any of your questions make the cut? 

- Suraya Akbarzad, 

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Need Valentine’s Day Ideas? Ask Users Give Their Advice!

By spolonsky // February 7th, 2012

Valentine’s Day is only a week away and Ask users are providing answers to all sorts of Valentine’s Day related questions. Do you know what you will give your Valentine? Or how you will spend that special day? Every Day all of these answers and more are being answered by Ask users leading up to the big day. Here is a quick look at some of our top Valentine’s Day questions and answers from real people in our Ask community.

What should I get my girlfriend for Valentine’s Day? 

Ask users suggest flowers (specifically roses and orchids), candy, a watch, any kind of personalized gift, jewelry or a romantic letter. Ask users also recommend sending the flowers to her school or work for an even bigger impact.

What should I get my boyfriend for Valentine’s Day?

Users recommend buying his favorite cologne, a mug engraved, clothes, a watch or video games. Ask users also recommended baking fresh cookies.

How should my significant other and I spend Valentine’s Day? 

Community members agree that going to dinner at a nice restaurant is a great way to spend Valentine’s Day. However, if you are on a budget, Ask users think a home-cooked meal is a romantic and thoughtful idea. Other ideas mentioned were seeing a movie and going for a picnic. 

What is a Valentine’s Day gift that I can give my best friend?

Top answers from Ask users were a nice perfume or a charm bracelet.

Should men receive gifts on Valentine’s Day? 

83% of Ask users say yes, Valentine’s Day is a day for both men and women to feel loved. 

What do you do if someone that you don’t like gives you a present on Valentine’s Day?

100% of community members agree that saying “thank you” is the best way to handle that tough situation. 

Do you have Valentine’s Day advice you want to share? Let us know!

Sheree Polonsky, Public Relations 

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Do well by doing good - does it work?

By robbiewf // August 2nd, 2011

The famous quote by Benjamin Franklin has sort of become a phrase used by corporations to make themselves look less singularly focused on profit. I can see why people are skeptical. But can you really improve your business and still also support a cause you really care about?

Well, a while ago we reached out to a very big name in the non-profit world with a unique idea. We asked, could we build something where we engage our users to help out other users while at the same raising money to support a great cause? And the answer is: yes! 

We call it “Answers for the Cure" - you can sign up here - and it allows anyone who wants to support this program to sign up on and answer questions asked by our users, on many different topics. For every answer, we’re making a donation towards the fight against breast cancer. And it’s been great so far: Thousands of members have signed up and some of them have answered hundreds of questions, as many as 20 or more per day. That’s pretty exciting and helps out a lot of people who come to us in search of answers.

But while members loved the program, we heard that a lot of people didn’t even know about it. A simple change to the program, which now not only shows when somebody in the program answers a question, but also allows other users to easily learn about and join Answers for the Cure with just one click, truly unlocked its viral appeal. Take a look at the chart below… When we turned this new feature on, literally over night, the number of answers per day, and thus donations per day, just went up dramatically.

Doesn’t that look like doing well and doing something good at the same time? Here’s to our users: thank you so much for being so engaged and supportive.  

IAC Headquarter lit in pink for breast cancer awareness

IAC Headquarter in NYC lit in pink for breast cancer awareness in Oct 2010.

Robbie Waeschenfelder, Director, Brand Marketing

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By nedaf // May 27th, 2011

It is so exciting to watch the 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 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.


Neda Farzinnia, Director of Analytics

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Co-workers as Pastries

By operatattler // May 23rd, 2011

In 2003 I started working on the Smart Answers team here at 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.


Charlise Tiee, Knowledge Engineering Manager

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Mother Knows Best

By robbiewf // May 8th, 2011

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 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.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Robbie Waeschenfelder, Director, Brand Marketing

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The Next Frontier in Search: Questions & Answers

By dougleeds // November 13th, 2009

A few months ago at SemTech 2009 we announced that our questions and answers database –launched almost a year ago – had grown to more than 300 million high-quality Q&A pairs. “High-quality” means that we use our semantic and extraction capabilities to recognize the best answer from within the sea of information on relevant pages. Instead of 10 blue links, we deliver the best answer right at the top of the page.

This week we’ve achieved another significant milestone by reaching 400 million Q&A pairs, and I want to acknowledge the outstanding work of our engineering and product teams who have built one of the largest and most useful Q&A collections on the web.

I also want to share what we’re seeing from our users in response to our Q&A offerings, and to preview what’s next for Ask.

Our Q&A strategy has started to pay off. We see increasing loyalty among users who conduct question searches on Ask. Simultaneously, we’ve seen a pronounced increase in the percentage of users on Ask who conduct queries in the form of a question – we now see 3x more questions on our site as a share of total queries than our competitors. And perhaps most rewarding for us is when we ask Internet users where they go for questions and answers online, they consistently rank first, making us the #1 brand for questions and answers online.

Online search in the form of natural-language questions was the ingenious proposition of the original Ask Jeeves in 1996, and frankly, it’s the reason we’re still around today after so many other Internet brands didn’t survive. 

As the leader in questions for more than a decade, one thing is crystal clear: Asking a question isn’t the same as searching.

Our users tell us that their expectation when asking a question is different from their expectation when conducting a search. When asking a question, they have a specific need for a specific piece of information. When conducting a search, they’re browsing for information, sorting through results to unearth the answer they’re looking for. 

Put another way, when asking a question, you expect the work to be done for you (much like when you ask a librarian for a book at the library). When conducting a search, you do the work yourself (skipping the librarian, and heading to the card catalog instead).

Further, with the advent of the social web, asking questions online is now more natural, as we have the ability to broadcast a question to real people, our friends, instead of hoping a computer can understand our inquiry.

I firmly believe that questions are the future of search, but search technologies as we know them today can’t deliver against this future.

And this brings me to what’s next for Ask.

We’re focused on solving the two shortcomings of search as it relates to questions:

1. Traditional search signals don’t work well for answers to questions.
2. The answers to many questions are wrong or don’t exist online.

Let me explain what I mean.

When you’re in the business of answering questions, the volume of inbound links to a given web page – a long-accepted search technique for ranking web sites – doesn’t tell you the site with the best answer to a user’s question; it just tells you the most popular page with relevant information. Nor does another search technique, text matching, sufficiently identify the best answer, as the text in a question is rarely found in the best answer. Same with a newer though established technique, pioneered at Ask, actually, that uses click-through behavior to determine a site’s relevance. Unlike presenting a text snippet that merely describes a site and a link, presenting the actual answer requires no click through to the  
destination site.

Below are some examples which bring this to life.
Without a wholly different approach, search engines will never be able to adequately answer all the questions that users increasingly have for them.

More importantly, no method that merely extracts answers from a published web page will ever be able to access the limitless number of answers that are unpublished on the Internet. Indeed, the information that is directly relevant to many questions most certainly exists; it’s just that it’s locked in people’s heads or captured in unpublished conversations, and therefore inaccessible by traditional search. Obviously, this is not a trivial deficiency in a world that is increasingly interconnected and clamoring for perspective, guidance, and shared knowledge at an interpersonal level online.
At, we’re dedicating ourselves to solving these problems and we’re approaching the solution in two primary ways: 

1.  Extracting and ranking existing answers
2. Indexing sources of answers that have not yet been published

To extract and rank existing answers, as opposed to merely ranking web pages that contain information, we have and are continuing to develop a unique set of algorithms and technologies that are based on new signals for relevance specifically tuned to questions and answers.

I’ve outlined a few of these below.

Pic3  Pic4  Pic5

Developing a new Q&A relevance algorithm that draws upon these signals is what we’re focused on building here at Ask, honing our ability to extract answers from the published Internet, and allowing us to fulfill a vastly larger volume of questions than can be done with existing search technologies.

But our work doesn’t end with extraction and ranking of existing, published answers. Where our vision really comes to life is in our efforts to index the sources of unpublished knowledge that can generate answers specifically in response to a question, in the moment it’s asked. This is the long tail of questions that are nearly impossible for search engines to answer, but which create incredible value for users when they are.

Here are some examples:


As we accelerate our strategy to answer the world’s questions, these “tough questions” are where we see huge opportunity, and where we are also focusing our efforts. And as you’ve probably guessed by now, we will do this unconventionally, harnessing the equity of the Ask brand, and our loyal, question-loving users to build a community of answerers available through Ask.

We’ve learned at Ask that while the existing Web can solve many problems, when you’re in the pursuit of answering questions, relying on published information sources can really only get you part of the way there. There is an infinite volume of answers in people’s heads that isn’t being indexed by the search engines today, and that can’t be successfully deployed against questions until you unleash it, in real-time, in response to the unique needs expressed by the person asking the question. 

This is the problem we’re in the process of solving here at Ask: Connecting our users’ questions to the best possible answers on the planet – be they published or unpublished. And as we solve this problem, we believe today’s multi-billion dollar questions and answers value proposition will one day transcend search as we know it today.

I’m very passionate about this, and so is our team at You’ll be hearing much more from us on this in the coming months.


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