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"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr.
Happy New Year, Friends!
So, I was going to write a post yesterday on New Years Eve, reflecting on the year behind us, on the Firsts, the Lasts and the Never-agains…
But then I thought, we’re all inclined to look back anyway, and I’m sure you all did enough of that over the holidays. I’d rather look forward. Because this year is going to be exciting. I’ve got a feeling that we’re on the verge of something great - it’s always after a slump that people soar to new heights.
We’ve finally made it truly into a new decade, leaving a lot of old global baggage behind. It’s a work in progress, but the page has been turned. I feel it about the world as a whole when I watch the news, and I feel it when I talk to people every day about our work at Ask.
The oracle of popular culture herself hit the nail on the head:
"Cheers to the New Year and another chance to get it right." - Oprah Winfrey.
Couldn’t have said it better. This is it, friends: Another chance to get it right. I don’t need a list of resolutions, my only goal is working harder to get it right.
Here’s to a great year ahead. Thank you for being with us and let me know what you think we can do to get it right in 2012.
Robbie Waeschenfelder, Director, Marketing
Even though the year is quickly coming to an end, we still have some fun popular questions of 2011 that want to share with you. At the beginning of the month, we released the top questions asked on Ask.com along with the top predictions of 2012 - but there were quite a few celebrity questions that were a little too juicy to share with the media! Here is a glimpse at what people were really asking us…
Sheree Polonsky, Public Relations
Christmas is almost here! Houses are aglow with lights, presents are sitting under trees waiting to be unwrapped by gleeful children (and adults!). Friends and family are gathering together. Stockings are hung by chimneys with care, and hopefully we have all of our Christmas shopping finished. There are so many interesting questions that people ask about all the traditions of Christmas..like why do we decorate trees at Christmas, how long will those trees last, and how do you make them last longer? How is Christmas celebrated in other countries? How many gifts total are in the lyrics to the 12 Days of Christmas, and how much would they all cost? And most importantly for many young ones out there, where is Santa Claus right now???
We hope you find everything you are looking for this holiday, and Merry Christmas from all of us at Ask.com!
Emily Kidder, Knowledge Engineer/Answer Geek
Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights honoring the perseverance of Judaism during ancient times, and the story of how the Menorah lamp miraculously remained lit for eight days.
But how do spell Hanukkah? Should the holiday be spelled Chanukah, Hanukkah, or Hannukah?
We have so many spellings of the Jewish holiday because it is not easily translated or transliterated into English from Hebrew. Hanukkah and Chanukah are the most widely used and accepted.
However you’d like to spell it, we’ve seen lots of questions about this festival of light. Here are a few most popular questions and answers:
The eight candles on the menorah represent the miracle of the oil, in which one days worth of oil lasted for eight. A ninth candle is placed in the center of the menorah, and is known as the shamash and is used to light the other candles.
The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top that is part of a traditional game played during Hanukkah.
The dreidel is usually made from wood, plastic or clay, and has the four Hebrew letters Nun, Gimmel, Hey, and Shin inscribed on each side.
The four symbols on a dreidel are the Hebrew letters Nun, Gimel, Hey and Shin, which stand for Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means ‘A great miracle happened there’.
This refers to the miracle of the oil that Hanukkah celebrates.
Sometimes it seems like the only thing anyone talks about anymore is mobile. And that’s for good reason – the marketing intelligence firm eMarketer recently published a remarkable statistic – people are now spending more time consuming information on their phones than from printed media like newspapers and magazines. Mobile and print were neck in neck in 2010, but mobile jumped dramatically in 2011. This isn’t a surprise at Ask.com, where we’ve seen over 1 million downloads of our iPhone app since it launched in late 2010. Our recently-released Android app is on a similar trajectory, growing users at a rate of about 45% each month.
Despite the buzz about mobile, eMarketer’s report suggests that TV is still going strong. Adults in the US are actually watching 10 minutes more TV per day this year than they were in 2010. This is also great news for us, since we’re stepping up our TV advertising in several cities in 2012. If you live in San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia or Washington, DC you may notice commercials for Ask.com during one of your favorite shows starting in January. Let us know if you see them!
Click here to read more about the eMarketer study.
Ann Semeraro, Director, Consumer and Market Insight
Getting answers to your questions is our top priority at Ask.com. Whether you’re searching for answers or asking the community, we want your experience to be a great one! We revamped the top categories in the community to better suit the topics you ask about most, like Cars & Transportation, Food & Drink, Sports & Recreation, Technology and more.
Featured in a WebProNews article today popular questions are now at the top of the page with recently asked questions displayed below. You’ll find that these category pages will be a place you’ll come back to often because you’ll always see the hottest topics first – we’re placing the most popular community Q&A front and center.
We are constantly monitoring the community and listening to our users and we know that categorizing questions has been something community members were looking for. So, we have strayed away from the auto-assigned categories and will now allow you to choose the most appropriate category for your questions. This change combined with the new category pages will help you find the types of questions you want to answer, which should increase the number of answers to questions – especially yours – in the community.
We hope that you find these changes to be as helpful and exciting as we do. We’d love to hear your feedback, so please let us know what you think by commenting here on the blog or through our Feedback link.
Payton, Director of Community Management
Eager to skip the crowds, queues, and hours logged in the car this holiday season? Well today, we’re launching a completely redesigned our shopping channel to make it easier than ever to do your holiday shopping.
Features of the new Ask.com shopping channel include:
You’ll be able to stay within your budget using the price-filtering tool:
Shop the brands you love, and leave the ones you don’t for someone else:
Have a question about product features or prices? We’ve also added some popular questions and answers from other users so you can see what other people are asking about the products you are shopping for. This can definitely come in handy if you have some questions the Fender guitar you are eyeing.
So, skip the stress this year and use our new shopping channel to make your holiday shopping headache and hassle free. Happy buying!
Jonathan Chickneas, Senior Product Manager
The dust may have settled on your Turkey leftovers, but we’re keeping the spirit going with a feast for your eyes and a peek into our recipe for a creative part of Ask.com. Today we’re dishing out a “making of” blog post about our holiday themes. Few destinations on the Web do it the way we do it.
Many sites recognize special days each season, but we’ve never really settled for a “doodle” to do the job. If you’ve visited us on holidays, you’d know that Ask.com does it big: a custom-crafted image decks the homepage. As the artist behind the scenes, imagine a digital age version of the iconic painter Bob Ross… equipped with Photoshop skills poised to paint “happy little trees”… or turkeys, as the case may be. It’s been a fun facet of my role on the UX team since the start of this art direction’s style in 2008.
I’ve thought about rolling out the visual décor for any major Holiday probably more so than your local Walgreens does. Internally, they’re known as “HPTO’s” (homepage takeovers), which begins with one designer choosing the right images to source and purchase from stock libraries like pieces to a puzzle that has yet to exist.
Concepts for themes are born at the crossroads of topical and visual relevance.
Two tenets apply across the board:
1. Support and enhance the “Question of the Day” feature in a monumental way.
2. Meeting the challenge of creating a visually delightful tribute for the occasion.
This time around, the Question of the Day asked the audience…
We get the ball rolling like this:
- pre-planning of the concept with our Web Producer, Holly Boston
- pre-production and sourcing for visuals (searching through hundreds)
- in a couple rounds, create a completed scene by adding the “secret sauce” in Photoshop to weave a composition together
Creative formula applied to HPTO compositions:
- Main hero object as the focal point of the theme
- Out-of-focus foreground and background.
- Vignette of several adjustment layers creating a style of outershadows
- Optional: some background “characters” like these gobblers
Defining UI factors and technical aspects:
- Remaining sensitive to and complementing the UI rather than interfering with it.
- Users of a range of browser resolutions can “get” what the theme conveys no matter how they slice it. Users with higher resolutions can see the full panorama in a widescreen view.
- Optimizing it (jpegmini works like a charm!)
- Being well crafted for the time invested, allowing for a review cycle after the first draft has been created.
These benchmarks and image architectures are applied from Valentine’s Day to the winter holidays when production really ramps up.
To recap, here’s the “Live Turkey” which ran (as seen in a final snapshot on my laptop, after dinner, with myself firmly implanted on the sofa next to it) on Thanksgiving Day – Thursday November 24, 2011:
Creatively, we look for ways to be inventive even if the theme must suit the same occasions every year; there are many ways to visually interpret a holiday. As the Ask.com UI changed considerably to support new initiatives, the scale of HPTOs adapted while the creative secret sauce and technical recipes remained. Our next round of creative features will undoubtedly adapt with the Web, while also remaining a celebratory tradition as much as the holidays themselves at Ask.
If you’d like to follow my path as an artist on the UX team at Ask.com, and beyond, find me on Twitter @dianafurka
The Ask community is buzzing with lots of Thanksgiving questions.
Many folks are asking for advice on preparing their Thanksgiving dinners.
Others want to know the basics, like—
Many are reflecting and giving thanks.
What are you thankful for?
We have a lot to be thankful for here at Ask, but mostly, we’re thankful for you. Thanks for asking!
-Holly Boston, Homepage Guru