Is the Aardvark a Social Animal?

A colleague alerted me to Aardvark, a social search service, scheduled to launch during SXSW, that offers users to ask question via instant messenger or email and receive live answers from your social network. Check out recent coverage by John Batelle and ReadWriteWeb.

The initial press is quite positive. In particular, ReadWriteWeb compares it favorably to asking questions on Twitter:

In our internal tests, we realized that a lot of the answers often rivaled those we received when asking our Twitter network. Thanks to the fact that Aardvark automatically routed our questions to people with the right expertise, all the answers we received so far were top-notch. In case you didn’t like the answer (or if it was obscene), you can flag it and rate it on the service’s website.

I haven’t experienced the service, so I’m in no position to evaluate it. I can’t say I’ve been overwhelemed with social question answering on Google (R.I.P.), Yahoo, or LinkedIn. Asking questions on Twitter works well for me, but that’s probably because I have a substantial number of real, knowledgeable followers (the TunkRank is strong with this one!).

But what I’m not understanding is Aardvark’s incentive system. I’ve looked at their blog and white paper, but I don’t see any mention of tangible or intangible incentives. Perhaps the incentives are reptuation and the interaction itself.

In any case, I’m cautiously optimistic. If anyone has managed to get an invite and can share, I’d greatly appreciate a chance to try it out.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

10 replies on “Is the Aardvark a Social Animal?”

It seems like a strange value proposition to me – that a third-party purports to know more about my network than I do. Were that the case, what would that say about my use of social media tools?

The benefit of, for instance, Twitter over a tool like LinkedIn is purely the social component. We learn a little bit about the individuals in our network every time they post. This knowledge is valuable, whether you are yourself an individual, or a large corporation.


Could someone explain to me what “social search” means? From the descriptions of Aardvark, it sounds like it means “ask a network of friends if they know the answer”. Is that what it is?

(I work on explicitly collaborative search, which is the idea of working with one or a few other people, together, to find information that none of you are aware of. But that’s not really “social”, I think, in the way that everyone else means it. So I’m still struggling.. what does “social” actually mean? Aardvark basically seems like Yahoo Answers, in real time. Is that what social search is?)


jeremy – That’s the way I (and my advisor before me) have been using the term “social search.” Basically, using an acquaintanceship network to find information (or other individuals) which you do not know directly.


That’s their definition of social search, and I gather it’s not that controversial. I imagine it bootstraps on your existing social networks–I certainly hope so for the sake of efficiency! I’m assuming it acts as a routing heuristic through the paths of your social network, searching for suitable candidates based on how it understands the content of your question and the expertise of the people in your network. That strikes me as a good (if not original) idea–if they can make it work.


Daniel, that’s exactly how it works. Uses your existing networks and your existing communication channels (IM, Email) to find the best person in your extended network to answer your question in the moment.

Looking forward to hearing what you think!


Actual aardvarks tend to be quite solitary. It’s surprising that there are multiple Web 2.0 software vendors using an aardvark as a mascot. (We’re the other one — Infovark.)

We’re taking a more content management-focused approach to Web 2.0, using a combination of content analysis and user behavior to derive relationships within the enterprise.

I’ve been following your blog for a while, Daniel, but never got around to leaving a comment!


Comments are closed.