I first heard about Aardvark via the Seattle Tech Startups mailing list and eventually got around to trying it. Few things get past my initial attempt, but I’ve still got Aardvark. It’s a question-and-answer service where you can ask questions yourself and answer questions of others.
What I’ve enjoyed the most about Aardvark (beyond it’s ability to send questions to the right people) is how easy to use and friendly it is. I interact with it via instant messenger, and every message it sends me includes all the instructions I need, in a friendly way, without being too verbose either. It’s impossible to not understand how to use it.
Recently they published a paper – Anatomy of a Large-Scale Social Search Engine (the name is a reference to a famous Google paper) – which I found quite interesting. I was expecting more statistics about the usefulness and value of Aardvark than the paper had, however the interesting part is that Aardvark turned out to be far more sophisticated than I’d realized. As I read it I’d think of a way to make it even better, and later on in the paper, find that they’d already done that. One astonishing graphic in the paper is their graph of users over time; that’s some impressive growth.
Now that Google’s bought them, I only hope that they’ll allow the founders to keep doing the good job they’ve been doing… I’ve seen too many excellent products wither after acquisition (e.g. dodgeball and jotspot).