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Review: Why Aadvark’s iPhone App Is Great For Questions and Answers

aardvark

Have a question? Aardvark Mobile is a great iPhone app that will find a real person to answer it – usually within minutes. It is a wonderfully useful app and has the potential to be an iPhone mainstay for years to come.

Aardvark Mobile is the latest addition to Aardvark: a social question and answer service that emerged from its beta phase earlier this year. Before Aardvark Mobile, users could only communicate with Aardvark through IM or email. The upshot of this was that if you needed a question answered from your iPhone, you had to go through your email or instant messaging app. In most circumstances you were better off finding an answer on your own using Google – even on an iPhone 2G.

But now Aardvark Mobile makes using Aardvark with an iPhone a cinch. So easy in fact, it makes Googling questions from your iPhone seem cumbersome and antiquated.

Aardvark Mobile is a great app because it gives its users the ability to obtain extremely personal and highly tailored answers. In fact, the best questions to ask are those that solicit subjective opinions. For example:

Me: “Has anyone been to Pizzetta 211 in San Francisco? How is it?”

Less than two minutes later I receive a Push Notification on my iPhone. The iPhone beeps and vibrates.

Aardvark: “Wendy/F just answered your question about *Restaurants* Close or View?”

I select “View” and voila! I have a one-sentence rundown of Pizzetta 211. It sounds like a good place. I will definitely check it out next time I am in San Francisco.

Another great thing about Aardvark Mobile is that it is a fun, rewarding, and even addictive time killer. It’s much more fun to answer people’s questions than screw around with the crappy games I have.

Go to the “Answer” section and scroll through the questions Aardvark thinks might be appropriate for you to answer. If you know the answer, then select “Answer” and type in your response. If you know someone who may know the answer, then select “I know who to ask” and refer the question to them.

Hint: if you come across another user’s question that you want to know the answer to just select “Let me know what you find out” and Aardvark will email you the responses to that question – you will not get notified through Aardvark Mobile.

This iPhone app is highly polished for a 1.0 version. It works really well with the iPhone’s Push Notification system.

When you ask Aardvark a question it uses a patented algorithm to route it to the most appropriate people. To find those people, Aardvark considers a host of factors, such as: related topics in peoples’ profiles; how you are connected to people; who you trust about related topics; your history of training Aardvark; people who share your favorites; people in the right location; and other mysterious factors. Once Aardvark determines the best potential answerers, it sends them the question and asks them to answer it.

Hint: if you find Aardvark asks you to answer questions too frequently or at bad times, you can adjust the contact preferences within the “Settings” section your account on Aardvark’s website or, if you are on your iPhone, the “More” section of Aardvark Mobile.

There is one caveat: Aardvark Mobile is not suited for every question. In many cases you may be better served to take the time to conduct some proper research through Google, Wikipedia, or a specialized database. For example, because real people are responding to your questions, the answers Aardvark finds you are only as comprehensive as the answerer wants to make them. Often times, if you ask a complex question answerers may simply refer you to Wikipedia or some other website. In those cases the utility of Aardvark is significantly diminished.

Here are some things I would like to see in future updates to Aardvark:

  • Continued improvements to the algorithm Aardvark uses to route questions.
  • More customization for the contact settings. It would be nice to carve out specific times of day where Aardvark Mobile will ask questions.
  • A “back” or “undo” button in the “Answer” section. I sometimes close questions before realizing I have a good answer to contribute.
  • The ability to save partially written answers when exiting Aardvark Mobile. I sometimes need to exit the app to use Google, etc. It would be nice not to lose my partially written answers.
  • The ability to tag questions with multiple subjects from Aardvark Mobile.
  • Multimedia questions. I have seen a few people include links to outside web pages in their questions.
  • An option to ask questions anonymously and an option to pose your question only to Aardvark’s extended network.
  • More of Aardvark’s features accessible in Aardvark Mobile.

Aardvark Mobile is available now from the App Store. It is compatible with any iPhone or iPod Touch provided you are running OS 3.0 or later. It is well worth the price – FREE.

About the author

Jonathan ZschauJonathan was introduced to Apple at the age of five when his family bought its first computer, an Apple IIGS, in 1986. He has owned and used Macs almost exclusively ever since. He is an attorney from Boston, Massachusetts where he focuses on litigation technology. As a contributor he writes about consumer protection issues related to Apple products. He is also the author of Buying and Owning a Mac: Secrets Apple Doesn't Want You to Know.

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