Advice through your social influencers. Is it a suffocating prospect for us?

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vark.jpgToday's New York Times has a great story on Aardvark and how it uses your social graph to help you find answers to questions. It works rather simply - you pose a question via email or IM and Aardvark channels the question to people in your social graph (currently that's just your social graph on Facebook) and then brings back the answers to you. Users who don't respond aren't exposed so there's no discomfort created. As a result no social capital is expended either.

Currently, Aardvark works only with Facebook and pings your friends and their friends for volunteers to answer the question. So it take the question to ties that are once removed from you. But it just doesn't ping everyone automatically, using its proprietary technology it pings only those friends who are most likely to have the answer and to respond to the question. It also organizes the responses and determines when it has received enough feedback. If no one in your network answers, the question is extended to second and third generation ties.

Why is this special? Because it leverages human capital and algorithms to determine who are the most likely people to be able to answer a question as well as who will be most willing to do so. It makes your social influencers work for you. It's built fundamentally around the concept of strength in weak ties recognizing that people in your network (and maybe the weakest ties) are most likely to be able to answer the question and will probably bring back the most trusted answers.

Is it more of a decision engine than Bing? Time will tell but what is certain is that by applying an intelligent filter on my social graph it is making it far more meaningful to me  beyond the obvious social, entertainment and networking purposes that the social graph serves. Check out Aardvark and ask yourself what else would you like filtered through your social graphs. Or ask Aardvark to ask that. Maybe which ads to watch....33Across and Media6Degrees are already exploring that territory. It is just a matter of time before we see the world through the lens of our social graphs. It'll make life easier but here's a warning - it may limit our outlook on everything too.

Follow me on Twitter (@shivsingh) for more insights on digital strategy and social media.


AliSwi said:

Why have I not heard of Aardvark before? I’ve never received any inquiries or heard of any friends using it either. How is Aardvark spreading the word about its service?

Shiv Singh Author Profile Page said:

Aardvark just went into public beta last week which might be the reason. They've been discussed a bit online but not very much. I don't know what their marketing plans are but I assume that they're going to depend on word of mouth. It is a natural strategy for a web product of this type.

Alison said:

Shiv, thanks for writing about Aardvark!

In response to AliSwi, Shiv is correct that Aardvark just emerged from private beta. Additionally, you only received questions once you are signed up for the service--we don't ping random people in your network. Aardvark uses Facebook Connect to know which of your Facebook friends are on Aardvark, then also links you to friends of friends to broaden your network of possible answerers.

Because having a rich social network is so important to the Aardvark user experience, we are mostly letting our users spread the word for us through invitations to the service.

If you or any other readers have questions or feedback, I'd love to hear

- Alison @ Aardvark

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