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March 31, 2005

The Future of Search Arrives: Introducing The Jeeves9000 (BETA)

At Ask Jeeves, we pride ourselves on creating search technologies that meet user needs.  We don't build products just because they're cool.  They have to be truly useful.  Today, however, we are proud to debut a product that is both cool and useful: the Jeeves9000 humanoid search robot.

The origin of the Jeeves9000 began with a detailed analysis of our query logs.  Every day, millions of searches are entered into the search box at Ask.com.  The most popular searches are fairly banal, such as "music lyrics" or "online dictionary".

On the other hand, we receive our fair share of searches, from people who seem to expect more of a search engine, such as "Where are my keys?"  We took it as a direct challenge.  We can leave no user need unsolved.

Thus, we are extremely proud to introduce the Jeeves9000 (click for video clip) to the world today.   We are happy to join in the long and glorious history of robots, including The Robot, Rosie the Robot, Johnny #5 and of course Mecha Godzilla.

Ask Jeeves research worked hard to ensure that our modern day robot met critical usability specifications, like the height required to operate light switches, door knobs, and garage door openers.  This innovation brings search to previously unimaginable levels of relevance, speed, and ease of use, even incorporating modern advances such as tagging.   After all, just like competition in the search space is tough, so is competition in the robot space.

Check out these additional video clips* to see the Jeeves9000 in action.

Requires QuickTime Requires QuickTime Requires QuickTime

*Requires QuickTime. For Media Player versions, please scroll to the bottom of the press release below this posting.

Still in beta, the Jeeves9000 does not yet index full PDF content or .INI files, though future models will offer these features.  Meanwhile, it has a *slight* aggressive streak, which we are in the process of ironing out.

The Jeeves9000 will initially retail for $399.99.  We will also introduce a free, ad-supported model, which will spontaneously offer product demonstrations on behalf of our sponsors.  To join the waitlist for either model, please email us at jeeves9000@askjeeves.com
 
Watch this space for updates on our progress, including Jeeves9000 web services.

Scott Grieder and Michael Ferguson, AJ Product Management

P.S.  Next rev will increase integration (click for video clip) across all of our web properties.

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Press Release

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Ask Jeeves Debuts Humanoid Robot, “Jeeves9000”

New Technology Creates High-Tech Personal Assistant

Oakland, CA April 1, 2005---Ask Jeeves today announced the launch of a the Jeeves 9000 humanoid search robot. This unprecedented innovation combines search and robotic technology to achieve an unprecedented human-like ability to perform everyday tasks and chores. JEEVES‘ unique capabilities were demonstrated at the Ask Jeeves Global Headquarters in Oakland, CA today.

“Ask Jeeves has taken up a new challenge in search services,” said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Ask Jeeves, Inc. “With this development of a robot that can connect with and intuitively serve user needs, Ask Jeeves is creating the future of search engines, a partner for people—a new kind of robot-assistant with a positive function in modern society.”

J.E.E.V.E.S. – which stands for Just Essentially Everyday Versions of E-Servants – is a further evolved version of the cutting-edge Ask Jeeves technology rendered in a people friendly size that performs tasks within the realm of a living environment. The range of search functionality has also been augmented via a new crawling technology that instantly tags, catalogs and classifies everything in your home.

Video Reference:

Jeeves9000 Unveiling: QuickTime | Media Player
Jeeves9000 at Work: QuickTime | Media Player
Jeeves9000 in the Home: QuickTime | Media Player
Jeeves9000 Features - Social Tagging: QuickTime | Media Player
Jeeves9000 Integration: QuickTime | Media Player

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March 30, 2005

Email Ask and All You Get is...

When they asked me to send out a couple hundred i heart bloglines t-shirts, I said “Sure, no problem” [Little did I know at the time how much work would be involved].

It turned out to be a fun experience. In addition to the numerous emails I received thanking me for my efforts, I had the opportunity to send t-shirts all across the United States [from Hilger, MT to Dallas, GA] and to countries throughout the world [Latvia, India, Argentina, Nigeria and New Zealand just to name a few], touching every continent [with the exception of Antarctica of course]. Some of you might wonder why I consider sending t-shirts throughout the world to be fun - well I am a closet geography buff and this gave me the perfect chance to look up every foreign city that I had not previously heard of, allowing me to increase my “buffness.” This experience definitely enlightened me to the fact that “loving” Bloglines is a feeling shared all around the globe.

Here are a couple of pictures of enthusiastic users who have already received their limited edition t-shirts:

i heart bloglines i also heart bloglines

The pictures below show that this limited edition t-shirt is so cool, you can take a picture of it even if someone isn't wearing it:

tshirt picture tshirt picture 2

See you in the Blogosphere,

Paul Loeffler, Ask Jeeves Corporate Communications

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March 25, 2005

Man vs. Vending Machine

Life at AJHQ is interesting, but sometimes it is very interesting.

Take yesterday. I was in the kitchen, when it dawned on me:

"There are 7 different kinds of drinks in that Pepsi machine. I'm sure they all have unique and different flavors. How should I choose?"

Would you gentlemen care for a Pepsi?

Then it dawned on me:

"I will taste all of them. It might take me 7 days, and $1.75 in quarters, but so help me, I'm determined to try them all."

Quickly, however, I was faced with another choice:

"Which one should I try first? Moreover, there are several snacks in the vending machine, including beef jerky. Which should I choose to go with my drink?  The possibilities are not endless, but they are numerous."

Mmmm...snacks

My mind already spinning, I turned around at the sound of footsteps entering the kitchen. To my amazement, who was walking through the door, but Ricardo Montalban, who is a big fan of Ask Jeeves and wanted to check out AJHQ for himself. He was being given a tour of the office by Pam Bocci, who works here.

Awestruck, I didn't know what to say.  He must have sensed my disorientation and said in a voice that sounded just like Mr. Roarke:

"You know, Mr. Collier, you should try the Dr. Pepper."

Nervous but excited, I turned around, quarter in hand, only to find...

…we were out of Dr. Pepper.

Erik Collier, Data Engineering

Update: There is also a Coke machine. It has Cherry Coke and Fanta Orange.

Smile

Editor's Note: Ricardo Montalban was not harmed in the writing of this post.  In fact, it turns out it was not Ricardo Montalban in the office at all, but Pam's friend Dave, who just looks like Ricardo Montalban, and wears a white suit.  Not sure why he had that accent, though, or how he knew Erik's name.  Wait a second...

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March 21, 2005

I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

Jeeves and IAC

Gee, anyone hear any interesting news today?!

Obviously, there's not much we can share at this point. Suffice to say the AJ team is incredibly excited about the opportunity to develop more great products for our users, faster. Look out world.

Here are some of the highlights from the IAC press release.

"The combined companies will continue building Ask Jeeves as one of the great brands on the Internet by:

   *  continuing Ask Jeeves’ growth trajectory by applying IAC’s proven experience in brand management and marketing, as well as through investment in distribution, R&D, technology and infrastructure, and international markets...

   *  promoting the Ask Jeeves search box on every IAC site, exposing 44 million unique users per month to the Ask Jeeves brand…

'Ask Jeeves is a pioneer in search and has grown to become one of the leading search providers through advanced technology and a suite of brands that are differentiated by both value proposition and delivery,' said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Ask Jeeves, Inc. 'Joining IAC will enable us to play on a much larger field. We are excited about the opportunity to serve as the connection between IAC’s constellation of leading online properties to share users and content. Ask Jeeves will now be in an even stronger position to aggressively grow market share.'”

There's lots of news going around about the deal, but our personal favorite was making the Drudge Report. Albeit, underneath the polar bears:

drudge

It was also amusing to see blog postings such as "IAC acquires Bloglines". Yes, it is one of our prized assets. Mr. Diller hearts it too.

We'll have more news as we get it….

Jim Lanzone

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March 18, 2005

AJ, We Bring Good (Related) Things to Life

I just returned from speaking at the O'Reilly Emerging Tech Conference in San Diego, where the theme of the week was "Remix." Program Chair Rael Dornfest categorized remixing as, "everything changes when customers customize."

Etech05

Photo originally uploaded by etech

MyJeeves, and like-minded services like Del.icio.us and MyYahoo Search, are good examples of the impact remixing will have on search. People will cull billions of Web pages into a personal Web index of hundreds or thousands of documents, tagged as they see fit to describe them. Add in your desktop docs, RSS feeds, Tivo'd shows, music playlists, etc., and you've got your own personal database of information, which you can enjoy at home, at work, at a friend's house, on a plane, or just waiting for a plane.

But that's still just "the future" for most people. Here and now, we observe that most people do not customize their searches very often. Instead, the average Web user's behavior is to head straight for the main search box and type in the first thing that comes to mind. Often times, the topic is too narrow, or too broad, or just not right in some way. Not surprisingly, then, between 30% and 50% of all searches are iterated upon with additional searches.

For that reason, we've always found our Related Topics feature to be extremely popular. Located on the right side of our results page, it gives you ideas to remix your original query with concepts that might work better. Some suggested topics let you zoom in and go deeper on the original topic. Zoom out, and you can explore new concepts that are similar to the original topic. So it’s both a query formulation and navigational tool at the same time.

Related Topics differs fundamentally from competing products because it's based on topic clustering, rather than text clustering. Like all social networks, the Web tends to cluster into "communities" of sites on given topics. Our Teoma search technology identifies these communities. Each community is related to other communities...some tightly, others loosely. Understanding the relationships between these communities enables us to understand the context of the topic, and thereby understand topics related to the user's query. This is how Related Topics is produced.

Check out some these example queries:
Beatles - You don't simply receive suggestions with the words "The Beatles", but also the 4 members of the Beatles, and even the Rolling Stones.
John Lennon – You do not simply receive suggestions with with term "John Lennon" in it, but also receive suggestions such as Paul, George and Ringo, and even the dreaded Yoko.
Red Sox - Beyond the obvious (Fenway Park, Johnny Damon), you get the Patriots, as well as the always popular "Yankees Suck" community.

In our presentation yesterday, we demonstrated some innovations we've been making in the area of community classification and clustering. One benefit will be enhanced Related Topics. We'll give you an update when it goes live in the next few weeks.

Rahul Lahiri, Search Product Management
PS: Speaking of Johnny Damon, please note the striking resemblance between Johnny and our very own Simon Mosk-Aoyama:

Johnny Damon  Simon

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March 15, 2005

Got Firefox? Get Toolbar.

mozilla toolbar

Here at AJHQ, you already know we're fans of Mozilla's Firefox browser.  In addition to its useful functionality, there's a whole ecosystem of external and open-source development out there creating extra cool features and plugins.  There are literally dozens we like, including this one and this one.  There are even multiple Firefox plugins for Bloglines.

And so, in the spirit of adding useful functionality for Firefox users, we are excited to announce the release of our first toolbar for Firefox.  You can download it here.   It features convenient access to Ask Jeeves world-class search technology, and one-click access to a range of search tools, including the MyJeeves personal search service.  Other new features added to our Firefox toolbar include:

-  Save any webpage you access
-  Save useful locations, e.g work or home
-  Snip content from web pages and save it
-  Search your personal web from anywhere via the toolbar

Stay tuned for more features, coming soon.

- Sam Nunez, Product Manager

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March 08, 2005

Confessions of a Backyard Orchardist

Annette's orange tree    Annette's new orchard arrivals

As a relative newcomer to California, there are some things about the SF Bay that I just don't take for granted:

    A) sushi
    B) the beach
    C) 7 mile bridges
    D) orange trees in every yard

None of those things existed in my prior existence in a small forest town in Northern Canada. As an avid gardener (as avid as you can get with a 3 month growing season) I nearly had convulsions when I saw my first orange tree; palms sent the hairs up on the back of my neck; my first glimpse of a Bird of Paradise - faint!

The day my husband and I closed on our first house in San Jose I started to create a backyard orchard. My home improvement schedule went as follows: May: plant trees. June: trees. July: more trees....

It's now been nearly a year (and over a dozen trips to half a dozen garden stores) and my backyard orchard has 19 fruit trees. Alphabetically they range from Asian Pear to Pomegranate. Aesthetically, Pink Variegated Lemon to Mulberry. Seasonally, Valencia Orange to Persimmon. I pester garden store personnel and Ask Jeeves equally about root rot, nematodes, and zinc deficiency. But with each new sapling I plant the thought runs through my mind, "Back home it's minus 30 degrees and I'd never dream of planting a Kumquat in January!"

Those trees are my babies. Some of them even got named, such as Ruby, the Red Grapefruit and Mulan, the newest member - a Mandarin Orange. I even have one set of triplets: the miracle of grafting lets Red Delicious, Gala and Fuji apples all grow on one tree like a horticultural United Nations.

I know it will take several years for my miniature orchard to mature; to date I've picked less than 1 fruit per tree. I may even start taking my orchard for granted as time goes on. But I'll always cherish the elated memories of my first foray into California Gardenin' - becoming a backyard orchardist.

peach blossom Annette Truong, Web Developer

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March 03, 2005

Gettin’ the Picture, AJ Style

Image Search has been getting some renewed attention in search lately.  (Ours is called Picture Search…we’re all about laymen’s terms here, man.) You may have read some of the recent press about other sites increasing the size of their image search indexes.  While we do think that a comprehensive index is important, the primary focus of our recent development has been on relevance.  This week we rolled out the results.

Until this week, we relied exclusively on the relevance algorithms provided by our partner Picsearch, which provides the roughly 500 million-image index for Ask Jeeves.  Now we’ve added some of our own search flavor to the mix.  Picture/Image Search is what computer science types like to call a "hard problem."  With pictures, as compared to web pages, there's a lot less textual information to go on when it comes to matching the best images to a user's query. So we spent a lot of time in our labs working on some new algorithms for delivering substantially better picture results than before. 

  See Image Source

Before: Result for White House

  See Image Source

After: Result for White House


Try a few of these and let us know what you think about the results:

Before: sunset, white house, lion, happy babies

After: sunset, white house, lion, happy babies


Jim Rainey, Product Manager

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March 01, 2005

SES Conference, NYC 2005

Mark Fletcher
Mr. Fletcher's first panel as a member of Ask Jeeves.

This year's Search Engine Strategies conference began yesterday in New York City, the largest conference about search engines.  There are about 20 people here from Ask Jeeves this year, six of whom are speakers. 

To help get things started, Ask Jeeves threw a little shindig last night at Aer Lounge, a club in the uber-hip meat-packing district.  Despite constant snowfall, there was a really strong turnout from the guest list. 

SES Jeeves Reception
SES goes clubbing.

We wanted to keep it low key and just create an environment for everyone to have a good time, rather than have a big "Jeeves Is The Man" bash.  On the other hand, we did treat our guests to a special performance by Ask TV spokesmodel William Hung.  William, flanked by his parents and a bodyguard, mingled with the crowd before pleasing them with renditions of She Bangs, Rocket Man, YMCA, and - best of all - Can You Feel the Love Tonight? 

Hung sings the classics
Greg Boser and Co. contemplate optimizing for the keywords, "It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A."

William Hung with Heather & Derrick
Ask Jeeves' Heather and Derrick are awestruck in the presence of greatness.

William Hung sang to Jeeves
William Hung goes for a high note.

This year marks my first chance to attend SES New York.  The show really kicked into full gear today and didn't disappoint (except for in the NYHilton's wi-fi access department, but I digress). People have always talked about SES in a similar fashion to the way folks recently discussed The Gates, which I saw on Sunday: some people rave about it, some people bag on it.

the gates - photo ops for all
I got here just in time to see The Gates.  The word is saffron.

In the end, to me, both of these events are worth it. They each manage to arouse passionate discussions, in a public dialog, that pull people outside their routine ways of thinking. At least for a bit. Anything that can achieve that is always worth the trip -- even when it's wet, snowing & 25 degrees outside…

Scott Grieder, Product Manager & Photoblogger

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Opinions expressed here and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors, not of IAC Search & Media and may not have been reviewed in advance.

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