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May 26, 2005

Who's Zoomin' Who?

It's an immediate gratification society, and search is no different.

Few people are patient enough to use "advanced search" tools to narrow their searches. And sometimes they aren't exactly sure what they want. So most people just go to that mesmerizing white box on our homepage and start typing. They just want to get up and search!

As we've said before, this is why our #1 most used feature has been Related Topics. It's full of conceptually-related topics (or clusters) that offer suggestions to narrow or expand your search.

Today's product announcement, Zoom, is the next generation of Related Topics…so now you can be even lazier and still find what you want!

zoom

Zoom is displayed in the right side of the Ask Jeeves results page, categorized into 3 types:
1. Narrow your search ("Zooming In"): view topics that are close to the nucleus or core meaning of your query
2. Expand your search ("Zooming Out"): view topics that are further away from the nucleus but conceptually related
3. Related Names: just to show off…no, really, because they're incredibly useful…you can view names that are conceptually related to the query at hand

People have been pretty blown away by the product in focus groups. It's quite addicting as you start Zooming around.

So everyone wants to know… how did you do that?

I can't tell you but…OK, twist my arm.

By now you know Ask Jeeves search (Teoma) is the only search technology that clusters the web into topical communities in real-time. Zoom examines the relationships between these communities to identify concept clusters that are common or close to the same subject and categorizes them accordingly. This allows us to intuitively understand the meaning of related concepts that current clustering technologies can't.

Try these:

Beatles

The Simpsons

Giants

Afghanistan

And make sure you click the "more" button while Zooming - so you see all the possible suggestions. Pretty sweet.

Zoom On!!!!

Nitin Shetti, Search Technology
Young Mi Chun, Product Management

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We're Not Just For Questions Anymore, But Check This Out

What is Ask Jeeves?

Web answer example

That is the answer our new product, Web Answers, found on the web. No, really.

Obviously, with world-class search technologies and features, Ask Jeeves is about much more than questions these days. Still, about 20% of searches on Ask Jeeves are entered in the form of a question (down from about 70% in the old days), vs. about 10% on other search engines. If we're going to help people find what they need more easily (in other words, quickly), we need to provide more relevant results for these kinds of searches.

Our Smart Answers product was one important step, diving structured databases to present accurate information at the top of the page. But we needed to cast the net more widely to respond to all the searches looking for a direct answer. Enter our latest product, Web Answers.

Web Answer example 2
Web Answers is a new technology that, through a combination of our NLP expertise and Teoma search, harnesses the information out there on the open Web to find you answers…in real time.

When we set out to solve this problem, we studied existing state-of-the-art, including various TREC systems, and we got some of our inspiration from that. But making this technology perform on a web-wide production scale in real time had never been demonstrated... until now. Take one cup of linguistic processing, add two table-spoons of Teoma special sauce, throw in a search-friendly UI… and we got Web Answers fresh out of the oven. In the coming months, under our tender loving care, we hope to continue to expand its repertoire of knowledge.

Direct Answers from Search

Some favorite queries from the web answers team:

what is the big dig
what is bubble tea
what is love
smallest mammal
what is biryani
what is the name of the dog on the cracker jack box?
inventor of the television
who said the eyes are the windows to the soul
when did seinfeld start
smallest big cat

Stay tuned to see more improvements coming soon!

Rona Yang, Knowledge Systems Group
Deqing Chen, Teoma Search Engineering

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May 25, 2005

The Jeeves9000 B-Sides

"Does anyone remember laughter?" - Robert Plant

Making Jeevesbot9000

I was really pleased with how well our April Fool's Day blog posting & fake Ask.com product announcement went over this year. The Jeeves9000 project was a hit, and you'd be surprised how many people actually thought we really developed an overly aggressive search robot... Instead, Michael Ferguson graciously stepped inside an old Jeeves costume which we quickly altered with a can of spray paint, a radio shack antenna & clownish absurdity (My personal favorite clip being the one where the Jeevesbot playing sports outside with a family and then just painfully sacks Lanzone ... QuickTime | Media Player).   

Two late afternoons of unscripted shooting, a few long nights of editing and Jeeves9000 was born. As with every labor of love, there were many fun moments that we had to cut out, but due to the overwhelming interest - I humbly present;
The Jeeves9000 B-Sides. 

Jeevesbot9000 B-sides
QuickTime required; may take a minute to load

Scott Grieder, Product Manager

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May 20, 2005

Looking Good!

I just wanted to give a quick update on the progress of our new image search product. As you may recall, we upgraded it back in February, and the results have been fantastic!

The short version of the story is that search volume in our Pictures channel on Ask Jeeves has almost doubled in less than 3 months – and it was already our second-most used feature. It didn’t happen all at once. But slowly, week-by-week, the numbers have kept creeping up and up. The team here that worked on the product is extremely excited.

More fun image search queries where we rock:

Kaushal Kurapati
Product Management, Search Technology

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May 17, 2005

Just Thinking About The Weather

"Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." - Mark Twain

Hi, I'm Robyn, the new product manager for Bloglines. Only a few weeks in and I've already started dreaming in Bloglines… is that good or bad?

Robyn DeuPree with Nero

That's Nero in the picture next to me. I am my dog's mom but I refuse to believe I'm as obsessive as the people on Bravo's "Showdog Moms & Dads."

For my first trick at Bloglines, allow me to introduce a new unique-to-me feature that lets you subscribe to news feeds customized to the locations where you live, work, play and travel. Bloglines custom weather allows you to receive weather updates on locations around the globe, and can be tuned in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. We're still working on Chinese and Portuguese, and hope to add them soon.

This weekend I'm planning a drive from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay Area - more than 500 miles. One of my least favorite places on that drive is Harris Ranch, a massive cattle yard in the middle of the Central Valley. There the aroma of bovine flatulence permeates the tightest German-built window and vent seals-and the intensity only rises with the temperature. So right now, my Bloglines weather subscriptions are keeping an eye on the forecast for Coalinga, California, near Harris Ranch. If the temperature tilts up, I may take the long way North via the coast!

Here's what the Coalinga forecast looks like right now:

subscribing to weather forecasts

Check out the Bloglines weather feeds for yourself and let us know what you think - you can get started right on our home page. Just remember: we can keep you informed about the weather, but we can't do anything about it!

Robyn DeuPree, Bloglines Product Manager

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May 16, 2005

Lost In Translation 2

I just returned from Tokyo, where I joined Teoma founder Apostolos Gerasoulis and Bloglines founder Mark Fletcher, to help usher in Ask Jeeves Japan.

The company, which launched its beta site last August, is a joint venture between Ask Jeeves US and Transcosmos, a Japanese holding company that also owns the Japanese versions of Doubleclick, Atom Shockwave, Listen.com, Nielsen NetRatings, CinemaNow and others. Last Tuesday they held a press conference to announce the official launch, and the three of us were invited to fly out and participate. Talk about star power.

Shibuya
Mark, me and AG in the heart of Shibuya, near the Transcosmos office

The press conference was a big success. Nearly 100 journalists attended, and the launch was well received in the press the next day. Here is a link to the Excite Japan translation of one of the articles, though you will have a hard time making much sense of it. For example, my name is translated "Mr. Gem Orchis Zone".

Shiokawasan at Hiro Press Conference Thumbs Up
AJJ CEO Hiro Shiokawa ushers in the dawn of Ask Jeeves Japan
Mark confirms that the crowd actually understood my jokes

The AJJ launch coincided with the annual World Wide Web conference, which was held in Tokyo this year. Tim Berners-Lee was the keynote. Notably, our newest star on the search technology team, Antonio Gulli of the Pisa, Italy office, had 5 papers accepted into the conference, including ones on news personalization and video search. Congrats to Antonio.

The first night of the conference, AJJ threw a cocktail party for some prominent bloggers. The Japanese love using English words in marketing materials, so sure enough the party was descriptively called "Ask Geeks." Apparently no one took this the wrong way and everyone had a great time.

Ask Geeks Invite Ask Geeks
Poster for the Ask Geeks party
Two of our biggest Geeks

Our favorite part of the trip was hanging out with the team from Ask Jeeves Japan. We hung around the office after the press conference, mingling and giving demos of new products we're working on.

The Office ASKJ T-shirt

AG and Antonio holding court at AJJ

The AJJ team loves our internal t-shirts, including this one honoring AC/DC

AJJ CEO Hiro Shiokawa then took us all out to Italian food. (Of course, Antonio flew 15 hours from Italy to Tokyo to eat Italian food.) We had a blast, especially the part when we peppered new recruits with "3 Questions", a Japanese tradition. Ask new people any three questions you want, in front of everyone. It got ugly very quickly, with questions such as, "What are your hang-ups?"

Picture of Mark
Everyone wanted a picture of Mark and AG at dinner

Lastly, as Mark noted on Winged Pig, he did indeed partake in the calorie-busting cream puffs of Beard Papa. Here is the proof:

Getting Beard Papa  What is Beard Papa

Ate My Beard Papa

Thanks to our hosts. Mark and I will be returning in June to speak at the CNET conference. Can't wait.

Jim Lanzone

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May 10, 2005

Easy Tiger

Checked out Apple’s new Tiger OS over the weekend and as expected found some cool stuff. Spotlight is quick and embedded in the OS, with some nifty functions within the actual results. Desktop search is definitely heating up. We are going to dig into it some more and look at some of the plugins including metadata importers and API support. Safari now has RSS built in and dashboard widgets are great to play with, particularly the liquid interface effect when you drop them on the desktop.

Jeeves on Tiger

It’s easy to go widget crazy and install a lot of them. Interestingly amongst the 109 new user coded plugins there were no widgets for Google, Yahoo or Microsoft core search (an I’m feeling lucky one doesn’t count) – I did find one written for Ask Jeeves Search, so I was really pleased that Ask Jeeves was first up amongst big search players with a core search widget for Tiger.

Widgets allow you to do something I like to call ‘Really Simple Personalization’ (RSP). For instance, grab a couple of things to help you get stuff done without having to sign up or subscribe to anything. You can experience something similar with MyJeeves, which allows you to save search results without being signed up, for quick tasks, e.g. finding a library.You’re likely to see more and more of this kind of light application building in the future, on the desktop and on the web.

Daniel Read, VP Product Management

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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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