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July 26, 2007

Live Free, Kick Hard


When people think Ask.com, they think search: superhuman algorithms, intuitive and innovative tools, Apostolos Gerasoulis (c'mon - the commercials were amazing)...Yet Ask.com isn't content with mastery in search alone. We've recently forayed our talents into an emerging market which yielded big returns: Kickball.

Introducing Ask.com's Team Fireballz

The Fireballz, comprised of nearly 20 Ask-ers from departments across the company, committed to 8 games in San Francisco's Gold Rush league. Every Thursday night, members of the Fireballz faithfully removed their search hats, put on some cleats, and sojourned from Oakland to San Francisco to meet and compete with one of sixteen other teams Unfortunately, Ask.com was the only company this season with the foresight to sponsor a team, yet with the buzz surrounding the sport, it shouldn't be long before we see other companies jumping the k-ball bandwagon (this means you, Initech).

The season was rife with anecdotes that rivaled the movie Rudy. But the team's defining moment of the season occurred early on, during game two, when the Fireballz were matched against the Sinicans.

After several dismal innings under a splash of stormy sky, the Fireballz faced what was sure to be an enormous blow to not only their team but the kickball community at large: an embarrassing loss of 0-5. Shame face.

With just one inning to go, any other team would have choked...would have wiped tears (and sweat) from their faces as they walked away in defeat...muttering, "next time, next time"--but not the Fireballz.

In an unprecedented display of athletic prowess, the F'ballz got down (like gravity) and dirtier (mud-laden field). With the bases loaded, Paul "Firefoot" Loeffler went up to bat and delivered the kickball to the heavens--leaving Team Sinicans in despair as he, and two teammates headed home. 1, 2, 3 runs. Intoxicated by the sweet scent of victory, the F'ballz continued. With two outs and the bases loaded once more, Michael "Jon Bon" Ferguson strutted to the plate--wait for it--and Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon'd the ball with a move never before witnessed, sending three more F'ballz home and bringing the game home with a final score of 6-5.

The overall season standing of the Fireballz was a respectable 3-4-1, with an unofficial silver medal in Spirit, Cheer, and Good Attitude. With nowhere to go but up, Fireballz: Season Three--starting August 2--should be chock full of surprises. Until then, keep your eye on the ball.

Amy Daggett
Co-Captain
& Fireballer Since 2006

(Photos by Michael Ferguson, Kennedy Thorwarth, and Amy)

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July 18, 2007

Playing Nicely Together: Ask Sponsored Listings and Microsoft Deliver Search Advertising to Small Businesses

 

Recently, Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan wrote a blog post, titled If Search Engines Were Frat Houses From Movies, where he compared Ask.com to Animal House's Delta Tau Chi, and Microsoft to the ROTC.

Fair assessments? Depends on who you ask. But can you imagine two such entities agreeing on anything?

We can.

Just last week, Microsoft announced that they're adding Ask Sponsored Listings (ASL) to their adManager service. adManager is the part of Microsoft Office Live (MSOL) platform that enables small businesses to purchase and manage their search-based keyword advertising from Microsoft Office Live.

More Options, More Eyeballs

For small businesses who use Microsoft Office Live to run their websites' search advertising, this partnership will come as very good news. It gives them more options to market their products and services online. And the inclusion of Ask Sponsored Listings increases their potential to attract new customers across the ASL network of over 59 million unique users, every month.

Breaking it Down for Small Businesses

Office Live, if you're not aware of what it is, is Microsoft's internet-based suite of products that offer, among other things, the ability for small businesses to create websites and bring their businesses online in an an un-intimidating, do-it-yourself manner. Among MSOL's offerings is adManager, a tool that businesses can use to create and manage online ads.

And now, thanks to the partnership with ASL, these businesses can use adManager to purchase, manage and optimize their ad campaigns across the entire ASL publisher network.

It's a win for us at ASL because it lets us offer our network to a whole field of advertisers that might otherwise not be able to access it. It's great for Microsoft because it helps them provide more advertising options to their customers. And it benefits Small Businesses because it makes it even easier for them to have success online.

Giving Small Businesses Some Attention

You can find out more information about this partnership via Reuters, Infoweek, Eweek, Clickz and a host of other news outlets that picked up the announcement. Or you can find out more about Microsoft Office Live and Ask Sponsored Listings on their respective Web sites.

With all due respect to Animal House's Delta/ROTC rivalry, when two players like these work together, a lot of good can come of it--and there's no telling what we'll come up with next.

--Todd Morrish
ASL Product Manager
API Channel

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July 11, 2007

Harry Potter: Now in (Ask)3D

I admit it, I'm a huge Harry Potter fan-- looking for the best in fan sites, news, and rumors. And this is a BIG month for us muggles. The seventh and final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, comes out on July 21st, the movie of the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix arrives in theaters today (July 11th), and finally, Harry has a birthday on July 31st (coincidentally also author J. K. Rowling's Birthday).

What does a search engine have to do with all this? Well, it's my way of keeping track of everything about the world that Ms. Rowling created.

On a quest for information about Harry, I've often used the related search feature - there are things other people are thinking about that I'm not. (If you've searched on Severus Snape or Draco Malfoy, we're talking lots of fanfic evidently!) Note: some links that appear may be NSFW or NSFC.

Obviously, I started with standard web search, but to do the serious detective work, I had to specialize.

Collecting Clues

Hint: book covers. There might just be something in the artwork that gives away something about the plot. And as you can see, there's US covers, UK covers...the book covers around the world vary.

Picturing the Characters

I have mental pictures in my head of every character, but I love to see how other people envision them. Using Ask Image search, I found how fans draw some of my favorite characters.


Sirius Black
(illustration by Tealin)


Remus Lupin (illustration by Fiendling)

Finding Movie Stills & Clips

I also get a kick out of the stills from the latest movies. It's one of the first things that pops up in search suggestions as you're searching for images.

Then I used Ask3D to find trailers for the new movie. Then I wanted to see if I could find any additional clips, and stumbled across the trailer from the SciFi Channel in French. Vive le video search!

Shopping for Harryphernalia

Normally it's the kids who get their parents into Harry Potter--not in my house! Suffice to say my whole family is involved. My daughter really wants a chess set. She may need to just save her allowance or wait until her next birthday.

Making Harry Potter Movie Premiere Plans

I have twisted a friend's arm to get pre-release preview passes, it still doesn't compare to seeing the show on opening weekend with a big crowd of fans. So I have plans to see the movie on July 13th. Here in the Bay Area, long waits in line for big movies isn't unheard of (I think it was six hours on Episode III opening night.) Which means, even if the show isn't until 8pm on Friday, I'll need to make certain food options are near where I plan to see the movie. Here's my first cut of looking for places to go that evening.

Making Harry Potter Book Release Plans

On the 20th, I'm considering a Harry Potter-themed dinner party. I'm encouraging costumes, homemade butterbeer, and a possible potion or two. (Felix Felicis, anyone?) And yes, you can find these recipes online. If only I could wait at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream shop.

Then I'll head over to the local bookstore at about 10:30 (more standing in line), to make certain I've got a good spot. I'll head home right after buying it, and jump straight into bed. I will probably read straight thru the night (I will admit to falling asleep at 3am during Half-Blood Prince and waking up at 6am to finish it.). Then I'll write my reviews and email them out to all my friends, minus key spoilers, which leads me to…

Searching For the Ending

Ultimately, we're all looking clues as to how book 7 ends, right? (and you did you know could look for something by ISBN number, right?)

As I said, I've been following the news and blog coverage. Because there's a lot of theories bouncing around. And worries. Will the prophecy come true? Will Voldemort die? Is Snape good or evil? And most importantly, will Harry live?

Ask's news, blog and feed search tools are my own personal rumor mills, I not only can see what the latest posts are, but where to go to read them.

I keep finding new and interesting posts, including several about Harry possibly being a Horcrux that I had to investigate.

Now, back to searching for some Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes; I'd like to find some way to vanish from my office and finish re-reading all six books before the madness begins.

Aside from that, I'm well prepared. Accio, Harry!

Carla Borsoi
Director of Research & Analytics
Ask.com

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July 09, 2007

For Ask3D Power Users

If you're looking to get the most out of Ask3D, you should know all the tools. We've already covered our home page, our three-panel results screen, and our right-rail filled with vertical content and in-line functions. But wait, there's more…

Binoculars 2.0

As tech columnist Walt Mossberg noted the other day, We've taught our popular site preview tool some new tricks. Our binoculars window is 50% larger, 50% faster, and there's more of them, so they show up--all together now--50% more often.

What's more, it gives you more than just a visual preview. Within each binocular, you'll find these three pieces of info about that Web site:

- Number of pop-ups on the Web site
- Whether or not the site is Flash-based
- How fast/slow the site takes to load on a 56k connection

"Freeze" Your Search Results to Make Changes

Any good searcher knows that real power searching is done by performing advanced searches, modifying your search preferences, and saving searches that really hit the mark. The problem's always been that you usually have to click away to do any of these things-or set them up before you even start searching. That means you'd waste loading a new page, clicking the "back" button, or worse, starting your search all over again.

Until now. With Ask3D, you can change your preferences, do an advanced search, or add your search results to MyStuff without leaving the page you're on.

For example, click the "Options" link in the top corner of the Left Panel, and a new window will show up on top of your search results, "freezing" them until you change your preferences. You don't waste any time loading a new page. Once you finish changing those settings, your results will "unfreeze" and you can continue on your way.

And that, in six simple blog posts (1 2 3 4 5 6), is the new Ask3D.

Ask3D--the Audio Nutshell

Want the entire lowdown on Ask3D while you drive or go to the gym? Webmaster Radio did a podcast interview with Daniel Read, Ask.com's VP of Site Product Management & User Experience, that covers the whole megillah. Click here to get it.

Hopefully, by this time, you've tried a search or two. If not, what are you waiting for?

Ken Grobe
Product Content Manager
Ask.com

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July 03, 2007

Jackie O., Sandra Oh, and Lindsay Lo: July Smart Answers


Feel that heat? it's July all right, and that means camping, barbeques, mosquito bites, fireworks. and of course lots of celebrity birthdays. Slap on some sunscreen and let's get started with the Smart Answers!

Smart Answers for July Dates:

July 1: A royal blonde and Blondie's royalty.
July 2: A Justice, an assassination, and, well, Lindsay Lohan
July 3: Tom Cruise and Laura Branigan.
July 4: Independence Day.
July 5: P. T. Barnum.
July 6: Dubya.
July 7: Legendary band leaders Doc Severinsen and Richard Starkey.
July 8: Kevin Bacon, and, only two degrees away, Nelson Rockefeller.
July 9: O.J. Simpson, Tom Hanks.
July 10: Jessica Simpson. No relation.
July 11: A president and a jailbird.
July 12: Bill Cosby.
July 13: Harrison Ford.
July 14: Bastille Day.
July 16: Orville Redenbacher and Will Ferrell.
July 17: Disneyland opened in 1955.
July 18: Pioneers Nelson Mandela and John Glenn.
July 19: Brian May of Queen.
July 20: Natalie Wood, Carlos Santana, and Grey's Anatomy's Sandra Oh.
July 2:1 Ernest Hemingway, Robin Williams.
July 22: Bob Dole, Albert Brooks.
July 23: Raymond Chandler.
July 24: Wonder women Amelia Earhart, Bella Abzug and J-Lo.
July 25: a Golden Girl, a legendary Bear, and a Friend.
July 26: Jung, Kubrick, Jagger.
July 28: Jackie Kennedy Onassis
July 29: A famous wedding and a famous Ken.
July 30: An inventor and a Governator.
July 31: J. K. Rowling.

UK Smart Answers for July:

July puts us smack dab in the heart of Wimbledon. Stock up on strawberries and cream!

Also, the 8th series of Big Brother is in full swing. And on July 8th, UK racing fanatics are sure to be cheering on Briton Lewis Hamilton as he makes his Formula One debut at the British Grand Prix.

More and smarter answers...next month!

--The Ask.com Smart Answers Team

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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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