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April 21, 2005

The Asknosticator

Anwar Robinson    Paula Abdul

One of our favorite parlor games is to use the Ask Jeeves query stream to predict the winners of reality TV shows. American Idol represents the purest form of this pursuit because the winners are voted on by the American public, rather than the contestants themselves. Hey, we've got 20 million of those people using our site each month, so surely their search volume is an accurate reflection of a contestant's popularity, right? Wrong.

The latest victim is Anwar Robinson. Called the best singer of the competition by no less an authority than Paula "Cold Hearted Snake" Abdul, Anwar was the 3rd most popular American Idol contestant on Ask Jeeves. Only Carrie and Constantine ranked higher. Then Anwar dug into the Earth, Wind & Fire songbook, and put his hands up in the air and waved them like he cared a little too much. Goodbye, Anwar.

Here were the rankings for the contestants for the week prior to last night's show. By our count, Scott, Anthony and Vonzell should be in the Bottom 3 next week. Unless the Curse strikes again.

1. Carrie Underwood
2. Constantine Maroulis
3. Anwar Robinson
4. Bo Bice
5. Scott Savol
6. Anthony Federov
7. Vonzell Solomon

This is not the first time the Asknosticator has failed us. We also thought Kwame would win the first Apprentice, and Johnny Depp would win Best Actor last year. At least we got Lord of the Rings and Charlize Theron right.

For the rest of the American Idol universe, here are the rankings for the past 7 days. Since she's been gone, Kelly Clarkson is still America's Sweetheart. Paula is mas macho than Simon. And Clay just won't go away.

1. Kelly Clarkson
2. Fantasia
3. Paula Abdul
4. Simon Cowell
5. Clay Aiken
6. Ryan Seacrest (out)
7. Randy Jackson
8. Ruben Stoddard
9. William Hung

Scott Grieder, Product Manager

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April 11, 2005



Today, we launched an upgrade to the MyJeeves service.  We originally launched MJ last September as a beta.  Since that time, we've received a surprisingly large number of registrations, and have been listening to all the great feedback these avid users have been sending us.   

Our first response is MyJeeves 1.1.  Some of the enhanced functionality we've added includes:
- saving links to images and hosting image thumbnails (from pictures.ask.com, and from the web via our toolbar)
- importing your browser bookmarks
- enhanced folder and subfoldering management functionality
- dynamic flyout menus
- tagging of saved items
- enhanced sharing and importing functionality

An example of how you can save images with MyJeeves

I'd like to mention a couple of details about the foldering system that I'm particularly proud of.  First, the DHTML flyout menuing system is smart because it doesn't try to load all the subfolders at pageloading time, but instead does so on demand by a user (as the user hovers over a folder that has subfolders).  Second, the menus are more three-dimensional in MJ 1.1 because of the use of png images to create real shadows.  Shadows rule.

With all the recent buzz about "re-mixing" the web, it's clear that products like MyJeeves will increase in demand.  Rather than a one-size-fits-all search engine, users will continue to spend increasing amounts of time building and revisiting their "personal web."  With that in mind, we'll continue to bring users the features they want to enable that.  Look for more features in upcoming releases.

And, as always, send us your ideas and feedback

- Nick Tran, Software Engineer

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April 08, 2005

"Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me"

Ask Jeeves turns 8 today (err, yesterday actually), so they asked the oldest-timer to reminisce a bit.  Here we go.

Aaahhh, I remember the good old days (sigh)…

Younger err Older Jeeves    really_Oldjeeves

The allure of the Internet, the chance to affect millions of people every day, the promise of financial well-being before the age of 30.   When the company was first incorporated in June 1996, the staff consisted of Dave Warthen and Garrett Gruener, the two founders, plus me – the software architect - and three content editors, jammed in a couple of rooms in a historic building in downtown Berkeley, a block away from the Cal campus. 

It had all the glory of a startup - the greasy smell from a Chinese restaurant downstairs, the occasional cockroaches crawling across my desk, the turn-of-the-century elevator that required a human operator, the folding bed for sleeping in the office, and a bunch of people enthused about building something different.

AskJeeves Original Beta

Fast forward a year, it's April 1997, and we are taking Ask.com out of a friends-only beta.  The site is running off of two Dell servers under my desk, and I have a pager with me at all times of day and night, just in case the site crashes.  On occasion when I can't determine what's wrong, I hook my debugger up to the live boxes, set a breakpoint, and step through the code, against the live queries.  (For non-programmers out there, this means that the user would likely never get their response back). The thought of timing out a few users didn't generate as much paranoia back then as it would now.

After a few weeks, we have a couple of thousand queries a day.  Then Yahoo gives us a "Cool Pick of the Week" mention, and our traffic doubles (from 4K to 8K), then other people start noticing, and before long, we have 150K queries a day…and now we're talking to Dell about using our technology on their corporate site to answer tech support queries.  Then comes the deal with Altavista – the king of search – where they want to use us to answer popular questions.

Ask.com 1998

Up until we had 80 people, my mom was still serving homemade lunches for everyone.  Before we knew it, we had a million queries a day, and it was 1998.  We moved to Parker Street in Berkeley, a nicer, bigger, more funky looking place, to suit the burgeoning hippie culture developing at Jeeves.  Dyed hair, bare feet, dogs roaming, people having feelings of invincibility, exploring lots of side projects, like "wouldn't it be great to have a personal Jeeves robot?" – it sure was delirious fun. 



Throughout 1998 and 1999, we went public, spent a lot of money on marketing, grew to 800 people, and I thought I'd be able to buy half of my native Russia.  Then the bubble burst, and now that's another Russian.

Ask.com 2001

By 2001, we had shrunk down to 200 people and we were counting pennies to survive.  Search was changing.  Maybe we jumped the shark.  But the winds of change were in the air here too…

Ask Jeeves Now

Who knew we'd be the Internet's biggest comeback story a few years later?  As most of you know who read this, Ask Jeeves is a very different product now than it was back then.  It is gratifying to see the awards and respect we get for being a top search engine and creating innovative features. (Maybe we unjumped the shark?) Some people still don't get it.  But hey, the Family Guy is back on primetime, and Ask Jeeves is back and competing with the big boys.  Go figure. 

Gary Chevsky - Senior Director, Site Engineering

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April 05, 2005

¡Jeeves ya habla español!

See Also: English-Version

¡Solo un mes después del lanzamiento oficial de Ask Jeeves Japón, y con el fin último de conquistar el mundo, nuestro Ask Jeeves España Beta acaba de debutar en la red! Este es nuestro tercer sitio internacional fuera de Estados Unidos y, creedme, quedan muchos por llegar. Cualquier atisbo de megalomanía en estas líneas se debe a un jet lag virtual: con ingenieros en dos continentes y tres zonas horarias, se me olvida qué hora es. ;o)

Ask Jeeves España Homepage
Ask Jeeves España Picture Results

AJ España ofrece opciones para buscar en español o exclusivamente en España, además de Búsquedas relacionadas, Prismáticos, Páginas en caché y Búsqueda de imágenes.

Esperad, que aún hay más: MiAskJeeves llega el miércoles a nuestro sitio español con todos sus aderezos. Es nuestra primera aplicación sencilla-binaria multilingüe y se estrenará simultáneamente en nuestros cuatro buscadores (EE. UU., R.U., Japón y España) y en tres idiomas.

Ya he hablado bastante, podéis ver Ask Jeeves España Beta con vuestros propios ojos en http://es.ask.com.

¡Hasta luego!

Danica Brinton, International Product Management

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¡Jeeves habla español!

One month after the official launch of Ask Jeeves Japan, and with ultimate goal of taking over the world, we have a brand-spanking new Ask Jeeves España Beta! This is our third international site beyond the United States, with many more to come, be assured. Any megalomania in these lines should be attributed to my virtual jet lag: with engineers on three continents and five time zones, I seem to forget what time of the day it is. ;o)

Ask Jeeves España Homepage
Ask Jeeves España Picture Results

AJ España features Spain-only and Spanish-language search options, as well as Related Search, Binoculars, Cached Pages, and Image Search.

But wait, there is more: look for MiAskJeeves launching on our Spanish site tomorrow, with all the bells and whistles. It is our first single-binary multilingual application and it will launch simultaneously on all four locales (US, UK, Japan and Spain) and in three languages.

OK, now, please, go and see Ask Jeeves España Beta for yourself: http://es.ask.com

¡Hasta luego!

Danica Brinton, International Product Management

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