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May 31, 2006

Ask.com Maps: Aerial Europe

The first thing people usually try to do with our mapping product is look for an aerial shot of their house or where they grew up. Call it "vanity searching" for maps.  Being from the Netherlands, that was a difficult proposition with all of the existing products out there. But with the launch of our Maps that is no longer the case. 

Here is a shot of the town I grew up in.

Universiteit Tu Eindhoven
Here is the university I went to in Eindhoven.

Working on our aerial maps makes it hard to get homesick. :)

Some quick facts about Eindhoven: It is the city where electronics giant Philips was founded in 1891, Jan de Bont was born there, and it is home of the soccer team PSV Eindhoven.

Not only do we have great maps coverage for the Netherlands, but also for a lot of Western Europe and even parts of Northern and Eastern Europe. We hope to cover the entire world at some point, but this is a great start for our users in Europe. 

Here are some other interesting shots:

The Louvre

Houses of Parliament

Canals of Amsterdam

Buckingham Palace

Eiffel Tower

Charles De Gaulle Airport

Take a look around and let us know if you spot anything interesting.

Michiel Frishert
Ask.com Site Research and Development

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May 23, 2006

Stock Search & Smart Answers

Part of the fun of working at Ask.com is discovering many of the Smart Answers that can be real time and click savers. Here are a few I discovered last week.

Like many web engines, entering a ticker symbol and/or company name will give you the latest stock price and some other investment related info. In some cases, you'll need to begin your search with the term "stocks" or stock quote. For example: Stocks AMR,   Ticker Symbol Sirius, CSCO, Stock Quote Pepsico. Our Smart Answer results contain data from both Marketwatch.com (now a part of Dow Jones) and Big Charts. This search feature also works on Ask.com UK.

OK, that's cool but Ask.com offers more. What we think is extra cool is that certain queries will place up-to-the-minute (15 minute delayed info) fast facts about a public company directly on a results page, above the results, in the Smart Answer space. As I said before, a real time saver for the business researcher or investor.

Here are a few cases that illustrate this point:
  * Market Capitalization KO (Coca-Cola)
  * Outstanding Shares Fedex
  * Price Earnings Ratio GE
  * Nike stock

Btw, many of these techniques also work for companies not listed on U.S. exchanges.

For example: Outstanding Shares BOS (Body Shop, Traded on the London Stock Exchange) and P/E Ratio BOOT

Here's an example of two companies each with the same ticker symbol. Stock price BOOT offers the latest price for Lacrosse Footwear traded on the NASDAQ.  However, you'll also find a link below the Lacrosse Footwear info asking you   if you're interested in a quote for BOOT (Boots Group) that trades on the London Stock Exchange. Finally, entering Market Summary into an Ask.com search box will provide current numbers for the Dow Jones Industrial Index, NASDAQ composite index, and the S&P 500.

See you tomorrow at WebSearchU!

Gary Price
Ask.com Director of Online Information Resources

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May 19, 2006

Data Mining and Search

I noticed in the news that data mining specialist Rakesh Agrawal joined Microsoft Search Labs. Dr. Agrawal is perhaps best known for his work co-authoring a paper with Dr. Tomasz Imielinski and Dr. Arun Swami in 1993 on data mining, titled Mining Association Rules between Sets of Items in Large Databases.

I thought it was worth noting that Agrawal's co-author, Dr. Imielinski, is a member of our New Jersey research and development center. This Association Rules paper is one of the most frequently cited papers ever on the subject of data mining and Tomasz has received several international awards recognizing the long-term impact of his work.

On a personal note, I first met Tomasz in the late 1990's when I was a technical director at Dun & Bradstreet, seeking out ways to understand and present the massive amounts of business data being captured.  He was both computer science chair at Rutgers University (where else?) and a leading expert in data mining and mobile computing, among other things. His stories of the vibrant ideas and opportunities he found at Ask.com helped to attract me here as an employee last year -- and he was right.

As a bonus, Dr. Imielinski also plays one heck of a mean guitar, in blues and heavy metal, writing original songs with local band System Crash. The band has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Newark Star-Ledger, and The Home News Tribune (New Brunswick).
Full disclosure: I'm also the bass player.

System Crash

James Jeude
Ask.com Senior Product Manager

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May 12, 2006

Ask.com Employee Spotlight: Dmitriy Ryaboy

Ask.com Employee spotlight

There is a small steel catapult on my desk, which we use to occasionally shoot M&Ms and breath mints at the guys in Product Development.  That’s just scratching the surface when it comes to my medievalism.

I was fascinated by knights from the very beginning. When I was a kid, stories of King Arthur, Ivanhoe, and Richard the Lionhearted filled my imagination as I shadow-fenced with a stick for a sword and a pot lid for a shield.

Most boys go through that phase, and unlike me, most grow out of it. I, on the other hand, have long abandoned the pot lids and shadows in favor of full armor and flesh-and-blood knights.

Dmitriy Ryaboy

As a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), I engage in full-contact armoured combat intended to simulate the tournaments and wars of a medieval knight. The group is multi-faceted, with members practicing all sorts of medieval pursuits -- calligraphy, heraldry, brewing, blacksmithing, and so on -- but the most visible activity, and the one that drew me in, is the fighting. Every Thursday night, I put on my armour -- a mail shirt, steel arms and legs, a heavy helmet -- take up my sword and shield, and fight my friends in the glaringly unmedieval Rockridge BART parking lot. That's fighter practice. On weekends, we gather in significantly more picturesque parks and fairgrounds, and hold tournaments, complete with banners, heralds, our ladies' favors, and all the other accoutrements of a proper deed of arms.

group combat

dmitriy vs conall  ursus
Photos courtesy of Dmitriy and Kelli Thompson

The fighting itself is intense and highly competitive.  It is not uncommon for 2mm-thick steel to get dented from the impact of the rattan 'swords'. Shields get battered and splintered, limbs and bodies turn purple with bruises. People have devoted years of practice and study to this pursuit; over time, whole schools have evolved around the basic concept of smashing another guy in the helmet before he smashes you.

All the fighting is on the honor system, even the most prestigious tournaments. 
There are no judges, only safety monitors.  The one who is struck decides whether the blow was sufficient, and chooses to yield the fight. This arrangement fosters trust among the competitors, and builds a platform for understanding and discussing the concepts of the virtues of chivalry – prowess, honor, justice, mercy.

It also builds a good platform for keeping the management just a little bit scared.

Dmitriy Ryaboy
Data Engineering

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May 04, 2006

Who is Apostolos Gerasoulis?

Before yesterday, we doubt many of you ever found yourselves asking this question unless you saw his name on a business card or listed as a speaker at a search conference. All that's changed thanks to the brand new Ask.com TV spots. Instead of people behaving like monkeys, or talking monkeys, you will see a highly evolved human, Apostolos Gerasoulis featured in our new TV commercials.

Watch the new Ask.com TV spots

We know him as "A.G." He is the co-creator of our ExpertRank technology, and he is doing an on-air demo of how Ask's tools work. Check them out and let us know what you think.

Get to know more about Apostolos:
* All About A.G.
* Apostolos's Photo Album

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