You might seen this post from Google announcing their intention to close out a few of their experimental products. One of the products that will be closed is Aardvark. Aardvark is a social question and answer tool where you can ask a question and it will find someone to answer your question for you.
You might wonder why Aardvark is so important considering that there are so many Q&A sites like Quora, Yahoo answers etc. The reason is this – Aardvark is the only one that could find someone who knew the answer to the question (however esoteric) that you throw at it. It also pings the people to answer your questions so it has a dynamic and personal nature to the answers. If you have further questions based on the answer, Aardvark will get those answered too (by the person who originally answered your question).
Since people like me got so much value from Aardvark, we always chose to answer random questions that Aardvark brought for us. Even if I did not know the answer to a certain question, I would research it so that it could help the person who asked that question. I wanted to make sure that I had a positive karma balance with Aardvark (more questions answered than asked). I am sure there were many others like me since the quality of answers that I got was so high.
In our move to France, Aardvark was a very critical tool for our integration into the country. It was like having a close friend who knew all the answers to your questions about living in France except that this friend was available 24X7.
Here are some of the ways in which it has helped us:
1. Once we had to send a very urgent letter on a weekend and everyone told us that we have to wait until Monday. I asked Aardvark, and voila! I came to know that a La Poste was available near the Louvre in Paris. We were able to mail our letter on a Sunday!
2. We consume a lot of Tofu since we are vegetarian. When we came to France, we could not find fresh tofu in the grocery stores. We did find the dry variety which isn’t as good. Many people told us that we should go all the way to Bio stores in Paris to get fresh tofu. I turned to Aardvark, and found that there were three stores within 5 kms of where we live that carried fresh Tofu!
3. We wanted to find an alternative to the local French banks that charge a bomb just to give you a current account. I got referred to Fortuneo, ING Direct etc thanks to my anonymous friends on Aardvark.
4. We are learning French using Rosetta Stone. Since there are no explanations in Rosetta, I always turned to Aardvark with my questions about French. At any time of the day or night, I got answers from my trusty Aardvark that helped speed up our learning.
With Google sunsetting Aardvark, I feel like I am losing a close friend. I think Aardvark addressed a gap in the market and the gap still exists. So please dear Google, please do not shut down Aardvark. Heck, give it to me and I will keep it going!