Whenever two great ideas come together, it’s now common to see some kind of trite reference to the classic “your peanut butter is in my chocolate“, made famous by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Often the comparison is weak and the new product fails to live-up to the expectation created by the use of such a comparison. Not so with Ask.com which today announces the launch of “Blog & Feed Search” – the integration of its search expertise with the blogging technology of Bloglines. And what a sweet treat the company is serving up.
Harnessing the search power of Ask’s ExpertRank and utilizing Bloglines index that dates back to 2001, Ask’s Blog & Feed Search delivers superior relevance and richer tools than can be found elsewhere. While blog indexes such as Technorati, Feedster and IceRocket have a head-start on gathering blog data and search engines such as Google and Yahoo have already applied their search algorithm to blog feeds; Ask.com offers a tool that utilizes both a proven search algorithm and a solid index of blog feeds. It’s this combination of technology that Ask hopes will help it to tap into and organize the more than 4 million new blog posts published each day.
Understanding that Ask serves a different type of audience at Ask.com than it does at Bloglines, the company chose not to try and force the same interface on both parties, instead, the company spent the extra time and effort to cater its blog search offering to match each audience.
Ask.com, Light but Powerful
Using Blog & Feed Search via the Ask.com interface offers users a familiar feel and filtering options that are designed to help the user find the content they are looking for, without overwhelming them. Users can choose to search more than 1.5 billion indexed “Posts”, over 2.5 million themed “Feeds” or narrow their search to around 7,000 mainstream “News” sites. If the standard “Relevance” sort option is not for you, Ask offers the opportunity to sort by “Date” or “Popularity”; the latter relies more heavily on Bloglines data to determine how many people are linking-to or citing a particular blog post. “The popularity sort is actually weighting the Bloglinesâ€™ subscriber information more heavily. The articles may be a little bit older, but it is probably more relevant,” explains Ryan Massie, Senior Product Manager for Ask.com.
You’ll also find quick access to drop-down menus for adding the blog feed to your favorite news reader (currently supporting Bloglines, Google, Yahoo, Newsgator, as well as standard RSS output) or posting to an online clipping service (such as Digg or del.icio.is). You can also save the link to Ask’s MyStuff service and future options will include the ability to post to your own blog via services such as Blogger or WordPress. “Weâ€™re going to take feedback after the launch and see what features are requested,” said Massie.
Other cool features exclusive to the Ask.com interface include the familiar “Binoculars” icon which, with Blog & Feed Search, is used to provide a quick preview of the blog post, complete with any embedded content that happens to be included in the post. “Binoculars gives you the top 5 results from that feed,” explains Massie, who also noted, “If there is video in there, we can even show the video.”
Ask also offers up a unique flavor of Smart Answers for those using the regular web search tool. Using a combination of editorial review and algorithms, searches for popular blogs or bloggers generate a version of Smart Answers that include the most recent blog entries, making it a cinch to find your favorite blog content.
Bloglines, Advanced Features
As a simultaneous reward to existing users and as an incentive for others to try the service, Ask.com saves some of the most interesting filters and options for Bloglines. Here, youâ€™ll find cool features such as the ability to search only within you own subscribed feeds or only those outside your existing subscriptions. You can also search for citations, and see who is linking to a blog post and what they are saying, a useful tool for anyone tracking their online reputation.
Bloglines users also get their own version of the feed preview, a mobile-friendly alternative and the ability to search for posts only about a particular person or posted by a particular person.
As with the Ask.com version, Bloglines offers the ability to subscribe to any search query, ensuring you’re always up to date on the latest blog posts.
The Closest Thing to Perfection?
Iâ€™ve been using Technorati, Feedster, IceRocket and many other blog search engines for a few years now. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages, and I’ve often wished for one tool that could combine the best features of each. In my opinion, Ask’s Blog & Feed Search is the answer to those wishes, offering a truly fresh index, great filters that really help you find what you are looking for, and an apparent lack of spam. Yes, unlike the aforementioned, Ask is able to filter out much of the spam that plagues other blog search engines, by utilizing the inherent human filtering offered by Bloglines.
“This â€˜collective human intelligenceâ€™ provides a natural defense against spam, as people typically do not subscribe to low-quality content,ï¿½? said Apostolos Gerasoulis, executive vice president of search technology, in a statement.
It’s Ask’s ability to clean spam from its search results, that it believes sets it apart from existing offerings. “You canâ€™t completely eliminate spam, but we are doing a good job and that is what is separates us,” added Massie. “Our results are extremely clean and more clean than the other engines right now.”
If the blogosphere is going to continue to double every 6 months, blog readers are going to need a lot of help in finding the most interesting and useful content. The combination of some of the most robust search algorithms around and a database of blog feeds compiled by passionate humans, positions Askâ€™s Blog & Feed Search to emerge as the tool of choice for those looking to keep track of all this information. It may have taken Ask and Bloglines close to 18 months to join together in a blissful union, but it was worth the wait.