Where was Einstein born? You probably don't know (I don't), but no big deal: Wikipedia, Google, Yahoo and Bing, to name a few, can give you the answer almost instantaneously. But if you want to find the best book for exploring his theory … then things get hard.
Search engines and encyclopedias can answer any objective question one could possibly ask. But they falter when we ask subjective things – even if 55% of questions asked on Google are subjective, according to Horacio Poblete, co-founder of the Brazilian search engine, Ledface. These questions are a larger source of revenue, as more clicks are needed to find the answer than the one click needed for factual ones.
“It's simple," Poblete says. “Google and the others are failing when it comes to something as easy as giving an opinion." Questions like this one, asked by Google employee from India: " What's the best time to plant crops in India if monsoon season arrived earlier than usual?"
Poblete lives in Campinas, west of São Paulo. I interviewed him on Skype, from Rio.
Here's what I learned about Ledface:
How it works
- Ask a subjective question. Ledface recognizes the nature of that question and uses your profile to select a group of people who can answer it. The question is asked to a first person, who has 600 characters in which to answer is. It's then passed on to the next responder, and so on.
- In total, five people help co-create a unique response to the question. The entire process is anonymous.
- Ledface is a combination of artificial intelligence (choosing the best group of people to answer the question) and collective intelligence (for creating the best response). The later creates actionable information on what to do/not do, like if you asked a friend.
- The difference between Ledface and Yahoo Answers is how Ledface users co-create the answer. “Collective intelligence is better than the specialist."
- Anonymity allows users to be themselves and to ask more intimate questions, questions that are not usually asked on social networks.
- Launched in October 2011 by a team of four engineers and a marketing expert, Ledface currently has 4,000 users, with 20% growth over the preceding month. Poblete believes it needs to hit 100,000 users for answers to reach the desired quality.
- As with every time something like this launches, the site gets a lot of questions about IT and entrepreneurship. Others ask advice on their love lives. Seventy percent of questions have already been answered.
- The objective (and the market, if I understand) is to position itself as a n enterprise source for capturing collective intelligence. Ledface plans on becoming a virtual assistant in 2013. While hoping to generate revenue with that model, Ledface currently relies on contextual advertising. This should work well, since anonymity allows users to give more information about themselves – Ledface will know its users better than social networks do.
It's an interesting idea, one that could really succeed in the health sector. It needs to really grow its user base before it can reach its full potential. This is a real startup, carrying real risk that it won't succeed.
Since it's targeting a global market, the site is in English, not Portuguese.
It's not certain if people will like having anonymous responses to intimate questions. But it's obviously better than the inverse. “Users don't want to know what's behind the screen; they want a good answer, quickly," Poblete says.