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  • Earth Day Special: Bits and Bytes in Las Vegas

    Ever think about what the Internet looks like behind the scenes? You might be surprised by the massive amount of work Internet companies are doing to bring us websites like Ask.com. A gigantic network of computers (servers) hums away at all hours of the day and night to bring information from every remote place in the world into our homes. This large network of machinery is not without its environmental consequences. Some estimates say that Internet data centers, the facilities that are home to the computers that serve the Internet, used an average of 30 gigawatts of power in 2012. That’s enough to power an entire country! 

    Titan, our existing server named after deities in Greek mythology, was built for Ask.com expansion many years ago. We rented a former NORAD missile control center and trucked in thousands of servers to bring more answers to the world’s questions. Part of my work here at Ask.com involves global strategies for data-center collocation. That means that I get to help make our website lean, mean, and better for our world’s ecosystem. Last year our team analyzed our servers and found an exciting opportunity. Innovations in technology both at Ask and worldwide created the possibility for us to retire this behemoth in favor of a leaner and more environmentally-friendly facility. We discovered an ability to close a huge data center capable of running almost 50,000 servers and replace it with only 150 lean-and-mean hypervisors.

    Introducing Zeus - son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea! In March of 2014, a crack team of Ask.com engineers ventured screwdriver-in-hand to Las Vegas, Nevada to build Zeus, our next-generation data center. Zeus will be home to only 150 servers and operate at extremely-high efficiency. Not only is this better for our ecosystem, but it’s a great excuse to head to Las Vegas for frequent maintenance. 

    Check out the team in action as we installed Zeus!

    Happy Earth Day Everyone!

    - Jack Roehrig

    Jack Roehrig runs platform and infrastructure services at Ask.com as Director, OSE and Information Security Officer.

    Sources:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_consumption

    http://www.greenhousedata.com/images/uploads/GHD_Data_Energy_Infographic.png (sources listed at bottom).



  • Moving Up The Ladder

    Ask loves bringing in young minds and giving them the opportunity to learn and grow within the company. Former intern Joey Hinojosa was recently hired as a full-time Search Marketing Specialist at Ask! We talked to Joey about his journey to and through Ask, and some suggestions for turning an internship opportunity into a permanent position.

    Q: How did you get your position as an intern here at Ask?

    Joey:  I originally applied for another position, but I was coming right out of Sac State and was kind of under-qualified for the position. I never got called back for that job, but I’m glad I still met with Ask because two months later I got an email with an offer for a marketing internship, so I took it!

    Q: What was your major at Sac State? How did that prepare you for your internship here at Ask?

    Joey: I started out as a Psychology major, but switched into Business Marketing my senior year. I definitely learned the fundamentals of business marketing through classes like advertising, B2B marketing, consumer marketing, business statistics and marketing case studies. However, I feel like I learned the most at internships I had while I was in college. That’s where I learned how to plan and execute marketing campaigns which really prepped me for my internship and job here at Ask.com. Also, once I started my internship at Ask, I was able to grow my skill set to include display advertising and implementing marketing campaigns as well as learning how to navigate through a corporate business environment.

    Q: How did you work to secure a full-time position?

    Joey: There was a lot of hard work involved. I had weekly 1:1’s with my manager, where we set both short and long-term goals. I was proactive in learning new tools that would make me an asset to the marketing department and Ask. I would set up regular meetings with my peers to help me in areas that I was struggling in.  I would help people out in other departments, which showed that I was a reliable person who was willing to go above and beyond for the company. I was involved in a lot of the extra-curricular activities hosted by Ask so I could get to know more of my fellow colleagues.

    Q: Any advice for future interns?

    Joey: Cross train—don’t work in just one department, which will limit you. Try to get as much exposure to other departments or within departments. Network within the company and don’t be afraid to ask questions. And go out for drinks or coffee once in a while.

    Q: Favorite things about working at Ask?

    Joey: The unlimited paid-time-off (PTO) policy. For someone young who loves to travel, that’s super important. The overall environment here is pretty relaxed which is really nice.  And I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a great group of people that I can learn from and relate to. Oh, and the kitchen—I love the snacks!

    - Ask.com



  • Which Coast is the Best Coast?

    image

    Ask has quite a diverse employee base, not just in terms of where people are from but also about the places and experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. Ask’s Account Manager Karl Kleinschrodt has spent time living, working, and playing in three of the most exciting cities in the U.S. - New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We asked him to give us a run-down on how the East and West Coasts compare.

    Q: Food?

    SF- Living in the foodiest neighborhood of San Francisco, the Mission District is paradise. From tacos to pastas, almost any cuisine can be found and enjoyed. Just remember on the weekends to book a table on Urbanspoon, as the rest of the Bay Area comes to visit and everything is packed.

    LA- Celebrity chefs serving celebrities was the total LA food scene. It was almost more important to be seen in a restaurant than to actually eat there—clearly some celebs didn’t.

    NYC- The ability to be able to pick up the phone and get any food cuisine delivered to you at any time was amazing. The one thing to note is that they don’t know how to make Mexican food, so if you’re craving a late-night burrito, you might need to hop on over to SF. 

    Winner: San Francisco—diversity wins.

    Q: Work?

    SF- Working both as a consultant in Silicon Valley and now here at Ask.com, the tech focus in the Bay Area is one of a kind.

    LA- The lack of large major agencies in LA started my start-up career. It was cool to be a part of the start of ‘Silicon Beach.’ Start-ups are longer hours, more stress, but you definitely see the output of your day.

    NYC- Working at large digital agencies in NYC was fast paced and a great first working experience. Being able to work on Fortune 500 Brands at such a young age is something that I will not forget.

    Winner: Depends on your style/industry. If you’re interested in tech, I don’t think any other city compares to the Bay.

    Q: Nightlife?

    SF- Dive bars. Need I say more?

    LA- Pretentious Hollywood clubs. Need I say less?

    NYC- Amazing in every way. Grab a drink in the East Village, take a cab to Chelsea, and end the evening on a rooftop. Incredible.

    Winner:  New York City—the city that never sleeps has perfected sleepless nights.

    Q: Weather?

    SF- It’s really not as cold as everyone says, but because California is synonymous for beach weather, SF gets a bad rep. I am spoiled since I live in the sunniest neighborhood in the city, and get to view the fog coming in over Twin Peaks. A pretty impressive site.

    LA- Perfect in every way (except the smog). I miss my pool in West Hollywood every day.

    NYC- Freezing in the winter and humid in the summer. You really get the worst of both worlds.

    Winner: LA, but major points-deduction for smog. If you can handle a few degrees cooler, SF provides the cleaner air.

    Q: Public Transportation?

    SF- Love BART, but it doesn’t connect everywhere I need to go in the city. Uber please!

    LA- What public transportation?

    NYC- Gets you literally everywhere you need to go in the five boroughs. Absolutely love MTA.

    Winner: New York. Take some notes, BART!

    Overall Winner: Have to give it to San Francisco. With a mild climate, delicious eateries, and interesting people tucked in every corner of the city, San Francisco takes the cake.

    An interesting take from our very own Karl Kleinschrodt!

    -Ask.com 



  • Women 2.0 2014

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    (Photo: Obie Felton of Google.com at Women 2.0 2014 SF)

    Ask has always supported women in technology – in fact, approximately 50% of managers here at Ask are women, a rarity among tech companies. Ann Semeraro, Senior Director of Consumer and Market Insights at Ask.com, attended the recent Women 2.0 conference in San Francisco and gives us a quick run-down of the conference highlights and some key takeaways.

    Q: What was the overarching theme of the conference?

    Ann: Women 2.0’s mission has always been to increase the representation of women in tech companies, especially at the executive level, and to increase the number of women who are founding their own companies. This year’s conference really honed in on the experiences women have founding their own companies and women who are actually a part of the investment stage of companies – either for their own companies or as part of VCs. While women founding their own companies has been happening for years, we’re now seeing an increased number of women participating on the investment side of the equation.

    Q: What was your favorite session to attend?

    Ann: I really enjoyed the talk Obie Felton gave about Google [X]. She spoke about how Google starts out by identifying big problems that affect millions of people, and then tries to solve for these issues using radical, almost unrealistic solutions. The group believes that by starting with the story they want to tell, they can then use those narratives to inspire their engineers and teams to conceptualize the solution, refining their ideas into something tangible.

    Q: Who attended the conference?

    Ann: There were many young women, early in their careers and some who were even in college! That was really refreshing to see the younger generations seeing the benefit of these types of conferences and making connections with today’s leading women. There was a mantra throughout the conference, “Give and get”, to help attendees get the most out of the sessions and the event. The thinking is to both give and get something out of each interaction. Give some information about yourself that would be helpful to who you’re talking to. Give an introduction connecting two women who might benefit from meeting one another. And get a new connection for yourself. Get information on the next event that suits your goals. Get a new mentor! This mantra is one that any women can apply to networking events, their own jobs and in other aspects of their lives.

    Q: What was the key takeaway for you and for Ask?

    Ann: It was great to get outside of our own company and hear how tech is being used to solve problems in different industries—healthcare, education, travel, etc. And it was inspiring to hear about the ideas and innovation being circulated through this network of WOMEN. The importance of having mentors and collaborating was emphasized throughout the conference. For Ask, we’ll definitely be looking for ways to get more of our younger and junior female employees to attend these types of events. 

    - Ask.com



  • Is Social Media Part of Your Customer Care Strategy? It Should Be!

    Calling a customer service hotline is frustrating—that is just a fact of life.  You’re angry because something isn’t working, you can never find the right phone number to call, get re-directed five times, and somehow you end up paying more and getting less. However, consumers are increasingly turning to social media to get faster and more direct attention from brands when in need of customer support. 

    I kicked off 2014 speaking at a few conferences in Florida, San Francisco and Las Vegas about the importance of social media in customer interactions. It’s clear that brands are starting to think about social media and have dedicated resources to manage their social channels, but few are making the connection between social media and customer care. Unfortunately for brands, consumers are way ahead of the game and have figured out that if they post their complaints (and praises) to social media channels, they’re more likely to get the brand’s attention.

    Below are a few of my personal examples that illustrate how having the proper social media customer support can help leave your users with a better impression of your brand:

    What NOT to do: The following Twitter exchange shows an automated response from speaker manufacturer, an example of practically nonexistent social media customer support.

    image

    Auto responses are one thing, but they didn’t even address my question. Even worse than an automated response, this brand’s inefficient customer support is on display for all of Twitter to see.

    What TO do:  A quick and personal response to an unfortunate mix-up with United Airlines

    It doesn’t take much to provide quick and personalized customer support through social media, and companies who have caught on to this practice have loyal and satisfied consumers.

    At Ask, we’ve empowered all of our Customer Care Rock Stars to monitor and fully support our users’ needs – be it on email, phone, chat or through our social media channels.

    - Eric McKirdy, Global Customer Care Manager, Ask.com



  • Dark Horse Advertisers Maserati and Oikos Emerge As Real Super Bowl Champions

    While two great football teams played a surprisingly one-sided game last night in New Jersey, advertisers went head to head on creativity and spend during the commercial breaks. Ask.com, a leading online brand for questions and answers, today released data culled from its 100 million monthly users to reveal which big budget Super Bowl commercials were advertising champs among Americans, and which advertisers went home empty handed.

    Every year, the biggest brands bring out advertising’s big guns, vying for the winning commercial, with starting spend at around $4 million per 30 seconds of screen time. This Super Bowl Sunday’s ads did not disappoint, with surprise contenders Maserati and Oikos coming out on top as fan favorites, and usual darling Budweiser scoring big points, as expected. Of course not all ads fared as well, with companies like Volkswagen and Doritos surprisingly leaving something to be desired, despite initial buzz. And, against the odds, SodaStream bubbled in search volume on Game Day, even with last week’s censor concerns.

    Oikos Connected to a Full House

    Talked about for weeks before Super Bowl Sunday, Oikos’ “bromance” campaign, featuring the main characters from the beloved TV series, “Full House,” appealed to consumers’ nostalgia. The hype lived up to the anticipation come game day, despite the yogurt brand having to go up against Super Bowl advertising stalwarts. Leveraging John Stamos’ history with the hit show was a smart move for Oikos, as the ad represented 29 percent of all Ask.com’s Super Bowl commercial searches.

    Maserati Steals the Show

    Taking viewers by surprise, the high-end car company drove searches for Maserati’s Ghibli ad, accounting for 18 percent of all game day commercial searches and placing it in the top three brands searched for on Ask during game time. Featuring young Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, people everywhere were impressed by the stunning cinematography of the commercial.

    Budweiser Is Still America’s Best Bud

    Piggybacking on the success of last year’s “Best Buds” campaign with the Budweiser Clydesdale, the famous beer brand, known for its popular Super Bowl commercials, brought an adorable puppy into the mix for the sequel. Searches for the ad spiked during the week prior to the big game and remained high with 12 percent of searches going to the puppy love. The beer brand didn’t show its whole hand ahead of Sunday’s showdown however; its “Hero’s Welcome” spot, featuring Lt. Chuck Nadd’s homecoming, drove 15 percent of Ask searches during the game. 

    Volkswagen’s Initial Buzz Drowned Out

    Playing with whimsical ideas of mythology, Volkswagen created a delightful advertisement that was expected to be a stand out contender, but resulted in a miss. Volkswagen was hardly noticed by viewers, taking home only two percent of all Super Bowl commercial searches the night of the game.

    Doritos Fan-Created Advertisements Are a Dud

    In keeping with tradition, Doritos’ annual Super Bowl commercial was fan-created. With five contenders released prior to game day, viewers were able to vote for their favorite. “Finger Licker” was the clear audience favorite leading up to Sunday but did not make the top two that aired during the game. The chosen winners were “Doritos Time Machine,” which only saw three percent of Ask.com searches, and “Cowboy Kid,” which fared better at seven percent.

    Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream Makes a Splash

    Even though SodaStream was forced to censor their commercial featuring Scarlett Johansson due to a negative mention of the half-time show sponsor, Pepsi, its ad fared decently well in Ask.com searches, owning nine percent of all Super Bowl commercial searches on Sunday night.

    Ask.com also took a look at the most popular questions asked around Super Bowl ads the night of the game:

    1. Was that Maserati’s first commercial?
    2. What is the hashtag for the Esurance contest?
    3. Will there be a Full House reunion?
    4. Why was there a Scientology commercial?
    5. What is Jerry Seinfeld’s new show?



  • Top 2013 Local Bay Area Search Terms from Ask.com

    The Bay Area is just the best place to live. It’s a fact.

    OKAY, maybe we’re a little bias because it’s our home sweet home, but come on; you have to admit it’s one of the coolest spots in the world. Any local will tell you that it’s fast-paced with tons of character, nestled between greenery and grapery (hello, Napa) with some of the most sought-after urban neighborhoods… Oh, and did we mention folks from the Bay Area also made Batkid happen? Just saying.

    And people here are passionate about the area, its culture, and everything that happens here day in and day out. All you have to do is look at Ask.com users’ top questions to see that we are on top of breaking news, popular events and what’s happening with our beloved sports teams.

    Now that 2013 is officially over, we’ve tallied the top local Bay Area search terms of the year from Ask.com:

    1. Asiana Crash at SFO
    2. New Bay Bridge
    3. America’s Cup
    4. Batkid
    5. New 49er Stadium
    6. Oakland A’s Playoffs
    7. Kanye and Kim engaged at AT&T Park
    8. Limo fire on San Mateo Bridge
    9. BART Strike 
    10. California Budget Surplus

    What will Bay Area locals search for in the year ahead? Will Kim and Kanye continue to make headlines in 2014? We have a feeling Miley will be a contender on the list with her tour stopping at the Oracle Arena in February. And our sports teams have been kicking butt in and out of the Arena lately, too, with the Warriors’ winning streak and the Niners recent entry into the next round of the NFL playoffs. Super Bowl, anyone?

    What do you think will make the biggest headlines in 2014? Tell us in the comments!

    - Suraya Akbarzad, Ask.com 



  • My Mentorship at Ask.com

    image

    Ask.com is a popular website that people visit to get their questions answered. I had the chance to have my own experience at Ask.com through the Spark Oakland program – a national mentoring program for middle school students. I was matched with the public relations team at Ask because I like to write. My mentors were Valerie Combs, vice president of corporate communications and Suraya Akbarzad, senior PR manager.

    My experience at Ask.com was unbelievable and I met a lot of new and professional people. I thought it was going to be boring and old fashioned. It wasn’t - the offices were decorated with cute and fun toys and the people look like they really enjoy their jobs. I also saw that Ask.com cares about their users. 

    For my Spark project, we decided to do a social media campaign. The first piece of the project was this blog post! Together we discussed the activities of each day and began writing the post. We knew we needed pictures to go with the post so we went to the roof of the Ask.com building and took pictures under the Ask logo. As you can see – I had a great time! We also worked on a Facebook post and a tweet to help spread the word. We came up with hashtags for the posts and tweet. An Instagram post will be coming later tonight from our Discover Night presentation. 

    My experiences throughout the mentoring program showed me how companies work on social media campaigns and other company announcements. My mentors showed me the different Ask.com sites and social media channels and taught me what their jobs are all about. I was even able to get a sneak peek of the company’s end-of-year announcements.

    I really learned a lot at Ask.com and am excited to present my project at our Discovery Night showcase tonight!

    - Angelica, Student at Bret Harte Middle School, Oakland 



  • Ask Ranks 2013's Top Viral Videos and Memes

    Who doesn’t love a good viral video? Ask ranked the year’s most popular viral videos and memes.

    The Dove Real Beauty Sketches and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s rendition of “Space Oddity” made the top video list while an unflattering Beyonce and a photo-bombing Bill Clinton were among the most popular memes of 2013.

    Did your favorites make the list? Check out the full list at theKnow.com!

    - Suraya Akbarzad, Ask.com



  • My First Week at Ask.com

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    My first week working at Ask.com was also my first week working in any sort of corporate environment, so when I signed on to join Ask’s Customer Care team in Oakland, CA, I had no idea what to expect.

    As a recent graduate with a B.A. in Psychology, my lack of experience in customer care and the corporate world at large left me wondering what Eric McKirdy, Manager of Global Customer Care at Ask, thought I could bring to the team. After my first week, I discovered that psychology, understanding how and why people behave, react and respond the way they do, has lent itself to my new job more than any prior training could have—which is exactly what Eric believed to be true when he hired me. Eric operates under the belief that rather than waiting for a user to file a complaint with our website, being proactive and interacting with users on a personal and one-to-one basis will create an overall more positive experience for each person that visits our website. This means getting rid of automated responses and instead, working individually with each person to understand how we can improve their experience. With thousands of people visiting the site every day, and with Eric’s unique approach, I understood why he considered a thorough understanding of behavioral psychology to be more valuable than prior experience in customer care.

    I quickly learned to throw out all expectations I had of life in the corporate world. As I walked through the office, I discovered they were filled with bright pink inflatable unicorns, a life-sized chess board, and a kitchen filled with more snacks than I ever had in my own pantry. From the flexible dress code (“jeans and t-shirts if you’d like”) to the “take what you need” vacation policy, employee satisfaction seems to be one of the top priorities at Ask. The company policies emphasize the idea that people who are happy and excited to come to work each day are far more productive than those who feel restricted or micro-managed in the work that they do.

    On my first official tour of the office, I was introduced to the company’s CEO Doug Leeds, who I’m sure had many (far more important) things to do. And yet, Doug took a few minutes to welcome me to the office and ask about my background, without giving any implication that he had somewhere else to be. Doug’s welcoming nature is the most consistent and striking aspect of my first week at Ask. Every coworker has offered me advice and encouragement, as well as a look inside the work that they do behind the scenes of the well-known Q&A website. As I am learning the ropes of my new job, I have found that I am surrounded by extremely intelligent and experienced coworkers who all have one thing in common—they are happy to be working at Ask.

    Every day that passes is another day filled with new experiences for me—and I feel lucky to be joining Ask at a time when the company seems to have some exciting changes around the corner. I look forward to working with such a dynamic group of people, and will be sure to share more glimpses inside the unconventional headquarters at Ask.com!

    - Amy Horowitz, Global Customer Care Technician, Ask.com 



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