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Real-Time Web Summit: Connecting People Live

One of the sessions at today’s RWW Real-Time Web Summit examined how we can use the real-time Web to connect people. This session, led by Aardvark’s Damon Horowitz, delved into some of the questions that remain to be answered about this aspect of the move towards the real-time Web. One of the most interesting aspects of this discussion focused on how companies can connect the right people to each other in real time.

Rate the Answer, Not the Person Who Answers

Specifically, some audience members wondered if services like Aardvark need some kind of explicit quality score to give users a better idea how good a certain user’s answers typically are, so that they can feel comfortable with the connection they have just made. Currently, while Aardvark looks at some of this data, the company doesn’t surface any of this, and Horowitz argued that there really isn’t a reason to start doing so. Horowitz argues that Aardvark wants to create an intimate experience and that its users are mostly interested in the quality of the answer they have just received, not the quality of the answers that a user posted before.

Creating a Friendly Atmosphere on the Real-Time Web

In addition, because Aardvark provides a very intimate one-to-one experience, users tend to be rather cordial, and this intimate connection (as well as Aardvark’s friendly style of initiating conversations) means that users who do answer questions generally try to give the best possible answer. Internally, Aardvark looks at various signals when deciding which users to connect, including how users reacted to previous answers; though the company doesn’t currently surface this data explicitly.

Learning from Dating Sites

Other companies, of course, have faced similar questions before. Online dating services like eHarmony, for example, have worked on matching people for years. Dating services had to find ways to make users comfortable with the decisions they made; and while people took some time to get comfortable with the idea, eHarmony and Match.com are now mainstream services. For now, though, none of these services is connecting people in real time, which might actually open up some new business opportunities for startups.

Companies entering this space will have to expect some initial resistance from users. While they will obviously have to create appropriate interfaces and educate their users, creating a situation in which users can trust the connections these companies initiate for them is one of the most important challenges these new services face.

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