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Traffick - The Guide to Portals.
© 2000 Traffick.com.


Seven Dumb Things You Can Ask Jeeves
By John Molson, October 6, 2000

As Traffick has noted in the past, Ask Jeeves! is not as clever as he looks; nor is he a search engine that will help you with every problem.

Still, we need to give the old codger his due. We've been remiss in pointing to the major advantage of Jeeves: the premise that a service could be developed to handle the "sweet spot" of common research problems and ordinary human conundrums. So, herewith, some examples of this unique answer service in action.

The rating system here is easy to follow: Jeeves' response, and the speed with which you get your problem solved, will be rated one of "Great Scott, you've done it again, Jeeves!," "satisfactory," or "outta my way, grandpa."

1. What time is it here?

Let's say you screw up the time on your computer. You're too lazy to go find a clock. Your watch was eaten by wolves. Where's the darn web site with the real time on it? We asked Jeeves. No problem, we found the time in under 30 seconds. Rating: satisfactory.

2. Why can't I tie my shoe?

You're drunk. You are late for the second party of the evening, after changing your shoes, soiled through careless walking. You must leave! Sociability beckons! But you can't find the handle. What can Jeeves do for us here, besides suggesting that he just shine your existing shoes while you stand and wait? In this case, Jeeves could not help out with the explanation "you're drunk - wear sandals" or anything remotely close. We were served up pitiable suggestions like "Where can I find the comic strip 'Shoe'" and were beckoned to buy Adidas shoes online. Jeeves' closest answer was a sponsored link (he likes those) from Sprinks about child readiness for kindergarten. Rating: outta my way, grandpa.

3. What is the word I'm looking for?

We've all done it, been in the middle of a sentence like... "...it's as if she had misplaced her old youthful... youthful... what is the word I'm looking for?" Usually, your friend will jump in and at least try to help. Sometimes, she'll even hit the nail right on the head. "INSOUCIANCE!!!" your friend shouts.

Not Jeeves. He comes back with nothing more than a bunch of Mamma metasearch results, one of which is a WebMD article "Do You Want to Feel Sexier?" Hmm, when you can't win on brains, fool 'em with sex. Clever, old man, clever. Rating: satisfactory.

4. How many grams in a teaspoon?

Just try finding this one anywhere online in a form you can comprehend. Jeeves leaves us to sift through the usual maddening tables. The best we find is that 1 teaspoon = 5mL. That's a liquid measure, and I guess if it were water, that might mean that the weight would also be 5 grams. But Jeeves, like most of the sources out there, seems unwilling to provide hard-hitting answers to this puzzling problem. Rating: satisfactory.

5. Are we there yet?

Admittedly, we just asked this one to get the old guy's goat. He seems to have been prepared for it, though. The most prominent result was an article from 4Grandfathers.com called "Are We There Yet? Advice for Traveling with Children." Rating: "Great Scott, You've Done it Again, Jeeves!"

6. What, exactly, is butylated hydroxytoluene?

The time-honored time-waster, reading ingredients from the back of the cheese doodles bag, often leads to the moment when the preservative-addled participants seriously want to know what it is they've been ingesting. Jeeves doesn't pull any punches here, understanding the question and directing us to "more information about the food additive BHA and BHT," a medical study which addresses carcinogenity and everything. Rating: "Great Scott, You've Done it Again, Jeeves!"

7. Will the Chiefs cover on Monday night?

We've all heard people say "why don't these psychics go down to Vegas and make a million dollars?" Apparently, the psychic business doesn't work that way. The deal is, psychics make money from pretending to be psychics. Football prognosticators, in the best case, make money by writing funny jokes before posting their picks. And Jeeves, of course, makes his money pretending to know the answers to stuff.

Let's see if the debonair older gent can find us a winner. With a few glances past some silly encyclopedia entries about the word "chief," we quickly find a relevant sponsored link courtesy Sprinks. Skip Gibson, About's Guide to Fantasy Leagues (um, shouldn't he be telling us to start Christian Fauria at tight end, or something, not telling us how to beat the spread?), is telling us to take the Seahawks +3. Sorry to disagree, Skip, we'll take the Chiefs at Arrowhead, because the Seahawks are the only one of these two teams that stinks. (Hmm, wethinks this might be an outdated page, since Skip is saying that "Joey Galloway is back for the Seahawks" when Joey has since departed for the Cowboys and suffered a season-ending injury.) Rating: outta my way, grandpa!

 

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