App of the Week: Jelly helps you get your questions answered

screen568x568Sometimes, you have a question that Google just can’t answer. While “How old is Marshawn Lynch” is an easy enough query for a traditional search engine, “Why does this Seahawks jersey look like it was attacked by a badger” doesn’t produce any useful results.

Jelly, a new app for Android and iOS, is supposed to solve that problem. It allows users to post an image along with a question, and get a bunch of crowd-sourced answers. In particular, the app tries to target users who have social media connections in common, so that (theoretically) users are helping out their friends, or friends of their friends.

There’s also some secondary functionality where users can recommend other answers, or forward questions via e-mail or social media, and askers can send people who answer their questions thank-you notes. But at its core, Jelly is basically just a platform for asking questions of the vast, Internet hive-mind.

Unlike Quora, the online question-and-answer service that was supposed to be the next great way to get an answer about something, Jelly was created to be mobile-first, and much more interested in the wisdom of crowds. Users are restricted to leaving short answers, and there isn’t any preamble about who a user is, or why they might be qualified to answer a question. As much as I loathe these sorts of simple analogies, Jelly seems like it wants to be the Instagram of asking questions.

It comes with a blue-ribbon pedigree, too. The company was founded by Biz Stone, whose name you might recognize as one of the co-founders of Twitter, who started it along with designer Ben Finkel.

Still, I’m not so sure about it. While its user-base has finally managed to move past every question being about Jelly, the whole experience just feels like a stable beta release, rather than a finished product. While it has done away with Quora’s pretense, asking for the answer to a complicated question or one that requires an expert opinion seems like a sketchy proposition.

When GeekWire’s Todd Bishop asked a home repair question on Jelly, he actually got conflicting answers, including some that said if he followed the advice given in other answers, he could end up doing more harm than good. For figuring out silly questions, or questions with quick answers that don’t have a lot riding on them, Jelly seems to be a great tool. It doesn’t feel like it’s quite there yet for everything else.

If Jelly manages to take off, though, there’s a chance it could answer all of the questions that search engines today can’t answer. And it’s free, so at this point, there’s not a whole lot to lose by giving it a shot.

geekwireappJelly is available for download from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store for free.

App of the Week is a regular feature of the GeekWire radio show and podcast, airing at 7 p.m. Saturdays on KIRO Radio in Seattle (97.3 FM), except when preempted by live sports. The show runs every weekend on GeekWire.com. You can get every episode using this RSS feed, subscribe in iTunes or find us on Stitcher.

Listen to this week’s segment below, or via this MP3 file.

  • Spicy Burrito Toppings

    I tried Jelly, and I liked it.

    My one complaint was that you couldn’t simultaneously share your picture and question with facebook or twitter when you asked a question.

    This certainly could be very useful – but I only seeing this becoming useful if the questions are indexed by search engines as they’re asked. People will search for obscure questions and will actually be given relevant results – from Jelly.

    To release the app without the ability to simultaneously share with other social networks seems strange – but perhaps this feature will be added in subsequent releases.

    Regardless, it is an interesting app and you should download it to try it out. It’d be funny to have a bunch of Puget Sound-centric questioners on there.