Google's human touch
Google, built upon the principle of the almighty algorithm, put some people in the loop last Friday when it acquired Aardvark, a human powered social search engine. Aardvark users typically wait approximately ten minutes while it finds someone to answer their question. Aardvark has a small user base but highly respected technology as described in the founder's research paper Anatomy of a Large Scale Social Search Engine. EBrandz had a good rundown of how it actually works in practice.
Right now it is difficult to find a person who knows what Google's plan will be with Aardvark. John Batelle suggested that Google's best option would be full integration so that most search queries would have an 'ask a human' option. Search Engine Journal suggested a plan that might be easier to scale - Google could store, index and recycle the human answers to be included in search results. Google's social search tool set is becoming complicated and curious. Chelsi Nakano did a good job in CMS Newsire of explaining how Aardvark will differ from the existing Google Social Search announced last November.