Apparently Ask.com is retiring Jeeves, their old cartoon butler:
From management's perspective, Jeeves had morphed from an endearing mascot to an exasperating albatross. That's because the butler's image conjured memories of a long-bygone era when Ask.com promised to deliver simple answers to questions posed in conversational language.
The question-and-answer approach never worked like engineers envisioned, prompting Ask.com to shift direction. The company now believes its search tools are as good, if not better, than Google's -- a message that Berkowitz believes would be difficult to convey as long as Jeeves stuck around.
"Never worked like engineers envisioned", indeed! When Ask Jeeves first appeared, I was working for a stodgy financial company back in Atlanta. One day, while trying to get to the bottom of a thorny compiler problem, I innocently asked Jeeves: "What is peephole optimization?" (*)
Jeeves came back with: "Did you really mean to ask: Where are the best places to cruise for gay men in Alabama?" I was pretty sure I hadn't meant to ask that, no.
Later that day, I mentioned this experience to my friend Colleen. Being much more clever than I am, she wondered how Jeeves would respond if you asked "Where are the best places to cruise for gay men in Alabama?". We tried it, and Jeeves came back with the same question, but also with: "Did you really mean to ask: Which cruise ships have the best sanitation?" Once we stopped laughing, we put that question back in, and then another, and another, until we finally ended up in some steady-state with a question about finding nude photos of wrestlers. Ahem.
Via con Dios, Jeeves.
(*) For the nerds: yes, I knew what peephole optimization was, but the compiler seemed to be doing an awful lot of code movement, so I thought I'd read more about it. It actually turned out to be an issue with the build system, not the compiler -- the wrong source was getting compiled.