Biz Stone finally unveils visual Q&A service Jelly


Biz Stone, the Twitter co-founder who left the company to explore other areas in mobile and social, has finally unveiled his much awaited company and service – Jelly.

If the name “Jelly” conjures up images of a jellyfish or something, then you’ve had more or less the same idea as Stone, as his new logo is indeed a cartoonish-jellyfish.  But why a jellyfish?  According to jelly, it’s because “it has a loose network of nerves that act as a ‘brain’ similar to the way we envision loosely distributed networks of people coordinating via Jelly to help each other.”

But what is Jelly all about?  Think of it as a more visual version of Quora, the popular question-and-answer service.  What makes Jelly different from Quora is that aside from putting photos beside your questions, it has a more social aspect to it.  Users of Jelly post their questions via Twitter or Facebook, and so they can get answers from their followers and friends. Nevertheless, the service won’t just bombard your followers or friends with all of your questions.  A special algorithm is used to choose who will get to see them.

The algorithm uses a special formula dubbed as the “Finkelrank”, after Ben Finkel, Jelly’s other co-founder and chief technology officer. The algorithm is supposed to help find people who are more likely to be able to answer your question, or at least, know someone else who does.

You can ask any question you want, including mundane stuff like asking how to tell if a banana is ripe, to much more complicated stuff. Just don’t forget to include a photo of what you are inquiring about so people would find it easier to answer.

“No matter how sophisticated our algorithms become, they are still no match for the experience, inventiveness, and creativity of the human mind,” the company wrote. “Jelly is a new way to search and something more – it makes helping other people easy and fun.”

Jelly looks like quite a fun app. Just point your camera to something you’re unfamiliar with, post your question, and share it with your friends and followers.  Or you can check out what your friends are inquiring about on Jelly by allowing the app to scan your Facebook and Twitter contacts.

Bear in mind that the app is still a work in progress.  First, there’s no way for you to view the questions in list view.  You have to go through each question in full screen, decide whether you want to answer it or not.  If you choose to skip a question, just swipe down to go to the next one.  Second, it’s not possible to go back to see previous questions once you have viewed them and skipped them.  But there is a way for you to track the progress of questions, just tap on the star on the question to bookmark it so you can see if anyone has answered it.

But the biggest issue may be with the questions itself.  If you have lots of contacts using Jelly, you might find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of questions you are presented with. It might be fun reading through questions and looking at photos when you’re really bored, but if it all gets too much you could quickly find yourself abandoning the app.

“We’re still tuning,” Stone said. “We definitely don’t want people to feel like they have to clean out their inbox.”

Jelly is now available on iOS and Android.