Talking tech since 2003

Just downloaded and used the Jelly app for a bit and I can say with certainty that I’m not sold on the idea or the app which is unfortunate because I was really excited about what it could have been.  Despite buying into the pre-launch hype surrounding Jelly, I don’t feel that is what ultimately led me to be disappointed with the product.  Instead my disappointment comes from the fact Jelly is an old idea in a nice user interface for mobile.

Before I jump into the specific details as to why I’m disappointed by Jelly, let me briefly explain what Jelly is:

Jelly is a search engine of sorts.  You can post questions using text and images to people in your social networks (Twitter and Facebook) with the hope that someone will answer them.  In the blog post introducing Jelly, they provide the following scenario:

“Say you’re walking along and you spot something unusual. You want to know what it is so you launch Jelly, take a picture, circle it with your finger, and type, “What’s this?” That query is submitted to some people in your network who also have Jelly. Jelly notifies you when you have answers.”

So it’s a human powered search engine.

So why am I disappointed?  I’m disappointed because we’ve seen human powered search engines before — think Mahalo and ChaCha — both of which failed to ever really catch on. The problem is they are hard to scale and just aren’t as fast as a regular Google search (especially now that Google has reverse image search).  Now it’s possible that Jelly could change this but not in its current state.

Jelly also incorporates aspects of Yahoo Answers and Quora into its service.  Quora is great because they have somehow been able to maintain high quality answers on the site. Yahoo Answers on the other hand is a place you visit when you’re looking for something funny to post on reddit.  And if you are on reddit, then why not just use r/AskReddit.

I’m also disappointed because Jelly is promoting the “wrong” type of questions to ask for it to be a useful product.  The question of “What’s this?” is just going to lead people to take a photo of their cat and post it with the question of, “Is this a cat or a dog?”  Who is that helping?  No one.  Questions like that turn Jelly into a playground.

I’ve seen questions posted already that require people to guess to answer correctly.  I’m not pointing fingers but *cough* @panzer used Jelly to ask how many broken Xbox One’s Microsoft would be sending him.  I took the bait and answered, “I’m going to guess more than 1.” Shortly thereafter I received a “Thank you” card from him for my answer.  I love Internet karma as much as the next guy but really?

If Jelly is serious about its mission of helping people, it needs to refocus and provide good examples of the kinds of questions that Jelly is great for getting answered.  And I know I’ve trashed some of the use cases so far, but there are some interesting questions on Jelly too — let’s not make those few and far between.  I want Jelly to be useful, helpful, and cool.

Oh and, Biz Stone, please polish the app.  I went to open what I believe to be the settings page in the iOS app and there’s nothing there — it’s an empty page.

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