Alan Rice bio photo

Alan Rice

Human being. I'm a PhD student studying molecular evolution at a university in Ireland. Likes: sugar, data & science. Dislikes: peas & cats. I don't know how I made it this far either. (he/him)

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Jelly.co has interested me the past day or two. It’s a social question/answer service like Quora but has nicer user experience on a smartphone and all questions have to include a photo but you can include a result from a Google Image search.

I thought at first that the sending out a question just among your social network connections who had signed up, instead of publicly for anyone to find, might be limiting to the number of responses one can expect, but the two degrees of separation does seem to yield a large enough audience that I get a reason number of answers. Sharing to Twitter and Facebook when asking a question would be a nice addition though and is probably coming once the app establishes itself.

I’ve found it fun to watch people figuring out what types of questions work on the platform and what feels right. The requirement of a photo definitely sets it apart from Quora and similar services but can easily be circumvented by using the image search for a picture of a question mark and asking whatever you want. One of the more defining aspects in my eyes is the character limits for both questions and answers. On Quora you can have very long detailed answers but on Jelly you’re restricted to a much shorter answer (if I had to guess I’d say 2/300ish characters?). This is probably in part due to the fixed size card based UI and should be good for keeping answers concise. However I’ve occasionally come across staggeringly good expert answers on Quora that are quite lengthy and Jelly just won’t be able to rival those at all.

Speaking of the UI, the swiping gestures are quite satisfying in their simplicity and fluidity and give Jelly a distinctive interface going forward. I particularly enjoy how the cards tip to one side when swiping down and I’ve given myself the task of finding the perfect position horizontally to swipe down so that the card stays level. Yeah, OCD. I have seen many duplicate answers for the most answered questions I’ve come across, with the number of ‘Good’ recommendations of an answer sliding off the further you swipe. I’m not sure this would be the case if the answers were in a more traditional list where all were viewable within one or two swipes. People just don’t seem to be willing to swipe through all the answers in the eventuality the answer they are considering replying with is posted already so that they can just recommend it. How much of a problem that is debatable and it certainly isn’t a deal-breaker for those asking questions I’m sure. I do think that if Jelly wants to be distinctive and smarter than the other question services out there it should have clever solutions to issues like these (that are partially its own creation).

In the near future it looks like a place where brands are going to flock so they can ask you questions about their products or something more interesting. @planetjedward, @cnbc and @generalelectric are some of the brands/celebs I’ve already come across but it’s early days yet. Whether the organic two degrees of separation will be a wide enough audience for brands though could herald a nice opportunity for Jelly to monetise. The surprising nature of the next question you see and how its author is loosely connected to you through your existing social network breaks the ‘follow’/’like’ actions that we’ve grow used to on Twitter & Facebook. When we see a sponsored post or tweet we know that it has been injected into content from sources that we’ve actively, purposefully followed and liked. On Jelly we haven’t purposefully chosen to see any of these authors’ questions from the outset so a paid injected question from a brand doesn’t have the same psychological effect of being alien or foreign.

There is two hints of things to come on the horizon including a mechanism to support brands already existing in the app. Jelly retrieves several questions at a time, displaying these one at a time. With every set of questions an image URL is included for what the user sees when all the questions are swiped through. Currently this is just rotating between two (that I’ve come across) all done messages but the fact that this isn’t just an image stored in the app itself would seem to suggest that there are plans to make this dynamic, whether for brands or enhanced user experience or just a range of messages I don’t know. The second more interesting thing the app does is call home when you view a question. The app may download say 5 questions but it won’t mark those as read until they appear for you individually. Sure Twitter and Facebook can inject things into a stream of other content or in a sidebar but did the user even look at it? Well the Jelly app already has the functionality to gather more accurate impression data for brands. I’m sure that Jelly also wants to use that data to only show questions to users once (I’ve seen some questions multiple times) but this is a nice advantage ready to build upon.

Overall I do really like the app and I’m actually quite addicted to it already…