Questions, Quests and Bookmarks: Otavo does it all

Otavo is an Ontario, Canada based service that’s just moving into public beta today. We posted about them in April and now that the service is public, it looks good. Otavo users can ask and answer questions, organize and comment on bookmarks and share their goals in a social context. Think + ask.metafilter + 43Things wrapped in a nice UI with points for participation and prizes for the top users. Very cool.

Company founder Amanuel Tewold told me the company’s name, Otavo, has two meanings. It’s an acronym for Organizing Text, Audio, Video Objects – and it’s the Esperanto word (a transnational language) for Ottawa, where the company is based.

After creating a profile, you can use a nicely designed javascript bookmarklet to create a new “quest,” or link an URL you are on to one of your preexisting quests. Quests and questions can also be started from on the main site. Anyone can comment on your quests and they can add your quest to their profile. Profiles come with a blog and include social networking functions, like the ability to send messages to your friends in the system.

The “floster” (silly name for “floating poster”) is a nice bit of DHTML that embeds in the page you are bookmarking, meaning that you can click back and forth to grab text without losing your bookmarking tool behind your browser.

Otavo believes that AdSense will be particularly contextual when set beside user quests, questions and bookmarks. That makes sense to me. They are also looking to offer their technology as a white lable solution to niche institutions like libraries and colleges. Tewold told me that the delay from April to now was spent almost entirely on developing the UI and it’s paid off – this is the kind of system that nontechnical users will likely feel very comfortable using for social bookmarking, goal sharing and other information organization needs.

Users are awarded for a variety of activities, the biggest rewards coming for inviting new people into the system and adding new quests. The top users will receive prizes and other users will be entered into drawings for prizes so cool they haven’t been determined yet at launch. This is a charming alternative to revenue sharing from ads, but the company believes that primary way that participation will be driven is the structure of site.

Almost all of the functionality here could be performed elsewhere, but it’s well executed in Otavo. There are certainly enough social bookmarking, question asking and to-do sites coming online to fill an entire blog (hey!) but for some one to combine all those functions into service and do it this well is impressive. Yahoo! could probably put something like this together with Yahoo! Answers, and Yahoo! 360, maybe, but they haven’t. There are many new social search engines coming online, but calling Otavo social search would be selling it short. There’s really a whole lot here. We’ll see how well it does building users and scaling.