[LINK] Ahhh back to Human minds online!

Adam Todd link at todd.inoz.com
Tue Dec 12 17:58:03 AEDT 2006

Human-powered search engine launches


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Asher Moses
December 11, 2006

A new internet search engine, <http://www.chacha.com>ChaCha, has hit the 
web, promising results more relevant than even Google.

While Google relies on highly complex algorithms to give responses to 
queries, ChaCha, in addition to a traditional computer-based search, 
provides the option of having a human guide assist with any query.

According to one of the human "guides", LindaS, there are thousands like 
her online at all hours of the day, each working from home.

When fielding a query, the guide conducts "simultaneous searches on about 
20-80 search engines", and sifts through the results to determine which 
they believe are most relevant.

"It all happens in a matter of seconds," said LindaS.

"We type one search request and the 20, 30 or 80 or so results pop back to 
us. We browse quickly and send several out to you."

An instant-messaging client built into the service allows the guide to ask 
the user further questions regarding their search terms.

"Rather than linking search words to results (like a computer), we can 
actually read through the websites, first, before we send them so that we 
may see if it actually makes sense," said LindaS.

For example, when fielding a request for the term "apple", LindaS would be 
able to ask the user if they are referring to the fruit or the computer 

She would not disclose how much ChaCha pays her to be a guide, but said 
"you're paid for the time that you are logged into the system".

According to LindaS, prospective guides must be invited by another guide, 
and complete a training course before starting work.

She added that she receives around 25 search requests an hour, but refuses 
to help with illegal or unethical queries, such as those regarding pornography.

At the end of their session, users can rate their guide based on the 
relevance of the results they provided. LindaS said that this rating 
dictates how quickly the guide is promoted through the ranks, but she's 
quick to point out that not all requests can be sufficiently answered.

"Sometimes, we have individuals who will ask us to search for relatives or 
old classmates. I'm sorry to tell them it doesn't work that way! We're 
happy to search for information but it has its limits."

This makes ChaCha different to other services such as Yahoo! Answers, which 
allows users to ask questions and have them answered by other volunteers, 
who are compensated with "points".

"Even expert searchers don't always have all the answers," ChaCha chief 
executive, Scott Jones, said in a statement.

"For instance, say someone wanted to buy his or her teenager a new game for 
the holidays but didn't know what game was 'hip'. Well, on ChaCha, one 
could be connected to a real-life gamer whose expertise and knowledge are 
perfectly suited for that query."

ChaCha says that thousands of guides have signed up to take part, and that 
previous results are indexed, allowing the search engine to "get smarter 
with every search".

ChaCha, supported by advertising, is free to use, but it remains to be seen 
whether or not the human guides can keep pace with the deluge of requests 
filed with larger search engines, such as Google, each day.

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