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ChaCha

Friday, January 19th, 2007 by | Filed Under: Using The Internet
 
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ChaCha

The search war is officially on. Google has an almost monopolistic stronghold on the market, but other small set ups are coming up with new innovative ways to search the Internet. ChaCha.com happens to be one of them.

The concept is rather new. Most search engines use bots (Web robots that crawl the Internet in an automated manner and analyze pages to be listed in search engines) to do the search work, which also present the user with their search results. Although it’s sometimes nice to have several result options, too many isn’t always good, as they can confuse the user. All of us have, at one point or another, weeded through the countless search results that usually come up. Well, ChaCha’s main goal is to eliminate these unnecessary results. To accomplish that, ChaCha seeks human intervention while presenting the final search results, instead of relying solely on bots.

You don’t need to worry though! You don’t have to call anyone or pay money to use this incredible service. Let me tell you how it works. The format really isn’t any different from most of the other search engines you use. You go to their Web site, enter your desired question in the search box and click Search With Guide. The key here is asking a person to search for you, rather than relying on a bot. You also have the option to use an automated search, just like in all other search engines, but then again, one would rather go to Google for that.

When you’re searching with ChaCha, your question is sent to a person who is specialized in searching the Web. These people are referred to as guides. Once you click the Search With Guide button, a new window quickly comes up. This window has a chat service on one side and a search results pane on the other. This essentially means that you can chat in real time with the guide that is performing the search for you. The chats are a communication tool between you and the guide so that you can further discuss your question and get a more precise result.

As they present you with the results, the guide keeps talking to you to figure out if the results are correct enough or if you need further assistance. Since your question is sent to an actual person, it’s okay to use normal language or ask a question, rather than enter a typical search string in quotes, for example. Now, you might be wondering why you would need someone else to search for you. Wouldn’t it take more time that way?

Well, the way it works is that these guides are skilled at finding information on the Internet so that the person who is looking for something (that’s you) gets a few focused results, instead of millions of unnecessary ones. When you submit a search query, it is submitted to all the guides that are logged into the system at that time. If you submit a nonsensical query, you will most likely not be connected to a guide. So, the best way to get good results is to pose your question in natural language, just like you would ask another person the question. At the end of the session, you can rate the guide based on their performance, if you so choose. The guides are paid based on the ratings they receive, so it’s your right to demand more results from them if the ones they provide do not satisfy you.

For example, say you want to find some information about the winners of the 1966 soccer World Cup. Usually, you would use something like “1966 soccer champions.” However, with ChaCha, it’s much better to ask a question in regular everyday language, like “Who won the soccer World Cup in 1966”?

The more you use ChaCha, the better it will be, because they index all the queries asked by all the users. For example, if a lot of people have searched for “free WiFi spots in Manhattan,” all of those results are indexed, so the next time someone searches for the same thing, the guide has a quick access to the readily available index and they can provide you with the answers that have received the best response from previous searchers. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers you get, you can always let the guide know and they will keep searching to provide you with more options.

Now, ChaCha isn’t a search engine you would go to if you wanted to search for “Windows XP shortcuts,” but if you want to search for the lyrics to your favorite song that you can’t seem to locate anywhere, ChaCha is your best bet. That’s just one more example for you before I leave you be, so you can try it out for yourself.

Check out ChaCha right here.

~ Yogesh Bakshi

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