ChaCha Search – Is People Powered Search Better?

I really haven’t taken a close up look at ChaCha Search before today, but the idea is interesting – using human search guides whom can ask you specific questions about what you are looking for, and who will help you find answers.

A question raised by the approach is how well can it scale – can it handle questions from a lot of people, and are there enough expert searchers who would participate?

I’ve run across two patent applications assigned to them, and an unassigned one listing the CEO of the company as the inventor, and referred to by one of the assigned patent filings:

Search Tool Providing Optional Use of Human Search Guides
Invented by Scott A. Jones, and Thomas F. Cooper
Assigned to: ChaCha Search, Inc.
US Patent Application 20070174273
Published July 26, 2007
Filed: September 1, 2006


A method and system providing optional use of human search guides to allow a user to select between a human guide assisted search and an automated search. The user is provided with an option of submitting a query requesting assistance of one or more human guides, initiating a search without requesting assistance from human guide(s) using automated results, or a combination of both.

Targeted mobile device advertisements
Invented by Scott A. Jones and Brad Bostic
US Patent Application 20070174258
Published July 26, 2007
Filed: December 29, 2006


Targeted advertisement is provided to mobile device users based on one or more keywords in words spoken by the mobile device users. The users may submit voice requests using mobile phones or other mobile networked devices, relevant keyword(s) are determined from the requests and corresponding advertisements and/or products associated with the keyword(s) are provided to the users while the users are waiting for responses to the requests.

Scalable search system using human searchers
Invented by Scott A. Jones
US Patent Application 20070174244
Published July 26, 2007
Filed: January 23, 2006


A system that allows a query to be submitted to a query distribution server that locates a human searcher who can perform a search on the query. The searcher performs a search using conventional search tools, such as a computer browser, and provides the results to the user through the system. A searcher who produces a search accepted by the user is rewarded.

The results linked to the query can be stored in a database for later use when a similar query is submitted by another user. The searcher is located by comparing keywords of the query to keywords for which the searcher has registered to do searches.

The searcher chosen by the system is one that ranks well in the keywords of the query that match to keywords registered by the searcher, prior successful searching by the searcher, speed of producing search results, and other factors that help to provide a quality search and experience for the user.

While the search is being performed the user can be occupied by information provided to the user, such as videos, games, advertisements, etc. The information presented during the search can be based on keywords of the query and designated by the searcher who performs the search.

The reward for the searchers can be based on revenue from advertisements.

I’ve performed a few searches, and the results seem relevant, but one thing that stands out is that sponsored results are mixed in with regular results. The words “Sponsored By” do appear in front of the URLs listed in the caption (title, snippet, and URL) for each result when the result is sponsored. I have to say that I would prefer to see paid listings separated from the other results, rather than blended into them.

I haven’t tried using a human guide, but I suspect that people will find the chance to get help from an expert searcher useful.

Mashable had a post last month in which they looked at ChaCha and some other search engines that incorporate a human element into searches: Mahalo and Friends: 10 People Powered Search Engines. Of those, ChaCha is the only one that appears to involve human interaction to find specific results.


Author: Bill Slawski

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