ChaCha Search – Is People Powered Search Better?

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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.

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8 thoughts on “ChaCha Search – Is People Powered Search Better?”

  1. Hi Dave,

    Signing up was a step that I didn’t want to take either. I respect it as a way to present a barrier to entry from people who might otherwise spam or saboutage the system they have in place, but I couldn’t bring myself to take that step yet.

    One aspect of trying to scale this system is to try to include the input from the human searchers in results around the queries made to them, hwereever and however it might seem appropriate to do. But, will people sign on as searchers in exchange for advertising revenue?

    I didn’t spend a great deal of time trying to compare relevancy – it’s hard to do on the basis of a handful of searches.

    The mixing of the sponsored and natural results did bother me considerably – it does look like part of the URL.

  2. Hi Diane,

    That’s the idea that went through my mind, too.

    And it’s not a bad idea at all.

    I’m pretty sure that there are some people who would really truly find this kind of service helpful. There are queries that I sometimes have a hard time forming because I don’t know enough about the subject involved – having someone with enough knowledge of a topic to overcome my lack of knowledge is a key element of a service like this.

    I try to overcome a lack of knowledge in a specific area by conducting more general searches on that topic, and then using sites that provide broad overviews to help me drill down to the narrower information that I want to find. But having someone who knows how to do that, and do it well could possibly make it both faster and easier.

  3. I had a look when the initial buzz was about ChaCha myself and I was less than impressed. You mentioned the mixed sponsored and natural results, that is what got to me. I agree that the sponsored results should be separate and that this method of monetization is a little deceitful considering the demographics that would use such a search service. I mean, it looks like part of the URL.

    For me, the results we far less relevant than any of the other major SEs.

    I don’t think scalability will be an issue because I do not think they will capture enough of the search market to actually need to. I have not tried the human powered search either but having to sign up and in for this service was the kicker.

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  5. if any of you guys are looking to become a guide for chacha, send me a message at

  6. This is basically what is happening to most of the social networks as far as I can see. Yahoo Answers is one that is almost like that and they want it patented. That would be tough probably to get patent as their are too many big sites that do almost the same thing. Question and then answer from someone.
    Probably I just too dumb to be unable to see the differnce form the other sites which have similar functionality.
    I look at the site and mostly with adsense ads and the questions which you probably can buy and put it your database. But honestly its a good idea. And some people can make of these types of sites. Taht would be great if I caould have thought about that before.LOL

  7. Hi Guys,

    BTW. the site is very good for adsense ads. Ask the questions and the related ads are well within the queries and must be ahving an excellent click through rate.

    what do you think?

    Just a thought.

  8. Well I’ve had a look at how the adsense ads are display and yes they are positioned very nicely for a good clickthrough rate however I feel they sometimes may not be relevant to what people search because of the small amount of content it has with the answers, sure big topics like flowers etc would be fine but not smaller niche topics. That would consquently change the success of the advertising. Also, there is a square banner in the top left corner which I feel should be removed. It’s because of this banner that it feels like there is a lot of advertising representation.

    As for the Chacha search engine, I think it’s good idea. Any website that can increase our knowledge when we are searching for answers is worth while, even if it pumped full of advertising. They have to make money off the website someway. I’d just take that top left banner off for sure!

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