Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Do Any Librarians Out There Cha-Cha?

Almost 10 years ago I flew to Santa Clara to attend the World Wide Web 6 Conference. I took with me the March 1997 issue of Scientific American with a series of very interesting Internet related articles.

One of the articles described a new search engine concept. What caught my attention was that the algorithm being used sounded a great deal like Science Citation Index Impact factors. The use of a common library concept for analyzing Internet search results caught my attention. What eventually grew from that concept was a large-scale hypertextual search engine.

The other day I came across a new experimental search tool called ChaCha.

Developed by Scott Jones and Brad Bostic, ChaCha provides two search options. The "Guide" option should be of interest to librarians. By searching with a Guide the query is sent to a "real person" who is "skilled at finding information on the internet and knowledgeable on the subject at hand." "Once connected to a Guide you can chat with him/her to clarify your question. Discussing your question will get more precise results than any other search engine can deliver."

Sounds like a librarian to me. Again, the use of a common library concept for analyzing Internet search results caught my attention.

However, upon further review, ChaCha "Guides" are not librarians or necessarily any level of information professional. The can be college students, retirees, stay-at-home moms. "Guides" are employed as independent consultants in a type of multilevel marketing scheme. In time, Guides recruit other Guides and receive a part of the recruited Guide's earnings. Think Amway.

Newly recruited Guides are matched with areas of personal interest and expertise and assigned a mentor. These "apprentices" do not initially interact with the public and to become "pros" they must pass tests for speed, quality and accuracy. "Pros" interact with the public and are paid $5 per search hour. Those which achieve "Master" level guides are eligible to earn 10% of those they have brought into the ChaCha Underground (the community of guides). Elite-level guides make $10 per search hour.

ChaCha is ad supported by display advertisers and sponsored links.

So, are any librarians out there a part of the ChaCha Underground? Sphere: Related Content


Liz B said...

I am not part of the underground but I am fascinated by this business model and the guides. So for most of the newsreports I've found seem to be just based on company press releases, tho a few go beyond that. Like the news report about a guide saying he answered a question by going to Google. And I also wonder what the guides are legally -- they cannot be employees because it's below the federal (and some state) minimum wage.

Anonymous said...

They're 1099s, and are only paid while they're helping someone and not the hours they spend sitting around waiting for a query.

Anonymous said...

I am a Cha Cha Guide and have had to go through extensive training to get to the point where I can earn money for doing searches. There is no set "salary" as we aren't employees of Cha Cha, just independent workers. A guide CAN make $5 an hour but it isn't guaranteed. It depends on what time and energy we are willing to put into it. This is like a part time job for me but I am not required to report to work. As of today, Nov.6, 2006 the site is going to a Beta system. The intense training we have received will help us offer speedy results to queries posted by Infoseekers and we hope to see all who read this there, checking us out!