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Old 11-06-2006   #141
PhilC
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The ChaCha beta launch came today as expected, and it seems that most of the Guides have had their worst day for bugs so far. But they should be dealt with quite quickly, so it's not important.

Much more interesting is what's new. The most obvious new thing is that they are now showing a lot more results - 4 pages of them at 20 results per page, plus whatever results the Guides have previously found. They get the results from infospace.com's websearch, which is a meta engine, and they randomly place the results from previous Guided searches on the first page - maybe on more pages when there are plenty of them.

Mixed in with the results, and pretty much camouflaged, are loads of sponsored listings, which presumably are infospace's yellow/white pages advertisers. In one search I did, the top 5 listings were sponsored results, but I think the placements are random.

Something else has changed as well. Before the results arrive, the message, "Please wait while we scour the deep web" is displayed, implying that it's doing something special. But all it's doing is waiting for the meta search engine results, and the sponsored results (ads), and there's nothing "deep web" about that at all.

So what is ChaCha now?

It's still a Guided search service, and that's fine, because I believe that there's a small market for that side of it, and it makes money for the Guides. Apart from that, it's a mirror of a meta search engine with plenty of ads mixed in the results, together with some randomly placed results that Guides have previously found. And it's not even their own meta search engine! I have to say that I am definitely not impressed. At the very least, I would have thought they'd place the Guides' results at the top, since they are supposed to be the big new ChaCha innovation, and they are supposed to be such refined results, but they play second fiddle to ordinary search engine results and camouflaged ads.
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Old 11-07-2006   #142
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Mixed in with the results, and pretty much camouflaged, are loads of sponsored listings, which presumably are infospace's yellow/white pages advertisers. In one search I did, the top 5 listings were sponsored results, but I think the placements are random.
Unless the paid results are very clearly differentiated from free listings in some kind of obvious manner, then they are in violation of the FTC recommendations to "search engines" a few years back by camouflaging them.

http://www.traffick.com/article.asp?aID=98
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Old 11-07-2006   #143
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Each listing consists of a Title, description, and URL - just like any search engine. The clickable Title is blue, the description is dark grey, and the clickable URL is green - again typical of any search engine. For sponsored results the URL line starts with "Sponsored By" in the same colour as the URL itself.

So the ads are differentiated but not seperated, mixed in and not placed in any consistent position such as at the top, and the words "Sponsored By" are blended in, which is why I used the word 'camouflaged'.

From the document you linked to:-

Quote:
Clear delineation of paid listings, whether separated from, or integrated into, the non-paid listings. Paid listings can be made clear and conspicuous by prominence, placement, mode of presentation, and proximity to explanations or qualifiers.

Clear descriptions on how sites are selected for inclusion in search engine indices, located where consumers can easily find these descriptions and become aware of the impact of paid inclusion in their search results.
I'm not sure whether or not ChaCha is legal according to the first paragraph, as it seems open to interpretation, but I can't find anything in the site that complies with paragraph 2 by telling me where the non-Guide results come from. The only results that comply with para 2 are those that were found by Guides.

The document also says:-

Quote:
The FTC recommends that all search engines review their Web sites, making changes necessary to ensure that:

"Any paid ranking search results are distinguished from non-paid results with clear and conspicuous disclosures.

"The use of paid inclusion is clearly and conspicuously explained and disclosed.
The ads ae distinguished from others, but the distinguishing mark is not conspicuous - it's blended in - and nothing about them is "explained and disclosed" - at least not that I can find.

Last edited by PhilC : 11-07-2006 at 11:36 AM. Reason: addition
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Old 11-20-2006   #144
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Phil, I've followed what you've written on a few forums and I have to say you're my hero.
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Old 11-20-2006   #145
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LOL! I've only posted about ChaCha in three forums - here, my own, and WAHM.
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Old 11-20-2006   #146
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I know You're still my hero. I even linked to this thread on my MySpace. What you have to say about the "search engine" is right on target.
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Old 11-22-2006   #147
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I'm not sure what you mean about the ads.....they seem normal to me - and actual while I've been doing trainings they show "on this day" history video clips instead of ads.
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Old 11-22-2006   #148
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Hi tanik. How's you these days? Well, I hope. Did you notice that I'm somebody's hero???

The ads are those "Sponsored By" listings that are mixed in with real results from InfoSpace, when a user clicks the "ChaCha Search" button. InfoSpace mixed them in.
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Old 01-08-2007   #149
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"Big" announcement

Hey, I figured I'd spread this news about ChaCha. Not sure how it will turn out, but they are rolling it out as a big thing.

Soon, users will have basically an affiliate link to the ChaCha toolbar. For every person they get to download the search toolbar and use it regularly (at least 20 times per month) you get a $1/month. I know for me that will be difficult, because people are so into Google and for me the Yahoo! toolbar is fabulous. But that's the latest in their "Spread ChaCha" campaign."

If you get some of the highest downloads, you can get a piece of stock in the company. Very interesting.

So things are looking pretty big. They've opened up invites for new guides again (hint hint!) and now they are doing this big promo.
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Old 01-08-2007   #150
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Hi Tanik - nice to see you again.

I lost track of ChaCha for the last few weeks. Is it still in beta? Is it getting any closer to being bug-free?

The idea of paying users as affiliates is novel, but if it's not bug-free I imagine it will just be a novelty for now.
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Old 01-08-2007   #151
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Soon, users will have basically an affiliate link to the ChaCha toolbar. For every person they get to download the search toolbar and use it regularly (at least 20 times per month) you get a $1/month.
I noticed - I've already had to delete a forum spammer coming in here and dropping the "Anyone heard of ChaCha? Here is a link to their amazing toolbar" post, along with, conveniently, their affiliate link.

Can't say I'm thrilled with any news that makes my job keeping this forum spam free to be "fabulous" - but that's just me.

I haven't checked yet, but I sure hope that spamming toolbar links is considered against their TOS - otherwise I'll be very annoyed.

See, now tanik just reported the news, and in the correct thread - an appropriate and responsible thing to do (and much appreciated). As a mod, I've no issues with that at all, and hope in the future that other ChaCha affiliates act as responsibly.

I remember when Accoona ruined their reputation by basically encouraging forum spamming in order to "get the word out" - it would be best if other companies did not follow suit, for both their own and the users benefit.

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Old 01-08-2007   #152
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Exclamation

Quote:
Soon, users will have basically an affiliate link to the ChaCha toolbar. For every person they get to download the search toolbar and use it regularly (at least 20 times per month) you get a $1/month.
I'd like to add that the affiliate link for the toolbar did NOT go to an information page about the toolbar with information and CONSENT and a privacy policy like normal ones such as Google and Yahoo toolbar do. This is a forced download.

The link goes to to a direct download stating that the toolbar is being "prepared" with a warning notice coming up by the system's spyware/adware/virus protection system.

Immediately after trying to stop this FORCED DOWNLOAD I ran Norton, which immediately found 2 invasive objects - FakeAlert and Backdoor.Trojan

Whether or not this toolbar is bundled with those apps at this time is beside the point - it sure looks like it, and I'd suggest that affiliates not be responsible for linking to forced downloads in any case.

There needs to be information given first, and the fact that there is no warning before FORCING a download and NO privacy policy beforehand do not speak well of this toolbar.

I'll have to run a couple more apps, Adaware and Spybot Search & Destroy to ensure that nothing else is "lurking" - but especially since this download is on a domain other than the ChaCha domain, I would seriously suggest that ChaCha management look into these issues, for their own protection and those of their guides, as well as consumers.

Last edited by Marcia : 01-08-2007 at 02:14 PM.
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Old 01-09-2007   #153
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Toolbar Info

I just want to clear up a few things about the toolbar...

As far as spamming, we make it clear in our terms of service that we abide by CAN SPAM regulations and prohibit the use of email spam to promote. Furthermore, we designed the toolbar mail system keeping in mind that we didn't want forums spammed with toolbars. For that reason we went to great lengths to make a system that dynamically generates a unique URL each time someone is sent the link and that only counts once, so that posting a URL on a forum, blog, etc. would in no way benefit the ChaCha Guide that posted the link. All of our policies, systems, and education are geared toward eliminating spam in every form.


Additionally, any claim that the ChaCha toolbar includes and sort of invasive or malicious program is completely false. There is no basis to this claim and it is unfortunate that people feel compelled to propogate misinformation such as this. If Norton is finding issues on your machine, it is coming from somethingn else you must have picked up as it is not from the ChaCha Toolbar.

There is no spyware, no adware, and the download is digitally signed by us starting today.

Last edited by ChaChaInsider : 01-09-2007 at 01:03 PM.
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Old 01-09-2007   #154
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I was just about to post that an email is required, but you beat me to it, Justin

Links in webpages won't work, and since the domain was different to ChaCha, I'm thinking that it might have been a fake.
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Old 01-09-2007   #155
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Originally Posted by PhilC
I was just about to post that an email is required, but you beat me to it, Justin

Links in webpages won't work, and since the domain was different to ChaCha, I'm thinking that it might have been a fake.
I thought of the same thing Phil, there's so much that goes on with spyware/adware/BHO forced downloads and software bundling that it isn't at all unlikely that there's liable to be some "clickbait" spread around to snare the unwary.

As I mentioned, it was NOT at the ChaCha domain, which was suspect to begin with. Not only that, there was nothing on the homepage of the site, nor could anything be found about any such toolbar at Google when it happened.

This incident can serve as a warning, and a signal that ChaCha, as well as many other sites around, should have contact information on their site for people to report abuse.

I also have to say that it's an error for ChaCha not to have information on their own site about the toolbar - I looked and couldn't find any. Another thing is that if this is (and others will be) an imposter, then there's a trademark violation involved with the domain name they're using.

ChaCha might need to wise up a little more at this point, especially if they're getting involved in affiliate marketing in any way. That's an industry in itself, with possibilities and practices that the folks at ChaCha may not be at all aware of.
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Old 01-09-2007   #156
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Assuming it was fake, and I'm sure it was, somebody was quick off the mark with it.
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Old 01-09-2007   #157
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Yes - I have to admit the process of sharing toolbars is extremely strict. They are being very careful to make it work exactly like invites to be guides. You specifically have to have that person's email and you can only send 50 total. I don't think any of my friends will try it, but I sent a few off anyway.

And yes, the system is FAR less buggy now. It works pretty smoothly, but most of the searches I've had so far have been pranks, and that's pretty frustrating. I actually had one that turned out to be sort of like a porn bot, but there is an abuse feature that closes the session immediately. And I don't think the pranksters realize that no matter what, you still get paid for the time you are helping them search, so if they beat around the bush and try to act like it's a real search and then say something stupid you can usually still get paid for it. So their policy is to just accept it and try and help them if you can but to report abuse if they use bad language or say something dirty.

Last edited by tanik : 01-09-2007 at 09:25 PM.
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Old 01-10-2007   #158
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Thanks Tanik and Insider for your comments. I hope that ChaCha has a great year in 2007, and it would seem that you are starting to get through some early growing pains.

Insider you are correct that people should not make assumptions so quickly; but in the case of a high profile service such as ChaCha, there will be many people in this industry that will try to make sure it stays in line with user-friendly goals. This for many includes trying not to be too sponsor-driven in presenting results as well as requiring software installed for toolbar purposes.

Since your service is primarily geared towards newer searchers, it would seem that people want to make sure the service does not in any way paint a bad picture of search in general. That is the feeling that I often get when following these kinds of developments. There are plenty of crusaders evangelizing search, and the "bad apples" are out there to keep an eye on.

Perhaps had the email marketing industry been more vigilant as they became more mainstream and crossed further demographics, there would be a better overall opinion of email marketers, IMO. There are many out there that do try to download malware or spyware with toolbars. Some people still refuse to download certain features of the Google Toolbar because the information given requires an exchange of information.

I do hope that Tanik's
Quote:
most of the searches I've had so far have been pranks
is just a trend since the ChaCha service is relatively new and community-driven, leading to easy negative viral efforts by kids or adolescents at heart (probably like some developers I know ). That would make the experience less agreeable in the long term, potentially causing ChaCha the loss of some of its better result providers.

Again, ChaCha in my opinion has its market and I wish it luck in 2007, as I am sure many in the search community do.
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Old 07-10-2007   #159
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Cha Cha

Big diappointment, and if bloggers and forums would pick up the story, maybe they'd do something about their services.

I mean how about if someone like PhilC takes a survery and sees how many of the guides are really making $10/search hour. The survery should include how many hours is equivalent to a search hour on average. It takes me about 4 hours real time to make $1.50.

Every other guide I have spoken to has been disappointed too. A guide may become a master or elite, but when that keyphrase appears, many guides attempt to grab that user. There appears to be no seniority there and it is a big disappointment.

If they surveyed and don't rig the survey, anyone who really needs to make a living from it cannot and will not.

Note to the media, do you actually think on average that people are making even close to minimum wage per actual hour as a Cha Cha guide??? I am amazed that the media doesn't do their homework on this.
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Old 10-09-2007   #160
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Cha Cha is a Big Disappointment

The pay per search hour, amounts to almost nothing for most of the guides, whom I have spoken to.

Now, in my viewpoint, there may be big money coming in from the ads and hype, and if there is a way to find out how much the owner, and top execs are bringing in, we can then compare that to the amount the average guide is making there ...

I bet it would be 100s of thousands compared to pennies.

Does anyone know how to find out this type of info.?? And it is interesting to note that ChaChaInsider doesn't respond to these types of posts, you really can't argue/debate with the truth. Every single guide I spoke with there was very disappointed in the pay..

If people would go there to Cha Cha search and conduct a random survey of whether the guides there were disappointed in the pay, actual pay, I bet 99% would be EXTREMELY disappointed.

THEY Didn'T EVEN PAY MINIMUM WAGE, DUE TO THE NATURE OF THE working relationship there.

No smoothing over this ChaChaInsider, the serious issue of guide pay.
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