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Old 09-06-2006   #1
SuperZu
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ChaCha

Just wanted to know what everyone thinks about ChaCha guided search. I think it's a great idea! Unfortunately, it now has a "check back soon" message because of all the traffic since its launch on Monday.

What are your thoughts?
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Old 09-06-2006   #2
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I feel it is something that may have been useful before search engines came into being. Nowadays... why would someone want to wait while someone else searches for them when search engines can deliver results in nano seconds?
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Old 09-06-2006   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Wallace
why would someone want to wait while someone else searches for them when search engines can deliver results in nano seconds?
I agree when it comes to people that are used to searching on the internet but I feel that the major search engines still have a long way to go in terms of natural language queries and searcher intentions. This is where a guide might come in useful to help less internet savvy users find what they need quickly.
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Old 09-07-2006   #4
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Hey everybody,

We're thrilled to be mentioned on SEW. We're all avid readers here at ChaCha.

As you may have noticed, we've been up and down since Monday due to the amount of traffic we've received. We expected a lot, but we got a lot more.

David: You have to take into consideration that you're a power user. You know how to use Boolean operators and which engines produce the best results for a given subject. But people like my parents, who still think that AOL and "The Internet" are synonymous, don't have the know-how to navigate through 410,000,000 results.

On top of that, we've had countless incidences where savvy web-surfers engaged with a Guide and through real-time communication were able to find new or different information. Coupled with the ability to connect to a Guide who's very knowledgable in whatever you're looking for, there are benefits for even the best web searchers. Think of going into a record shop and telling the clerk the music you're into and having him give you some suggestions. If you need to re-tile your bathroom not only will a Guide send you to the best sites to buy tile and how-to's on tiling, but you'll be able to get helpful hints directly from someone who knows (you can imagine how having that amount of precision augments our ad revenue- not to mention it's rich media.)

To top it off, all this interaction is serving the deeper purpose of wrangling and categorizing the best information on the internet that is automatically updated in realtime vis-a-vis what people are searching for and the first-hand results they are given.

This has gotten a little long winded, I apologize. But we're all extremely excited and passionate about what we're doing. If nothing else, wouldn't it be nice to input a query, walk to the fridge, and when you get back you've got exactly what you need without having to do it?

Keep an eye on us everybody, we've still got plenty up our sleeves. And be patient with us through our Alpha phase- we know things aren't working. We're just "testing in the open".
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Old 09-07-2006   #5
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ChaChaInsider,
Thanks for the clarifications. Now that you're here: I read that an existing guide has to invite you to become a guide. Is there a list of guides somewhere so that I can browse through it to see if there's anyone I know personally who can invite me?
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Old 09-07-2006   #6
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The only way you can see the people who are currently Guides is by logging into the system.

However, if you email me at justin.keller@chacha.com, I'll send you an invitation to check it out.

Thanks!
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Old 09-07-2006   #7
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Question I'm a Cha-Cha-er

Hey guys. I'm surprised no other Cha Cha guides have found this thread. Maybe I'm a better search guide than I thought. ChaCha is pretty cool so far and if you want an invite, just shoot me an email with your email address.

I just wanted to throw my two cents into this. I just joined last night and have done a few customer searches since it started. It has been a bit painful as far as all the glitches. The system works in such a way that it sends out a message that a search query has been entered to (what seems like) all of the online guides all at once and whoever is the fastest clicker gets it. So I've literally sat at my computer with my finger on the "Enter" key waiting for a window to pop up, without even seeing what the search is about. So it doesn't surprise me the system has been crashing if it really has been getting a query per second. Can you imagine how many guides are clicking at the same time?

It's a very interesting system and does allow for some interaction between other guides, but there are still a ton of kinks to work out as it is still in its experimental phase. This is definitely a search engine geared towards new search engine users. In fact, I think I may have found a searcher (an "infoseeker" on the site) who didn't write very good English, so it felt really good helping him.

Anyways, there you go. I'm not making big bucks yet, but I really think this could end up being a super cool thing. I just can't wait until I can do this casually instead of standing on guard. I get more nervous waiting on a ChaCha query than I do running an instance in World of Warcraft. (Yeah, I'm a geek.)

Good night!
Williesha

Last edited by tanik : 09-07-2006 at 11:06 PM.
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Old 09-08-2006   #8
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Haha tanik...thanks for the insight. Funny about getting nervous.

This does sound like a pretty cool searcher tool, especially if you are targeting the same market this member is.

I would never use it...

sometimes though when I am over my wife's shoulder I do some backseat-searching. This does not please her, as you may guess.
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Old 09-08-2006   #9
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I checked it out as well yesterday - seems like it would be good for people who aren't familiar with search or how to look for what they need. I wasn't able to make it work for my query on Las Vegas Hotel, but did do some surfing around.

Like Chris, I probably would never use it, but it's a cool idea. I'm sure some people will be drawn to the community aspect of it as well...
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Old 09-08-2006   #10
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Question for Cha-Cha insiders

tanik - I checked out ChaCha as well and requested a search be done on a keyword for my company and I was bummed to see that we didn't come up even though we have great exposure across the web...is there anything you would recommend for better exposure on ChaCha?
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Old 09-08-2006   #11
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I consider myself to be fairly competent at finding what I'm looking for via Google, so the idea of asking someone to simply run a search for me doesn't hold much appeal. However, I fairly frequently have questions that I'd rather ask an actual person, particularly if they're an "expert".

It is one thing to use Google to find basic information about a particular hotel, the rates of the San Diego Travelodge for example. It is an entirely different thing to have a conversation with someone who has been there recently or frequently and can give you particulars such as, "They were painting the second floor railings last weekend and probably won't be done for another week," or, "The breakfast restaurant is running a two-for-one special through the end of this month."

I'm an avid user of http://www.qunu.com specifically for that reason, although Qunu seems to be focused on computers and technology. When I heard about ChaCha my first thought was that it was aiming to be just like Qunu for things other than computers, with a search engine built in as a bonus.

From the sounds of Tanik's post things are pretty hectic for the current "experts", but I'm hoping once that calms down each query will be answered by someone with intimate knowledge of the answer, and not just someone good at looking things up on the internet.

Last edited by Marcia : 09-13-2006 at 08:36 AM. Reason: Fixed the link.
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Old 09-08-2006   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmags
tanik - I checked out ChaCha as well and requested a search be done on a keyword for my company and I was bummed to see that we didn't come up even though we have great exposure across the web...is there anything you would recommend for better exposure on ChaCha?
One of the cool things about our website is you don't have to be indexed by us- you're already indexed by all the search engines we use. If you want to get good exposure on your website, you need to sign up for a keyword related to your website. When users ask for information related to that keyword, you can send them to your website. The more that happens, the stronger the link is between that keyword and your website. Given enough time, the keywords relevant to you should develop themselves (rather than you having to bid for them).

Let me know if I can answer any other questions!

Justin Keller
(Email may be setup in user profile, and found in post above)

Last edited by Chris Boggs : 09-11-2006 at 09:29 AM. Reason: removed signature email per Forum FAQ
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Old 09-09-2006   #13
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There are LOT of people frustrated right now with the site, but I keep telling them, look it JUST STARTED THIS WEEK. It's not going to be perfect. I think I've found a few people in my network who are just as excited about it as I am.
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Old 09-12-2006   #14
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I tried a search and was only proposed 2 results, via Google I find many many more.

I wouldn't use it either, but well done for doing different.
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Old 09-12-2006   #15
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I've just done a little experiment with the service, and I have to say that I think it's a very poor service, and even a very poor concept. Basically, all it does is have someone do the search for you in a meta search engine, and apply some non-expert personal preferences to the results returned.

For the test, I searched on 'uk holiday accommodation' - something I know about because my site is #1 in Google, and is spot on for the search, as are others. After a little while, I received 2 results (it's true that you can go and put the kettle on while the results are being retrieved ). I asked for more, and a little while later 3 more results arrived. My site was not listed at all.

When the session was finished, I could see that the results had been acquired from the jux2 meta engine, which lists my site at #4 (being #1 on Google), and yet the guide didn't include it in the results, so I gathered that the guide's personal preferences were in play. Not only that, but the 5th result that the guide returned was nothing to do with uk holiday accommodation - it's a worldwide hotels site, with the most horrendously spammy Title and Description, and isn't even listed in jux2's first results page (top 20). I've no idea where that one came from.

During the session, I asked the guide if she had any personal exerience with the topic, to which she answered "no". So the idea of experts being at the other end is wrong, which means that the personal preferences are unreliable.

In all, it took about 4 to 5 minutes to get the 5 listings from a non-expert, when all that the most inexperienced searcher would ever need is a clickable search engine URL for the searchterm. The whole thing could have been done in seconds, and still keep the guide chat in a frame in case the user needs more help. If all the service is doing is delivering the results from a meta search engine, why make it such a long-winded process, when a clickable URL would save minutes? You are given such a URL when the session is over, and clicking it gets you more suitable results in a second, so why all the guide stuff?

But then it gets worse, imo. The 'preferred' non-expert results for the search are stored, and the next time that somebody makes the same non-guided search, in the site that tries to give the impression of being a real search engine, those 'preferred' non-expert results are returned.

I'm sorry, but imo the service is very poor. I am sure that the guide did her best - it's just the concept and practise of the service that is poor, and a non-starter, imo.

Here are some extracts from ChaCha's "Our Story" page:-

Quote:
Frustrated by search engines that provided millions of irrelevant results, the dynamic duo of Scott Jones and Brad Bostic pledged to create a better search engine - a "smart" search engine powered by human intelligence - that made it easy for visitors to find exactly what they were looking for without having to wade through millions of results.
All I can say is that the dynamic duo were using the wrong search engines if they were receiving millions of irrelevant results. And if search engines can't provide relevant results, how come ChaCha is using a meta engine for their results? All the meta engine does is get the top results from those engines that produce millions of irrelevant results!

Quote:
To truly change the way people search, we need your help. Search ChaCha often - whether it's with or without a Guide, we're confident you'll benefit from intelligent search results found by people who're knowledgeable about the very thing you're searching for.
Really? Knowledgable about the very thing that I'm looking for? So how come I got a worldwide hotels site back as the #5 result for my search? Are there only 4 genuinely relevant results anywhere to be found? I know of one other genuinely relevant result that wasn't considered to be a suitable result for my search And how come the guide said that she didn't have *any* personal experience of what I was looking for?

Quote:
Remember, ChaCha is all about making the web more accessible, by giving you ONLY the most relevant results you need.
See my previous comment.

I'd be interested in Justin Keller's thoughts on this post.

Last edited by PhilC : 09-12-2006 at 11:43 AM.
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Old 09-12-2006   #16
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Doing the experiment (previous post) it occured to me how ChaCha can be misused by Guides. Suppose I get myself in as a Guide, and I get myself listed as being an expert in my business website's field. I saw lots of Guides for the 'golf' topic, so let's say that I have a website that sells golfing equipment.

Each time I manage to catch a golf query, I can slip my own website into the results, and it will stay there for when other people come along with the same query.

Right now, the system is new, and such things may still be easily spottable, but when it's been going for some time, and many more queries have been dealt with and stored, it may be much easier to do without being noticed. It would be a bit like DMOZ, but with much more scope for promoting your own sites. Not only are the search results saved and shown to other people who search ChaCha for the same queries, but they are also crawlable via underground.chacha.com, so they would be useful one-way links with nicely targeted link text (see the #5 result for my experimental search).

You could even arrange queries for the purpose, and you could invite new Guides in to further your sites' promotions, or theirs.

Another way that ChaCha can be used for seo is without even becoming a Guide. Just do guided searches for your highly ranked searchterms, and be sure to guide the Guides until your pages are returned. A few more IBLs with targeted link text in the pages' Titles won't go astray

Last edited by PhilC : 09-12-2006 at 12:42 PM. Reason: addition
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Old 09-12-2006   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChaChaInsider
The only way you can see the people who are currently Guides is by logging into the system.
You don't need to log in, or an invite. Anyone can go to http://underground.chacha.com/ and wander round all the Guides - see what topics they are guides for, see who sponsored each of them, see who is in their Networks, and see who their Buddies are. You get photos, interests, etc. as well.

If you keep going up the My Sponsor chain, you eventually arrive at ChaCha - where the chain breaks, and an error message is returned.

Last edited by Marcia : 09-13-2006 at 08:38 AM.
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Old 09-13-2006   #18
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Clearing things up...

First of all, the reason why so many people have "golf" is because "golf," "job" and "music" are the keywords all new guides have to select at first in order to get trained. This makes it easier for trainers to track newbies down for test searches. You can still get searches from real users on any subject at any time. Once you get from apprentice to pro, you can change those keywords.

Also, saying that we are "Experts" is a bit of a stretch. These are college kids, work at home moms, and other folks who like to use the internet and know where to go quickly when a query comes up in their keywords. We have an interest in these topics but are still learning where to go.

Also, I think it's extremely unfair to call a search engine a "poor" service when it's not even in its final stages. I think we need to be a bit more patient. I'm telling new guides this all the time! It's in "alpha" stage, folks. It's not going to be a winner right out of the gate. The guides aren't just using meta-search engines. They are going to sites they feel comfortable knowing they are getting the best results.

And one more thing. We have been told not to use the very first link that pops up. So if you are first in a search engine, chances are you aren't going to be selected. I've used a lot of first links, because it provides the best answer. But that's not going to always be the case. The guides are looking for the best answer to a query, not the first answer to a query. Anybody can find the first link in a search engine. The idea is to dig deep. So, evaluating a search result based on whether or not a site you paid to get at the top spot is on there or not is kind of silly.

In fact, a guide trainer at a work-at-home forum just posted this a few minutes ago:

"The first page of results is not always the best results, they just happen to be better coded for optimal search engine placement."


Also, they have stopped accepting invites at this time for new guides. If you want to check out the guides, go to underground.chacha.com.

See yas! PM me if you have any more questions.

A Cha-Cha-er,
Tanik

Last edited by tanik : 09-13-2006 at 08:07 AM.
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Old 09-13-2006   #19
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I'm still hoping that Justin Keller will respond to my findings - I've seen him in this thread twice since they were posted

Hi tanik.

I called it a poor service because, imo, it is, and I explained the reasons why I have that opinion.

Quote:
Also, saying that we are "Experts" is a bit of a stretch
I agree, but that's how the service is put across, both on the site and in this thread:- "we're confident you'll benefit from intelligent search results found by people who're knowledgeable about the very thing you're searching for." Neither that nor the postings in this thread suggest that the guides are knowledgable in how to search effectively. They both say that the guides are knowledgable "in the very thing you're searching for". It simply isn't true. As you mentioned earlier, the reality is that guides sit at their computers waiting to get in quick when a guided search is wanted. You even said that you click to get them even before seeing what the search is about. It isn't about getting a guide who has expertise in the search topic - it's about getting a guide - any guide - to do the search for you. But the site says differently, and so has Justin in this thread.

The thing is, if a person is capable of typing a searchterm into the ChaCha search box, so that a guide can help, then s/he is capable of doing exactly the same thing in Google, or in any search engine. And, since the guides return search results from the search engines, people are no better off for using ChaCha, and they would be a lot better off if they used a search engine. They'd get a lot more suitable results than a guide gives them.

I'm sorry, but I see no useful purpose for the ChaCha system, except to make money for the company by hoping that people click on the ads. What can a person do when waiting for the guided results? Look around, read what's there, and click if it looks interesting.

Quote:
Also, I think it's extremely unfair to call a search engine a "poor" service when it's not even in its final stages
It isn't a search engine. I believe it intentionally pretends to be one. In fact, the "Our story" page says, "the dynamic duo of Scott Jones and Brad Bostic pledged to create a better search engine - a "smart" search engine powered by human intelligence ", but it isn't a search engine. It's a search service, but not a search engine.

Last edited by PhilC : 09-13-2006 at 08:22 AM.
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Old 09-13-2006   #20
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Quote:
It isn't a search engine. I believe it intentionally pretends to be one. In fact, the "Our story" page says, "the dynamic duo of Scott Jones and Brad Bostic pledged to create a better search engine - a "smart" search engine powered by human intelligence ", but it isn't a search engine. It's a search service, but not a search engine.
Or is it a directory with a search function?

I was under the impression a search engine worked via crawling sites and fetching pages, indexing them and ranking them for user queries. That was a BIG topic in Internet 101 at the local junior college and was a question on the final: answering which were search engines and which were directories.

So what's the difference between this and a directory like ODP or Joe Ant or GoGuides if it's making use of "guides? like they do? What's the difference between a guide and an editor?
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