Text a question, get an answer from ChaCha

chachaThe Monday Tech Review: A new search service acts like your personal Googler for when you’re not at your computer.

Users call or text in questions to ChaCha (1-800-2ChaCha or 242242), then sit back and wait. A ChaCha employee, called a Guide, receives the query and scours the internet for the best possible answer. About 10 minutes later, an answer arrives in the form of a text message.

ChaCha launched the service in January. Their 25,000 guides are mostly college students or stay-at-home moms looking to earn some extra cash. Guides can work whenever they want, anytime of day, for any length of time.

The service is free, although you’ll still pay carrier charges if they apply to your wireless plan. We couldn’t figure out how the company will make money, but that never seems to be of concern to many of these snazzy startups.

Any cell phone can use the service. We tested the product by asking it five random questions:

Who was the 19th President of the United States?

ChaCha: The 19th President of the United States was Rutherford B. Hayes.
Time for Answer: 11 minutes, 7 seconds
Accuracy: 100%

When and where was Jon Voight born?

ChaCha: Jon Voight was born on the 29th of December in Yonkers, New York.
Time for Answer: 11 minutes, 18 seconds
Accuracy: 100%

What are the ingredients in coleslaw?

ChaCha: 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar * 1 teaspoon white sugar * 1/3 cup of mayonnaise * 1 tablespoon coarse-grain brown…more?
Time for Answer: 12 minutes, 19 seconds
Accuracy: 85% correct Note: The website links you to another website with a full recipe for coleslaw

Who is the world’s tallest living man?

ChaCha: At age 33, Leionid Stadnik holds the record as the world’s tallest man and he is still growing.
Time for Answer: 15 minutes, 10 seconds
Accuracy: Not correct, according to the Guinness Book of World Records

What are some good bars to visit in the Richmond area?

ChaCha: Out of Bounds is a good sports on 2701 W Broad St and Babes is great for music on 3166 W Cary St.
Time for Answer: 18 minutes, 35 seconds
Accuracy: Well, Out of Bounds went out of business, and Babe’s is a gay bar. So, 10% correct.
BizSense’s take: We wish that ChaCha had given us the whole coleslaw recipe; The Richmond bar answer seemed to be a case of the guide typing in “Richmond VA bars” in Google and sending the first names that stood out. It would be cool if they could set you up with experts on certain topics or certain areas to ensure a good answer. For mobile phone users who have access to the internet, the service seems unnecessary. The “Guides” also don’t have any special expertise, which makes it kind of like the blind leading the blind. But although it takes too long to be useful for trivia night at your neighborhood bar, it is a fun little gadget that’s generally error free and, if nothing less, an interesting service to mess around with.

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