Social Search Engines: An Inside Look with ChaCha

Social searching is a relatively new idea that gives search engines a special twist. While many search engines will constantly spew out irrelevant information, spam links, and other unwanted results, social searching aims to remove this problem. The idea behind social searching is that instead of a machine automatically finding and displaying results that it thinks are relevant, a human guide separates nonsense results from real results and you see only the results deemed most relevant to your query. A live chat with the guide allows you to specify your search without having to know special syntaxes and keywords that a computer understands.

In this article, I've taken an inside look from ChaCha, a promising new social search engine. With a growing amount of guides every day, the ChaCha search engine provides users with a new way to get online information. This article documents my first visit to ChaCha: researching social search engines. My research has led me to an unintentional interview with a ChaCha guide.

The overall ChaCha experience is quite amazing. The guide assigned to my query provided me with four related links (and asked if I'd like more). One proved to be irrelevant, but it didn't make a difference in this case. Why? Speaking to the guide through an online instant messaging interface, I was provided with information about social searching, more specifically ChaCha, that no search results could ever provide. I can say that I am throughly satisfied with ChaCha.

Read more on the comments page for the full chat with YvonneD, my guide, and the four links provided.

Quote -
Status: Looking for a guide ...
Status: Connected to guide: YvonneD
YvonneD: Welcome to ChaCha!
YvonneD: Hi there. I will be helping with your search.
You: Hello!
YvonneD: Are you looking for some social search engines?
You: Kind of.
YvonneD: Can you tell me exactly what it is I can help you with?
You: Sure! I'm looking for information on social search engines.
YvonneD: Allright let me take a look for you one moment while I get those results.
You: Thanks.
YvonneD: your welcome please take a look at this first link while I find some more.
You: Ok.
YvonneD: Are these results sufficient?
You: For now, yes. According to the first result, ChaCha itself is a social search engine?
YvonneD: Yes it is
YvonneD: Is there anything else on this topic I can find for you today?
You: Can I ask you more about it? I think you'd know better than the results would ''
YvonneD: sure
YvonneD: How can I answer your questions on chacha?
You: So if I search "with a guide", I have a real person (you) talking to me and helping me find relevant results?
YvonneD: correct
You: Do you use the ChaCha unguided search to find the results? Or do you use other search engines as well?
YvonneD: chacha's search engine mostly but sometimes it requires us t ouse others depending on the search topic
You: I see. How many guides are there working in the back?
YvonneD: You know we are getting more and more new guides everyday I'm not quite sure how many total we have now
You: Do you guide more than one query at a time?
YvonneD: no
YvonneD: only one at a time
YvonneD: also I train other guides as well
You: So then what happens if there aren't enough guides for all the queries? Are people placed in a "waiting list" and need to wait longer?
YvonneD: no each guide has up to 9+ words as topics they can search on
You: What do you mean?
YvonneD: so there is always going to be a guide to help somebody
YvonneD: well
YvonneD: for instance one of my search topics is computer internet
YvonneD: another is cats,dvd's.drawing animation.etc.
You: I see. This is really quite an amazing service.
YvonneD: we all choose keywords to perform search querys on
You: Within your category?
YvonneD: everyone chooses different
YvonneD: right you have to do a search on one of your words only
YvonneD: not somebody elses
You: Ok. Are there plans to expand ChaCha into different languages, do you know?
YvonneD: so far there is no mention on that but chacha is growing bigger and better everyday so perhaps that will be in it's future
You: Interesting! Well, I've got to go. Thanks for helping me, but I have one last question:
YvonneD: sure
You: I think this information could be very useful for others who would like to know more about social searching. Is it ok if I post this chat conversation?
You: and the links you gave me?
YvonneD: I don't mind plus maybe the more people know about chacha the better
You: Alright '' Thanks again!
YvonneD: your welcome
YvonneD: goodnight
You: Good night.
YvonneD: Thanks for using ChaCha! I hope you had a great search experience!
YvonneD: Please RATE ME. Thanks for using ChaCha.
Status: Session ended.
  1. - 'Social' search engines replace computer results with human recommendations
  2. Social searching - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. Search Engines and Algorithms: New Social Search
  4. Wink | People Search | Social Search Engine

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I think the whole thing is promising. I just made a couple of tries and the best thing is a real human being can filter out crap and spam results you would get with a generic google search. Better yet you can talk with the guide to narrow down your results. The guides seems to be chosen according to the search you made, so you have a chance to search with a guide who understands from the topic you're looking in.

A few problems though, about %70 of the guides don't respond after search so you'll have to ask for a new guide until you get one. And there seems to be no way to report a non-responding guide. But worse part is that beast media player opens next to your results, showing nothing but still continuosly eating up bandwidth. I seriously hope they replace it with some less aggresive advertisement.

Quote - backdrifter said @ #13
I think the whole thing is promising. I just made a couple of tries and the best thing is a real human being can filter out crap and spam results you would get with a generic google search. Better yet you can talk with the guide to narrow down your results. The guides seems to be chosen according to the search you made, so you have a chance to search with a guide who understands from the topic you're looking in.
Well, according to the interview the guides pick the search terms they want to answer, as long as it's in their category.

We were just "using" ChaCha the other night...

Honestly, I didn't know that anyone in the world used it for SERIOUS searches.


Hmmm or - how to use 10 minutes on a search that would usually take 2 minutes. Sounds really promising to me...

It's not too bad, actually... that is, if your guide isn't lazy and knowledgeable about the subject. I like it, esp when my question is difficult to search for but easily asked.

ChaCha has potential. I just wish they changed their logo so it didn't look like Coca-Cola.

So instead of searching the internet yourself, you basically have to convey what you want to some faceless 'guide', who then goes and does the searching for you, returning to you only the links he's deemed appropriate via the information you gave him.

Oh yeah, that's a wonderful idea. Sweet zombie jesus.

I've used this site. Mainly only to ask stupid questions because it is rather amusing hearing their responses.

Personally I don't see how a service like this could last long. There are so many possibilities for failure here.

I bet some of those social search engine guides have hard time. Imagine their response when someone asks them to look up "gay animal old people porn". Would you look something like that up for 5$/h? I know I wouldn't.

so let me get this right , some guy ake Guide does the searching for you ? isnt that just a tad lazy , i mean whats wrong with using google im confused a little suerly it would be quicker to use google infact it is quicker to use google rather than sitting there having a half arsed convo with some guide whos doing the work for you im really confused as to who said hey you know what chacha is a really good business module

I guess it's kind of for "mum and dad" or if you're just feeling lazy and want someone reasonably experienced search for something hard to find while you do something else. As I understood it, it's a free service so I don't quite see a problem either.