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new search engine model that employs thousands of paid "guides," who will provide live one-on-one help to users who need extra assistance tracking down online information. The free service, called ChaCha.com, goes live today as a test and is expected to go into full beta later this year.
Status: Looking for a guide...
Status: Connected to guide: JohnnyG
JohnnyG: Hi there. I will be helping with your search.
You: Great, because your unguided results suck.
JohnnyG: Is there any particular kind of widget you're looking for?
You: Not yet... just looking for a general cheap widget site.
(pause as results slowly appear, one by one)
JohnnyG: Are those sites helping?
You: Thanks... I'll print out the page. At first glance, they all look good except for (competitor's site), but I'll have to compare prices. How did you find and evaluate these?
JohnnyG: This isn't a topic I'm real great at so I used results from jux2 meta and took a look at the sites before I sent them to you.
You: Thanks. Hmmm... I guess I can't print out the page.
JohnnyG: dang, I've never tried to print the results, i'll make sure they know about that problem.
JohnnyG: Please RATE ME when you see the five stars. Thanks for using ChaCha.
Status: Session ended.
I'd like to weigh in as a guide if I may.
I do understand the frustration some of you are experiencing with the SE as it sits right now; however, you do have to keep in mind that this is an *alpha* version and as such highly experimental. Those of us who are working as guides also get frustrated with glitches and freezes and white screens and...well...all the same things you do.
But it will get better. If it survives.
Now, I for one, hope it does survive. For the obvious reasons and because due to some personal issues and living in podunkville USA if I am to make any money at all I have to telecommute. Which means customer service, (god forbid) telemarketing, or something like this. I actually enjoy this. I hate with the burning hot passion of 1 billion hot suns doing phone work and I won't touch telemarketing with a pole. As a bonus, the money for this, while no better, is certainly no worse than my other options.
For those of you who have actually connected to a guide, if they don't give you what you want then rate them accordingly. Especially in the case of a guide who "doesn't know much" about the topic at hand. If they don't know much they shouldn't have picked that as a keyword. If you give them a 1 they will go back into training and if they can't learn then they will stay safely out of harm's way so they don't annoy the users.
There was also some talk about bias. Speaking only for myself, of course, I have to say that I try to target my searches to exactly what the user is looking for. I don't have an agenda. I don't get paid more if I target sponsors. All I do is use the search engines that are the most likely to provide relevant results for the keyword and sift through them to find the best 3 or 4 I can. This is what we all do. Or what we are supposed to do.
I full well expect there will be some abuses, but those can be reported and there is some monitoring going on to weed out the ringers. And the incompetent.
As for the guide that gave one of you an invitation to be a guide...ACK! That is not supposed to happen. Invitations are only supposed to be given to people you know and trust. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest his armpits.
At any rate, the system is still learning, the guides are still learning and there is obviously a great deal of sanding off rough edges that needs to be done. Now, me, I'm a cynic. I know the fact that I enjoy this so much and actually have a talent for it may doom it. But I'm a hopeful cynic. If it does work...wouldn't it be grand?
Invitations are only supposed to be given to people you know and trust.
It's guaranteed that abuses will be attempted. It is how a service deals with the abuses that determines the users trust. Although the product is labeled as "Alpha," the maxim holds true, "You only have one chance to make a first impression."
I completely agree about the inevitably of abuses. Personal I think they should get rid of the whole network idea. Being paid a percentage of the earning of people you recruit pretty much invites such abuses.
A better idea would be to pay the guides more based on performance. Things like speed and and relevance of results would be fairly easy to track and speed should only count if the guide provides outstanding results. Working Solutions employs a system that does just this.
The invitations themselves would not be a problem without the network scheme but some kind of testing should be implemented. A spelling and grammar test would be a good thing. Typing, also. Most importantly a test of a prospective guide's web researching skills. All of those could be automated. The first two already exist on Brainbench and Click'n'Work has a very thorough implementation of the third. It could be done and it would provide a higher level of QA.
I do understand the reasoning behind opening the Alpha to the public. They wanted to stress test and find the hidden flaws and felt the only way to do that was to open the gates to the public. And in a sense, they were right. You never know how programming or a service will pan out until you get a real load to test it with.
Unfortunately, in surfing around looking for what people were saying about ChaCha I've run into quite a few negative impressions due to the early unveiling of what is an unfinished product. I do know that they are working towards fixing the things that people take issue with but really it was a price that they could not avoid paying if they chose to open it when and how they did.
I'm hoping that some of the brilliance the founder brought to promoting voicemail will shine through and it will all end well in the end. The potential is certainly there.
Arelene I hope you bring great insight and continuing updates into this topic and WebmasterWorld in general. I for one am skeptic about the potential abuse myself (especially in the "money for results" area) but I guess every system has its bad eggs. Of course our lobbyist government is to blame for holding up to such a bad standard.
Regardless of our little jabs at the alpha version (me included), and while I can't speak for everybody here I have to say I believe most of us are very interested in both the practical and financial benefits and limitations of such a system. I'll keep my fingers crossed for all of us.
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