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What do you want to know?

Cha Cha
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  October 22, 2008


Have you heard about ChaCha? If you’ve hung out with me over the past couple of weeks, chances are the answer is yes. My ardent evangelizing around this mobile question-answer service has reached epic proportions, and with good reason — there’s something oddly addictive about sending a question out into the technological void and having it answered by a stranger.

Sure, the 35,000 “guides” employed by ChaCha (launched earlier this year by software wizards Brad Bostic and Scott Jones) may sometimes get a little mixed up (they didn’t know who the staff writer of the Portland Phoenix is, horror of horrors!), but most of the time they answer correctly, in record time, and with some flair.

But flair may also be ChaCha’s Achilles’ heel. After all, the answers to some questions are purely subjective. Take this experiment, conducted last Friday night in the very scientific lab of a friend’s apartment. Seven people texted ChaCha (242242) the same question: “Who is the best guitarist of all time?” We got three different responses. Five ChaCha guides wrote back with some variation of Jimi Hendrix. (“Jimi Hendrix was the greatest guitar player to ever set foot on earth,” one aggressive guide wrote. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”) Another told us the top axe-man was Eddie Van Halen. And me? I got the gold: “Benji Madden is the best guitarist of all time,” texted my guide, obviously a 13-year-old girl. Benji Madden is the guitar player for Good Charlotte, and not the best guitarist of all time. Period.

ChaCha knows the answer to one question by heart. “How does ChaCha make money,” I asked the free service. The texted response read: “ChaCha earns revenue from advertising and through its strategic partnerships. ChaCha is free so keep asking questions!”

Non-questions won’t necessarily get a response, although one friend, upon professing her love for ChaCha, got this in return: “You’re not shy, I can tell.”

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Jimi Hendrix, Benji Madden, Eddie Van Halen,  More more >
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