I’ve aimed a lot of criticism at human powered search engine ChaCha over the last couple of years. The service lets users ask questions, just like a normal search engine. But instead of a computer spitting out answers (see Google, etc.), real human beings answer instead.
The ChaCha service was absurd in its original web version, which has since been discontinued. The mobile version is actually very useful, although we questioned its scalability when it launched. New information from the company suggests they’re keeping costs low enough to make a business model out of it. More on that soon.
Now about this image.
Some fairly funny answers occasionally come back from the human guides, who early on at least had to deal with a lot of prank queries. But none of the ones we’ve seen compare to the one to the right, which is a Digg favorite tonight. It describes the Eiffel Tower sexual position (yes, you learn something new every day) in response to a completely unrelated query about a Randy Newman show in Seattle.
I contacted the company about it and got the following message:
I appreciate your reaching out to me regarding this iPhone prank. We researched this as soon as it came to our attention and our logs indicate that the answer displayed was definitely to a question previously asked by this same user. So yes, this is a fake as this person is misrepresenting what actually occurred. They actually asked one question (to which the answer was sent) and then a second question shortly thereafter and then received the answer to the first question which, due to the way messages are threaded on an iPhone display, the answer is appearing below a different question than the one that was asked to spawn the answer that is displayed.
So in the end this was a bit of a trick apparently used to misrepresent what happened in order to get some laughs – which appears to be working as this is getting some serious play across the Web!
Ok that sounds more than reasonable. But when I go to the URL in the image, it shows the question and answer linked (see below). I understand how text messages back and forth can get out of order, but not how the wrong answer can be linked to the wrong question in ChaCha’s own database. I also note the guide was on the job for one whole day before this happened. I’ve emailed the company for further clarification.