ChaCha Cuts Pay Rate In Half, Prepares For Implosion

We’ve never been big fans of ChaCha, the human powered search engine that pairs you up with a “guide” who attempts to answer your questions in real time. The search model was obviously unscalable from the outset, but ChaCha’s botched implementation hasn’t helped much. When it first launched, ChaCha allowed users to initiate full on chat sessions with their guides, which predictably led to a flood of pranksters who overwhelmed the service.

After a year of trying to make the ridiculously flawed system work, the company abandoned the chat sessions in favor of one-off question and answers, primarily targeting users through a mobile service.

Despite its glaring issues, ChaCha has managed to ring up $16 million in funding, which is probably why it has survived this long. And to the company’s credit, it has amassed a following of loyal “guides” – the people who do the heavy lifting and find the search results for visitors to ChaCha.

Many of these guides are only interested in making a quick buck, which is why there are so many laughably bad search results. But for some, ChaCha is an extension of the workday, offering some relatively easy money to help supplement their incomes. And now ChaCha is going to screw them.

Yesterday ChaCha sent out a message to its guides explaining that it was introducing a “Pay-For-Performance” system that was designed to improve search quality – not a bad idea, given the shoddy results we’ve seen before. Unfortunately, it seems that ChaCha has blundered this plan too.

Under the new program, “Top Guides” will receive 20 cents per question, which has been the standard rate for experienced guides for some time. Everyone else gets 10 cents per question – half of what they would have gotten under the old system. To become a Top Guide, users must do the following:

* >95% Quality Measurement.
* 95% and above completion of answers to questions:
* Minimum 300 Searches a week.

That’s a lot of searches, given the fact that most experienced users average around one search per minute. In effect, ChaCha is forcing users to work five or more hours per week if they want the higher payrate – something that will totally alienate the site’s more casual (but accurate) users. What’s worse, there’s currently no way to readily see your accuracy score, so users are forced to trust ChaCha’s word.

Users are up in arms on the site’s private forum (you can see some of the complaints here), with many planning to abandon ChaCha entirely. It’s clear that ChaCha is trying to trim their workforce down to a small army of accurate and hardworking searchers, but enraging its entire community only seems to solidify its place in the Deadpool.