ChaCha is a different search experience, it seems more akin to asking a reference librarian for help.
You can use it as a normal search engine by hitting the search button, or you can choose to hit the “search with guide button”.
This opens up a sidebar window where a chosen expert or guide (according to your search term) is available then and there to chat with you in order to help you find what you are looking for…so far they have employed 10,000 Guides.
After a chat they will return some useful websites, and you can rate their service, very interesting indeed.
The great thing is that it learns from itself (turns this information into knowledge so to speak), from the website:
“The more you use ChaCha, the smarter and faster ChaCha becomes! Because ChaCha indexes all the questions that are asked and associates them with the search engines and resources used by Guides, and the links visited by the users, ChaCha knows where to look and what the best human-approved resources are for each question or topic. “
I wonder how they get enough people to cover all topics, maybe it could be made social, kind of like Yedda…since Yedda knows your interests, questions from one user are sent to other users for a possible answer, plus whoever else notices the question posted on Yedda.
This way if there are 500,000 users, the system has from 500,000 people to choose, but it has to know who is online now…the plus side is you have more experts, but will they really experts (quantity vs. quality).
This brings me to attention, being asked questions according to my interests is great, but what about the other services I use, I bet Yedda would be even more precise in the questions they ask me if they knew my whole social identity or personal content network.
If I had an attention file representing my personal content network (bookmarks, photos, RSS reading, searching, etc…) and plugged this into Yedda (as well as explicitly telling it what my interests are) it would be able to more accurately target experts and inturn have more of a chance of getting an accurate answer.
Pity attention is proprietry, why can’t we just all get along with OPML.
NOTE: Other services like StumbleUpon could really benefit from attention data, as their game is recommendation]
This is a very clever idea for libraries to adopt, perhaps a network of libraries could offer their own version of ChaCha, kind of like ChaCha closed groups.
[ADDED: I just discovered ChaCha Underground which seems like a social version of ChaCha…it lists topics and guides (a way to get a profile is to be invited by a guide).
Each guide has a profile page and an RSS feed, and their latest search results, visitors can leave comments…what about having an online status so a visitor can IM a guide.]