Over Thanksgiving weekend, I found out my younger sister “works” for ChaCha. She showed me the interface and told me about how it works.
The site only started getting over 500k monthly visitors since August, according to Compete.com.
She can usually sit there for up to 2 hours waiting on a question to come through from a user. The problem isn’t scalability, its finding customers who actually want to use the darn thing.
She made a little over $20 for the entire month of November. Their internal message boards are filled to the brim with hundreds of other workers who complain about never getting questions. The reason ChaCha stopped accepting new workers a few months ago seems to be that they outstripped the supply of people asking questions.
An important policy that seriously restricts the usefulness of ChaCha’s answers is that its workers are restricted to the sites they get their answers from. They are not allowed to use 3rd party search engines, such as Google or Yahoo. They are also restricted from using Wikipedia and almost any kind of message board.
ChaCha has an internal directory of human-categorized approved links across a number of directories, ala Yahoo’s early attempts to create a categorized view of the web by employing librarians to index sites. That was the 1st gen business model that pretty much failed for Yahoo.
I ran a series of questions by her and the answers she could find were a combination of inaccurate, incomplete, or occasionally right.
After having seen ChaCha from the inside, more or less, I can’t say there’s anything there that shows me it has any value to the user. Go hit Google, Yahoo, or even Live.com. You’ll get better results.