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Indiana University Dumps Google for ChaCha 211

Posted by Zonk
from the forbidden-dance dept.
theodp writes "Come Monday, no more Indiana University searches will be powered by computer-driven Google. Only by people-powered ChaCha. The move was announced by new IU President Michael McRobbie, who until recently sat on ChaCha's Board of Directors (5-29 SEC filing, PDF). IU will draft hundreds of librarians and IT employees to be ChaCha Guides for the university's websites, although a FAQ accompanying IU's press release tells librarians not to expect any checks for their efforts from ChaCha, which IU notes is backed by Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Compaq founder Rod Canion."
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Indiana University Dumps Google for ChaCha

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  • Does ChaCha have its own engine or does it rely on all the other ones? The "personal service" feature will die-off if enough people try to use it.
    • Re:AskJeeves2? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ivan256 (17499) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @09:49PM (#20117519)
      I'm imagining a bunch of "guides" searching Google for you instead of letting you do it yourself.

      Seriously though, who knows? Maybe enough people suck at searching to make this service worthwhile, but I don't see how it could ever be profitable. Unless they somehow think they can get away without paying anybody.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Beavis: Diarrhea, ChaChaCha
        Butthead: Diarrhea, ChaChaCha
        Daria: You guys seriously need to get a life.
      • by mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:37PM (#20117789)

        Seriously though, who knows? Maybe enough people suck at searching to make this service worthwhile

        Given that much of modern intellectual life has degenerated into seeing who can come up with the best Google searches [or PubMed searches, or arXiv searches, or whatever], how does hiring someone to do your searching for you differ from hiring someone to write your term papers [google.com] for you?

        • how does hiring someone to do your searching for you differ from hiring someone to write your term papers for you?
          I'm pretty sure that nobody gets graded on how good their searches are. :)
          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @12:13AM (#20118247) Journal
            "I'm pretty sure that nobody gets graded on how good their searches are."

            Contrary to popular opinion a respectable degree does not simply cram as many facts into your head as will fit. A university degree is supposed to give one the skills to find known answers to a question, any question!
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by br14n420 (1111329)

              Contrary to popular opinion a respectable degree does not simply cram as many facts into your head as will fit. A university degree is supposed to give one the skills to find known answers to a question, any question!

              Well, it does teach an excellent lesson. If you are making $180k/yr, is it less expensive to sit there on the clock fishing through mountains of bullshit on Google, or sub out the work to a subordinate to do the work and come back with a nicely put together report? The answer is simply "yeah, you are going to save money having some monkey do the monkey work."

              One could easily use the same logic to say that use of a secretary or executive assistant to do the things you don't have the time to deal with and st

          • I'll disagree, but not for the same reasons. If you have a reference which contains something you want, you'll need to search out where to find it. Be it at your local library (thankfully, the most common case), on the Internet (and then roll the die to see if it's one of the ones your university has paid for.), or via interlibrary loan. (And hope it gets to you by the end of the semester, sometimes it won't even more than a month after the request is submitted)

            If there's some critical piece of information
          • by Asmor (775910)
            Actually, my first semester of college I got stuck in a hybrid English course, which was half in-class and half online.

            One of the things the professor tried to teach was how to effectively search, which I think is a fairly important skill.

            Of course, that's about the only thing that I felt that class did well at... I dropped out of it after a couple weeks because I hated the professor and the curriculum and the fact that we were supposed to use some book he wrote about using the internet and it was obvious h
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:02PM (#20117581)

      IU's guides could be asked to locate a building on campus, find a book in one of the university's libraries or solve a question about Windows Vista.

      Hmmmm, free tech support! And we all know how well people doing tech support are treated.

      Students, faculty and the public could ask the IU guides questions, said Brad Wheeler, IU's vice president for information technology. But he isn't worried about them getting overwhelmed. "If it ever became a huge problem, we can gate it," he said.

      So, they stick a bunch of people with tech support responsibilities ... and when that bogs down they restrict the number of calls to them.

      And yes, that is what will happen.

      The only way this will survive is when the "support" people start telling their "customers" to purchase 3rd party software and such from companies that have purchased "ad time" on those "support" people.

      "Hello, I'm running Windows Vista and it won't boot up."
      "Have you tried the extreme refreshment of Mountain Dew? Many people who use Windows Vista prefer Mountain Dew."
      "Will that help me fix Vista?"
      "It might. It couldn't hurt. May I also recommend some Dominoes Pizza?"
      "Thanks, I'm not hungry."
      "Dominoes Pizza is having a special offer today on pepperoni pizzas."
      "Okay, I'll order some pizza. How about my Vista problem?"
      "Symantec sells a wide range of software products designed to facilitate and enrich your Vista experience."
      click
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rben (542324)
      What strikes me is the incredible hubris of the guy. He's abusing his position at the University for personal gain. He's drafting University employees to work for a venture that pays him money and pays them nothing. Must be nice. I wonder if the University gets anything at all in return?

    • by STrinity (723872)
      Or worse, it'll be Digg, with the search returning the most popular page tagged with the keywords you're searching for.
  • If they were forcing people to not use google search, that would be news. But who cares about this ?
    • Re:Big news ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by irritating environme (529534) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:11PM (#20117623)
      Um, maybe because public employees are being forced to donate labor toward a private company the university president has glaring conflict-of-interest ties with?

      Other than that...
      • by E++99 (880734)

        Um, maybe because public employees are being forced to donate labor toward a private company the university president has glaring conflict-of-interest ties with?

        How does using this software to provide help to students and faculty constitute donating labor to a private company? How does having formerly served on the board of the company constitute a conflict of interest, glaring or otherwise?
        • by dangitman (862676)

          How does using this software to provide help to students and faculty constitute donating labor to a private company?

          Because it won't help students, it's just a ploy to keep a lame company afloat. If anything, it will hurt students and staff, as it takes tech support employees away from doing real work.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by UbuntuDupe (970646) *

          How does using this software to provide help to students and faculty constitute donating labor to a private company?

          The summary says, "IU will draft hundreds of librarians and IT employees to be ChaCha Guides for the university's websites, although a FAQ accompanying IU's press release tells librarians not to expect any checks for their efforts from ChaCha"

          Basically, university staff will have to devote time (for which the university pays them) to do things to ChaCha's benefit, and ChaCha will not compensate them. I know, it wasn't immediately obvious from the summary, because whoever wrote it either:

          a) is old enough t

          • Or maybe people should go back to the root of the word and spell it 'cheque' (like everywhere else outside of the U.S.A.) instead of spelling foe-net-ti-clee. :)
          • by E++99 (880734)

            The summary says, "IU will draft hundreds of librarians and IT employees to be ChaCha Guides for the university's websites, although a FAQ accompanying IU's press release tells librarians not to expect any checks for their efforts from ChaCha"

            Basically, university staff will have to devote time (for which the university pays them) to do things to ChaCha's benefit, and ChaCha will not compensate them.

            In the article ChaCha says they'd be happy to pay them, as they pay their other "guides". They're not getti

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)
            What's your problem?

            Did someone tell you to expect a check but didn't warn you that you had to deposit it with a bank in order to use it? [ubuntuforums.org]

            Besides, you are a fine one to be bitching that the meaning of a word has changed due to popular usage. [slashdot.org]
        • by vux984 (928602)
          How does using this software to provide help to students and faculty constitute donating labor to a private company?

          He as much as said his staff would be working on behalf of chacha but not to expect any payment from them for it.

          How does having formerly served on the board of the company constitute a conflict of interest, glaring or otherwise?

          He likely still has substantial stock options or even outright stock.

          The fact that he was on the board until just recently doesn't PROVE he has a conflict of interest
          • by rtb61 (674572)
            Of course there a no red flags when countless public organisation promote, and feed private data to google. After all to be google "not evil" all public organisations should actively support the rightful market leader to ensure that google maintains it market dominance and all public organisations should do everything they can to feed the googlites even more private information.

            Especially questionable university search queries where known misfits and malcontents search for deviant and anti-authority idea

            • by vux984 (928602)
              No. Personally I'm not much enamored with google and other than search and maps I actively avoid the company. I don't use gmail, or their IM client, or read their News, or use Google Documents or Calender or their blogger, or myspace. I don't WANT any single entity to have that much information about me or anyone else. I value my privacy.

              But that's not the point here.

              When someone shows up, fresh from the board of a company - ESPECIALLY a small startup, and suddenly he's driving a substantial contract to tha
  • by Spazntwich (208070) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @09:42PM (#20117481)
    For the former president of a company to be so prescient so as to recognize ChaCha's innate superiority to the number one worldwide search engine.

    I honestly didn't know anyone used ChaCha for anything besides screwing with the people. There have been epic forum threads based on ChaCha.
    • by rm999 (775449)
      Seriously, it seems like a major conflict of interest. Why is the president of the University making decisions like this anyway?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by KillerCow (213458)

        Seriously, it seems like a major conflict of interest. Why is the president of the University making decisions like this anyway?

        Presidents are only good for making decisions that have conflicts of interest to promote cronyism. You get into those positions because you have ties to important people.

        Take a look at U.Waterloo.

        Hello Mr. Lazaridis. Yes, you dropped out of our school, but thanks for that 100 Million dollars. How would you like to be our chancellor? You would? Great! What's that? You're comp

    • I honestly didn't know anyone used ChaCha for anything besides screwing with the people. There have been epic forum threads based on ChaCha.

      This is the first tyme I've heard of the Chacha SE, but now that I have I'll check it out, I frequently check out new SEs I hear about.

      Falcon
    • by macdaddy (38372)
      Prior to this thread I hadn't even heard of ChaCha.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2007 @09:45PM (#20117497)
    It appears ChaCha is Very Quality [worsethanfailure.com]

    It reminds me of one of failed DotBomb era projects.
    • There was a dot-bomb that did exactly this. The name slips me right now, but in high school me and my friends would spend all our forced library research time wasting these people's time. My favorite questions to ask were about refining gribble. It almost sounds like something real so they'd waste a lot of time looking for it. That's probably why they stopped the service. After reading about this service you know what the first thing I did was? I went to chacha.com and wasted about 10 minutes asking silly q
    • unfortunately this is just par for the course for McRobbie. He's also the one responsible for bringing our university Peoplesoft...
  • sponsored links (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @09:46PM (#20117503)
    chacha mixes sponsored links, see ADVERTISMENTS, in with valid matches. they can fuck off and die.

    anyone else notice that the format is exactly like googles?

  • by sykopomp (1133507) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:13PM (#20117645)
    Only thing ChaCha is really useful over Google is for the 'epic lulz'. Messing with ChaCha guides is amazing, and I bet the university will stop using ChaCha guided searches when a bunch of students start asking for pictures of lemonparty. Hint: they couldn't actually ban someone from the service last I checked. ;)
  • why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:14PM (#20117651)
    I'm puzzled by the benefits of this. IU, like other large establishments, sets up web pages and other tools so that instead of needing to have humans answer questions, computers can index things.
    This article cites the benefits of having a human guide such as

    "IU's guides could be asked to locate a building on campus", (use a campus map)

    "find a book in one of the university's libraries" (use a library web page)or

    "solve a question about Windows Vista (use Microsoft s knowledge base)".


    Then IU does the asinine thing of replacing search results compiled by google appliances with human filtered ones. How much revenue does this give to cha-cha?

    • IU's guides could be asked to locate a building on campus", (use a campus map)

      IU's campus is fairly big and there are some minor buildings that aren't even on the map. I have showed my students on a map where our department building is and still had them call me on their cell phone when they got lost coming to see me there. (Of course last year they tore down all the buildings around ours which made it easier to find -- if you could find your way through the maze of construction fences.) But I agree, tha

  • by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:17PM (#20117667) Journal
    It's like I always say, "Why can't the world be more like a Frank Herbert novel."

    Well actually, not always. But once, in my head, while typing. I didn't give much thought to punctuation, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jerf (17166)
      Suddenly, I want a "This site is powered by MENTATS " badge for my website. (It's a terrible strain on their wrists to put out the pages live like that, but they're very highly trained.)
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:24PM (#20117705)
    Come Monday, no more Indiana University searches will be powered by computer-driven Google. Only by people-powered ChaCha.

    If they took a page (ahem!) out of Google's book and used pigeons [google.com] instead.
  • for ChaCha
  • Wasn't this how Yahoo started - people searching for good information on the Internet and making it available on web pages.

    Me thinks, this ChaCha may become a very big yawn after a short while && AI search optimization may be the future. Google and M$ apparently are knitting on it.
    Seems ChaCha already has a bottleneck with CPU acquisition:

    Please note, due to the thousands of applications we receive each week, we will respond to you as quickly as we can, but please be patient as we search for outsta

    • Yahoo was a directory, like a yellow pages. Chacha is search combined with chat. If you can't find something you will talk to a real person.
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:48PM (#20117857)

    Googlebotter: It's people. IU Search is made out of people. They're making their index out of people. Next thing they'll be breeding them like cattle for links. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them!

    Slashdotter: I promise, bottie, I promise. I'll tell the geeks.

    Googlebotter: You tell everybody. Listen to me, Slashdotter. You've gotta tell them! IU search is people! We've gotta stop them somehow!

  • http://xkcd.net/155/ [xkcd.net]

    Link should speak for itself.
  • The only reason why IU is interested in ChaCha is because it was started by Scott A. Jones [wikipedia.org] who is an IU grad (and also the founder of Gracenote).

    The thought of making library and tech support people essentially chacha employees is a bit disturbing but students and faculty have been able to contact them through chat and instant messenger so perhaps it won't really make any difference as long as only IU people can contact them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Former CEO of some defense company becomes Secretary of Defense and approves multi-billion dollar contract to that company?
  • by jambarama (784670) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {amarabmaj}> on Saturday August 04, 2007 @11:18PM (#20118023) Homepage Journal
    As a new IU student, let me say this can't hurt. This isn't too surprising to me, while google is great for getting valuable search results from gobs of pages, it really hasn't been designed or optimized to work with few pages. The IU results with the google search are so irrelevant they are worthless. This isn't a troll, I use google for web searches, but try it yourself here [indiana.edu] and search for course offerings, or course catalog, or list of courses. Garbage results mostly. I found the same was true of the BYU search--it was google and it was terrible.

    The summary sounds like there is a conflict of interest for sure, so I can't say ChaCha was the right replacement (ads mixed with search results?!? sounds evil to me). But I can say a replacement/fix/something had to be done.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      As some who does web development at a University with a Google Appliance, all I can say is blame the web developers. They're obviously not doing a good job naming pages, titling, linking, etc, so Google can pick up the clues to help people find things. It works great for us, and it can even be fine tuned so certain keywords can bring up certain pages automatically.
    • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @11:46PM (#20118139)
      As speaking from Columbus next door, IUPUC has its head stuck up their asses when it comes to IU mandate.

      Back in 2001, we had 350 MHz machines with 128 and 256 MB. They mandated us with a switch from NT4 (which worked great and kept games and crap off) to 2000. Slow-city. A year and a half later, we were mandated for XP. For the same FARKING machines.

      They also had serious problems with Windows Messenger spam coming from within the IU network. Of course, the drop-dead easy solution of turning off Windows Messenger service was too above their comprehension to do.

      Next, the uni uses ADS and Kerberos for auth. IUPUC auths with ads.iupui.edu over a T-1. Guess what happens when you flood the T-1? Nobody logs in. I tried to tell them, but they learned the hard way when a bunch of techies from the IU side kazaa-ed the T-1 down. Heads rolled, and they finally took my suggestion: dont disable local guest or admin. Just password them heavily in that authorized people could still use the doorstops... computers.

      Pretty much, you end up with "If you cant do, teach. If you cant teach, work in IT."

      Coming from a CompSci dropout. Chem is better by far.

      And a side note: No wonder they fired the old IU president. Guess the old one wouldnt take kickbacks.
      • The last IU pres didn't get fired, he retired. ...which was announced right in the middle of a controversy over failing to find a new provost (I think that was the position) when everyone wanted the dean to get it and then the dean left to be president of another school. But the decision to retire wasn't related at all...
        • Heh heh heh.

          He WAS fired. You should know that very public officals never get "fired", in that they are encouraged for retirement.

          Trust me. According to many people in the know at IUPUC and IUB campuses, he was fired.
  • 3 strikes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fletch (6903) * <{fletch} {at} {pobox.com}> on Saturday August 04, 2007 @11:48PM (#20118149) Homepage
    I'd never heard of ChaCha. I just did a search for the first time and noticed that 1) sponsored results are inline and poorly marked (there's some suble green "sponsored by" text within an otherwise ordinary looking search result). That might have been forgiven, but 2) the sponsored results for this particular query weren't actually very relevant. Then, when I tried to click through a real result I found that 3) they use javascript for their result links, and it's implemented in such a way that I can't command-click on a result and open it in a new tab (it does open in a new tab, but the original tab loads the result page, too).

    I won't be back.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @11:51PM (#20118157) Homepage

    To report a conflict of interest involving an employee of the State of Indiana, click here. [in.gov]

    Relevant documents:

  • I'd tell you to just F*(&'n Google it [justfuckinggoogleit.com]!
  • The problem though with these ideas is that I don't want to help search engines when I don't get paid.

     
  • by Xthlc (20317) on Sunday August 05, 2007 @01:33AM (#20118625)
    Intranets and The Internet are two different beasts when it comes to search. Intranet pages are much more tightly controlled, the set of all pages is quite sparse, and the "importance" of a page doesn't necessarily correspond to its value as a search result. PageRank (even tuned for these conditions) just isn't as effective as it is on the public Internet; you want to tune search results for each organization based on how people actually use their intranet. I think the Google Search Appliance actually does this (refining the order of its results based on clickthroughs) but I'm unsure.

    In my company (a very big and globe-spanning one), our intranet search is more-or-less useless. However, many people use an internal social bookmarking application. Searching this set of links is leaps and bounds more useful, and tends to return the result I'm looking for in the first half of the first page. A lot of these links are on obscure little pages hidden away on our massive intranet, which describe, say, how to fill out a massive form the right way, or how to hack around a particular quirk in our IT infrastructure. In other words, things that employees think are important, rather than things that management thinks are important.

    Which is not to say that I think ChaCha at IU is a good thing. By all accounts this situation sounds like a terrible conflict of interest. However, I don't think that simply pointing Google at your organization's intranet is going to solve all your problems; instead, you want a smart blend of automated page ranking and social filtering to get around the problems caused by the (relatively) smaller sample set.
  • Not too surprising to me being that ChaCha is based here in the Indianapolis area. I guess IU just likes to keep their searching local.
  • This is funny on so many levels:

    Conflict of [former] interest.

    Pushing mediocrity upon the poor people who visit the University's website.

    The stunning incompetency of the search service.

  • Perhaps the solution is to let the President work for Ca Ca full time?
  • They have moved to it as well, as ChaCha is a local Indiana company ( last i heard ).
  • It's Yahoo! Directory all over again, but this time misusing university employees to do the work.
  • Did anyone else notice the chacha looks nearly identical to google. Will definitely try it out.

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