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Today's word on journalism

January 13, 2009

Breakneck:

"I get the feeling that the 24-hour news networks are like the bus in the movie 'Speed.' If they stop talking for a second, they think they'll blow up."

--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, 2008 (Thanks to alert WORDster Ross Martin)

Speak up! Comment on the WORD at

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Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

USU students do the ChaCha to get answers to life's questions

By Brady Cox

December 11, 2008 | Want the answer to any question you can think of? Just use your refined cell phone texting skills and the answer is there in minutes.

ChaCha is a relatively new, free service to anyone who has the ability to use the Short Message Service, SMS or texting, on their mobile phones.

According to ChaCha's official Web site, the service "is like having a smart friend . . . on your cell phone anytime for free!"

ChaCha uses real people, known as "guides" across the nation to answer questions personally. According to the Web site this is different from similar answer services such as Google, which uses computers to answer questions.

According to an SMS response given by an answer guide, "ChaCha has 35,000 active Guides throughout the country -- with thousands available online at any time!"

Many students at USU are already aware of ChaCha and the service it provides.

Through a small survey of 25 random USU students, 13 knew what ChaCha was, 12 had used the service at least once and seven of them used it regularly.

Jeremy Miles, a junior majoring in biomechanical engineering, was one who used the service regularly. He said that he enjoyed the ability to get an answer to "any question, anywhere."

Some respondents complained that the answers weren't always correct. According to the Web site, you "can ask any question…and receive an accurate answer." However, all of the seven who used the service regularly said that on at least one occasion they had received an inaccurate response.

Emma Hansen, a junior majoring in elementary education, said "It's kind of annoying when you get these lazy answers that don't make any sense."

Miles said, that although not all of his questions get answered accurately "free is a price you can't complain about."

One student interviewed who used ChaCha regularly is also an answer guide for the company. Sarah Stanger, a sophomore majoring in exercise science, said she was paid 20 cents for every question he answered.

Stanger said she was sure there were some guides that didn't care what their answer was because the faster you can answer questions the more money you can make.

Within the last month ChaCha has enacted a new policy that allows users to only ask 20 questions per month "to give everyone a chance," the Web site says.

Petra Lish, a junior majoring in elementary education, said she felt the company was great at first but now that they're not making any money their using the service to send her advertisements for other company's.

Miles said he hadn't known about this yet but was upset with the company's decision.

"I remember times that I would text ChaCha 20 times or more in a day, this seems it would make a lot of people not want to use ChaCha anymore." Miles said.

Hansen said that she has noticed that lately she can't even get an answer back. "I text them once in awhile when I want to know directions or something simple and I don't hardly ever get an answer anymore, just advertisements."

Though ChaCha may seem to be hurting, its Web site would say differently. Having increased their market share to 7 percent, tying with Yahoo, "ChaCha also exited the quarter with an 800 percent growth rate, compared to Yahoo's 200 percent growth rate."

To find out more text 242-242 or call 1-800-224-2242.

MS
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