Indiana University officials yesterday announced a partnership with the online searching company ChaCha Incorporated. The search utility, created by IU alumni Brad Bostic and Scott A. Jones, augments automated searching algorithms with live human assistance, should a user’s initial search prove unsatisfactory. The human experts also affect search results by hand-picking sites to emphasize.
IU Vice President for Information Technology Brad Wheeler says ChaCha will now drive IU’s searching portal at search.IU.edu. Wheeler says IU will not have to pay a licensing fee for the technology; rather, the university will share in profits generated by the traffic IU directs to ChaCha. He says both the company and IU will benefit from IU students and faculty performing research relevant to the development ChaCha’s technology. IU employees will provide the human input and assistance for ChaCha searches through the IU portal.
Wheeler says the ChaCha service is in many ways akin to the University Libraries “Ask a Librarian” online tool. In a press release, Interim Dean of University Libraries Patricia Steele said that IU librarians will also be providing search expertise to ChaCha. Wheeler says the service at the IU portal is intended for the IU community, but there are no plans at this time to require a university log-in.
The “cha” in ChaCha comes from the Chinese word for “search.” The company’s co-founder, Scott A. Jones, is also the founder of Boston Technology, the company that developed voice-mail technologies in the mid-80′s that are still in use in most voice-mail systems today. According to a spokesperson for ChaCha, IU President Michael McRobbie had previously been a member of the company’s board of directors until he resigned upon taking office July 1.