Network Cha Cha

Katherine GraysonAlready struggling with network challenges? Wait— there’s a new headache on the horizon.

One of the nice things about penning this column is that I can write about anything I have “seen & heard” that I believe may have a real impact on campuses and their use of technology. That means: something that already is having an impact, or something I predict may one day have an impact. Of course, it’s always more fun to take the fortune-teller route; if it comes to pass that I’m right, I’ve not only had fun prognosticating, but people think I’m smart, too. (Always worth the risk, at least for an editor.) And if I’m wrong, I’m still out there, trying to prepare you folks for the next wave. And the next wave, as I see it, is all about ChaCha, and I don’t mean the dance.

Head over to www.ChaCha.com, and you may think you’ve found just another new search engine, but actually, ChaCha is a whole lot more. Users can not only hop on ChaCha to find information, but they can hop on the search engine to find someone else who will find the information for them. Ah, the great American work ethic: Why clean your house, cook your food, walk your dog, wash your car, when you can find someone else to do it for you? This may not be so unreasonable at that: As anyone who has ever conducted any web research—personal or otherwise—will tell you, though the internet may be fast, a hunt for kernels of information buried in tera-heaps of other information can take quite a while. (How many of us have sat down at our computers after dinner to find out just a wee bit more about something, and then have signed off at 1 a.m.—only a scant five hours after we keyed in our first search word?)

On ChaCha, anyone who wants to earn extra money and qualifies (yes, there are questionnaires and tests involved), can become a personal (read: human) “guide,” existing only to help millions of people conduct information searches they are just too busy to conduct themselves. For the informationseekers, this kind of assistance can be more reasonable than the “soft” cost of the internet-surfing hours (in work time lost, for instance). But for the ChaCha guides, the job can be a goldmine.

First off, ChaCha guides are not only paid five to 10 dollars per research hour, but they are paid as they work, and almost instantaneously. In fact, if sending out checks the same day is not fast enough action, their compensation can be downloaded directly to their debit cards (work in the a.m., shop in the p.m.). And second of all, almost anyone can sign on as a ChaCha guide, if he or she qualifies. (I assume there is a minimum age, but my guess is that anyone of working age would make the first cut.) Finally (and most importantly), a ChaCha guide can work from anywhere, as long as he or she has access to a computer and internet connection. That means part-timers, mothers at home with their children, and (are you thinking what I’m thinking?), college kids.

So, if you were thinking that you only had to worry about students’ use of computers for schoolwork, chatting, blogging, downloading music (legal and otherwise), MySpace-ing, Facebook-ing, and nefarious activities too numerous to mention here, you are now about to have another problem on your hands: Your enterprising student community is soon to become one of the largest paid internet task forces in the world, and your network will be their gateway to a highway paved with five-dollar bills. You heard it here first.

Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief

What have you seen and heard? Send to: kgrayson@1105media.com.

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