Alex is a new fan of ChaCha.

ChaCha is a cool service that allows you to search via text message. Yes, we've been able to search Google by texting GOOGL (46645) for years, but ChaCha is different. Send a question--any question--to CHACHA (242242) and an actual human figures out the answer and sends the response back to you! It's amazing.

How it works behind the scenes

ChaCha pays "Guides" to manage and respond to queries supplied by users. Guides have specific jobs such answering a broad range of general questions (by having killer internet research skills) or answering questions for one deep subject area, translating phoned-in questions (1-800-2ChaCha) or routing questions to other guides for answering. Guides work as much or as little as they like and are paid based on role, time and volume of questions answered and typically make $3-$9 per hour.

And it even has a business model

Before receiving a response, ChaCha sends users a text ad. Nothing intrustive--Blu-Ray deals at Walmart, contests, something about a letter to Santa. Their website, seems more geared to proving to advertisers that it's a viable marketing channel than to finding new customers (I guess that's what the blogs are for).

Here are some of the questions I tried in my first 24 hours and the answers I received.

Q: How many people were laid off at WaMu today?

A: WaMu spokeswoman Darcy Donahoe-Wilmott says JPMorgan Chase is laying off 3,400 WaMu employees in Seattle. ChaCha on! *What's new? Txt NEWMENU

Q: What's the number for yellow cab?

A: Yellow Cab 74 S Hudson St Seattle, WA 98134-2421 Phone: (206) 622-4000

Q: What's the price of oil?

A: Light Crude (NYM) closed today, December 2nd, 2008 at $46.96, down $2.32 from the previous close. Thanks for asking ChaCha! *Enter 2 win. Reply MYCENTRO

ChaCha lets you set a default location (text "Set Loc ZIP###") so it knows where to base some questions from. It can provide some automated responses including:

Q: Weather Seattle, WA

A: Seattle, WA Current: 51F A Few Clouds Tuesday: HI/52 LOW/45 Slight Chance of Showers Wednesday: HI/50 LOW/41 Patchy Fog. *Taxi? Call #TAXI (#8294)

Q: OLJ (short for One Liner Joke)
A: A friend of mine sent me a post card with a picture of Earth. On the back it said, "Wish you were here." MOJ for more.

Check out ChaCha. Text 242242. It's free and magical.

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