Monday, May 25, 2009
How to Cha Cha or Babe Ruth goes to Prague
My mother is a baseball lunatic. She makes fanatics look like sane, balanced individuals. Bear with me here. When she turned 70 in October, 2004, Boston was still in the grip of the Curse of the Bambino. My mother had a dream that she could break the curse by rounding the bases at Fenway with the Infant of Prague in her grocery cart. (Otherwise known as the IOP in our family, the Infant is a religious statue that lives under a glass dome in the living room and has been passed down for a few generations.) We got my Mom onto the field and while she didn't actually round the bases, she got the IOP onto home base. The rest is history. She takes sole credit.
Fast forward to this past weekend. My son was working on his travel itinerary for a trip to Europe, and was wondering about how to find a certain location in Prague. My daughter piped up "Cha Cha". Following her instructions, he texted 242242 (chacha). Transcript:
5:03 pm Where in Prague is the Infant of Prague statue?
5:04pm Acknowledgement of question receive.
5:05pm Infant Jesus of Prague is a famous statue located in the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Mala Strana, Prague.
Question asked, acknowledged and answered in two minutes.
How is that for 24/7 reference? According to Wikipedia - Cha Cha is a mobile question answering service which uses a technique known as the Human search engine. Scrolling through the site is a lot of fun, with live questions and answers from "Guides" being posted, and covering everything from relationship advice to any variety of "real" questions. Now, there is a certain leap of faith here as to veracity, sources, etc., but - wow.
On a certain level Cha Cha seems like nothing more than the ultimate arbiter of a bar bet. I think it is more important than that, as it represents a new twist in the social web. Combining classic reference services previously only available through libraries, free information is readily available via cell phones. Public libraries had a national system of 24/7 web-based reference services but it never seemed to get traction. Cha Cha is quickly succeeding at what public libraries envisioned.
Doing a little digging, this is a company looking to hire. A Guide for Cha Cha can earn $4 - $9/hour, although as one testimonial put it, he felt like "Lucy at the chocolate factory working the conveyor belt." As a business model this is worth watching.
I have a question for Cha Cha.
Who broke the Curse of the Bambino?
I already know the answer.
My mother, and Jesus Infant of Prague.
Flickr Creative Commons
Jose Madeira - "Dance Band Cha-Cha", 1950s by Retro Today