The process is simple: Send a text message to RTVOTE (788683) and a ChaCha guide — a real, live person, in this case supposedly trained to give nonpartisan information about politics — will give you an answer. You can ask for practical information like how to register to vote, or bone up on the candidates’ policies and records. A short, snappy text message doesn’t exactly provide the depth that you’d get doing your own research, but hey, it requires less work and is easily digestible.
I gave the service a try this afternoon, and received answers to my questions within a few minutes. How satisfying were those answers? Well, the text message format is definitely a bit limiting. First, I asked a policy-related question: Will Joe the Plumber‘s taxes increase under Barack Obama’s plan? Answer: “It appears so — Obama is a regular old Robin Hood — take from the rich and give to the poor!” (The truth is a bit more complicated than that, according to The New York Times.) Then I sent in my address and asked where my polling place will be. ChaCha sent me a precinct number and ballot type. Uh, an address might have been more useful.
Quibbles aside, this is definitely a cool use of ChaCha’s technology. The Indianapolis company was founded in 2006. Last year, VentureBeat Editor Matt Marshall sounded a bit mixed on the company’s chances as a web-based search engine powered by human labor, but was more optimistic about its then-in-development mobile application. Now it looks like the mobile application has replaced the company’s web search.
ChaCha says it has more than 1 million users and has raised a total of $19 million.