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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Answers are just a text message away

University of Central Florida student Ryan Jones, 21, pictured September 4, 2009, in Orlando, Florida, earns extra money by working as a special agent for KGB, a cell-phone service that provides answers to questions submitted by text messages.

College students are used to having odd jobs, but even by those standards,Ryan Jones’work is a little unusual.

He gets paid to answer questions about sexual positions, the weather, sports, recipes and virtually anything else you can think of.

Jones, a 21-year-old electrical-engineering major at the University of Central Florida, is a “”special agent”” for KGB, a service that provides answers to questions submitted by cell-phone text messages.

“”I needed a job, and I looked around, but with the downturn, things weren’t looking too good,”” said Jones, of Ocoee, Fla. “”I saw a commercial late at night, and I said, ‘I wonder what it takes to work for KGB?’ I’m a trivia person and I know a lot of random stuff, so I said, ‘I might be good at doing that.'””

He is one of hundreds of Central Florida residents who work as digital researchers for KGB and ChaCha by answering questions from their computers. Despite extremely low pay — typically between about 5 and 19 cents an answer — the workers say that answering other people’s questions is a fun job with flexible hours that teaches them something new every day.

And in this economy, a low-paying job is better than no job at all.

“”There’s no boss breathing down my back, no rigid schedule to stick to and I can take off whenever I want. Is that not the perfect job?””Vania Gore, a 34-year-old KGB agent from Orlando, wrote in an e-mail.

Gore has five children, ranging in age from 3 to 15, whom she home schools. She says she prepares lesson plans the night before and works while the kids study.

Gore, who typically works about 30 to 40 hours a week, said her husband’s job covers the family’s expenses, so she uses the $130 to $200 a month she earns to buy things for herself or splurge on the weekend with her family.

Calling or texting a question to ChaCha is free, but there are limits to the number of questions you can ask. You can only send questions to KGB via text message and are charged 99 cents for each answer.

Many questions have been asked before, so it doesn’t take much work for the researchers to verify the answer and send it back. Others require a Google search or a visit to sites relating to that topic. ChaCha users can go online to see the sources used to answer their query.

People interested in becoming KGB agents take a quiz at, and if they pass and are hired, there’s training that includes shadowing and simulation. ChaCha is not currently hiring any new “”guides,”” according to the company’s Web site.

In an age of iPhones, BlackBerrys and ubiquitous access to information, the existence of these services may seem surprising. But KGB officials said even smart-phone owners use the service.

“”When you are sitting at your PC and you have multiple windows open, it’s a much more easy experience to navigate in, to search in, to go through multiple windows,”” saidBruce Stewart, CEO of mobile and digital for KGB. “”That same dynamic doesn’t exist on your mobile phone. And frankly, when we are on our mobile phones, we’re doing things, we’re busy. If we have a quick question, we’d like a quick and accurate answer.””

The questions range from practical information such as addresses and phone numbers to fun facts that might be used to settle a bar bet.

Some examples:

—Who was the world’s tallest man? (Robert Wadlowat 8 feet 11 inches, who died in 1940.)

—What is the fastest car in the world? (The SSC Ultimate Aero, which can go 257 mph.).

Other queries seek timeless advice, such as “”How do you get a guy to like you?”” ChaCha’s response: “”You’ve got to show this person how awesome you are, but first you need to know how awesome you are. Build up your self-confidence.””

Jones said the weirdest question he tackled was from someone who wanted to know “”what has”” the largest male sex organ (blue whale).

Lisa Salvucci, a 33-year-old Longwood mom who works for ChaCha, was once asked, “”How many M&Ms does it take to get to the moon?”” To answer, she had to find the measurements of an M&M, find how many miles it is to the moon, and then do the math (answer: about 30 billion).

Stewart, the KGB executive, said that while some of the questions are trivial, others can really help people out of a bind. For instance, someone once asked, “”How do I start my (Toyota) Prius?””

It turns out that when the user rented the car, it was already running, but when he turned it off, he didn’t know how to start it back up. A KGB agent sent him the information he needed.



—ChaCha: From a mobile phone that can send and receive text messages, call 1-800-2-CHACHA and ask your question, or text it to 242242 (CHACHA). The service is free, but standard text-messaging rates apply and there is a limit to the number of questions you can ask.

—KGB: Text your question to 542542 (KGBKGB). Each answer the service provides costs 99 cents and standard text-messaging rates apply.


(c) 2009, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).

Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at OnAmerica Online, use keyword: OSO.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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