Charles Carleton's Jyve: Human search engine 

Time was most questions were answered through the advice and wisdom of a revered figure of authority — perhaps a teacher or a neighborhood wise man.

Now the most curious of appetites can be sated with a simple trip online, while the human experience developed from going to someone for help has all but vanished.

Things may change, however, after Charles Carleton’s latest development, which has found a way to combine that voice of human expertise with the boundless capacity of the Internet.

Carleton is the co-founder of Jyve, the Internet’s first self-described "live action" search engine that retrieves information from actual people monitoring the service.

Jyve has more than 30,000 members — mostly made up of tutors and professors — in 50 countries who act as the site’s experts, adept at answering any questions directed to them by visitors.

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The informational search engine on the Internet is nothing new, but what sets Jyve apart is its personal interaction, as conveyed through instant message capabilities, and the company’s state of the art Voice Over IP technology — making a phone call to someone who can help an instant possibility.

Carleton and the company are still trying to assign areas of specialties for the members of Jyve (the site has 19 different categories a visitor can choose from), but for now he feels most questions are general enough to be fielded by any of the site’s members.

"It’s usually a three-step process," said Carleton, whose company’s headquarters is in San Francisco’s SoMa district. "People go to the site the first time with a test question, like why is the sky blue? Then they’ll go into the Google mode and ask what the capital of a country is, and finally, they’ll come for personal advice, like what model laptop they should purchase, which is something they couldn’t get from a computer response."

Members of Jyve can charge a fee to a visitor when they feel the question is more than a simple act of looking something up, and visitors can make a donation to members through the sites’ online "tip jar."

Carleton is still looking to refine Jyve, which emerged from a primary Voice Over IP program for the online telephone site Skype to its current state.

"It really boils down to searching for content, to get a problem solved," Carleton said of the site, which launched last month in the U.S. "We feel like we’re into niche catering, and we’re trying to figure out just how many five dollar questions people need to have answered."

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Will Reisman

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