How does KGB work?

The adsfor this service are all over late night teevee:

“Bill Buckner.”

“Buckner!”

“There you go, sir.”

“Right though his legs.”

“Right through his legs.”

So I gather that’s its a service where you text a question and they text back an answer for a fee. Kind of like a pay version of the Straight Dope for cell phones.

I have many questions:

Has anybody actually used it?
Did they get the answer right?
How long does it take for the answer to come back?
How are they staffed? Do they have teams of experts? Wage-slaves manning Google? What?
How comprehensive is their knowledge? What happens if you stump them?

My ex does research for a company called chacha, pretty much the same thing. I am guessing that disclaimer “standard texting rates apply” is part of their revenue scheme. Although most people get unlimited texting, there are a few like me that pay per text. Maybe it is like the ATM scheme where the cell phone provider pay a small fee for every text that is sent to KGB and then charges a larger fee to the cell phone user like per text or as part of a texting plan. Either way people are making money.

I’m more familiar with Cha-Cha’s service, which is basically like KGB but free. They have real people who take a question, research it (to see if its been answered before), and then send back an answer. New questions are added to their database so they won’t have to research it in the future. I’ve never sent them a really impossible question, but generally it’s limited to readily available information on the internet. I doubt they’d sit there and solve a math problem for you, for example.

So if I text them “Does P = NP?” I can’t expect a response … ? :smiley:

What do they do if you ask them something they can’t answer? Do you still get charged?

There was an IAMA on reddit about this recently from an ex-employee. He pretty much answers all of your questions:

Hamster King, did this commercial prompt your question?

I watched a TED video about this type of company before and essentially what they were doing was paying college students to sit in a building, using google to find the answers and then texting them back.

Am I the only person who read the OP’s thread title with a Russian accent in my head?

In Soviet Russia, cellphone has you!

Tripler
[sub]Yes, there is always one in every crowd. Welcome to the Straight Dope.[/sub]

In the US, if you want answers you call KGB. In Soviet Russia, if you want answers KGB calls you!

I worked for ChaCha for a while, and yes, within reason they will sit there and solve a math problem for you. I mean, if it’s something really complicated you’ll probably just get a link to a site that will explain the problem more thoroughly, but I had plenty of kids that thought they were being funny by sending in a query that said something like “What is 5 + 19 + 45 x (30 + 60) to the power of 2” or whatever. I would just give a little one-line description of what addition is, and then the answer. Possibly this was kids having ChaCha do their homework for them as well, which did tend to happen on a fairly regular basis.

Suppress dissent, tap phones, snoop on foreigners, recruit more spies, kill bothersome journalists, you know, the usual. Only now they call it the FSB.

I actually was interested in applying to be a KGB “Knowledge agent,” and here’s my take on the situation:

They collect $1 per answer, over texting rates. 5-10 cents goes to the person who actually answers the question. Another 5 cents goes to a group of answer vetters, usually senior answerers. I think rates will increase if you are especially quick and/or a good answerer.

They have a test you can take to see if you qualify. Basically, the main skill is doing internet research quickly and writing comprehensible answers with a high degree of accuracy. Usually, the answer is given in less than 3 minutes. However, part of the test reveals their actual, sinister, revenue model: cheating on tests.

One section of the agent test is math skills, the ability to work out and give the correct answer to a variety of math questions. When I took the test, I thought, how odd, why would two people arguing over whether Bruce Lee could beat Chuck Norris need to solve word problems?

And then it hit me (quite quickly and accurately, ho ho!) that they get most of their money from students cheating at tests. Who else would need answers in under 5 minutes and be willing to pay $1 each for them?

Being a somewhat ethical teacher, I decided not to apply.

I considered but resisted. But I’m glad you posted. Long live Yakov Smirnoff.