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Google Relying On People Power For 'Helpouts'

timothy posted about a year ago | from the now-you-can-flush-bob-villa-for-real dept.

Google 57

Nerval's Lobster writes "While Google built its highly profitable search business atop a complex mix of algorithms and machine learning, its latest initiative actually depends on people power: Helpouts, which allows users (for a fee) to video-chat with experts in particular fields. Google has rolled out the service with a few brands in place, such as One Medical and Weight Watchers, and promises that it will expand its portfolio of helpful brands and individuals over the next several months. Existing categories include Cooking, Art & Music, Computers & Electronics, Education & Careers, Fashion & Beauty, Fitness & Nutrition, Health, and Home & Garden. Some Helpouts charge nothing for their time; for example, the 'Cooking' section of the Website already features a handful of chefs willing to talk users through baking, broiling, slicing and dicing for free. A few vendors in the Computers & Electronics section, by contrast, charge $2 per minute or even $200 per Hangout session for advice on WordPress setup, Website design, and more. So why is Google doing this? There are plenty of Websites that already dispense advice, although most rely on the written word—Quora, for example, lets its users pose text-based questions and receive answers. There's also rising interest in Massive Open Online Courses, also known as MOOCs, in which thousands of people can sign online to learn about something new. In theory, Helpouts (if it's built out enough) could make Google a player in those markets, as well as specialized verticals such as language learning — and earn some healthy revenue in the process."

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frosty piss, $2 a glass (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336215)

no soup for you!

hangouts - chatroulette (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#45337913)

my intuition is there will be a lot of dongs

I give it a year (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336217)

One year.

Re:I give it a year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45341947)

One year.

A year before they kill it? Google Answers was a pay service that they killed a couple years after launching it.

Help me! I'm desperate. (5, Funny)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#45336237)

> Helpouts, where, for a fee, video chat with a live person who will help you solve your dilemma.

As usual, porn led the way.

Re:Help me! I'm desperate. (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about a year ago | (#45336339)

No kidding. How long before 99.9% of helpouts are for help masturbating?

Re:Help me! I'm desperate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336455)

No kidding. How long before 99.9% of helpouts are for help masturbating?

I believe people are already working on that [] .

Re:Help me! I'm desperate. (1)

dasgoober (2882045) | about a year ago | (#45336917)

Is Nigella doing cooking help?

Re:Help me! I'm desperate. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45337715)

This is the first time I hear about paying for a service delivered via webcam that isn't porn.

Re:Help me! I'm desperate. (1)

alex67500 (1609333) | about a year ago | (#45343411)

This is the first time I hear about paying for a service delivered via webcam that isn't porn yet.


Re:Help me! I'm desperate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45337375)

I suppose it's too late to ask that parent be modded insightful...

Did they mean HelpOuts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336287)

I read it as Hell pouts

Welcome to the Future®! (1)

peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! (2743031) | about a year ago | (#45336321)

An early attempt at employing people displaced by automation and other personnel reduction consequences.

Re:Welcome to the Future®! (2)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#45336369)

Most of those categories already have good tutorials up on YouTube, etc. Plus I don't think this is an "early attempt", considering that automation has been happening for hundreds of years.

Re:Welcome to the Future®! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336441)

But now there is user data associated to the solutions and so on. Remember, there is money involved, it bound to carry more information than a simple Youtube video.

Think of Youtube videos as gossips you hear around the watering hole, but this as paid consultants.

Re:Welcome to the Future®! (1)

somersault (912633) | about a year ago | (#45336501)

There is money involved on YouTube too. Some people can make a living off of their channels through advertising - so it is worthwhile to upload "paid consultant" type content rather than just "gossip". Besides, many people just like to share good advice without expecting anything in return.

I'm not saying that such a personalised service would be completely useless, I was just doing my usual of pointing out what I think is obvious. Sometimes others see it as obvious too, sometimes not.

Re:Welcome to the Future®! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336405)

Indeed, but the Future holds another point of view.

To put the pessimistic spin in full speed, this in fact is the early attempt at permanently displacing the said people.

Think about all the questions and videos that will be kept from all these sessions. With such personal touch, adding the search and computing power of Google -- or whatever succeeding it -- it'll simply make a perfect world for our electromechanical overlords.

Re:Welcome to the Future®! (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#45338935)

If you want to counteract automation, you're welcome to buy hand-tailored clothes, custom-made furniture, employ a personal cook, and buy a custom-made car. You can even have books custom-rebound in expensive leather covers. Those are the kinds of things people used to do in order to create employment.

Unless you're filthy rich, of course, you'll find that many things that we now take for granted will become luxuries to you that you can only afford after years of saving, but, hey, you will help reduce "personnel reduction consequences".

Yay? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336409)

So, this sounds like a video chat version of Mahalo or, God help us, Yahoo! Answers.

I'll laugh is Amazon slaps a lawsuit on them for some mechanical turk similarity.

Google Answers reimagined (4, Insightful)

slasho81 (455509) | about a year ago | (#45336413)

Google Answers, which was closed seven years ago after four years of operation, is similar to this only with video.

Compared to Answers, Helpouts is far more expensive to the consumer, the providers are not certified for quality, and both consumer and provider need to be available for a live video chat. I give it four years.

Meanwhile, I'll use the much better advice I can get on YouTube for free, on my time, and in my underwear.

Youtube vs. Helpouts is totally different (2)

brunes69 (86786) | about a year ago | (#45336547)

A couple of points you are missing

- You don't need to be available for a live chat. You can book an appointment in advance, and it's all integrated with G+ and Google Calendar.

- Some things YouTube videos can help with. Some things, it can't. Try learning the guitar through only YouTube, you will quickly find that without that feedback from the instructor, you won't get very far. Helpouts will work great for the kinds of things people want live instruction for. Currently, if you want live instruction on Yoga or playing the flute, you need to find a local teacher and pay them. Now you can source this kind of live instruction online.

Re:Youtube vs. Helpouts is totally different (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45340967)

G+? Welll there's a good reason to never use this crap

Re:Google Answers reimagined (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#45336603)

Or maybe it's a riff on the old Amazon Mechanical Turk.

I got an invite from Google to participate in this, as I imagine a lot of folks here did. But it seemed like they were basically asking me to spend my time and effort mainly towards helping Google expand their brand...

Re:Google Answers reimagined (1)

game kid (805301) | about a year ago | (#45336741)

I give it four years.

I give it one year at extreme most, but I really expect four months before they announce its scheduled closure on the fifth month.

Re:Google Answers reimagined (1)

logyro (2955511) | about a year ago | (#45337057)

In the future we might not need certification for quality (in the classical sense, i.e. presenting a certificate). The more people that have you in a circle, the more popular you are, and the more "qualified" you probably are: [] It all comes back to Google & Facebook forcing people to use their real names in their profiles. They can then sell the legitimacy of "likes" (now I'm using the FB term) of user profiles.

Re:Google Answers reimagined (1)

slasho81 (455509) | about a year ago | (#45337149)

Popularity or notability don't imply competence. Sometimes, people think they do, but I think in general people understand the difference, certainly as they get older.

Re:Google Answers reimagined (1)

vidnet (580068) | about a year ago | (#45337631)

Let's try to sell this from a slashdotter's angle:

Imagine having a rash from sitting on a filthy chair in your basement, showing it on camera to a certified physician, and then have two bag of cheetos and some fungal cream delivered hours later.

Normal people, meanwhile, sometimes do pay money for various services that don't necessarily require physical presence. It's arguable whether they should or not, but they do.

These include personal trainers and dietitians, IT support, psychologists, life coaching, pet trainers, travel agents, and (sadly) alternative medicine, feng shui advisors and psychics.

With some guarantee of legitimacy, also psychiatrists, some medical services, law and real estate.

I can actually see this being useful.

ive been using this system for years. (4, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#45336415)

I often provide helpouts to people who dont know much about computer programming in exchange for little green slices of paper I collect. sometimes I trade this paper with other people so they can give me things like gas and food, and other helpouts.

Re:ive been using this system for years. (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#45336519)

I wish I got actual slices of green paper. All I get for my efforts are ephemeral digital replicas of green paper.

Re:ive been using this system for years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336539)

Yeah, I remember getting paid in cash for stuff. It has a different feel to it.

Re:ive been using this system for years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336675)

Well, yippy skippy. Thanks for the input.
btw, your homepage sucks.

Re:ive been using this system for years. (0)

Notabadguy (961343) | about a year ago | (#45336851)

Balls. I tried moderating this as "Insightful" but clicked the one below it "Redundant" by accident. If someone would so kindly moderate my mistake, the OP deserves the point.

Re:ive been using this system for years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45337081)

For what reason? There's nothing insightful about the post at all.

Scary (0)

Megahard (1053072) | about a year ago | (#45336423)

With Google building huge ships for (maybe) unknown purposes, the title sounds too much like the Matrix.

Potential for abuse? (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | about a year ago | (#45336575)

Existing categories include Cooking, Art & Music, Computers & Electronics, Education & Careers, Fashion & Beauty, Fitness & Nutrition, Health, and Home & Garden.

I can see it now...7 out of every 10 Computers & Electronics 'experts' will require remote access to your computer to help 'troubleshoot' the problem.

"Hello, I'm calling from Microsoft, it appears that you have a virus on your computer..."

Google for a Helpout on using Google Helpout (2)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#45336591)

creates a divide by zero error in google's datacenter

I'm a bit of a slow talker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336595)

I can't wait to sign up and offer my services.

Accountability? (1)

blogan (84463) | about a year ago | (#45336657)

OK, so you pay someone $30 for help and they give you a solution that kind of works, but not really. How much hassle do you have to go through to get a refund? There's that sweet price point for scammers of "Not enough to make them care about getting a refund" that's yet to be determined.

Re:Accountability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45337027)

Eh? You use someone's time, you can't refund that.

Re:Accountability? (1)

samwichse (1056268) | about a year ago | (#45344463)

I would assume there will be a rating/review system a la ebay/resellerratings/angieslist... no reviews, poor reviews, don't pay that person for help.

$200 worth of WordPress setup advice: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336795)


Knowledge == Cash? (3, Insightful)

toygeek (473120) | about a year ago | (#45336811)

I'm coming at this from two sides. From the first, I do technical support for a living, quite enjoy it, and on the side I fix computers at a low rate so that people can afford it. I'll even remote into machines for well under a dollar a minute. I'm also providing a service (not just knowledge). When it comes to the knowledge, I have stuff on my blog ( that is free. I've always believed that knowledge is free, service costs, and so Google's Helpouts rub me the wrong way a bit.

On the other hand, there is some specialized knowledge that is worth money. The signal/noise ratio on the 'net these days is awful and there's a lot of junk to sort through because of self-proclaimed experts who try to share their "knowledge" with anyone who will listen so that they can feel important, when in reality they're an idiot. If I can spend a few bucks to talk to a real expert on a subject, their advice is worth every penny. But will the signal to noise ratio on Helpouts be any better than the Internet at large?

Now, mind you, I've taken my fair share of money for just knowledge- but that comes with a reputation, referrals, interviews, and the like. I don't think I'd be comfortable spending even a dollar a minute to talk to someone who is a self proclaimed expert (even as I am on some subjects) without references I can trust. Online reviews are proven to be flawed in general and I don't believe they are trustworthy in many cases. *cough*Amazon*cough*

So from my perspective, good luck Google Helpouts. You'll need it.

Re:Knowledge == Cash? (2)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#45338653)

When it comes to the knowledge, I have stuff on my blog ( that is free. I've always believed that knowledge is free, service costs, and so Google's Helpouts rub me the wrong way a bit.

What about the service of providing exactly the information I'm looking for, even when I don't really know what I need to know?

Publishing information on blogs, in books, etc., is great, but it may take me a lot of time to find what I'm looking for, or even to figure out how to look for it. On the other hand, if I can find a person that is knowledgeable in the area and get 30 minutes of their time, they can often save me many hours -- or days -- of research.

This is something that I do every day at work... I have access to all of the source code, so there are no questions about how the systems I work on function that I cannot answer with enough delving, and I'll know that I have the most accurate possible answer. There's also lots of design documentation if I want something that is less accurate but more concise. Yet, still, when I need to know how the FrobnizServer generates Whazzits, it's a much better use of my time to ask Bob, who is not only more accurate than the design docs (though less accurate than the code) and more concise than either, but also capable of understanding my goals and intelligently redirecting my enquiry as appropriate.

I see Helpouts as more analogous to "Give me an easy way to find and communicate with an expert to direct me to the knowledge I need" than to a collection of searchable blog posts.

Re:Knowledge == Cash? (1)

toygeek (473120) | about a year ago | (#45341601)

I see where you're coming from and I agree that talking to the *right* person with the needed knowledge is invaluable. My doubt is that Google Helpouts will be the right place for that to happen.

Re: Knowledge == Cash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45343053)

I don't see this as being about knowledge at all, much more about teaching our advising.

Besides the obvious uses for tech support or private tuition for academic or musical subjects, there may be things this enables that are currently hard to come by.

How about a mock interview with a former employee of the company you are applying for? Or a coach to give you feedback on an important presentation you are about tip give?

End to end encryption for everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336847)

1) We need to make encryption open source
2) The organizations themselves and the code will be the target of penetration by all governments so audit and correction will be key
3) Systems need to be consumer friendly. For example: Do you want to send this e-mail securely? Y/N - Be advised that Secure e-mails are not delivered immediately (or whatever)
4) Remember that governments can afford dedicated chip sets for encryption cracking.

"Vertical" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336881)

I didn't know that language learning was a "vertical", let alone a "specialized vertical".

Fuck you, timothy.

Youtube had thousands (1)

Stan92057 (737634) | about a year ago | (#45336935)

Youtube had thousands apon thousands of video tutorials on all kinda subjects.TV has 24/4 cooking shows. Again why should I/we/you pay?

Re:Youtube had thousands (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#45337291)

Because you'll have questions and your vaunted Youtube/TV can't provide you with IMMEDIATE feedback nor can either understand what you may be asking or need.

Quora: The Crappy StackOverflow (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45336999)

I hate that the summary dropped the name Quora, because I hate that site.
No, I do NOT want to sign in to read your crap.
Please STOP making shadow pages that trick search engines into indexing your content.

The Reason for Helpouts (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#45337281)

Plenty of things simply can't be properly conveyed via text alone. Hence, Google has made a voice/video helper system so people around the world can get help from anyone else around the world, see their face, hear their voice, and gain a larger degree of confidence.

I only charge $5 for a maximum 30 minute session. Many other people are way overpricing themselves.

Re:The Reason for Helpouts (1)

Lil'wombat (233322) | about a year ago | (#45340023)

So your time is only worth $10/hr. So much better than minimum wage.

Re:The Reason for Helpouts (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year ago | (#45341645)

That's only for the computer services. I charge $5 every 15 minutes for gardening services, so between $10-$20/hr.

Excellent way of making fast money to buy more research and development equipment, especially since many retailers online are using Google Wallet!

I'm already getting better reviews than some of the big-name stores that are offering their services for free.

Why should we helpout Google? (1)

atomicxblue (1077017) | about a year ago | (#45338467)

We're not employees... why should we help them for free? They have enough money to hire their own experts to field questions.

Flooded with low-quality information? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45338997)

Will this be like eHow and YouTube, which are flooded by low-quality information articles/videos, usually done by people who have no clue about the subjects, and do them in volume? How is Google going to make this meaningful?

Live Experts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45340207)

So you all missed this ?

Trying It (1)

The Raven (30575) | about a year ago | (#45342061)

I've done technical support for 17 years. It would be nice to have this as a side job. I am very good at technical support and remote training... but does that translate into people consistently giving me money? Only time will tell if Helpouts becomes dominated by primarily free amateurs, or if professional paid services maintain a toe-hold in the premium area.

I'd also be interested if Helpouts get some kind of freemium model... will users direct users from a free helpout to a paid one? "Oh, I'm sorry, that problem is beyond my poor free skills. Hey, you should take a look at baitswitch13's Helpout, he is an expert in that!"

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