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Google Education The Media

Google Relying On People Power For 'Helpouts' 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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Google Relying On People Power For 'Helpouts'

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  • I give it a year (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    One year.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @11:59AM (#45336237) Journal

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

    As usual, porn led the way.

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

    • 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 "perso

  • by slasho81 ( 455509 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @12:17PM (#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.

    • 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 Yog

    • 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...

    • 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.

    • by logyro ( 2955511 )
      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.
      • 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.
    • by vidnet ( 580068 )

      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

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @12:17PM (#45336415) Homepage
    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.
    • I wish I got actual slices of green paper. All I get for my efforts are ephemeral digital replicas of green paper.
    • 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.

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

  • 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..."

  • by sl4shd0rk ( 755837 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @12:40PM (#45336591)

    creates a divide by zero error in google's datacenter

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • Knowledge == Cash? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by toygeek ( 473120 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @01:01PM (#45336811) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • 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..

      • by toygeek ( 473120 )

        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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • 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.

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

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        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.

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

Forty two.