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Helpouts by Google (helpouts.google.com)
190 points by GFuller 1437 days ago | hide | past | web | 148 comments | favorite

Sorry Google. You've lost my enthusiasm.

Why would I invest the time into learning how this works, trying to become part of the community etc when I can be pretty sure that they're just going to shut it down in a few years time?

You and I are both in the HN bubble. We expect Google to kill products and Google doesn't expect us to "become part of the community." We are not the market. However, the general consumer, the one this is aimed at, loves Google. Their experience is with the search box and maybe Gmail both of which serve consumer needs perfectly. Consumers don't remember or know Reader and every other app Google killed so their reaction to this product will be different.

New tech like this needs early adopters, which is us.

I think you are right when it comes to a product like Google docs - it's complicated enough that a consumer would look to the early adopters. However, this Helpouts product is simple enough for a consumer to understand that they dont need to ask their technically minded friends whether they should use it. All Google has to do to bring the users in is include a link to it on the search results page. "Were you looking advice on yoga? Click here to talk to a real person."

If Google is sensible then it'll exclude "us" from being early adopters.

In the early days of Google+ trying to find anyone on the newly formed social network that wasn't part of the tech community was impossible.

If we become the early adopters then all this will be good for is advice for setting up a VPS and debugging javascript. I doubt they're trying to create the world's largest IT support system.

Spot on analogy with Google+. Wasn't it true for Wave as well? The top comment is comparing the service to a friendlier Stack Exchange / IRC...yours is a good counter argument.

and we are the people that non-techies ask about which services to use.

Tell that to Pinterest.

Pinterest took off without "us".

Not all new tech needs to go through "us" to be successful.

Consumers often talk to early adopters, and they are less likely to try out and invest time in new products when those early adopters are lukewarm.

Don't forget that a Google has killed off a lot more than Reader. Some have been integrated into Google+, but not always and not always well.

It's interesting that so many here are furious about Google pivoting or shutting down some parts of its business considering that this forum is about technology and startups/business.

When did it become wrong to test a product, and shut it down if it fails?

Why is it evil when Google does that, but okay when a startup does the exact same thing?

Well I'm certainly critical of startups that have no plan to create a viable business and are just hoping to get bought out, but startups are not all like that. Plenty are trying to create viable businesses.

The difference between Google and the serious startups is that they have a record of launching products with no plan or intention to make money from them: they are loss leaders to bring more people into the Google walled garden. A lot of people didn't realise that in the past. People used these product knowing they weren't a money earner for Google, but people assumed Google was tying to be a good citizen and provide useful services for people. Using up the piles of money sloshing around at Google. People treat(ed) things like reader or gmail as basic infrastructure. Google enjoyed being treated like the benevolent dictator of the internet. We paid our 'taxes' in the form of ads and in return got lots of services and infrastructure for free. I heard countless people making the argument that Google's interests were intrinsically aligned with those of internet users: there was no way that giving more money and power to Google could ever go wrong.

It was totally wrong for people to think that way: corporations do not operate in the public interest. I think it's easy to understand the emotional backlash: people don't like to be made fools of. What they thought was benevolence turned out to be a PR exercise, or worse, a landgrab.

It's not a walled garden if you can leave and take your data with you.

That's an interesting point you are making.

I can't rule that possibilty out, but I have also never seen evidence that suggested they created Reader with that intent.

Can't it be that Google tried to push adoption of a technology, believing that it would benefit them in the future?

Or that they believed that they would come up with a business model, given enough users.

You are right to be critical about startups without viable business - so am I - but don't forget: Google was that kind of startup for a few years

When a startup closes a service, I'm pretty sure most people in HN will be equally cautious about investing their time in any new product the same startup might launch.

Oh okay, I thought the general spirit here was that people share their experiences (and failures) and thereby provide information on how to improve at the next attempt.

What you are basically saying is that if someone fails, we should avoid them in the future.

That's not very encouraging for anyone trying to build a business (or anything else).

I'm not saying "we should" punish any company that kills a product, I'm saying that a track of killing products for strategic reasons is one of the factors any rational consumer usually considers before spending time in a new product.

"Investing their time."

I'm sorry, but this is an awful excuse. We're the type of people who master new technologies quickly. There's essentially $0 cost, and a ton of benefit, to new products becoming available. That's why they're exciting.

If the same startup starts another useful product, I'll check it out. I think people with your attitude are saying they'll cut off their nose to spite their face... but they actually won't. They'll use useful products, no matter the track record of the company, if the tradeoffs are close to right.

It's a broader question than the pass given to any one particular start-up that pivots. If one actually was upset about the likeliness of something being killed off, one would never use anything from the start-up ecosystem, where almost everyone fails, most of those that don't pivot, and many winning scenarios aren't wins from the end user perspective.

Start-ups should try different things and stop doing the stuff that doesn't work. So should Google. And Jobs saved Apple by killing off most of the products and projects when he returned from Next.

I agree with you, but I also think that we should consider more datapoints before evaluating how a company treated its product and customers.

In the case of Google Reader, we saw a product lifespan from 2005 to 2013. That's eight years.

What lifespan can a user reasonably expect from any software product, and at what point is a company killing products so fast, that it's unlikely most customer will extract any value out of it. (considering the time needed to learn using the product and so on)

Like all of those Amazon products shut down when they still had a sizable userbase?

I don't mean to sound Pollyanna-ish, but even it shuts down in a few years, where's the real downside? You will have (possibly) had an income stream during that time (and for those big names that might give the money to charity,the charity will have benefitted). You may have developed a following/community that might follow you elsewhere. You may have picked up some intangible skill(s) that you might not recognize at the time. And you get none of that, what will you have really lost?

For some? If they invest heavily enough in this, possibly a career.

Remembering the analysis on what google shuts down and what it doesn't: if it's social and linked to google+, the chances are very low.

IF it starts (and that's a big if), it allows to get revenue (as a percentage of the fee for the helpout) from a platform that will not be shut down (google+) and so it will not likely be shut down as well.

Being 'social' isn't a great indicator: Wave was social, Buzz was social, Jaiku was social, Friend Connect was social, Reader was social till 2011…

Also, I assume that just about any new products they create will be tied into G+ if at all possible, so it remains to be seen if that will be a good indicator or not. If being tied to G+ means things don't close then that means they won't be shutting many things at all in the future. I'm sceptical.

None of them was using google+, though.

Google+ is not going away (it's a big source for ranking and more) and this project leverages (I suppose) most of the existing infrastructure.

anon1385's point was that it's very likely that all new Google projects will be tied to Google+, so either it's not a good indicator for what's going to be shut down, or they won't shut anything down anymore.

1. You cannot be sure they're going to shut this down soon.

2. What did you lose when google closed reader? It gave you plenty of time and options to go to another service.

3. Products have a limited lifetime, deal with it. And not only on the internet.

4. If you think it's an interesting concept you should join it

Why would they kill helpouts.

Helpouts is build upon hangouts and hangouts is here to stay. Being helped with G+ is a good motivator for keeping the product (if it becomes popular).

If no one uses it, they will kill it for sure.

>Why would I invest the time into learning how this works, trying to become part of the community etc when I can...

...just start my own consultancy and cut out the middleman completely?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Do you think Helpouts should exist, yes or no?

If Helpouts become very popular with for instance the tech crowd, and if Google kills Helpouts, you'll see other companies rush to fill the void.

It took about 5 seconds from clicking the link, to read a sentence on the page, to understand how it works...

Agreed. I'm still hurt with the killing of Google Reader and the Wave(Pfft).

I think Google will be shocked at how little usage this gets. Having founded a couple of ventures aimed at helping people make money online, I can conclusively say that it is much easier, for example, to convince someone to play a casual game online and waste their time than to convince them to join a site where they may be paid for their time. For whatever reason, it is incredibly difficult to get talented people interested in new ways to connect with people that will pay for those talents.

Oh ye of little imagination.

I go to Google Search, and I type in some phrase. The search results happen to not really have any great answers. And down at the bottom of the page is this nice little link that says, "Can't find what you're looking for? Care to ask an Expert?" Out of curiosity, you click it, and it takes you to the Helpouts page.

If they allow people to set their price at $0, some people will just do it out of altruism / reputation. (Think of Stack Overflow karma and badges.)

I could picture Open Source projects using $0 Helpouts, to encourage use - in helping new users configure, in helping users solve problems, in helping developers contribute. It'd be like an IRC channel. Especially if we can invite multiple people to the Helpout, like we can with Hangouts.

I can see businesses using it, as a way to reach Customer Support, when another business or high-end consumer wants to ask a question that they're willing to pay for.


Picture this, "Carmack Thursdays." On Thursday evenings, John Carmack agrees to do $1000 Helpouts, and donates all of the proceeds to a charity of his choice.

Linus Torvalds, Bruce Schneier, Jim Carrey, Ron Paul doing fundraising for a campaign, Markus Persson, Jeff Atwood, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, James Lipton, Tyra Banks, Kevin Smith, Venture Capitalists like the Y-Combinator folks...

If they get the right people to do Helpouts, it could be huge.

Like a one-on-one Reddit Ask Me Anything, where you pay to get backstage passes.

Sounds nice, but this will mostly become a phone sex service and everyone knows it.

Like internet forums freed hookers from their pimps this will free camgirls from cam sites.

Actually, I'd wager otherwise. It'll be for psychics. Keen.com was this (voice only, all experts) back in the 90s. Ended up being entirely psychics.

so, Keen worked to model - it connected experts in getting money from people (psychics) with people having surplus money to get.

In a less snarky vein, if that's what people want to pay for, perhaps enabling that market in an honest way is what people should do? I know a guy that funded his telecom startup by selling custom prompts for phone sex lines.

For a brief period of time you were able to gift other Xbox Live users Microsoft Points.

It doesn't take much thinking to figure out why they pulled the feature shortly thereafter.

everything with a camera can be come phone sex and cam sex now. Take a look at FaceTime.

FaceTime doesn't have built-in payment options.

Is there a less snarky way of saying not all sex involved payment of currency on the spot?

I'm sure I can find competitors for literally everything Google does.

Google tends to do many of them better than their competition.

Yes, then the competitors are forced out of market and close their activities.. and then Google shut down the service.. and then new competitors launch replacement services and then...

It's not like "DownandAbout" is saying the project will fail. But Google is closing down projects because they want to focus. For the guys building driverless cars, Google Glass and computers without monitors, a project like this would easily pass as their weekend hack.

I'm sure that's the problem. They aren't going to get 10,000,00 people a day trading skills and cash and that is where they will start preparing its' obituary

They want to focus on what, though?

I think that's the main problem that people are having - is they don't get what makes Google decide on what makes the cut and what doesn't. The decisions Google has made don't make sense to them, so they have nothing but fear.

> They aren't going to get 10,000,00 people a day trading skills and cash

If there's a $0 option, I'm not so sure you're right.

and if they are going to rely on $0 to get them 10,000,000 users daily I'm not sure they will be making sense by putting the product out in the first place

Here's a free Expert with 2 stars, and a paid Expert with 5 stars. Depending on your question, ask whomever you want to.

If they drive acceptance of the platform, they drive their revenue, as well.

I tend to agree. There is already a massive affiliate marketing industry around http://fiverr.com where for $5 you can get a pretty amazing amount of high quality work done.

Everyone is a specialist in their field. $5 Wordpress installs, plug-in's, custom code, logos, etc.

How much would you pay to get an hour of consultation with a YC partner?

(YC partners: what's your price?)

After the above comments about phone sex and prostitution I found this comment made me smile =)

So how much would you pay for just 1 hour of 'consultation' with a YC partner?

An hour seems excessive.

You're far more likely to get to the point and get a focused answer if you get it down to 5-10 minutes.

Fine! How much would you pay to pitch them?

(It can be $X to their chosen charity if you wish)

You know it's pretty easy to say something won't work. Most of the time you will be right. However, consider there are lots people who create Podcasts, videos on YouTube, and sites like skillshare.com who might be interested in this.

Finally, it's a lot more interesting to figure out ways to make things work than be "The Critic."


It's not hard to get professionals to offer their services online. These sites already do it.

http://www.wello.com (health& fitness) , http://betterfly.com (everything) http://www.popexpert.com (coaching)- http://www.takelessons.com (music)

The hard part is getting clients that are willing AND able(have the tech/connection) to use the platform. Google will not be there to offer the support that these connections need, and it will fail unless support is outsourced.

Almost all of these sites offer both online and offline(in-person) to survive. These sites might actually do better when Google brings live-online-instruction to the public's attention, and then they go to one of the previous companies that actually cares about supporting the professional and client/student.

Yeah, and their pricing model isn't helping them either. It's a tough sell to get professional experts to hand over almost a quarter of their earnings before the taxman cometh.

Maybe if Google didn't fail pricing 101, they'd know something like 18.25% is more palatable to a consumer than a big round number like 20.

Yeah I guess this is why app stores never took off, with their Draconian 30%-off-the-top fee model.

The difference being that I can sell the time I'd spend on Helpouts as consulting time at $x per hour. There was no alternative to the appstore if you wanted to reach mobile devices.

Well, there was - web apps, but discovery/market outreach, payments management, versioning and distribution are all issues that the App Store assisted with/handled thus warranting most of the 30% cut.

In this case, there are other forums and other ways to get "helpouts" not to mention if it really does take off, expect other major sites to launch their own helpouts efforts and ignore Google's offerings.

I wouldn't use app stores as a positive example of what Helpouts could do for the services industry. There aren't many companies successfully making money selling software in app stores. And certainly no one is doing gangbusters.

Do you have any sense what a reasonable fee would be?

I am a math teacher, and I've seen math teachers make $80+/hr tutoring high school and college students. I'd consider trying this platform out, because it would take little effort to get started, and I'd have nothing to lose.

I'd be a little frustrated to see Google take 20% right off the top. But I am assuming that Google has the infrastructure to roll this out without needing to take 20% to maintain profitability on this. Does anyone have a sense of a reasonable fee for this service?

Well, I'd rather Google set a price, however unreasonable, at the beginning. Free services provided by Google have a tendency to be taken out back like Old Yeller, no matter how devout a following.

If friction is low, it seems like a decent deal to me. Finding clients and setting up contracts takes up a lot of time, and if (big if) Google can streamline that for these things, that would easily be worth 20%.

Very difficult but will Google put this in front of enough people, enough times, in enough different ways to build a tangible niche?

Google different than most of us in that they don't need to directly make money from this effort. The WebRTC analytics generated alone are likely enough to justify the costs.

Sometimes you just want/need to unwind and do something else even if you could be making a little more money.

Also doing paid stuff outside of work can feel like more work, wasted time might be necessary recreation time.

Maven.co's entire business model is "to get talented people interested in new ways to connect with people that will pay for those talents."

Anyone else thing this is ironic coming from Google, a company notoriously difficult to get assistance with their own products?

No. (Haven't we filled the whine-quota about Google for this month yet?)

Here's a more civil answer that does not convey what I think such whines should be treated with here. No, I don't find it ironical. In fact, I think it's great precisely because they have bad customer support. It means they recognize such problems and do want to improve things (sure, maybe with profit in mind. What's wrong with that). Yes, helpouts does not change their customer support the slightest bit. But how much of an issue is it for non-tech people, compared to any other kind of expert help one may need, ? Look outside the tech bubble for a second. I quite agree with kolya3's comment.

It's safe to say that part of the reason why Google has such a notoriously bad customer support is the scale at which they operate. And what do they do? They solve a much bigger problem with precisely this same scale. Isn't that at the very core of what Google does, is about, is?! For good and bad, Google == scale. So no, I don't find it ironical. I think it is exactly the kind of thing they should do. It doesn't matter if this works or not, does not matter if it's killed in 6 months or not, it does not matter if the NSA sees that a guy showed you how to flip pizza dough in the air. It is precisely the kind of attitude they should have.

Last thing. I look at the comments in this thread and it's bitter negativity all the way down. Can seriously none of you see any value in this?! None of you, members and readers of this community about STARTUPS see any business opportunity here?! A chance to create value and grow?! And no, just because it may get killed soon does not immediately mean such opportunity should be ignored. For a niche business leveraging Google's userbase even for a month can mean massive growth. If the service dies, so what, your new clients already know you exist and (hopefully) satisfied with your work.

The bitterness isn't towards the product or the idea, it's toward Google, and for good reason considering their track record with side projects such as this. It's like hearing a drug addict tell you they've cleaned up for the 5th time. After a while you just keep a cautious distance.

I understand it, and I am quite disappointed myself. But that does not mean I should have a reflex reaction to anything they do. That simply limits myself and has no effect on them. (as stated by others, we are a tiny blob in Google's userbase. Our negativity does not even tickle them)

> That simply limits myself and has no effect on them. (as stated by others, we are a tiny blob in Google's userbase. Our negativity does not even tickle them)

So just because Google doesn't care, people shouldn't complain? With that very same logic, nobody on HN should go voting, we're just a tiny blob of the world's population anyway, right?

I'm not skeptical about Google because I'm trying to teach them a lesson or to make a point. A reflex reaction is perfectly appropriate because it saves me spending time and building up enthusiasm for a product that may be killed off at any time. That's not limiting myself, that's just saving me pain down the road. And it's not like I can't wait for a while to see whether it's a success and money earner for Google, at which time it's more likely to be kept alive.

So, even in trying to be positive you mention and remind us all of the NSA...

And that now for me is the problem. I see "google", and think, Im being spied on by the US government. No, not exclusively google by any means, but for some reason google is top offender in my mind. Then add to that all the criticisms they got got years before hand, and, well, yes, I now see google as default "evil".

The sad part is, I dont believe for one second the creators of google ever, ever had this in mind. I do wonder if in quiet moments the google founders wonder what the hell happened.

On the other hand, google and all the other mega corps could of course fund their own political party and candidates who could stand for the freedoms they claim to desire and support. So, my charity runs out, given that by doing nothing they are making a choice.

By the way, that pizza bloke? What if he turns out to be a terrorist, and there is now meta data linking him and you? What if its only his friend who hates America's idea of "freedom", you're still linked by meta data. So, I say yes, it may well matter. I know, what have you got to hide?

If you are talking business, it can make sense: just profit from people who do not care about their privacy (lots of them out there).

If you are talking personal use: why would I even be remotely interested in helping out that funny-looking guy from Palestine who needs money to bootstrap his water-bottling business? I should be crazy to do that. Maybe it turns out the guy has a cousin who has taken out money from him to buy some bullets and go fighting the Israel army. Am I interested in getting dragged down that hole? Not a little bit.

So I self-censor.

The problem is not whether people here recognize the value in this. The problem is whether Google Management will see the value of this a year from now.

Reader lasted 9 years!

Google Wave

Lasted ~2.5years. Got open sourced and now powers 2-3 startups.

Google Wave was overtly a communications protocol with a demonstration service.

At first I thought it would be something related with a revision of their customer service. Oh well, not today.

I genuinely thought it might be April.

me too! "let's put more arrows behind fewer projects tra la la", so they shut down an rss service and then open up something like this.. a bit off.


It's fascinating how Google is slowly turning into the Microsoft of the mid-90's/early 00's. Most people depend on it, many are starting to hate it after a few very bad experiences (with their nonexistant customer service for example).

I've had a few experiences trying to get help from Google on their products. After I can't get help, I just switch to another service which actually has customer support. It would be cool if they could use this as a way to interface with their customers but I think that if they opened up that floodgate, it would significantly increase their overhead.

I think this isn't meant to be just a service on its own. It's something that will only come to life when Glass is out.

I stumbled upon this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYJuCZr67VE and now believe that this format is going to be wonderful for anyone trying to learn things. Google building in a backbone platform for it makes it all the better.

Thanks for being the only on-topic, interesting comment of the whole thread. This is really depressing. And yes, I think this could be really great with Google Glass, especially for medical stuff or cooking.

I remember ~5 years ago when Skype offered this, with integrated payment. It got used mainly for video phone sex and was quietly abandoned, IIRC (very imperfect memory on this, and never used the service myself).

I think this should be some sort of internet law. It's happened to other platforms, and it'll happen again. I'd be interested to see what Google is doing to prevent this from happening (or if they would embrace it at arms length).

"Should thou ever integrate video with a payment system, thou shalt be sundered full of naked bodies"

this should be as one of ten commandments of internet.

And people wondered why Jobs was so against anything pornographic on the AppStore.

The issue isn't that sex-based services are bad, it's that when they eclipse other uses of the product, the reputation is set.

Add to that the generally puritanical nature of most societies with regards to sex services, and the rampant potential of abuse with regards to sex workers, and you have a good incentive for companies to avoid/deny those usages.

Even though craigslist was a great boon for sex workers in the cities it operated in, it pissed off the establishment and now it's not nearly as discoverable as it used to be.

I wonder if there's a more general issue with public video services getting abused by adult content. Interesting to see how (if?) Google deals with this problem...

How is it abuse exactly? Live consenting naked people in exchange for money is not illegal in much of the world.

Guess if you try to get help fixing your bike and get a big penis :)

It's possible that by vetting the initial users they can create a community that would self police any abuse.

I'm sure this will be clean out by next Spring ;)

I signed up. My main skill is opening/troubleshooting locks, and I think it would be an interesting experiment to see, A. if they would allow me to be a helper, and B. to test my efficacy as a digital locksmith.

I've successfully had vicarious openings via both voice & text, so video seems like it would be even better.

I have no opinion on whether or not this should exist, whether google will shut it down, whether it will be effective, etc.

I hope you never accidentally advise a criminal and get metadata linked to a crime.

I'm actually very curious about that sort of thing which is why I find A particularly interesting. My assumption is that Google would just avoid the headache altogether, but one of the rarely spoken truths about teaching physical security is that your students may have malicious intent. You apply whatever social screening you can, but at the end of the day, bad people exist and some pass pretty well for good people.

When doing a proper lockout I can take IDs, have people sign things, etc. all of which have (in general, not in my personal experience) failed on one level or another and the modern history of locksmithing is rife with tragic stories of locksmiths unwittingly helping absolutely terrible people.

Some means of identification/authentication would certainly be possible with Helpers, but again, I cannot imagine Google would engage in the headache of adding that layer.

Somebody please start the cancellation countdown clock.

My thought process went something like 'That's cute. Should I bother? Guess not—it's Google, very unlikely to last long.' Seems they may have a reputation problem.

I agree. The fact that I'm signed in with my Google account and it still asks me for my name and e-mail address makes me think this isn't (going to be) a serious part of Google, it seems very much like a 20% project that slipped through.

If you are Google now, you don't get to ask people to show 'interest'. Open it up already and have people try it. Don't monkey around.

Yeah, especially it't not released as some addon to G+, so it might likely to be shutdown in next few months.

- Are the helpouts NSA approved?

- Will I get in trouble depending on which people I want to help?

- Will I get in trouble depending on what activities are the people I help involved into?

No, thanks.

Could you try any harder to smash two unrelated stories together?

You do not get it, do you?

A couple of months ago, the default was "I trust this company, unless I have evidence of the contrary". Now the default has radically changed: "I do not trust this company, unless I have very strong evidence of the contrary; and even then, I might not trust them, because they could be forced to lie"

So the internet is now a medium without trust. The less I do there, the better.

> A couple of months ago, the default was "I trust this company, unless I have evidence of the contrary". Now the default has radically changed:

You should probably talk to a professional about this. Distrusting everyone is paranoia and a dangerous attitude.

"It is not paranoia if they really are out to get you"

But I'll take your advice and visit my psychiatrist. In the meantime, no google helpouts for me. I mean, I can probably pass on this one. And on the next one. Why take any risks?

> Why take any risks?

Why leave the house at all? Everything has risks, but it sounded like you were being quite paranoid and I meant what I said with a kind heart.

Well, that is the point. I leave my house every day, even though I know lots of bad things can happen to me, just because I am more or less in control of the risks. If one day I wake up hearing that people are randomly being being stabbed, pots are falling en-masse from balconies for unknown reasons, people are being abducted without leaving trail and so on, at some point I'll start considering staying at home. Not yet the case (at least in my country).

In the internet, I am not in control of the risks anymore. I do not even know who is lying to me. Can I even trust the government? Obviously not! They even have laws forbidding to talk about what they are doing. Is this a democracy? Whatever ...

I'll stay at home for a while, thanks.

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you?

I had the same idea when Apple's Facetime came out. I thought it might be feasible to build a business around video-chatting with experts around the world, but then Apple reneged on the openness of the Facetime platform. Good luck to Google, I think it's an idea that has merit.

Sounds interesting. I can see a potential usage in remote tutoring. Parents set up their kids, who don't understand something, and use it to speak to someone qualified (you could have pre-approved lists or groups of people). And by virtue of being google, it has a large potential audience.

The potential for abuse would have to be carefully monitored/considered, of course.

Joel Spolsky's help company did quite well. Not sure Google is technically capable of pulling this off, though. Was trying to use Hangouts all last weekend and half the people in the hangout couldn't get messages no matter what. The half we did get working involved bizarre dances of everyone going to each other's page to say hi before messages magically started coming through. All were shown as in the hangout, though.

They threw out a good working system in Google Talk that even had people contacting me from other chat clients and platforms, like iPhone. Now they can't even get chatting inside their own platform working. I'm sure any effort by engineers to get this working would just immediately by quashed by the useless biz guys who control Google now.

Reminds me of Minutebox - it looks like founder Josh Liu (great guy - I met him in London a few years ago) has moved on, and while the website no longer exist this scathing TechCrunch analysis of the concept (from 2008) still does - http://techcrunch.com/2008/05/20/minutebox-does-not-box-clev...

How will the 'Google' factor impact / advance the business concept?

This would need enormous amount of human time for moderation, user support and general community management. I wonder how it went on these fronts for Google+. I don't use it actively, and from my own echo chamber not many people seem to be using it, so not a good data point. For now, the only effort in this kind of product that work well seems to be Yahoo answers. It would be interesting to see the details of what Google is up to.

I guess the 20% projects are not quite dead yet. It very much looks like something created by one or more enthusiastic employees, and not a strategic move mandated from above.

Yes, there is a better than even chance that this will go nowhere like knoll, but could we please give it a chance to prove itself before shutting it down?

I still remember using Aardvark, which got shut down shortly after Google acquired it. This seems to be similar. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aardvark_(search_engine)


What do you mean by technology? I think it's basically hangouts with money exchange.

Very similar to how freelancing websites work

There's a pluggable no-login audio-version of this already present today: Mozilla's TowTruck: https://towtruck.mozillalabs.com/

Oh! I double-checked if I'm back in the past in Aug, 20013 and not in the real world where Google just announced Helpouts on Apr 1, 2014. I'm sorry but the name sounded such.

I don't what others' experience of Google Hangouts is, but mine is poor quality and frustration. Maybe that's caused by network connectivity, which device is being used, etc. Not that it's much better on skype...

I am not sure if the concept of getting paid for help via Hangouts is something the technology is reliable or high enough quality for at the moment.

My prediction: this is just a gimmick which will go the way of Google Wave

I don't understand Google. They are closing down most projects, including those that have traction because, according to Larry Page, the want to rally around core projects. If that is the case why this?

All this is going to do is kill the motivation of freelancing sites because the dinosaur has entered the room and definitely kill some of them. Yet I doubt they are going to be that of a big player in that niche. sigh

When Google acquired and kills of such a similar thing and as awesome and universally useful and (hopefully/seamingly) altruistic initiative as Aardvark (vark.com) was, why do we believe that this new "Helpouts" will stick around and people should invest time and energy in contributing to it?

I need help changing my kitchen faucet. My options are: a) DIY, b) arrange proportionally large amount of cash and call the professional help.

Am I going to use Google as my option C? I really doubt, because there is a good chance Google will be arranging the same option B above. So what is the point?

Looks a lot like http://www.liveninja.com

My first thought "what could possibly go wrong with live 1-to-1 video".

With the Youtube audience, this could nicely turn into new stream of live shows/reality TV where everyone can participate.

Which division at Google is in charge of deciding what new projects to start? I'm wondering since the 20% time is gone.

Looking similar to http://ace.dev.agriya.com/

Looks like a broader version of the 7 Cups of Tea service. Weird how these things come out nearly at the same time.

Interesting. I'm surprised the categories listed are so vague. I partly expected it to be tech orientated.

This could be a trial balloon to see whether people would want to use Google Glass for something like this.

I am interested how would customer, provider and Google handle VATs. This could go wrong in so many ways.

Isn't that the same problem as selling android apps?

If only ISPs would offer an upstream worth a damn, video streaming would be much more fun.

This would look really interesting if it weren't Google. Why do I want to invest my time, energy, and effort into creating their content. Even if I get paid for my time, I get no "warm fuzzy" feeling of goodwill, because Google is the middle man.

No thanks, I'd rather not tell Google more that can help them sell me targeted ads, which they conveniently insert in my inbox, looking like real e-mail.

and the Most Predictable Criticism of Google award goes to...

Aardvark 2.0 ?

On Aardvark there was no way (I knew of) to pay for answers.

I was pretty sad when Google bought and closed Aardvark. If they somehow resurrect it in this form, maybe its death was not in vain :)

This is amazing. Google will really do well with this, they need to branch into ecommerce as their ad business isn't growing much.

With mobile gaining traction, this could be a central hub for a decentralized solopreneur economy, even inside corporations. You can consult your lawyer, accountant, doctor, pharmacist right from your tablet and be charged through this interface. Even better, your lawyer/doctor etc. is based in india and charge a 10th of the cost. Also, great to watch and charge babysitters, mechanics, cleaners etc. Also, supervising factory workers in china. The factory has telecommute robot for rent floating around and you log in and do some checking on your product being produced.

If google record and analyze the videos, they could even run some machine learning on this and turn into automated robots that carry out the task.

Great idea, an app store for people peddling that could turn into an artificial intelligence robot.

Didn't they already have a similar service (similar to Yahoo Answers, but I forget the name), where people got paid to answer other people's questions? Only for the service to be shutdown some years later. Anyone remember the name?

Google answers was awesome, probably the service I miss the most from Google. It was a lot like the stack*.com sites these days, but generally higher quality as people paid for answers.

The problem with that was that you can just type stuff into google and search it yourself (google answers). The alternative is a few minutes of typing.

This is different, it's for physical work monitoring, and where real time face to face interaction is valued. Alternatives to this are get in a car, rent an office, get on a plane.

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