Although the Internet
is a deep and wide resource for learning how to do everything from playing licks on a slide guitar to how to fix your dishwasher to the best makeup tips and so on, Google
is taking Internet-based help a step further with the introduction of Helpouts
, which Google developed
based on its Hangouts
It’s hard to summarize what Helpouts is exactly in one sentence, because what most people are going to think is “help video”, but that sells the new service far too short--and that’s not quite accurate, either. Instead of pulling up a video of someone demonstrating how to do something, you can actually have a one-to-one video chat with an expert and get advice and tips on whatever it is that expert knows about.
Experts get their own profile page where you can see an intro video, learn a bit about that person and their expertise, and schedule a call for later (or if that expert is currently available, call them instantly). Some Helpouts are free while others will cost you a pretty penny; Helpouters (let’s please call them that) can set their own prices. Helpouts might last 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the expert’s stated parameters.
If you aren’t satisfied with your experience, Google offers a money back guarantee, and over time, it will be easiest to vet various experts because users will be able to rate them and leave feedback.
More than just video chatting, though, in a Helpout you can share your computer screen, record the interaction if you need to reference it later, or collaborate on a document in real time. In a nutshell, it’s a one-on-one video help desk with extra sharing and collaboration features. (Hey, there it is in one sentence after all.)
This Helpouts launch is relatively small for now, but Google plans to grow the service shortly. There are eight categories ranging from Art & Music to Fitness & Nutrition to Home & Garden, and presumably more are in the offing as the current categories become more populated. There are just a few Helpouters in each category for now.
One of the truly powerful aspects of Helpouts is that Helpouters and Helpoutees can easily connect regardless of geographical location. Individuals can use Helpouts as a means of making some extra money or helping to create their own brand--it’s probably only a matter of time before someone gets a TV deal based on a groundswell following on Helpouts--and it’s also a vector for larger companies with known brands to expand their online presence. For example, Home Depot could have Helpouts covering any number of home improvement areas, or Rosetta Stone could offer valuable help learning languages, and on and on.
All of that is assuming, of course, that Helpouts catches on.