New Google Service Lets You Play Expert While Charging People For Your Help

This guy will help you fix your bike, or maybe he's just lying about being a bike expert and really just wanted someone to talk to.

This guy will help you fix your bike, or he lied about being a bike expert and just wanted someone to talk to.

Are your friends always asking you for help fixing their air conditioners? Do people marvel at your pancakes? Maybe you’re a needlework ninja. Whatever your area of expertise, Google is launching a video chat service that, for a price, matches people with questions and “experts” with answers.

Called “Google Helpouts,” the still-to-launch service is free to join. People who sign up as “helpers” enter their skills and qualifications, and can even create an introductory video pitch to sell you on their bona fides, but it doesn’t look like anyone at Google is actually verifying whether the helpers are indeed experts.

That said, Google does have a policy against misrepresenting yourself on the service:

Helpouts does not allow Providers to create profiles, listings, or Helpouts that misrepresent the product, service, or Provider. Helpouts requires that Providers present themselves and their Helpouts listings in a way that is clear and transparent, accurate, realistic, and truthful.

One big no-no that we have a feeling will probably be violated — repeatedly — in the first few hours of the service being launched is the making of unrealistic health claims or promoting “miracle cures.” Then there is the policy against get rich quick schemes; we would not want to be the person at Google who has to sort through that flood of inevitable complaints.

Each helper sets his/her own price level. If the helper charges a fee, Google will get a 20% cut (which means helpers will need to set up a Google Wallet account). Since the service will apparently use unverified experts, Google is offering 100% money back guarantees to unsatisfied customers.

The helpers also set up their own hours of availability, so they won’t be getting video chat requests from strangers at 4 a.m. (unless of course they have said they will be available at 4 a.m.).

Right now, Google is only accepting invite requests from interested users, so it’s impossible to judge the service yet. At one end of the spectrum this could be a revolution in peer-to-peer commerce and information exchange. At the other end of the spectrum, it could quickly devolve into chatroulette. At the very least, it should make for some interesting YouTube reaction videos.

[via ArsTechnica]