Experts and Expertise: Helpouts and Google

No, “Don’t be evil” is not Google’s mission statement. A lot of popular media gets that mixed up, but the actual mission statement is:

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.


Google Helpouts is the latest big thing from Google. While searching and filtering is a big part of that enterprise, Google has also long wanted to interject more expertise into the mix. The ultimate model for Google has long been the Star Trek talking computer (see this article), which does more than respond to searches—it finds answers.

Now we have the ability to pay experts to Help us Out. The path to bringing expert knowledge into Google’s vision is littered with bodies. An early example was Google Answers, that let users post online bounties for expert answers to their questions. It was launched in April 2002, and killed in December 2006. Google Knol was a larger scale attempt to challenge Wikipedia, except using identified authors/experts to write articles.

On one hand, it’s tempting to dismiss Helpouts as another Google product that might not last. But the other story is that, if Google gets something in its head, it keeps trying. Before Google+, there was Buzz and Lively, among other attempts at some kind of social network. Google Helpouts might be the culmination, or just the latest experiment, but Google is likely to keep trying until they find a way to provide experts to their users.

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