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Collective Intelligence & Distance Learning
Collective intelligence is a shared or group intelligence involving knowledge creation and flow. Pooled brainpower emerges from the collaboration and learning actions of a community of connected individuals empowered by social media, participatory tools, and mobile platforms.
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Meet Helpouts, Google’s Secret Project That Turns Hangouts Into A Commerce Platform

Meet Helpouts, Google’s Secret Project That Turns Hangouts Into A Commerce Platform | Collective Intelligence & Distance Learning |

While its roots lie in search, today, Google wears many hats. From self-driving cars and wearable technology to social networking and mobile operating systems, there are few industries where the search and advertising giant has yet to make its presence felt. Lately, however, Google’s expansion has taken a noticeable tack in a more singular direction: e-commerce.


With the outsized success Amazon and eBay have had building online marketplaces that seek to remove the barriers around buying and selling on the web, it was only a matter of time before Google decided to pull its chair up to the e-commerce table. TechCrunch has learned via a tipster that Google has quietly been pursuing its marketplace ambitions under the auspices of a new platform that leverages its increasingly powerful cloud services to power live, real-time commerce.


The product, which has reportedly been named “Helpouts” and is currently being tested internally in Mountain View, will take shape as a marketplace that enables individuals and small and large businesses to buy and sell services via live video. With the capacity to connect merchants and consumers on both an immediate and scheduled basis, according to our tipster, the platform will allow sellers to create their own profiles and take advantage of reputation management, scheduling and payment features, while offering robust search and discovery tools for consumers.


As its live video infrastructure is increasingly becoming the unifying backend for its expanding roster of real-time products, Google’s new marketplace will leverage Hangouts to deliver services via live video. To that end, the platform will also come integrated with what could end up being a handful of Google products, particularly its young virtual wallet and payment service, Google Wallet.

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Scooped by Huey O'Brien! provides on-demand professional advice provides on-demand professional advice | Collective Intelligence & Distance Learning |

To date,, which lets anyone pay from $9 to $80 for a one-on-one conversation with a range of verified professionals, has kept a low profile. But with the new cash, it plans to step up its game with a big media and marketing blitz, including a media tour and broadcast TV campaigns.


Quora, which itself raised $61 million in venture funding, similarly connects people with experts (although it doesn’t charge users and takes a crowdsourcing approach). And vertical-specific sites like HealthTap and RocketLawyer also give people on-demand access to doctors and lawyers online.


But Andy Kurtzig,’s founder and CEO, told me his company wants to be the of the online professional services space. “The way we look at the market is like retail over the last 15 years,” he said. “Ten years from now, people are going to expect to be able to interact with professionals online and on mobile.”


Expecting the market to be twice that for retail and even more conducive to online transactions, Kurtzig said he thinks there’s room for both vertical-specific and general professional services sites. In addition to elevating its profile with consumers, the company plans to strengthen its mobile presence (it currently has an iPhone app) and focuses on personalization. For now, the company said users select from a pool of about 10,000 professionals in 700 specialties, including doctors, lawyers, mechanics, veterinarians and home repair pros. The price depends on the urgency of the question and the level of detail users would like in response.


In the future, the company said it plans to build out products organized around lifestyle needs, such as packages for wedding planning, nutrition or the birth of a baby.  To ensure quality across the site, Kurtzig said, the company uses expert peer reviews, works with an advisory board of professors from top schools and requires experts to pass category-specific tests.



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