I noted with interest the recent introduction of Google Helpouts, “a new way to get and give personalized help over live video.” The concept seems pretty nifty, and Google has a suitably slick promo video announcing its arrival.
Recently, Ken Chen discussed the advantages of consultants, their versatility, and the benefits that they and companies receive from avoiding the traditional 40 hour work week. Google Helpouts and a rash of related services are certainly helping to take this idea to the extreme.
Now, consultants have been around for a long time — since 1697 if you believe Merriam-Webster — and indeed even virtual freelance markets started to appear shortly on the heels of the internet’s advent (which is a long time in tech). Early editions Guru and Elance (both created in 1999) are still major players in the space, connecting companies directly with freelance contractors to fulfill business objectives, and many other now join their ranks.
However, it’s becoming more and more apparent that we’re in a world where freelancing is extending well beyond traditional work environments. Today, it’s in your home. Need a local community member to help you pack your apartment before a move? Hire a Task Rabbit. Interested to learn the newest HDR photography techniques? Check out Curious. Want a hand organizing that closet you’ve been piling things into for the last year? Check out Fiverr.
There has been an awful lot written about the continuing shift to a more gig economy, especially in the context of the current economic climate which is less and less hospitable to full-time workers as it churns through a slow recovery. But what interests me more is how these services are bringing people closer together.
Professional skills in a corporate context for a business client will always be important, but it’s nice to see increasing value being placed on the knowledge and abilities of individuals for others. Sure, everyone is still getting paid, but the transactions are becoming more personal. What’s being offered is a skill or talent for the betterment of an individual, something that the “client” can benefit from in the long term.
These marketplaces seem to be pushing a trend where the focus is on knowledge transfer, as opposed to a simple delivery of services. How exciting to use technology as a means of not only connecting with people and sharing ideas, but of teaching and learning skills. It feels like a fundamental shift, where suddenly education truly can go beyond the walls of conventional educational institutions. More than that, you don’t even have to sign up for a whole course to learn an entire subject; you can pick and choose exactly how much, how little, and of what you want to learn.
The student is becoming empowered. It’s a new (and ever evolving) world of educational opportunity and control. What do you want to know?