Apr 11 AT 11:27 AM Taylor Wimberly 39 Comments

Hey Zuckerberg, this is what I meant when I asked you to build an “App store for people”

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Last week at the Facebook Home event I stood in line for over an hour with hopes of meeting Mark Zuckerberg. “His schedule is full and he doesn’t have time for you,” said one of his assistants. Another PR person chimed in, “Why don’t you go play with the HTC First?”

I was determined. In a couple weeks I could play with the First, but when would I ever have the chance to talk with Zuckerberg? So I waited patiently, as CEO after CEO came and sat on this small orange couch and chatted with the founder of the world’s largest social network.

As the crowd began to dissipate and the demo devices were being put away, I finally had my chance. Zuckerberg walked over to talk with some guys from HTC and he stood right next to me. This was my moment.

“Hi Mark, I’m a huge fan of Facebook,” I said nervously as I shook his hand. “I would like to request a feature, because I know you are one of the few people who could pull it off.”

He responded, “What’s that?”

“I would like you to build an app store for people,” I mumbled.

After a quick pause and a puzzled look, he asked me, “What do you mean?”

Everything after that was a blur. I knew I only had a few seconds with him before he was whisked away, so I attempted to explain my idea. Whatever I said probably didn’t make much sense, so I figured I might as well write down my thoughts and hope that someone reads them.

I have Google fatigue

The last several years of my life have been an amazing, wild ride, and I owe it all to Google. They created Android, I started this blog, and the rest is history. Google has done an awesome job at organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible, and I use Google products every single day.

Anytime I have an important decision to make, it normally begins with a Google search. Which restaurant should I take my wife to for our anniversary? Should I buy a washer and dryer from LG or Samsung? What daycare should I send my son to?

And for the most part, Google helps me make informed decisions. I enter a query and they return a list of useful links. Sometimes when I ask my phone certain questions, it even responds with a computer voice that has the exact information I’m looking for.

My two main problems that I have with Google are the overload of information (257 Yelp reviews, 1,273 Amazon reviews, etc.) and the questions where opinion plays a role in the answer I’m looking for. Instead of getting a fast, simple answer, I often spend way too much time researching my question with the hopes of finding the perfect answer.

Everyone is an expert at something

I keep telling myself there must be a better way to get trusted advice and find the answers to all my questions. For every inquiry that I imagine, there has to be a person out there who possesses the knowledge that I’m in need of.

An accomplished appliance repairman could share his experiences with working on LG and Samsung washing machines. A local restaurateur or foodie would be able to suggest the most romantic restaurant in Dallas that I could reserve a table at. A lifelong teacher could assist me in locating the best school for my child.

It’s great that Google is building this massive Knowledge Graph database to answer factual questions, but who is building a database of people that can answer convergent, divergent, and evaluative types of questions?

I see companies like LinkedIn, Quora, Klout, and others that are starting to organize people by their strengths, but none of them have produced the kind of on-demand service that I have envisioned.

Creating an ecosystem for knowledge workers

What I would like to see one day is an “App store for people.” Everyone possesses useful knowledge or what some might call useless knowledge, and I believe there are always other people who want to gain this knowledge. There needs to be a platform that connects these two groups.

I have knowledge that others would pay for, and there is a lot of knowledge that I seek from others that I would be willing to pay for. Those who consume the most would fund those who share the most. Of course, monetary payments would not always be required. Users could earn virtual credits when they help others, and then spend those credits when they seek the advice of another.

Anyone could attempt to create this kind of store for knowledge workers, but they would need massive scale for it to become a success. I have often thought who could build such an app, and I have concluded that it will be Google or Facebook. Both companies have billions of users, operate identity platforms that can foster trust, and possess the global resources to power such a system.

We might be a couple years away, but I can’t wait for the day when I pull out my phone, ask it a question, and I’m connected with a human being that has the response I was looking for.

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • Fahad Rahman

    Although this might be a brilliant idea, how do you over come the factor that even though you have people with the knowledge, they might not be writers, or able to communicate that knowledge effectively in other ways. Also how do you go about validating that their knowledge on the subject matter is actually correct? It’s idealistically awesome but realistically I think it might be to fallible.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      The person to person communication could be oral or written. I can think of cases where I would prefer either one.

      A persons expertise is validated by their peers. Everytime a transaction would take place, the “seller” and “buyer” would be able to rate each other.

      • LukeT32

        At the same time though, I would rate the “seller” for providing me with said knowledge with no real way of knowing if it is factual or true?

        Ask a Doctor what’s the best way to treat common cold symptoms and you might receive 6 different answers. Who is to say one way works better then others? Some patients might have better results with answer A and not answer B, where others would be opposite.

        I think the idea would be wonderful, but there still are a lot of holes to fill. There needs to be a factual checks and balances, not just ratings.

        Just because you are rated highly for providing a service, doesn’t mean the service is performed properly/correctly. If I knew the proper way to provide a service more then likely I wouldn’t be farming it out to someone else.

  • http://phaseburn.net PhaseBurn

    This sounds a lot like StackOverflow, only for life instead of programming. It also sounds like it might have been something that Google Knol might have expanded into, if the project wasn’t shelved last year. It’s an interesting idea, that’s for sure, but I’d be loathe to imagine Facebook implementing it. Frankly, I trust Google a lot more with my user data than Facebook (I don’t use Facebook at all for that reason), because Google is a lot more transparent. Yes, they aren’t perfect, no company is, but I’m much less hesitant to sign up for a new Google service than I would be to sign up for a new Facebook service.

    • jbcooley

      StackOverflow was the first thing that popped into my mind while reading this article. It solves a lot of the problems except for the categorizing of the problem.

    • Nick N.

      By the end of this article, I was solely thinking of StackOverflow (and all of their offshoots for different categories).

    • rfvgyhn

      Stackoverflow spawned stackexchange which was my first though as well. Programming, cooking, physics, travel and a lot of other fields already exists and house lots of experts. I think the main difference between SE and the idea in the blog is SE is free. I wonder if money would lure more experts in or push some away.

  • nihir

    Isn’t this the premise of Quora and other Q&A sites?

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Quora is focused on Q&A and there is no monetization for the users. I would like to see a service focused on people and one that allows them to earn a return for their time investment.

  • ibap

    It sounds like you’re looking for a curated site, and that would call for a lot of hands-on activity. Neither Google or Facebook is into that kind of service, and you’d be better off with more subject-specific sources.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      There would have to be some initial curation, but eventually the crowd should be able to curate itself.

  • romy134

    google fatigue? whats that? a lack of more google?

  • Tony

    You could have just told him something like Yahoo Answers on steroids, and then state the differences. Think any of us would have stumbled a bit talking to a tech billionaire but it is a nice idea.

    • Tony

      or Yahoo Answers meets wikipedia.

  • keithp

    Great opening story.

    I like your determinism and your idea, I hope Zuckerberg does too.

    • Layale

      Steve Jobs would have definitely developed this idea. Understanding the customer’s needs was one of his principles. Good Luck Taylor :)

  • irishrally

    We already have this. They are called “forums”.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      And there are a million forums with millions of threads. No real way to identify who each user is and verify what topics they are knowledgable about.

      • irishrally

        It’s really not that hard to figure out who the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are, and most forums have member ratings to help with this. I don’t need a mechanic any more for 90% of vehicle repairs, and it’s not because I’m a mechanical genius, it’s because there are SMEs out there with a passion for their area of interest and a willingness to help others. It sounds like you are looking for a shortcut to information that is readily available. Never buy any home audio without going to audiogon first, etc. …

        • irishrally

          It’s like if 30 years ago you write an article saying, I really wish the local library hired 30 more people that have collectively read all the books because I couldn’t be bothered finding the book and reading the book with the information I need.

        • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

          I think you are proving my point. I have never heard of audiogon, but it looks like a quality community when I just visited the site. All these communities and SMEs are too fragmented, and there is not a common ecosystem that brings them all together.

          • irishrally

            And you mine. The information is out there and readily available. For the people that aren’t willing or capable of putting in a small effort to seek out this information (find and read the book in the library by themselves) then they can ask a friend/family member/co-worker that can point them in the right direction quite easily. Those same people also probably wouldn’t be able to figure out that the app you are suggesting exists. I don’t think a paid service (Cliffs Notes) like you propose is necessary for most of us, but on the other hand I’m sure there are still a few people that pay for a Consumer Reports magazine delivered by snail mail to their house every month.

        • Richard

          Yeah, really, only go to the local dealer to listen to his stuff, buy on audiogon sight unseen. You’ll save some

          • Richard

            Dough. Screw the local dealer. He only sponging rs the little league raises money for local under privileged. Kids. One day we can get everything cheap online. Won’t that be cool.
            You certainly will never have to Worry about being referred to as the greatest generation. If you are capable of looking past your own ego, try to look at where we are heading. Good luck da

  • skryptus

    What you ACTUALLY want is a Search Engine for People (any kind of store concept with people sounds wrong). And, although I get your point, there’s a problem with your concept: everyone is biased.

    Following your example of the highly specialized washer repairman, you can have two extremely specialized repairmen, but one of them has had an awful time repairing Samsung washers 15 years ago. The other can have had a bad go with LG washers last year. Regardless of how both brands had evolved since 15 years ago, both would swear-off one of the brands due to their experience with them. And, if the Search Engine selected the first repairman, his opinion would be biased by an outdated experience. In conclusion, as knowledgeable as they both might be, their knowledge is both limited to their experience with the brands and biased by the experience – and often times, peoples’ bias are actually grudges that live on far longer than they should.

    A good non-theoretical example of this is the reputation of Acer in the laptop market (well, at least here in Portugal it’s like this): when I have a conversation with a couple of IT-savvy guys about the Acer, it’s usual that at least one of them reports an awful experience with it (PC broke down, went all the way to Spain to get repared, took 4 weeks to change a simple RAM module, stuff like that) and the other a great experience with it (4 years without breaking, never had that with the more expensive brands, had one problem and although it went to Spain they got it back real fast and kept me informed all the way through, etc.).

    Another issue with your idea is there are too many variables with someone’s opinion. The opinion of the repairman is based on the failure rate of the washing machine, but doesn’t cover its usability. And although for me it might be almost a moot point, since I don’t use all that many features in a washing machine, for my wife, stuff like half-load, pre-wash and I don’t know what else might be essential features.
    And even if you go to someone who reviews washing machines, it’s not gonna be a perfect fit. People have preferences (again, from past experiences, but also from hear-say and, want it or not, publicity has a weight to it, subliminar as it might be). People have priorities. What’s acceptable or even great for one reviewer might be a bad idea or passable for another. And how do you decide which is best?

    In the end, I prefer using a regular Search Engine because, although I don’t get the answer straight away and I lose a lot more time than I’d like (the time I’ve spent looking for guitars and amplifiers I never got around to buying!), I have the benefit of looking at many perspectives (often in different types of media – reviews, forums, Youtube hand-on reviews, etc.) about the same subject and choosing which ones are more aligned with my needs before deciding for myself.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Great feedback. You are correct that there could be multiple people with the same knowledge and each one would have their own bias. Ideally the system would allow for detailed profiles so I could see if any of my friends (or their extended network) had interaction with either person. I think location and other details that people agreed to share would assist in matching the user with the right person. Availability would also be a key deciding factor. Sometimes you just want an immediate answer, and other times you would be willing to wait for a specific expert.

  • Michael

    I see a major problem with this.

    It’s called “liability” as in “negligence” and as in “risk”.

    Advice is nice until it becomes “official”. Especially if you’re paying for it, but even if you’re not.

    The risk for liability due to negligence will be huge. And costly.

  • smeghead68

    Great idea…..but how do you weed out the trolls and jerks. For the most part most people on the net a generally helpful. However there are individuals out there who are just not helpful and possibly cruel.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      There would be a reputation system that shows which people you could trust and weed out the trolls.

  • etche

    And why did you present the idea to Zuckerberg and not build it yourself from the ground up?

    I think it’s a great idea and the same happens to me. I always try to find answers to my questions dodging advertised comments, or basic review type answer. I usually need some objective and informed opinion and its not so easy to find in the web.
    For example one thing I like about this Android is that you con read the editor’s opinion.. there are lots of editorials and not just reviews and news taken from other places.

  • aranea

    I think it may end up leading to two unwanted extremes: 1) Very narrow point of view due to early adapters gaining reputation and then people choosing them over new comers most of the time. Then these people can be “influenced” by the reviewed groups such as restaurants (remember doctors get a lot of free stuff from drug companies). 2) Real experts may not have that much time to answer questions immediately by voice or text so you get answers from the non-expert experts with a lot of free time. For example, I work with demyelination diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS). If I get a question about say stem cell therapy I would be happy to answer when I can but I can’t do it immediately most of the time because I’m doing experiments.

    Note that these two outcomes aren’t mutually exclusive. We may end up with a narrow and non-expert advice.

    I think a system more like IMDB or Amazon reviews where users rate the answers and more experienced reviewers comments weight more is a better solution.

  • Nexus 5 please

    Hi Taylor… This is what i would have said to the big Z ;-)
    “Do you think you could implement better/more filters in the Facebook people search bar? More specifically find people per their profession or hobbies.”
    “You could then send a simple message to the people you think would be able to answer your question, but only if they opted-in.”

    Like Taylor said, only a good rating system would make this project viable and credible.
    One last thing, I don’t think anyone would want to pay for this though.

    Keep up the good work, Android and me FTW ;-)

  • donger

    Doubtful, everything in the future will be run by robots. Someone might make a app for this but it’s not going to go anywhere. Apple or Google might be the first to this than Facebook would.

  • Steve ‘Chippy’

    As an expert who wants to earn money from his skill I have always looked for simple solutions to the problem but at the end of the day you have to open your own shop-front. You need to write. You need to blog, you need to be on the social networks, you need to go to conferences and you need to prove yourself. A simpler method will just attract people that are lazy. The returns won’t be as good. I’m lucky that I’m an expert in a product-range so I can simply send people links and get a kickback from Amazon or use ads around my content. My shop-front is my blog and SEO is what I think about when I write as an expert. It’s tough though because there are a lot of content writers that aren’t experts but do good self-promotion and SEO so a system of ratings over time would be very interesting,

    As someone that is looking for expert advice I agree it’s hard. I also work with a company called Larovo that is allowing experts to build their knowledge into product buying advisors. This is a great solution but if you’re looking for a one-to-one with someone it’s harder. Topsy’s experts lists work well (but no one really uses that) and of course, Facebook is great and important. Google searches don’t work well although you can find blogs and then use the experts on those blogs.

    One thing I will be doing after this is making sure I have the ‘expert’ keyword well-covered at my blog!

    And if you want to know, I’m an expert on Ultrabooks and ultra-mobile PCs.and have been living from my expertise for 6 years.

  • AvatarZ

    This is what Aardvark was – until google bought it and closed it

  • dwilson6

    I agree that there are a lot of questions and challenges in bringing this idea to life at the scale you propose, but I do think it is possible. There is a language learning community called Live Mocha that is based on a similar concept (livemocha.com). People go to learn new languages and in the process offer up the language skills they have by helping grade spoken activities and interacting.

    To create what you envision, you would need the scale of Google or Facebook and they would have to surface information about people’s skills and hobbies.

    In a way Wikipedia is similar to your idea except it involves a static display of information instead of human interaction and gives you tons of information instead of a focused answer.

  • Helio

    Isn’t this called Yellow Pages?

  • Panzerstadt

    What about an evolution of AMA (ask me anything) on reddit? Still quite surprised no one mentioned it.

  • Brook Marin

    I just ran across this site after reading your article and it sounds like a decent fit to what you are asking for: http://www.pearl.com/

    If you are an expert in a specific area you can sign up to be paid to answer questions. Users pay per question or have a monthly account to ask unlimited questions.