For those that aren’t familiar, Wizpert is a platform for chatting with people (Skype, Gtalk and their site) that are experts (referred to as “wizperts”) of specific topics. Earlier in the year I was sent a beta invite to become a wizpert in the category of PHP. I’m not a big fan of giving away my time for free, but I did want to give the platform a shot, if for no other reason than to be able to blog about it. That being said, I gave myself the opportunity to have three conversations before writing this post.
Before getting into my interactions with the users on the site, I would like to mention that over the last few months that I’ve used the platform, it’s been expanded quite nicely. There is now a code editor built in and they now have monetization options so you’re able to actually earn something instead of just helping people out (at the discretion of the person you helped).
So the platform is cool, I do like the idea of one on one conversations and helping people instead of the forum-based pissing matches that you end up with over on StackOverflow. It’s a bit more intimate, real-time and yeah, you don’t have to compete with some IT trolls that want nothing more to do than tell you you’re wrong and not necessarily provide a solution. I like all that, but the interactions I ended up having with people seeking help left me a bit dissatisfied with the service.
I won’t be using names to protect the innocent, but I did have 3 conversations. The first was with someone that didn’t really have a question, they just wanted someone to do the work for them. I’m already undervaluing my time by talking to you for free, and you want me to just hop in and build a security layer around your file downloads? I nicely declined after pointing the person in the right direction on some information on the topic. The fact is, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a developer and was looking for some free labor (if he was willing to pay, I don’t remember him bringing that up. Also, he kept calling me “dear” WTF?!). Even though I pointed the user in the right direction, they didn’t get their problem solved so they left no feedback and did not mark the conversation as being “helpful”.
The second conversation I had didn’t start off all that bad. Just some basic questions about PHP, but the user kept asking questions and I realised that these were homework questions (and really easy ones at that). As someone that has made computer programming their livelihood, I was pretty pissed off at this kid. I let my rage get the best of me and told the girl that I hope she’s not actually considering going into computer programming for a career and that she needs to do her own Goddamned homework. Needless to say, the conversation was flagged as being unhelpful, even though I’m pretty sure I helped her with at least half of that day’s homework assignment.
At this point, I was pretty disappointed with the interactions and went ahead and took to Twitter with a snarky tweet. That tweet sparked an email conversation with Michael Weinberg the Founder / CEO of Wizpert and we had a nice discussion about the platform. I absolutely love the fact that he’s hustling to keep the feedback loop with users tight, that always goes a long way with me so nothing but praise for that. Some of the things we discussed was a way to flag your profile as being “available to hire” to help cut to the chase with some of the users just looking for labor and ways to help block certain users (obviously I don’t want to talk to the homework help girl ever again).
After all of that, I took some time off and earlier this month got back to it. Third time’s a charm, right? Actually, it wasn’t a bad conversation, but it could have been better. This conversation was an actual problem with some code and someone that was capable enough to be walked through some stuff. The conversation itself quickly escalated off of the Wizpert platform and we moved to a direct interaction via Gtalk. The user said they didn’t really like the Wizpert chat because it was slow. I don’t necessarily agree with that statement, but was worth sharing.
I did help the user, it took some time back and forth through the day and we got the code working (not all day, mind you). I probably could have pursued some monetary compensation but opted not to just because I didn’t necessarily want to be on the hook for anything ;) The dude was super cool and has some great ideas and I’m actually really glad to have met him. The fact remains thought that since the conversation moved off of the Wizpert platform, I ended up without any feedback yet again, even though I did help the user. I’m unsure if there’s a way for a user to go back and retroactively add in some feedback or not, if not, that would be a nice to have.
So three conversations later and on the books zero people found me to be helpful. That’s fine, I’m not here to win a popularity contest, but it definitely is discouraging that I can’t at least provide some feedback about the people that I interacted with. eBay figured it out by making their feedback system 2-way to keep everyone in check. I hope down the road that Wizpert implements something similar to help put the riff raff users on watch. Hell, I’m not even opposed to them showing the fact that I got a negative feedback from homework help girl, maybe it would encourage me to not be a total fuckwad the next time I run into someone like that.
At this point, I think the platform would benefit by becoming a resource for finding talent (at least in the tech categories) as two of my 3 interactions were realistically looking for just that (I actually referred some buddies of mine to the third guy since he was looking for a freelancer to knock some stuff out). At the time of this writing, I didn’t see a way to flag myself as available for work on Wizpert, but I can easily see that as a good direction to move towards. Being able to talk to a resource before hiring them is always great and perhaps adding in some aptitude tests on the subjects as well. Could probably rip a little off of oDesk and put a system in place that puts some guarantee the work / payment as well. If I had to speculate, I’m sure there’s a lot of people getting freelance work off the site already, may as well find a way to capture a small percentage of that revenue ;)