Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, June 5, 2000

Live and professional expert advice on the web

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June, 2000

In this article:

1. Expertcity
2. ExpertCentral
3. Service 911
4. Frenzi
5. KnowPost
6. Keen
7. Webhelp
8. EXP
9. AskMeHelpDesk
10. AllExperts
11. KnowAll
12. MyHelpdesk

Expert services and expert advice on the web, maybe very likely one of the venues through which we will be earning part of your income in the near future.

Most of us do have some expertise in some key areas, and most of us would be willing to share such know-how with any individual or company willing to pay a fair price for our successful insight. The web is making this possible for the first time on a global scale, allowing capable individuals and their true merits shine in a meritocratic, and customer-rated efficient universe.

Expertcity is specialized on computing-related topics. Everyone says to ask a smart friend when you can't solve a computing problem, but what if your friends aren't that smart? Ask your question at expertcity, and you'll instantly get back several bids from live experts who will tackle your query for a fee. You pick one, and then you start a live chat. You can even surrender control of your screen (via a downloadable utility) so that the expert can fix the problem while you sit back and watch. If you're satisfied, you pay via credit card.

To give you an idea of how simple and effective this interaction /service can be, let me share with you the official transcript of a free-trial expert advice session, which Master New Media contributor Massimo Curatella has engaged himself with while on a mission to a remote south-east Asian island but still working in team with his office back in Italy.

Massimo> Hello! I am ready
Massimo> Hi, This is Massimo Curatella.
Brian. D. Darnell> Hi Massimo, welcome to ExpertCity
Massimo> Hi Brian. Thank you, I am very excited.
Brian. D. Darnell> Go ahead and open teh web page you have been working on
Massimo> Done.
Brian. D. Darnell> I would like to see the problme
Massimo> You are right but, unfortunately I am not able to reproduce it on this machine. I am far away (Thailand) from my office (Italy) and i was trying to support my remote team by looking at this problem they have encountered at headquarters in Rome. I do not know if, however, you have an idea on why this problem could happen.
Brian. D. Darnell> You want me to fix the HTML problem without being able to see it?
Massimo> I understand. Maybe my question is too cryptic. No problem Bryan.
Brian. D. Darnell>
Massimo> Disconnected?
Brian. D. Darnell>
Massimo> experc
Massimo> hello?
Brian. D. Darnell> Sorry Massimo
Brian. D. Darnell> Sorry Massimo, it looks like we were disconnected for a moment
Massimo> So, my only, ok no problem.
Brian. D. Darnell> I would like to try to help you with your problem.
Brian. D. Darnell> it is a little difficult without being able to see it
Massimo> I understand.
Brian. D. Darnell> go ahead and describe what is going on and I will try to help you
Brian. D. Darnell>
Brian. D. Darnell>
Massimo> Yes, but are you able to see my browser?
Brian. D. Darnell> yes
Massimo> ok. now I will maximize the screen with IE and show you the page to fix.
Massimo> Can you see it?
Brian. D. Darnell> yes
Massimo> ok, the problem should arise when you click on the static "fictitious" links, or when you press the "Back" and "Forward" buttons. You will see some code show up shortly on top of the page being displayed, and as magically it will then disappear.
Brian. D. Darnell>
Brian. D. Darnell> I am sorry Masimo, I don't know what your problem is
Brian. D. Darnell> I can hardly even picture it in my head
Brian. D. Darnell> I though have a feeling that our connection or setup doesn't allow us to see anything that "fast".
Massimo> Maybe you are right.
Brian. D. Darnell> may I move your mouse for you so I can take a look?
Massimo> YES PLEASE.
Brian. D. Darnell> I wasn't able to pinpoint the exact problem, because I do not have enough time (note:this is a first time-free session you can get from any expert available - only 10 minutes though) to look through all of your Javascript code, but i do have an idea
Brian. D. Darnell> I think it is the javascript
Brian. D. Darnell> I would debug your code thouroghly if I were you
Massimo> this is very interesting, how do you know that?
Brian. D. Darnell> There is a piece of unsupported code in your Javascript but it is not being flagged as an error
Brian. D. Darnell> just by the symptoms
Brian. D. Darnell> The fact that the HTML code shows up for a few seconds
Massimo> AH!
Brian. D. Darnell> It is not reading the code as code, for a split second, it is displaying it as text
Brian. D. Darnell> That would mean that it is not recognizing a piece of your code
Massimo> Very interesting.
Brian. D. Darnell> I would say it is probably a small error in the script
Brian. D. Darnell> e.g.: a missing quote or something that is letting it get processed but it is, for asplit second, not validated as proper code, and as such it is rendered as text on the screen
Brian. D. Darnell> I am sorry that we don't have enough time to debug the whole page but I think if you have a general idea of what it is, you should be now able to find it
Brian. D. Darnell> I am gald the session did work out
Brian. D. Darnell> I was afraid I was not going to be able to help you
Brian. D. Darnell> I would appreciate if you would rate me positive and would give me a short review and feedback on the session and the service I provided to you, after we close
Massimo> Brian, I think your thoughts have a good logic behind them, and I am impressed by your competency: I think you were verY NEAR the problem.
Brian. D. Darnell> a web page will open after we close
Massimo> Thank you very much, indeed.
Brian. D. Darnell> You are welcome, I aprreciated it.
Massimo> Absolutely, THANK YOU.
Brian. D. Darnell> would you like to close this session or shall I?
Massimo> Brian, sorry. I would like first to save the chat log, then we can close.

(This is the transcript of a live chat session which lasted about 15 minutes.)

I think you get the idea.
Anyway you are free to test it out yourself, for free, anytime you wish. Go to:


There's something of a Q&A phenomenon going on out there.
The Web's power as a communications tool (rather than as a publishing platform) becomes really obvious at many of the expert-advice sites reviewed below.

Click here to go to the top of this page !


A main competitor to is One difference: The 5,600 experts here can ask for a fee or submit proposals for a project ("I'll plan your trip to the Costa Rican rain forest for x dollars"). The site takes a 15 percent transaction fee for any money paid to experts.

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Service 911 This site wants to help you solve your computing problems, and like, it's willing to provide real live human beings to help you get the job done. Have a question? Check out a video tutorial.
Not good enough? E-mail your question and an expert will answer within a day. Not fast enough? Chat live with an expert who will tackle your questions. Still stumped?
Ask an expert to come to your home or office (the one service that you will, in fact, have to pay for).

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Frenzi uses an enforced barter system to fill its database with questions and answers. You start with 3,000 credits to get your questions answered, but eventually you'll have to answer questions to earn more credits. You earn 100 credits for each answer, and you need 300 credits to ask a question, because you always get three responses. Whether all this overhead leads to a more complete or high-quality question-and-answer experience than you can get at a site such as is unclear.

Click here to go to the top of this page !

KnowPost is another site that uses an enforced credit system. You receive credits for answering questions and spend credits in asking them. encourages a lot of irrelevant or padded answers, where users post answers merely to increase their credit. The site is free, however, and high-quality answers are available if you expend the energy to find them.

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Keen also starts you out with some free credits. But in this case, the credits are actually minutes, because you'll be talking live to the expert of your choice via telephone. (The site sets up and routes the calls, so participants don't find out one another's phone numbers.) Experts can choose to set their information rates, so you'll be spending money eventually unless you decide to list yourself as an expert, too.

Click here to go to the top of this page !


You can also have a live experience at This site is sort of an AskJeeves with a real live Jeeves. You type in your question and wait (sometimes several minutes), and then a chat window opens and you begin a dialog with a live human who will either answer the question or (more likely) start recommending Web sites for you to check out. One nice touch: A summary of your expert chat is e-mailed to you after the session ends.

Click here to go to the top of this page !

EXP is the upscale cousin of free expert sites. You'll pay to get answers here, but you'll also be guaranteed that you're connecting with quality experts, either via e-mail, chat, or a telephone hookup (your number is kept private). You can either post a public question and let experts bid down the price of an answer, or scour expert profiles and ratings until you find the person who's perfect to tackle your challenge. You only pay if you're satisfied with the information you've received.

Click here to go to the top of this page !


One other place to try is AsKMeHelpDesk (, an online expert community where you can ask questions in any topic and have them answered for free by experts. To ask questions or participate in answering them you must register for a free account.

Click here to go to the top of this page !


Meanwhile, two of the top ten topics on are boy bands, so it may not be the best place to start for hard-hitting advice on complex topics. But all the questions and answers here are free.

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More a virtual expert than a human expert, KnowAll ( is a software package ($89 direct) that searches the Internet to find the answers to your questions. It uses a natural-language reasoning technology to match the context of a question with ideas to find actual answers and links. The results are stored in a personal database that you can save and recall later. The service is currently a little spotty, but once the glitches are ironed out, KnowAll will be worth keeping in mind.

Click here to go to the top of this page !


Why not create your own personal -- and free -- help desk, with links to all sorts of resources related to all the applications and peripherals you use? At, 2,200 products are covered. You get quick access to vendor resources and phone numbers, chat rooms and message boards related to each product, instant access to the latest tips, updates, and news about the apps you use, and FAQs for each app and product. It's an excellent resource that can help alleviate some of the daily pain of your computing life.
I found this service very effective and useful, especially for the fact that it organizes a very well setup customized page of resources and links for all of the specific software and hardware products I and my company work with.

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Other support services:

Be Your Own Expert
Long before the Web came along, people vented their opinions and advice in newsgroups. In the Web era, those types of conversations continue, of course, but they've also evolved into megasites like, which started as a newsgroup viewer but is now a forum for reader reviews and ratings in countless categories from computers to travel and entertainment. Want to know what hotel to choose at Disney World and why? is a good place to sample popular public opinion. But if you want to ask a specific question and get a specific answer, you'll have to dive into the site's newsgroup-like discussion forums.

The quality of the opinions at is especially good, because the people who write them (and you can certainly be one of those people) are hoping to make a little money. Individual "epinions" are rated by readers, and the highest-ranked reviews float to the top. Writers get paid a couple of cents whenever one of their epinions is read, so they have an incentive to write well and thoroughly.

Readers' Comments    
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posted by Robin Good on Monday, June 5 2000, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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