Would You Pay Online Strangers to Solve Your Problems?


If you’re the one your friends usually go to for advice, you may want to earn extra bucks helping strangers with their dilemmas too, thanks to Google’s latest venturePrizes.org is a social contest site that combines the psychology of gaming and the crowdsourcing of social media to solve life’s problems.


After signing up with Facebook, Twitter, or email, you can create your own “contest” aka life issue that needs solving. The current list of contests range from the esoteric ($100 for the best poem about otters) to the romantic ($50 for an original guitar score for a proposal) to the creative ($100 for designing a logo for a BBQ team).

In theory, the idea is definitely a fun one: pose a problem or task (help me design my next tattoo or adventure in the Mayan riviera!) and offer a small financial incentive to inspire the Prizes community to help. There’s a time limit (most last up to a month), by which point the designer of the contest can choose their favorite or leave the winner to the most votes.

But in practice, we have a few issues that might interfere with the site’s success.

1) If you’re already on Facebook and Twitter, that means you have enough friends with enough time on their hands to read your status updates where you can pose the same questions for free (which most people already do). So it seems that the audience on Prizes must be limited to the really desperate or really rich to offer $50 for something their GChat buddy could probably answer. In fact, you would probably trust the opinion of those in your network more so than the random people on the site.

2) The people answering are offering their ideas on a public, online platform without being compensated. Though the sites’ FAQ offers a customer support email in case someone thinks their work is being stolen, it seems to us (full disclosure: we make a living off of ideas) that people with the really good ones won’t offer them for free. That means you may still end up losing $30 without getting a good answer for your dilemma.

3) Getting chosen to win the prize is so subjective. Popular votes don’t really mean anything except for how big your social circle is and the person who designed the contest can be totally arbitrary (it’s their cash), which doesn’t give much incentive for people to participate. Unless, of course, you have plenty of time on your hands that you’d be doling out your wisdom on forum boards for free anyway.

Do you agree? Or are we getting our knickers in a twist for no good reason?