Help Me Decide Taps Your Social Graph For Instant Advice

Help Me Decide IconWhether you realize it consciously or not, your level of trust is greatest for your friends and family when it comes to recommendations for products, services, travel destinations and so on. Many people do prefer recommendations from people in media (such as newspapers, radio, TV), but more people prefer recommendations from those we know. It’s this trust that the new Facebook application Help Me Decide wants to leverage for Social Decision Making, a form of Crowdsourcing.

The developer(s) of Help Me Decide quotes in their video (above) that 90% of people trust recommendations from their friends (according to a report by Neilsen Company, dated Apr 2009). Of course, most people probably prefer to discuss important questions privately. Simple recommendations, on the other hand, could be crowdsourced to your online networks, or even to strangers. This is essentially what Help Me Decide (profile, FB app, website) appears to offer.

Help Me Decide Facebook app - screenshot

When you go to the Help Me Decide app page on Facebook, you see the screenshot above. The page shows you some of the questions recently asked by the HMD community on Facebook, and the number of days left for responses. When you click on the “Post your question” tab, you see the screen below:

Facebook app: Help Me Decide question posting page

[Note: If you’re starting from Help Me Decide’s website, clicking the Facebook Connect button redirects you back to the Facebook application. (The Connect button is in German, likely because the developer(s) is from there. The FB app itself tells you to post questions in English, to get more responses. Though if you are only posting to your FB network and everyone speaks the same language, you could pprobably post in any language.)]

Help Me Decide is in the vein of Yahoo! Answers, but with more features, allowing for complex questions and responses. It also it leverages multiple social networks, not just Facebook. Here’s a quick overview of how the app functions:

  1. Choose your language (4 choices, though I’m guessing you could use others).
  2. Type in a question, with the expectation of a single answer, or offer multiple choices for responders. You can let responders add their own choices an images.
  3. Upload images for each choice you’re offering (optional).
  4. For response source, choose between the Help Me Decide community (on Facebook) or your own Facebook network.
  5. If you pick the HMD community, you have to choose a topic from the twelve listed. (If you pick your Facebook network, the topic choices disappear.)
  6. Set a deadline for recommendations/ answers: (1d, 1 wk, 1 mth).
  7. If you want to allow anonymous advice, check off that option.
  8. Want random advice from HMD’s “donkey”? Check off that option.

When you’ve posted your question successfully, you’ll get a screen displaying the text as well as a “social sharing” toolbar. Clicking on the share bar gives you a dialog window similar to that shown below:

Facebook app: Help Me Decide - question share page

The Pros

My first-glance impression of Help Me Decide was, “Seriously?” However, upon giving it a spin and comparing to Yahoo! Answers, I’m leaning towards, “Yeah, this could be useful.” Help Me Decide is easy to use (no sign up!), with a simple interface that lets you ask simple questions or provide multiple choices. You can easily track responses from friends or the Help Me Decide community. You can also share your question on other social sites.

The Cons

Help Me Decide is a work in progress. Here are some of the areas that could use fixing:

  1. Oversharing. Now while I can understand sharing your questions on microblogging platforms such as Twitter, or other social networks such as MySpace, I’m not so sure how the users of social bookmarking, sharing and voting sites such as Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg and over 200 others are going to react to such use of their hallowed ground. Can you imagine the virtual blood that’ll be spilled if Help Me Decide users start regularly posting mundane question to one of the more vocal social voting communities? Things could get very nasty. Why even have such support? Because you can?
  2. URL shortener. I did push my test question to Twitter, but Help Me Decide seriously needs a better URL shortener. This is what my test post uses: “http://beta.help-me-decide.net/q/yevtgk”. Let’s hope support for bit.ly or one of the other popular URL shorteners is added.
  3. Deleting questions. If you want to delete you one of your questions, simply click on the circled “x” icon to the left of the item (in the “Your Profile” page). While you can “Undo” a delete, it might be more comfortable to users if a popup dialog asks for confirmation.
  4. No mobile app. This tool would be far more powerful with an app for one or more of the mobile platforms. E.g., iPhone OS, Android, Palm WebOS. (Facebook Connect IS offered for at least iPhone apps.)
  5. Hard to find. This is a minor issue, but if you don’t already know the URL of the Facebook app, it’s profile page or the main website, it’s hard to find within Facebook, thanks to the multitudes of Groups and Fan pages with the same name.

It remains to be seen how many Facebook users will use Help Me Decide for personal decisions, let alone post quality questions. (Have you seen the nonsense on sites like Yahoo! Answers and competitors?) On the other hand, I can see that an online marketer with large networks on, say, Twitter and Facebook, could use Help Me Decide successfully for polling and crowdsourcing for ideas.