Google to Broker Know-How with Virtual Money and Anonymous Users?

Need advice from an attorney on patents? Have a question about cooking Indian food? Want a document translated, or help building a widget or debugging a program?

Google tells us on one of their corporate information pages that: “Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful. ” But some information isn’t written down on paper, and some skills can only be taught from one person to another.

Imagine if Google set up a site that allows people to search for others with expertise and know-how in certain areas of interest, send requests for help, pay by credit points (virtual money allowing for countertrades or bartering) or actual money, and rate the providers skills or know-how in those specific interest areas? This site might enable people involved in the transactions to remain anonymous unless they want to disclose their actual identities.

A patent application published this week at the USTPO from Google describes how the search engine might set a system like that to “broker” know-how. One of the inventors listed on the patent is Cyrill Osterwalder, who appears from his LinkedIn profile and a January, 2011, presentation on Google and Privacy (pdf) to be Google’s Privacy Engineering Lead.

The patent application is:

Method and Web Platform for Brokering Know-How
Invented by Cyrill Osterwalder and Roger Caspar
US Patent Application 20110153600
Published June 23, 2011
Filed December 20, 2010


A method for brokering of know-how in various formats between users on an electronic Web service platform includes the following steps:

  • Allowing users access to the electronic Web service platform,
  • Requesting registration data from a user on the platform,
  • Managing interest area categories,
  • Receiving user offers for know-how in at least one interest area category,
  • Enabling searches of users for know-how in at least one interest area category,
  • Calculating and displaying a rating in respect of offers in at least one interest area category,
  • Approving to a selected offer an agreed exchange of know-how and a corresponding transfer of credit points,
  • Conveying selected know-how from the provider to the consumer and booking a corresponding transfer of credit points, and
  • Accepting and storing a rating given to the provider by the consumer in respect of the transferred know-how, wherein the rating is assigned to the interest area category of the transferred know-how.

There is not a general rating for a provider but a rating for skills or know-how in specific interest area categories.

The real identity information for a user would be stored in this system, but registered users would be kept anonymous unless they willingly disclosed their real identities to other users.

Company accounts could also be set up on this system, and could be associated with individual users for specified categories of knowledge. This way, a person can offer expertise through their company as well as individually.

Examples of some interest areas listed in the patent filing include:

  • Legal.fwdarw.Patents
  • IT.fwdarw.Programming.fwdarw.Java
  • Sports.fwdarw.Fitness
  • IT.fwdarw.Database.fwdarw.Oracle
  • Social.fwdarw.Language.fwdarw.Italian
  • Sports.fwdarw.Fitness.fwdarw.Power Plate
  • Cooking.fwdarw.Indian

This platform would include a number of pre-defined skills that a provider of services can register under, and a potential consumer of those services can search through. While those consumers can search without registering, they would need to register to participate in a transaction with a provider of services.

There may be a premium level of users who might pay a recurring subscription fee for aspects of the service that free users cannot use or can only use to a limited extent.

An overall rating for a provider on this system might be created for people who offer their knowledge, but ratings are applied to individual skills and know how categories, so that someone who might be rated highly on their knowledge of Indian cooking might be rated much lower on their know how regarding Italian food.

This sounds like a system that people might potentially find very useful, and it has some features that are pretty interesting such as the anonyminity of users, the option to use virtual money, and the wide range of know how that might be brokered within the system.

It’s also interesting that Google’s Privacy Engineering Lead is one of the people behind a system that allows for anonymous transactions in this manner.

Would you use a system like this, either as a provider of services, or someone looking for help?


Author: Bill Slawski

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