So: older users are heading for their computers -- but how to make it easier for them to do so? A few months ago I offered the idea that for tech in their home, support to seniors would follow the model of 'GoToMyPC', a product from Citrix that enables intentional sharing of a PC with another individual or remote access to your own PC. I was trying to make the analogy that seniors who 'opted in' to permitting this could get help with any in-home technology through remote connection by a service provider -- a home care agency, a geriatric care manager, a home automation technician, or even a tech geek to help with home networking problems.
Well, here is another business model that may apply to all kinds of expertise in the aging in place world. CrossLoop is a venture-funded California company launched in 2006 that, like Citrix,offers a remote control product -- downloadable for free to enable remote control sharing (and troubleshooting) of Windows PCs. But it uses this tool to deliver its real offer -- the Help Marketplace, a registry of thousands of freelance technical experts who charge by the hour and use the CrossLoop tool to help you with any of a variety of tasks, like cleaning up and organizing files, learning how to organize digital photo directories, or install anti-virus software. with their service rated by consumers.
The company claims to have over 15,000 helpers in more than 100 countries offering help in networking, Windows support, iPhones, photo management, and there is a search box to enable you to search for helpers with other skills. Charges for technical help ranging from $5 to $50/hour. As Walt Mossberg noted in his Wall Street Journal review,the user interface is a simple set of icons -- Find a Helper, Share Your Screen, Problem Fixed! Customers rate the 'help' experience -- contributing to the numbers of support calls and ratings that are displayed when searching for experts. Here is CrossLoop's video on how to use it, which is helpful for reassuring seniors and family about how it works.
There are plenty of places to post problems and find solutions to technical issues on the Internet, CompuKiss (Kiss = Keep it Simple Stupid) has a message board for technical help questions and answers. Seizing the opportunity to use remote control tools to grow a tech consulting business, HiWired and Support.com offer PC service contracts and subscriptions and problem solving consulting with their own cadre of support techs. There is a charmingly-named "Help for the Computer Shy" website that sells training videos like "Gmail for the Computer Shy". And another to help seniors with MACs.
But the CrossLoop model is interesting: a way to find people, not just information, who can help, a transactional (not contracted) customer experience, and a TripAdvisor-type rating system to help wade through the choices (and countries!) of the experts. I like the 'Free Help Bucks' offered at registration as well and the 'gift of Help' packaging. I am looking for more of this remote type of service for seniors -- please let me know if you know of any.