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May 27, 2005 4:45 AM   Subscribe

AskGod.com Forget Jeeves. For $25 a month, you can soon call a googling "angel" from your mobile phone with questions. According to the press release (pdf): "Soon, with the coming of Ask God, the prayers of all the data-starved will be answered and the prophecy of information on-demand will be fulfilled." In a country caught in the grips of religious mania, is this smart marketing or tone deaf? And with the web increasingly on our phones already, who's going to pay for this?
posted by CunningLinguist (87 comments total)

 
I tell you what, though - if this is successful, I'd love to work for them. Sitting at home all day, fielding calls from people who want you to google the capital of Uruguay, etc., raking in the dough.
posted by Marquis at 4:57 AM on May 27, 2005


*ring ring*

"Hello, askgod.com"

"Why did my baby die?"

*click*
posted by felix betachat at 4:59 AM on May 27, 2005


I'd call it smart marketing. Most folks can appreciate the humor.

The fundy extremists aren't that numerous, just very vocal and currently in control of some of the levers of power.

Job requirement: Great googlefu.
posted by nofundy at 4:59 AM on May 27, 2005


I kind of think $25 might almost be worth it for a month of being able to get huffy with them when they can't answer "what's the meaning of life" and "how's gramma doing in heaven" type questions.

On preview: okay, felix did it better.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:00 AM on May 27, 2005


Hmmm. It's not listed on the Contageous Media site, but it would fit just fine there.

The WHOIS data shows the address of a car body shop in Texas (17899 Preston Road / Dallas, Texas 75252). That doesn't seem to fit the high-tech model quite right.

Interestingly, "Adam Alfia" is the guy on the press release and he is also related to the service station (See the caption on "Drop Down Car Lights Hand Built By Adam Alfia").

Seems like our car-servicing friend has found God.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:00 AM on May 27, 2005


Now I'll never have to worry about where I left the keys or where the other #$^@#$ sock is hiding.
posted by DaShiv at 5:01 AM on May 27, 2005


Who will use this? Uh, ME!
posted by JPowers at 5:04 AM on May 27, 2005


On a lighter note, AskDios.com is still available. Rumor is that he'll do it for free.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:05 AM on May 27, 2005


Most folks can appreciate the humor.

yes, but it has obviously blown right over the heads of Cunninglinguist & felix betachat! fortunately for them, there's TalkToAliens.Com.
posted by quonsar at 5:08 AM on May 27, 2005


Interesting biography of AskGod.com contact-person Adam Alfia here. Seems quite the go-getter. I'm starting to think this might be a bit more "legit" (as in not a contageous media site). He looks so wholesome in the photo (I'm assuming he's the one on the far right).
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:08 AM on May 27, 2005


Interesting, by typing "askgod" in the address bar in firefox, I went to this site...where they seem to have considered this concept in the past....
posted by HuronBob at 5:25 AM on May 27, 2005


q - that rocks!
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:25 AM on May 27, 2005


AskJesus seems to be working out some kinks....

askthedevil is coming soon...

askgoddess is up and running... but, states "Disclaimer: Do not expect "professional " advice. I am not a doctor, psychologist or even your therapist. I am a "Goddess" "

But, the saddest thing is, Ask George Bush DOES exist!
posted by HuronBob at 5:48 AM on May 27, 2005


but...ask whoever you want , the bottom line is idontfuckingcare.com !
posted by HuronBob at 5:51 AM on May 27, 2005


All of out Angels are college graduates. From the "how it works" page. Uh, maybe the Angels are graduates, but the webmaster might not be.
posted by davidmsc at 6:00 AM on May 27, 2005


Dumbass name. I doubt many people would pay for this.
posted by beth at 6:10 AM on May 27, 2005


God © 2005
posted by peacay at 6:22 AM on May 27, 2005


Not to be confused with Guaranteed Overnight Delivery.
posted by trey at 6:26 AM on May 27, 2005


In the naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamme of Jeeeeeeebus !
posted by elpapacito at 6:34 AM on May 27, 2005


This is Adam's brother, co-founder of this venture. We're getting ready to launch, so this type of commentary is always good to read.

We're betting that most Americans have a good sense of humor and won't go berserk about our name.

CunningLinguist: "how's gramma doing in heaven"

If that answer can be found somewhere on the internet, yes, you will have an answer.

thedevildancedlightly: "On a lighter note, AskDios.com is still available."

Yes, but we have pregunteadios.com preparing to launch...

davidmsc: "All of out Angels are college graduates. From the 'how it works' page. Uh, maybe the Angels are graduates, but the webmaster might not be."

Never fails - there will always be at least one typo on your site. Thanks davidsmc, typo fixed.

CunningLinguist: "And with the web increasingly on our phones already, who's going to pay for this?"

True, you can use your phone for web access. If you enjoy waiting 20 minutes to get a phone number while you navigate a 2 inch screen, this isn't for you. Plus, have you ever gone to a website on your phone's browser? It's true, masochists won't like our service.
posted by kfir alfia at 6:41 AM on May 27, 2005


...or you could just call your local library. Or email them. Or increasingly, you can IM your local library with a question and get an answer. Why pay for something when you can already get it for free? And at your local library staffer doesn't just google shit for you. They actually have access to other resources, too.

How bogus.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:48 AM on May 27, 2005


We're betting that most Americans have a good sense of humor and won't go berserk about our name.

No, you're hoping for a shot on Howard Stern or even *gasp* Good Morning America.

Best of luck with it, but don't try to game this crowd.
posted by felix betachat at 6:49 AM on May 27, 2005


I just see anyone who would be interested enough to need to know *right now* a question answerable only by Googling is likely to have a friend at work or home in front of a computer who they can call to get a quick answer, for free.

$25/month is steep. And the name *will* be a hurdle. You are slicing and dicing your potential market by choosing that name, when no one has even proven this is a viable service people are willing to pay (that much) for.

I thought of this years ago but I would have called it something like DOOD - dial operator on duty. "I gotta call my DOOD for this one, hang on a sec...". Okay, I am a dork. But you won't see me starting a business with "God" in the title, that's for sure.
posted by beth at 6:54 AM on May 27, 2005


Something similar has been around in the UK for about a year now. It's a premium rate text service, which I think, might be a better business model as you only pay for what you use (about £1 per go or something). It has led to a rash of people cheating in pub quizzes.
posted by rhymer at 6:58 AM on May 27, 2005


AskCharlie, with googling "angels". Now that would work.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:58 AM on May 27, 2005


I'm just curious, could it be that "kfir alfia" could be the same Kfir Alfia connected with this? And, if so, does it change how we think about it?

Kfir??? yes, no?
posted by HuronBob at 6:58 AM on May 27, 2005


Of course, if there actually *is* a market for this, watch Google start their own service and eat you as a snack after breakfast.
posted by beth at 7:01 AM on May 27, 2005


Yes, but we have pregunteadios.com preparing to launch...

Dios, man, what kind of take are you getting from this? I thought you were always first to give your opinion out free.

(nothing but love, just saying)

I'm just curious, could it be that "kfir alfia" could be the same Kfir Alfia connected with this? And, if so, does it change how we think about it?

They look related.

The picture of Adam is still more wholesome-looking. Not your fault, Kfir, it's just the whole cheesy family portrait thing. You can tell him I said that.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 7:01 AM on May 27, 2005


I'm just curious, could it be that "kfir alfia" could be the same Kfir Alfia connected with this?

OMFGLMFAOWTF! Beauty piece of detective work, HuronBob.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:04 AM on May 27, 2005


which I think, might be a better business model as you only pay for what you use

You only pay for the minutes you use with our service, with a minimum charge of $5/month.

same Kfir Alfia connected with this

Yes.
posted by kfir alfia at 7:05 AM on May 27, 2005


He hates leftists AND libraries. Give the man $25 a month!
posted by Hildegarde at 7:09 AM on May 27, 2005


kfir, thanks for acknowledging this...

Quote from the Protest Warrior FAQ "We thought it would be a great opportunity to see the left in its unalloyed perversity. The left is very skillful when it comes to hiding their true beliefs. They know they can't compete in the marketplace of ideas, so instead they like to work in secret."

Yep, this is the guy I want answering questions for me...but, being a liberal, unable to compete in the marketplace of ideas, I probably won't understand your response...

Personally, you appear to me to be a rather greedy political and religious opportunist in it for the money, but hey, that's just my opinion...

/off to wallow in my "unalloyed perversity", whatever the fuck that is...
posted by HuronBob at 7:12 AM on May 27, 2005


Okay, whoever coined the word "Phoneternet" needs a swift kick to the head.
posted by beth at 7:14 AM on May 27, 2005


And, if so, does it change how we think about it?

I dunno, AskGod.com is still a pretty interesting idea, even if it's coming from right wing lunatics with a bizarre view of history.

$25 a month sounds way too high, though. But I suppose if they have access to Lexis-Nexis, it could come in handy.
posted by cmonkey at 7:16 AM on May 27, 2005


I know someone already tried this, and failed I think. There was a national television campaign with celebrities (well, Robert Goulet maybe) using the service, etc. Ringing a bell with anyone else?

/off to wallow in my "unalloyed perversity", whatever the fuck that is...


I like my perversity chromed to tha maxxx.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:16 AM on May 27, 2005


cmonkey, your local library has access to all that and still won't charge you $25 a month. Clearly they need better PR if this sounds like a good idea.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:18 AM on May 27, 2005


this is the guy I want answering questions for me...

Don't be silly, I won't be the one on the phone answering questions.

Personally, you appear to me to be a rather greedy political and religious opportunist in it for the money, but hey, that's just my opinion...
...
could it be that "kfir alfia" could be the same Kfir Alfia connected with this? And, if so, does it change how we think about it?

Doesn't sound like your opinion has much weight when you have to ask others how to think about something... ;)

Thanks for your honesty though.
posted by kfir alfia at 7:20 AM on May 27, 2005


cmonkey, your local library has access to all that and still won't charge you $25 a month. Clearly they need better PR if this sounds like a good idea.

I know they do. But they don't have off-site access, and I'm frequently far too lazy to go to a local branch just to look something quick up.
posted by cmonkey at 7:21 AM on May 27, 2005


PinkStainless Tail:

I'm fairly sure that was an ad for T-Mobile Sidekick, but didn't involve an "expert service."
posted by ltracey at 7:21 AM on May 27, 2005


Hildegarde ...What the local Library doesn't have is a name connection to an avowed right wing looney to sell the product...

If we could get Rush to hang out at the local Carnegie, they would be mobbed!

and...on preview...it appears that Kifer has taken the bait... fishing has never been so easy.

And, Kifer, that's the difference between you and me...I'm willing to ask others for their opinions, consider the facts, and then make a decision.... try that someday when you're not licking the boots of the right wing.
posted by HuronBob at 7:24 AM on May 27, 2005


try that someday when you're not licking the boots of the right wing.

Getting into a flamewar within 45 minutes of joining has to be a new record.

Umm, welcome to MetaFilter?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 7:29 AM on May 27, 2005


Kfir, you remind me a lot of every half-baked, MLM-loving, silk-tie wearing shit entrepreneur I knew in college. ProtestWarrior didn't make you rich, and if this doesn't make you rich, you'll just start up some other fake-edgy scheme, and another, and another, and another. You are probably a scam artist, and I guarantee that you have committed serious fraud at some point in your life.

Get out.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:31 AM on May 27, 2005


Getting into a flamewar within 45 minutes of joining has to be a new record.

You are probably a scam artist, and I guarantee that you have committed serious fraud at some point in your life.

Get out.


Just testing the protestwarrior/askgod connection. Don't take it personally Hildegarde/Optimus - it's just research.
posted by kfir alfia at 7:35 AM on May 27, 2005


Out.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:37 AM on May 27, 2005


There are times I could have a use for something like this....but not for $25 a month. Don't you think that's a bit steep Kfir Alfia?
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:40 AM on May 27, 2005


"Just testing the protestwarrior/askgod connection. Don't take it personally Hildegarde/Optimus - it's just research." means what???

A lot like many of meaningless statements at "Protest Warrior".

Listen, if you want to discuss this, head over to free republic, they will embrace you with open arms, you can get rich, and stop foisting these cheap plans on the rest of the world!
posted by HuronBob at 7:43 AM on May 27, 2005


I'm fairly sure that was an ad for T-Mobile Sidekick, but didn't involve an "expert service."

I think you may be right there, but I'm still remembering some service where the product was a number you called and real human beings answered your questions on random whatever. They might have also done hotel reservations and other sundry things?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:44 AM on May 27, 2005


I'm still remembering some service where the product was a number you called and real human beings answered your questions on random whatever

Infone maybe? I use it for directory assistance and greatly prefer it over Verizon. It's not cheap, but it's still cheaper than what you get with your cell phone carrier and I think the quality of service is a lot higher. I have gotten movie showtimes and very good directions from them. (or at least usually, there have been a few bad directions too)

They have a whole bunch of additional "features" that I don't use (eg, upload your address book, have them read your email to you, etc)
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2005


Listen, if you want to discuss this, head over to free republic, they will embrace you with open arms, you can get rich, and stop foisting these cheap plans on the rest of the world!

Last I checked, Metafilter was for discussing links. This is a link. It was being discussed until you derailed it.

Telling him to "get out" is pretty stupid.
posted by cmonkey at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2005


There are times I could have a use for something like this....but not for $25 a month. Don't you think that's a bit steep Kfir Alfia?

You get charged $25/month, but the minutes you don't use get credited back. So if you use 60 minutes, that's 41 cents/minute (33 / minute if you prepay). Phone numbers / addresses will never be charged more than two minutes. Compare that to the $1.25 your cell provider charges you for an information call.

And you will be speaking with operators who do nothing all day but find information online.

Telling him to "get out" is pretty stupid.

And ineffectual.
posted by kfir alfia at 7:51 AM on May 27, 2005


And you will be speaking with operators who do nothing all day but find information online.

I'm assuming that they're not working out of the auto shop (supra). Are you setting up your own call center or just reselling from somebody else? Onshore or off?

I don't know how much of this is confidential, but the owner of a link is not something we get every day.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 7:53 AM on May 27, 2005


cmonkey...i didn't tell him to get out..... I suggested he spread his cheer at free republic, I didn't say he had to leave here...

I derailed it?... I felt the tone and intent of this guy's other projects would probably tell us a lot about who he is, what he is about, how he feels about other people.. This guy is a megalomaniac get rich quick type...and when these types are using politics and religion ("ASKGOD" for goodness sakes! give me a break) leaving them to play in the market place without exposure is wrong...

sorry you disagree..

and, there is a service like this in the UK...
posted by HuronBob at 7:56 AM on May 27, 2005


I'm assuming that they're not working out of the auto shop (supra).

Correct.

Are you setting up your own call center or just reselling from somebody else? Onshore or off?

We are setting up a team at a call center in India. We personally visited 15 different call centers in India until we found one with excellent accent neutralization, all college-graduate agents, and state of the art facilities.

We were going to set up the call center in the U.S. at first, but at a price of $25/agent/hour, it was quite cost prohibitive and there would be no way to sell the service at a reasonable rate.
posted by kfir alfia at 8:04 AM on May 27, 2005


Cool, thanks for the info. It's really interesting to see how these things work. I'll let everyone get back to the regularly-scheduled flamewar.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 8:07 AM on May 27, 2005


Question: What's the point of this website?

Anwser: Money changing.
posted by Bag Man at 8:07 AM on May 27, 2005


Infone! That was it. Didn't realize they were still around.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:09 AM on May 27, 2005


Cool, thanks for the info. It's really interesting to see how these things work.

I appreciate the civility.
posted by kfir alfia at 8:09 AM on May 27, 2005


I want the earpiece, the tooth cap mic. and the heads-up display glasses with a portable belt pack wifi connection to homebase/net and voice activated computing. Now.
posted by peacay at 8:17 AM on May 27, 2005


"excellent accent neutralization"
interesting concept... why does it just sound wrong to me...

The average call center worker in India makes about $4,000 per year, for a 40 hour week that comes to $1.92 per hour, you charge $25 per hour for the service.

Nice profit from that, eh Kfir?

I love what you bring to the world, and how you, in your wisdom have found a way to support our country..(well, at least to support yourself)... gotta love you republicans...you're all about doing what is right and making the world a better place...

If Henry Ford had figured out this outsourcing thing, he could have sold cars a lot cheaper...but, then, who would he sell them too?
posted by HuronBob at 8:24 AM on May 27, 2005


opps... too=to
posted by HuronBob at 8:29 AM on May 27, 2005


The average call center worker in India makes about $4,000 per year, for a 40 hour week that comes to $1.92 per hour, you charge $25 per hour for the service.

The average income in India is about $470 per year. That works out that the call center is paying workers almost 10 times what they would get somewhere else. (not to mention training, English classes, not having to work in agriculture, etc)

If Indians hadn't figured out this whole outsourcing thing they wouldn't be moving out of poverty so fast. But, then who would we send our foreign aid checks to?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 8:37 AM on May 27, 2005


that comes to $1.92 per hour, you charge $25 per hour

Call center adds in cost of operation, management, quality control personnel, etc and it doesn't come out to anything close to $1.92 an hour.

"excellent accent neutralization"
interesting concept... why does it just sound wrong to me...


valid concern

some call centers are content hiring agents with thick indian accents, and some rigorously coach their agents to neutralize their accent. We did our homework and got the best.
posted by kfir alfia at 8:43 AM on May 27, 2005


This all brings me to a Pony Request.

It seems your usual gaggle of MeFites is better than some Indians at googlefu anyway and would have a broader variety of search capabilities.

We could set up a Google Answers type thing, to reward the question-answering users, or set up a premium service for question-askers - pay a bit more to have the service available to you on your cell phone.
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:44 AM on May 27, 2005


Sorry for the slight snark, but saying that bringing desk jobs to India is somehow not "making the world a better place" just grates on me. You can argue all you want about working conditions in factories, but this is a desk job that pays 10x the prevailing wage. The booming middle class in India is one of the triumphs of the last 20 years. There's still a HUGE distance to go, but the fastest way to end poverty, starvation, hunger, and disease in India is to bring good stable jobs.

A project like this brings middle-class jobs to India, management jobs to the US (I'm sure there will be US-based administrative and support staff), and affordable services to consumers. It's not displacing any Americans and Indians need the jobs far more. Again, the average income there is $470 per year. Try living on that for a month.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 8:45 AM on May 27, 2005


It's not displacing any Americans and Indians need the jobs far more.

Not to mention, if we were to use a U.S. call center, we would simply not be able to viably offer this service, period.

And saving Americans time and effort in their quest for information in exchange for a profit is nothing to be ashamed of.
posted by kfir alfia at 8:55 AM on May 27, 2005


I appreciate the civility.

as do predatory neo-capitalists everywhere, i'm sure.
posted by quonsar at 9:10 AM on May 27, 2005


predatory neo-capitalists

Okay, now you're either making up words or accidentally quoting Sartre.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:20 AM on May 27, 2005


"It's not displacing any Americans and Indians need the jobs far more"

I'm sorry, I forgot we didn't have any poverty or unemployment here any more.

Let me point out that I have absolutely nothing against those people in India who are trying to move themselves and their country forward. I do have a problem with people that see this as an opportunity to make money. If you want to use the "we're doing wonderful things for these poor people" argument as a reason to outsource jobs overseas, you better have a business model that values employees above profit, your statements here have been about cost.. so get off the highhorse about what a wonderful person you are.

I'm out of this one, admitting defeat at the hands of those with a larger world view than I....

kfir, good job on avoiding all the remarks about the quotes from your other web site, an attempt, perhaps, to correct the stupidity of ever letting the two ventures be connected, it would be terrible to have the 50% of this country that doesn't support your neo-con views connect you with this little gold mine, eh?...

best of luck with this adventure... sleep well
posted by HuronBob at 9:25 AM on May 27, 2005


I know [Libraries] do [have access to things like Lexis-Nexis etc.). But they don't have off-site access, and I'm frequently far too lazy to go to a local branch just to look something quick up.

I'm fairly certain there isn't a single library left in North America that doesn't do phone reference. Give them a call and they'll find the answer to your question, in lexis-nexis or elsewhere.

The fact that this askgod.com sort of service exists is a telling tribute to the need for more outreach and awareness-building about what public (and academic) libraries are for.

/crusading librarian
posted by Hildegarde at 9:30 AM on May 27, 2005


I don't know why I'm even justifying your flamebait with a response, but here we go.

If you want to use the "we're doing wonderful things for these poor people" argument as a reason to outsource jobs overseas, you better have a business model that values employees above profit, your statements here have been about cost

I don't know or care why Safir is hiring people in India. I know two things: 1 - it's not possible for him to hire Americans, 2 - the Indians he is hiring are being paid TEN TIMES the prevailing wage.

Now he could be doing it because he's a wonderful guy. Or he could be doing it because he hopes to make a few dollars for himself along the way. What's funny is that either way good is accomplished. Jobs that would not exist any other way exist, workers get paid 10x more than they would without him, and consumers get better information faster.

It'd be nice if he were doing it because he's a great guy, but the end result is the same either way. People in the US and India both end up better off. It's a win-win. If he makes some dough then it's a win-win-win. I don't think he would bother to take the risk, trouble, and expense otherwise, so I fail to see why one can't do good while also getting personal gain.

This type of trade is a win-win.

I'm sorry, I forgot we didn't have any poverty or unemployment here any more.

The business model simply doesn't work in the United States when you have to pay 5-10 times more for labor. There simply would be no American jobs created if he tried to keep this in the US as the cost would be $100 per month instead of $25. Nobody would pay that and the business would be gone within a month. Now at least there are support and management jobs being created here (an American accountant, lawyer, ad agency, etc etc) instead of nothing. Kfir is paying taxes on any income from the project, which also supports the US, as well as possibly Texas business income tax (I don't know TX law).

The tradeoff is some jobs or none. Not American versus Indian. Global trade is not a zero-sum game.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:35 AM on May 27, 2005


good job on avoiding all the remarks about the quotes from your other web site

I'm not here to discuss the other site with emotionally charged, mean-spirited, nay-sayers. I'm here to discuss AskGod.com with net savvy anonymous posters.

To the latter, I appreciate your feedback. Your comments have been very helpful.
posted by kfir alfia at 9:36 AM on May 27, 2005


If you want to use the "we're doing wonderful things for these poor people" argument as a reason to outsource jobs overseas, you better have a business model that values employees above profit,

You're with us or you're against us!
posted by Kwantsar at 9:37 AM on May 27, 2005


kfir, it appears that you are not here to discuss anything that you don't want to discuss...your choice....

thedevildancedlightly... the logic doesn't hold for me, but perhaps I'm looking at it differently. Personally, I think it is wrong. The justification to outsource overseas that begins with "I can't afford to make it here" somehow falls apart for me. In a closed system, if it cost so much to make a product forcing the price to a level that the people that make it can't afford it, it wouldn't be made...

somehow it seems like a slippery logical slope when we start outsourcing everthing. If our workers aren't working...eventually, no-one is going to be selling anything here in the homeland..

It feels like ignoring this is like ignoring issues like global warming, eventually it comes back to bite us in the butt, but it probably won't bite those that have taken the profit and run...

Perhaps I'm a closet socialist, who knows... perhaps I'm just another "emotionally charged, mean-spirited, nay-sayer"
posted by HuronBob at 10:05 AM on May 27, 2005


somehow it seems like a slippery logical slope when we start outsourcing everthing. If our workers aren't working...eventually, no-one is going to be selling anything here in the homeland..

I definitely understand your concern. I'm not a very good explainer of economics, so you might want to do some independent research, but I'll give you the highlights of why that's not how global trade works. In a case like this, global trade benefits everybody involved.

Here are four independent arguments as to why trade is good. Each of them stands alone, so if you believe in even only one of the four then you are against protectionism and/or mercantilism.

The first argument is that specialization always improves net performance, and it's net performance that counts. Let's say we're roomates. If I'm better at cooking and you're better at cleaning then I should always cook and you should always clean. But if we put a wall up in the middle of our house (ie, a trade barrier) then we both end up worse-off. You end up with bad food, I end up with a dirty apartment. By mutually trading we take advantage of that. But what happens to "our American jobs?" Workers find new tasks that they are better at. Manufacturing is really tough to do in the US for a lot of reasons, labor costs being one of them. So instead of having American workers move items down a conveyor belt, American workers start designing the conveyer belts, or selling parts, or thinking up new business ideas. There is an adjustment that sucks, but there is ALWAYS a better job for an American worker to take.

The second argument is that all of the money comes back to the US through the big cycle of global trade. If Indians are better at answering AskGod.com and Americans are better at creating glitzy advertisements then there is a net surplus created by specialization. The fun part is that Indians don't just stash their money in mattresses, they spend it and invest it like everybody else. They buy Coke drinks, Nike shoes, and Dell computers. Or they buy BP gasoline and then BP employees buy Yankees caps. The money all flows and stimulates further purchasing. The Indian middle class is a huge example of this.

The third argument is that protectionism just doesn't work. It makes industries non-competitive and then soon all of the American companies will either go under or be bought-out. If a European cell phone company can use Indian labor and an American cell phone company can't then pretty soon there just won't be an American cell phone company anymore.

The fourth argument is just a "free trade is good because it helps the poorest by giving them jobs instead of being patronizing by sending aid checks" argument. Put down the white man's burden and just give people good jobs.

Basically, people have been making your slippery slope argument since the invention of the wheel. Once it was about machines, then it was about imigrants, now it's offshoring. As in, "if you make elevators/backhoes/irish/chinese automatic, then it's a slippery slope until machines/immigrants do everything." Well, sure enough all of the elevator operators, ditch diggers, and people trying to pull the ladder up have found other productive occupations.

That doesn't mean there aren't distributional concerns about offshore labor, but it helps to have the right framework for analysis. The problem isn't "them" "taking" "our" jobs. The problem is how to build an economy that will adjust properly and how to make sure that workers have a safety-net to fall back on when they are learning new skills.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:24 AM on May 27, 2005


Perhaps I'm a closet socialist

If you were a closet socialist then you would probably suggest that the workers in India start their own AskVishnu.com site as a collective and sell their services at cost to Americans. The Indians are more poor than the Americans, so the jobs still end up in India. Remember, socialism is a worldwide brotherhood of workers.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:26 AM on May 27, 2005


and sell their services at cost to Americans

and that is a great idea.... although AskVishnu.com is already registered....
posted by HuronBob at 10:31 AM on May 27, 2005


TDDL... thanks for the thoughtful response... well communicated.

Perhaps my perspective is a bit tainted by working in an area where I see folks every day that would jump at the chance to make a decent living, but there are just not enough jobs.

And, I'm sure, that my excessive response to this particular discussion was due to my perception that the site was owned by what I perceived as (based on reading the ProtestWarriors site) an arrogant opportunist.
posted by HuronBob at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2005


And it doesn't really help that he prefers to pick a company that encourages its employees to hide the fact that they're Indian while at work. (Disguising the accent?) Why are they doing that? Are the employees using a mock American accent? I mean, it's not like this service is called "ask a guy in India.com". Where are callers supposed to imagine these people are? In Heaven?

Though I think it's fantastic to refer to these Indians as "God". I'm sure that will go over real well with the target audience.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:51 AM on May 27, 2005


Though I think it's fantastic to refer to these Indians as "God". I'm sure that will go over real well with the target audience.

Even nofundy got that it's a joke. Nobody really thinks they're calling God, not even the very Christian people. It's a fun little name for when you're making bar bets: "You're betting me $5 that Britney has an STD? Okay, let's ask GOD!" Or you're in your car and you're lost and your wife says: "We are so lost that not even GOD knows where we are." So on and so forth.

Would I have picked a different name? Probably. It's a little cheesy for my taste. But nobody is passing anybody off as God.

he prefers to pick a company that encourages its employees to hide the fact that they're Indian while at work.

Frankly, it's easier to communicate with people who have the same accept as you. Especially on a staticy cell-phone that has already been trasmitted through trans-atlantic cables. No offense to people with accents, but y'all need to learn to talk right.

(yes, the "y'all" was intentional, I have tons of family that live in the south and I love them to death but they just talk funny sometimes)
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:56 AM on May 27, 2005


Hey, that's not far from where I live.

The concept is intriguing, and I'd be interested in getting involved (the force is strong with my Google-fu), but I'm in the dee eff dub and not India so, oh well. :(

Good luck though.

(I like the Overseas Service Haus in Frisco, that has the water running down the front windows...)
posted by First Post at 12:19 PM on May 27, 2005


My cell phone number works out to ASK-GODS in letters. Maybe I can shwag a lil' polytheism on the side.
posted by moonbird at 3:57 PM on May 27, 2005


thedevildancedlightly, do you moderate every fucking thread you touch? Or are half of your 30 comments in here the work of an imaginary roommate?

Actually, you're so pro this lame business that I'm thinking that you have some sort of pre-existing relationship with Alfa Romeo or whatever that crypto-fascist idiot's name is. In fact, I think you emailed him about the existence of this thread. You care too much to have no stake in it (even just a friendly one).
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:59 PM on May 27, 2005


kfir alfia, it sounded like a great idea until you opened your mouth in this thread. Then came HuronBob's brilliant detective work. After careful consideration, I have reached the following conclusion regarding you and your ideas:

YOU FAIL IT!
posted by nlindstrom at 5:02 PM on May 27, 2005


I second Mayor Curley's question.
posted by nlindstrom at 5:03 PM on May 27, 2005


Actually, you're so pro this lame business that I'm thinking that you have some sort of pre-existing relationship with Alfa Romeo or whatever that crypto-fascist idiot's name is. In fact, I think you emailed him about the existence of this thread. You care too much to have no stake in it (even just a friendly one).

I don't care... but here's 30 more reasons why the business is GRRREAT!

Can I list them again for you? I mean, I don't care, but I just want to get the facts out.

Just in case you forgot, here's why the business is great. But, like I said I don't care.



Seriously? I was just hoping that this guy doesn't come to MeFi and think that people can't have a civilized discussion. The model is interesting. I live in California, have never met these people, and I personally think their business model is going to fail miserably because Infone is better and web-enabled phones are quickly becoming a reality. But that doesn't mean that I can't learn about a car repair shop becoming a dot-com. It's like 1996 all over again.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:32 PM on May 27, 2005


I think you might succeed as long as no-one discovers the link between you and that hysterical other site.

When it comes to information, people want to be able to trust the source. Hence the popularity of Yellow Pages, Google's 'benevolence' etc. Compare with the failed deregulation of directory enquiries in the UK. If people realise that you are connected with a site that spews out rhetoric then there's going to be a level of distrust for at least 50% of them. Seriously. This won't help your corporate image.

If you've got a very big marketing budget, you can "buy" this trust to some extent. But your name will need to be ubiquitous. And the more publicity you garner, the more likely people will be to discover the link.
posted by blag at 6:04 PM on May 27, 2005


Shitty logo, shitty stock photographs, shitty proofreading ("I am looking at a new Ford Explorer and the dealership what is the dealer factory price?").

It's a fly-by-night, a scam.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:22 AM on May 31, 2005


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