Imagine you’re having a conversation with a friend. Happy Valentine’s Day! they say. What are your big Valentine’s Day plans? Oh, is that right? Tell me more. Wait, hold on. Immediately, a third person yells in your friend’s ear: WHAT GOOD BOOKS ARE YOU READING??? SAY SOMETHING PERSONAL. [BARELY HUMAN GURGLING NOISE]
This is an approximation of my experience thus far with Crowdpilot, a crowdsourced conversation app. You sign up, download the app to your iPhone, and tell it what kind of conversation you want to have: a date (iPhone Cyrano, the kind of thing people have experimented with before), a meeting, a “chance encounter,” and so forth. After that, strangers plug themselves in to the desktop end of the site, listen to your conversation, and type advice on how to advance your chat. (There’s also a feature where you can pay someone 99 cents to guide you. More on that shortly.) Talking with your estranged child? Maybe someone will helpfully type in: “Play catch and promise to be there for him from now on!” Or not. You can see a video of it in action below.
The experience is, uh, pretty awkward. For one, there aren’t too many people answering questions right now, meaning you’re stuck waiting for a couple minutes, steering the conversation yourself, until someone drops by. In the meantime, you check your phone, which sits between the two of you and picks up the audio. Maybe if more people go in for the app, this won’t be such an issue.
Before you start your session, the app opens a window to make sure everyone involved in the conversation knows they’re being recorded. I can barely imagine a situation where someone _didn’t _realize the person opposite them was reading questions off their phone, but it doesn’t matter: this is more of a game than a way to seriously get consultation for your issues. (Although, with advice categories like “argument” and “consolation,” I’m not sure the creators of the app see it that way.)
I wiretap-chatted with PopScions about their Valentine’s Day plans, while being fed cues from someone in another part of the world. What follows are edited and shortened snippets of the conversations we had. For the first two, I enlisted the help of a stranger (who I believe but can’t confirm was the same person), and for the third I ponied up 99 cents for the advice.
You can help and/or receive advice here. Enjoy the new _House of Cards _or being with your favorite person.