DIY 2.0: Fountain app is like having a home & garden expert in your pocket

You can quickly get that DIY project unstuck by getting connected to an expert, in under 5 minutes, with Fountain.

This new app promises to make getting one-on-one expert help fast, easy, and even fun, and we've got some beta invites for you to try it out for yourself.

The rise of the internet, with its millions upon millions of pages of text, videos, and images, has moved the DIY movement forward in a huge way, by providing a variety of 'how-to' resources on just about any topic. Anyone who's ever tried to make anything or fix something or repurpose and rebuild things at home can now go to Google and have almost instant access to an incredibly diverse selection of videos, articles, and pictures to help guide them.

However, those of us who consult The Google regularly to find out how to do new things are faced with two big obstacles. The first is that there's an incredibly huge amount of absolute crap on the web these days, and filtering through it to find the relevant and trustworthy information can be a big challenge. The second obstacle is that while the web can give us access to the information, say a video about how to install a new low-flush toilet in your bathroom, it's great for reference purposes, but it's not very interactive. If the setup in your bathroom differs from that in the video (because the previous owner jerry-rigged the water intake to the toilet using some sort of creative cowboy plumbing), there hasn't really been a good way to bring the plumber into the bathroom virtually, so you can quickly get expert advice without it costing a bundle. Until now, that is.

Fountain, which opens in beta tomorrow, aims to help you when you're stuck on a home & garden problem or project, by connecting you live with a vetted expert within five minutes.

The Fountain app, currently for iOS, enables two-way video streaming, partly so you can have a 'face-to-face' conversation with the expert, but also so that you can use the camera to let them see exactly what you're asking about. For instance, you can share a picture of the strange plumbing on that toilet with the expert, complete with any annotations you like, or you can stream video of it from different angles, so you're both on the same page. They could in turn send back an image or stream a video of a solution, and a chat function in the app can be used to communicate as well, such as sharing part numbers, links to a repair manual, or exact measurements, etc..

© Fountain
I got an opportunity to talk to the creator of Fountain, Aaron Patzer (founder of Mint.com), and to try out the app last week, and I was pretty impressed (says the guy who spent hours online a few weeks ago searching car forums and YouTube videos for the answer to my auto electric woes).

"Think of it as having an expert in your pocket that you can work with 1-on-1 through video chat, text and photos with annotation. You can show a room to an interior designer with live HD video, and talk through options, prices, and style choices; or work with a gardener on implementing organic or biodynamic practices." - Patzer

The ability to not only have a voice conversation and video chat with someone who knows what they're talking about, but to be able to share photos of the issue and annotate them to point out the issue, plus the ability to use the video camera to 'show and tell' the problem or project, is a big step up for DIY help. And when you add in Fountain's goal of connecting you to an expert in 5 minutes or less, it beats the heck out of most alternatives, such as hiring someone to come over and do it for you or show you where you went wrong.

One of the features of the app that's not so obvious is that it is built to recognize natural language ("plain english") and determine the context. So when you go to ask your initial question, say, "How do I wash my greyhound?", it knows that you're asking about a dog, not a bus, and will connect you with a pets expert for advice. The other really useful element of Fountain is that not only do they aim to connect you to an expert in under five minutes, but the cost (free now, until it's out of beta) will be just $5 per question with a knowledgeable expert in that field.

Anyone can sign up at Fountain, which launches publicly tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 25 at 9am ET), but only a few thousand beta users will be able to test drive it for the first month or so. Because it focuses on home & garden issues, it could be a great DIY resource for all sorts of green living projects (and as far as I understand it, there are plans to expand it to other topics in the future). There is currently a waiting list to be a beta user of the service, but Aaron generously gave us this referral code so that the first 300 TreeHugger readers to access the link from an iPhone or iPad can bypass the waiting list and get immediate beta access, just in time for this weekend's projects.

If you're an iOS user and want some help getting your home improvement projects unstuck, go to Fountain using the link above and download the app, and after tomorrow morning, you can quickly get connected to an expert, right from your phone. And if you've got expertise in a particular area that fits with what Fountain is focusing on, you can also apply to become one of Fountain's experts.

Tags: Do It Yourself | Gardening | Repair

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