Toronto’s GigPark launches in open beta

Everyone knows that the best recommendation for just about anything — mechanic, dentist, nanny, etc. — is the one that comes from a friend, or a friend of a friend. In some cases that recommendation might come in person, but more and more that kind of word-of-mouth is being spread via email, blog posts or Facebook messages (not to mention the social network’s ill-fated Beacon “social advertising” project).

A Toronto-based startup called GigPark.com wants to help make it easier to get those kinds of tips, by setting up what amounts to a recommendation network. The site, which has been in invite-only beta for the past several months, just opened up for public use today. The company was founded by Noah Godfrey and Pema Hegan, who got to know each other while working at Dose, the now-defunct entertainment and lifestyle tabloid (full disclosure: I know Pema and Noah, and consider them to be friends).

The principle behind GigPark — which also has a Facebook application — is a simple one. You can post recommendations on the site, if you have a masseuse or a real-estate agent or a mechanic that you think your friends might be interested in using, and you can also ask your friends and the other people in your network to recommend someone for a particular job. Recent requests for recommendations included someone looking for a financial planner and someone looking for a piano teacher.

In many other recommendation networks, such as TripAdvisor or Epinions.com, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to know whether the person who is gushing about a particular product or service is genuine or not. One of the attractive things about GigPark is that those recommendations come only from people you know or have added as friends, making them — at least theoretically — more reliable. And unlike Facebook’s Beacon, GigPark only has recommendations you have made deliberately, which makes it feel a lot less spam-like.

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