TaskRabbit

A notorious rock 'n' roll manager had three rules that he lived by, though only the third can be printed in polite company: Figure out what you need to get done and hire someone who can do it better. Granted, that's only applicable if you're in the position to hire – but if you are, then TaskRabbit is the answer to all your prayers.

TaskRabbit is an online marketplace that allows people to outsource virtually any task, from the mundane ("fix my faucet") to the complex ("rewrite an article for me"). The process couldn't be easier: You post your task, with the option of setting your price or leaving it blank, and then you let various potential employees – a.k.a. "rabbits" – bid on the gig.

Once the bidding begins, you factor in price and reputation and make your choice. Rabbits take great care to nurture reputations for punctuality, competence, and, most important, trustworthiness.

To try the service, we started with something simple: Arranging for a bedside table purchased on Craigslist to be picked up and delivered. We hired a 25-year-old grad student and advanced him the cost of the item via PayPal, so he wouldn't have to go out of pocket. We were taking a risk that he wouldn't show up, but his profile proved legit and the transaction went smoothly.

Next, we challenged the service with some dangerously tilted bookshelves – a tricky blend of a slanted floor and an old, warped Ikea Billy bookshelf unit. For our Rabbit, we chose an experienced carpenter, willing to work for $50. He showed up and patiently, carefully solved the problem, and because the fee was fixed, we didn't need to watch the clock. When finished, he asked if there were any other lingering problems. Sure enough, there were numerous small things that had been in disrepair for so long that we no longer noticed (loose door knobs, leaky faucets). On the spot, he bid out the rest of the jobs ($20) and even threw in a few for free.

TaskRabbit also has gift cards, an ideal present for the man who has everything but the time and energy to install his new Blu-ray player. [TaskRabbit.com]