|What's in it for the "experts"?|
Beyond the satisfaction of helping others, how should experts be rewarded?
I've seen a lot of suggestions in various feedback threads relating to the role of "experts" i.e. those with the knowledge and experience to provide the answers to questions posted by others.
Of course, most everyone will be an expert at something, so let's be clear I'm referring here to people with deep subject knowledge in their respective niche within webmastering.
Most of the posts have been focused on how/where these experts would be able/allowed to share their experience, but I've not yet seen any thread addressing the elephant in the room: WHY?
In other words, what is in it for them?
The "friendly" model ("oldbies helping newbies") is pretty ancient, and creaking at the seams. Witness all the long-time posters who are not around any more, and who have taken their tens of thousands of collective years of experience with them.
So what can experts get from WW? What SHOULD they get from WW? Their expertise might command hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour in their day job (or "equivalent dollars" if they're using their skills to further their own successful projects rather than working for someone else) so what's the payoff?
My instinct is that the gratification that comes from helping others not only doesn't go very far these days, but it goes less far than it ever has before.
Why? Simple: if you've been on the web 5, 10, 15 years, you've had the experience of thousands of newbies all asking the same questions again and again. And you've probably done what you've felt is your fair share - indeed probably more than your fair share - of helping out.
Sadly, it's like a waterfall of questions fed from a bottomless pool: you live in hope that one day the cascade will dry to a trickle, but as time wears on and the flow gets stronger and stronger, it dawns on you that there will NEVER be a time when the clamour of voices calling for answers will fade away. Nor, it has to be said, do the questions seem to be getting much "smarter"!
So what can replace this? How can the people who are most valuable be persuaded to share and participate? And how can they be persuaded to STAY?
As the old oldies leave, new oldies come around. It's cyclical, I don't think anyone needs to incentivize people to post.
Don't focus on the folks that have left - that's ongoing. Look at the new guard. there's a number of excellent and informed posters that have joined here in the last year alone.
|In other words, what is in it for them? |
Must there *always* be a "this for that"? I think someone looking for a reward would have moved on long ago.
|The "friendly" model ("oldbies helping newbies") is pretty ancient, and creaking at the seams. |
Not in my world. Then again, I'm rapidly approaching ancient. Away from WebmasterWorld, I'm a member of some organizations that thrive on this model. Without the newbies, there would be little growth. Without the newbies, there would be little incentive to sit around and listen to each others "war stories". Without the newbies, the traditions would quickly fade away and the organization (any organization) would have served its purpose and would fade away.
Again, my experiences with this are more with other organizations, which is another way to say I don't contribute a heck of a lot here. But within my experiences I hear almost the same thing from every newcomer. I see the same range of expressions - confusion, fear, anger, bubbly enthusiasm - and I deal with each on an individual basis. It doesn't get old. It doesn't take anything away from me - rather it adds to my own experience. To continue learning I must continue to teach, where possible, and to be available always.
There are a handful of people here at WebmasterWorld who were instrumental in helping me with the knowledge I desired. There are many, many more who were helpful in the application of that knowledge. To the exent that WebmasterWorld can maintain the "friendly" model there will likely be many more qualified 'experts' to guide the newcomer.
Nobody's an expert in every area. I'm an expert in some areas, but not others. And in yet others I'm in the middle, so I both give and get help in the same forum. What's in it for me is that I know enough and am successful enough to handle almost all aspects of webmastering on my own, when I need help, I can always get it here. And before asking a question here, I always try to answer at least one or two others.
AS MBJ says - give help in one's own specialised areas and ask for help in weak areas. I don't believe there are many on this forum who will know everything. The subject matter covered on this forum is broad and the times that I've needed a little guidance, I have also like MBJ tried to give guidance back.
I don't know what consists of an "oldie", but I've been around for a couple of years. I go in spurts here - which is typical for any forum I belong to. I'll post frantically for a few weeks, and then disappear for months, and return to do it again :)
I LOVE to help people. I never expect anything in return. Most of the "experts" I've encountered here are the same. The reason I "disappear" is because webmastering - like many others here - is my "day job" and it's what puts food on the table. The clients come first. Many times I get backed up with work so much that I *can't* make it in here. Any forum I belong to (I don't belong to many, you'll see me here and on the WordPress forums mostly) has the same behavior. it's just due to my crazy schedule.
I LOVE it here. This is one of the best forums I've ever belonged to. I've never had an issue with any other posters on this forum, nor the moderators, even when I've had my stuff moderated.
I don't know if that helps at all, and - like I said - I don't know if I qualify as an "oldie" or an "expert", but I do know that I help when I can. I don't know what I'd do without this forum, so I always believe in giving back. The amount you all assist me when I need it is what I get out of it - I don't expect any further "compensation."
just posted this elsewhere but it belongs here:
Others have mentioned that many of the top web developers elsewhere put together blogs with comments attached. Why can't WebmasterWorld do that?
have a separate "pro blogs" or whatever section. Get the big guns from this place - we all know the 50 names that probably contribute 50% of the content on here - give them each their own blogs. Perhaps have a blog attached to each forum. So you'll have an Apache blog, an Adsense blog, an Affiliates and Advertising blog, each maintained by the 1-2 recognised experts in that field on WebmasterWorld.
and put sensible advertising on the blogs and share the revenue with the blog authors. Give them the incentive to make the blogs as useful a resource as the forums they moderate or contribute to.
I think this would satisfy a lot of the disquiet people feel about the "overbearing rules" on the forum. Have a freer regime on the blog comments, not anarchy no, but far less stringent rules when it comes to link dropping and naming outside resources.
perhaps this would keep both sides of this argument happy.
My point (perhaps too subtle and therefore lost) was that there's been a lot of talk in other threads that seems to "automatically" assume the participation of experts as a "given".
I was simply flagging the fact that it might be a good opportunity to explore ways to encourage/motivate that participation, especially on an ongoing basis. Yes, new experts may come along, but every time somebody with 5-10 years experience leaves for good the community's still losing a valued resource!
OK, posting only as a "contributor" and ignoring any WebmasterWorld-related titles...
I'm sure that the motivation for "helping others" varies widely, and I haven't really given it much thought. But one thing that comes immediately to mind is that the best questions are those that "push" the responders' skills to the limit -- questions that challenge and require the responders to delve into something new.
In this way, I'd say that posting answers at WebmasterWorld has given me 80 years' experience in only eight years -- My "bag of tricks" is substantially larger than it would have been without looking into challenges faced by others.
And in the context of my involvement with a substantially code-related forum, it also helps keep my code-inspection and troubleshooting skills sharper.
So in short, replying to questions makes one think about many issues one might not otherwise have looked into, and keeps troubleshooting skills sharper. Those are two really big pluses, IMO. :)
Agree 100% with Edwin. There are so many ex-WebmasterWorld experts who have no incentive to post here in 2010, because they spend their time answering the same n00b questions over and again.
One type of reward could be...
If you keep the subscription area, you could add some sort of answer rating system, and people with highly rated answers and xx number of posts could get free admission to the subscription area. That way they get something for their dedication and wealth of knowledge and the subscription area gets their expertise as well.
There is a second aspect to this. I forget what it's called, but there's a theory in Economics along the lines of an "expert dilemma" which relates to the problem that arises when a subject matter expert who is very well rewarded in their day job for their expertise is providing information voluntarily for free that they would otherwise be charging BIG money for to regular clients.
So long as they're not thinking in time/money equivalent terms, everything's fine.
But as soon as someone offers them (for example) $20 "for their time" as a kindness (and with, it's important to stress, entirely good intentions), the expert is snapped abruptly back to "reality" and wakes up to the fact that the expertise they've been dishing out is worth (on the open market) hundreds or thousands of dollars, rates which they have already demonstrated they can regularly attain.
It's like chatting to your friend who's also an accountant at a dinner party, and slipping in a couple of questions on a specific aspect of tax accounting. So long as you're just chatting and your friend is happy to provide answers, no problem. If you attempt to make some kind of "payment" for the help, there is a risk that they will realise that the same info they just handed over for free over a glass of wine they billed their last client $350/hour for.
So anything to truly incentivise expert participation needs to be put together in such a way that A) they feel a real and tangible benefit (i.e. it can't be a "fake bonus" of some kind) but B) it should not be instantly measurable in $ terms.
For instance, giving free entry to the subscription area, while a valid suggestion, will have the effect of valuing the expert's participation at $169/year or whatever the going rate is. In other words, it's telling them "you're not worth much"!
And if $169 sounds like a lot of money, just think how much it would cost you to sit down one on one with a true expert in SEO, PPC optimization, multivariate testing, etc. and ask them specific questions that will directly improve your bottom line...
So ideas more along the line of giving the experts a way to gently (but effectively) promote the availability of their expertise i.e. their consulting/design/programming/whatever business might be a more effective carrot. Especially if that promotion can only be earned, not bought (an ad that money can't buy...)
If you call yourself a webmaster, you a master (or expert) at everything! /s
I don't think there should be an incentive. If I go to the Wordpress boards and see that there are a few topics I can help solve with some free time, I don't expect to be compensated.
The incentive to help others shouldn't be provided by WW.
Experts often get recommendations and referrals from the people they help. I know I make an effort to remember the people that have helped me and send them business if I ever can.
|Most of the posts have been focused on how/where these experts would be able/allowed to share their experience, but I've not yet seen any thread addressing the elephant in the room: WHY? |
The information I've gain through this site has completely changed my lifestyle. I've lost thousands of dollars in PPC campaigns, I've owned websites that were a complete flop. But I learned from those mistakes and my success today has exceeded all my expectations.
There are billions of dollars to be made on the web. I don't need billions to be happy, and I'm glad to share that wealth with others. If I can save someone the heartache of losing $10,000 in a week (like I did), then I'm glad to help.
Fantastic video, that. Thanks nigassma!
I have a definite growing feeling of responsibility and genuine satisfaction to adding to the quality of resources on the net.
It is also true that a lot of work is available when you become an accepted authority by contributing. So if you’re looking for the commercial gain, it is there.
I feel no encouragement is needed, it’s just basic human interaction and networking.
As jdMorgan asserts, the stuff that gets me going is new challenges.
I like Webmaster World for the discussion, such as:
pontificating over the latest Google changes
throwing in ideas and experience about increasing ecommerce conversions, or
anticipating changes and trends such as how WebmasterWorld should develop or the future of social networking
Horses for courses, but if it challenges an area of your interest then I think you’re likely to post.
The how-to's for newbie’s are a Google search away, so I rarely post for answers or reply to others basic questions. Does that make me bad? ;-)
I'm not an expert of the sort that Edwin is talking about, but I do know enough to help out some newbies and I have posted a lot over the years. I've often asked myself why bother? (and I've taken time away of several months when I just didn't feel like being here).
|I forget what it's called, but there's a theory in Economics along the lines of an "expert dilemma" |
A nice discussion of this in Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. He uses the terminology Social Norms versus Market Norms.
|Experts often get recommendations and referrals from the people they help. |
I've asked a lot of the experts I've met at Pubcon and many moderators if they get any business off WebmasterWorld, and they've all said "little" or "none".
I think it's more like JDMorgan says - and both of us tend toward more technical forums, rather than the more theoretical SEO forums, so that makes us perhaps a little different from the norm here.
What attracts me to a question is:
- when it's something I know cold and can with little effort on my part help someone out. I've gotten some great thank you notes over the years and I really value that.
- when it asks about something I don't really know or understand and it gives me a chance to look into something I've never encountered, but might encounter some day.
- when it asks about something I think I understand, but realize that I would really refine my thinking and my understanding by trying my best to explain it as clearly as possible.
- the desire to be perceived as a contributor and not a freeloader, so that when *I* have a question/problem, I'm likely to get a response. I first started answering questions in the PHP forum for a simple selfish reason: I figured if I could answer some easy questions, that would free up time for the real experts to answer my somewhat harder questions. That paid great dividends.
There's an old saying: "To learn a skill, study it. To master a skill, teach it."