The Problem With Experts…

by Mack Collier

Shortly after I started #Blogchat I decided to adopt a ‘no experts allowed’ policy.  I did this because when someone is identified as an expert, it’s the same as saying everyone else is NOT.  Which also implies that their opinion isn’t as valuable as the ‘expert’s’.  So if the ‘expert’ is talking, everyone else needs to shut-up and listen.

The problem with this thinking is that:

1 – Most people in this space that are deemed to be ‘experts’ are not.  We hand out that label way too generously.

2 – More participation by a community means more learning in that community.  That’s shutdown if we put an ‘expert’ in the middle of the ring and hang on their every tweet.

This graph from Kathy Sierra perfectly illustrates this point.  If we only listen to the experts in a community, then there’s no role for anyone to play if they aren’t a newbie or expert, other than that of lurker.  #Blogchat works because everyone feels comfortable (I hope!) asking questions.  The ‘no experts allowed’ rule hopefully puts those users in the middle at ease, and prompts them to be more active and ask and answer more questions.

Because that’s how we learn from each other.  If we only let the people we deem to be the ‘experts’ answer our questions, then we only get the ‘expert’s’ view of the world.  This is a big problem in the ‘social media space’ because I think we often hand out the ‘expert’ label too quickly, and we tend to stop communicating in the presence of an ‘expert’ too quickly as well.

The problem with experts…is really a problem with the rest of us.

If you want your community to thrive, find a way to get everyone involved.  Because people will stay with a community and become active in it if they feel they are invested in it and appreciated.  By default, I am often viewed as the ‘expert’ in #Blogchat.  This often leads to a lot of questions from newbie and intermediate members.  But I try to flip it around and after I have answered their question, I ask them the same question.  Now THEY are the expert educating ME.  That not only increases my learning, but it increases their investment in this community, because they know they are contributing to its value.

If you are attempting to build a community, via a Twitter chat or something else, think about how you can encourage everyone to ask and ANSWER more questions.  And if you need some more ideas, check out Kathy’s wonderful post on getting your user community more involved at all levels.

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