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eric
12-28-2006, 11:24 PM
i was thinking today about SMEs (subject matter experts), and how we use them to some extent in the business and the consulting firm i work for and how this might be applied to work and benefit those on mac-forums.


the general idea would be this.
anyone who has really deep knowledge in a particular area of knowledge could be listed as an SME (or list multiple subjects). this would most likely be lsited in a users profile, and if they wanted, they could add it to thier signatire. it may be helpful for new people, or even those who've been around a while to find help on a given subject if a thread doesn't appear to be answering a given question. maybe a system where a pm invite could be sent to an SME to join or weigh in on a topic.

now i understand just letting people call themselves SMEs on any given subject may lead to chaos. i would suggest using a few measures to properly administrate this function.

allow only those with X pips to be an SME (not sure how many you'd be comfortable with, but i'd say at least 2, but no more than 5).
use groups. i know the function exists unused now. not sure exactly how it does work, but if groups were set up for each SME type, you could allow certain people into a given group once they've exhibited the proper knowledge of a subject.
mail in resume. create a 'contact admins for SME review' button that would bring up a window where a potential candidate would be prompted to send a note containing at least 5 or 10 threads where their help was thorough, correct, and hopefully timely.


of course you'd want to make sure an area of knowledge was narrow enough to be useful. an example of the possible areas of knowledge i had in mind when coming up with this:

mac operating systems general knowledge
general third party applications
networking and wireless
ipod knowledge
pda knowledge
"office" application knowledge (not ms, but any/all word processing/spreadsheets/workflow/etc)
graphic arts software
audio software
blog/internet networking knowledge
scripting/applescript
etc

you could conceivably break these down further, though i'm not sure how many distinct groups you'd want. even within the list above for example, you could break down graphic arts software into:
photoshop knowledge
illustrator knowledge
gimp knowledge
etc.


obviously since i'm not familiar with exactly how the forum software works, i'm not sure how technically viable this is, or if you all think it would be a good idea to spend any time developing.
i was considering the fact that if the macworld exposure pans out, there many be lots more users here who may need even more specialized assistance. this tool could be a feather in the cap for the mac-forums, making us even more successful as a virtual help-desk for those in need of help. easily eclipsing pretty much every other mac related forum in existence.

thoughts? ideas?

caribiner23
12-29-2006, 07:01 AM
Not a bad idea at all, but I can see how this would lead very quickly to chaos, especially on a site like this one where the idea is that everyone has something of value to add.

Any time someone represents him/herself as an "expert" there will be those who will take it upon themselves to shoot that person down, whether it's for sport, jealousy, or whatever.

Check out the "experts" at about.com: some of them really know their stuff, but others know very little about their subject matter and those forums tend to turn into disasters with sniping and name-calling. This sort of thing would keep the Mac Forums mods really busy.

The problem with basing this approach on the User Reputation System is that people don't use it religiously, and I've seen an awful lot of "logrolling" going on here as well. Basing the system on a person's rep would be more of a popularity contest than anything else. (Someone recently got reps for being an animal rights activist? And that makes them an SME on Macs because....?)

Also, I've seen several instances where people with only a handful of postings have thrown in some excellent ideas and solved other posters' problems where the "regulars" were unable to help. Having a group of SMEs would discourage the occasional visitor from sharing their ideas.

Finally, I believe creating SMEs would bring in a divisive "class" system, and anyone who's been around forums where one group of participants is considered elite and the rest aren't knows that this is one big step towards the demise of the forums.

I joined M-F because it seemed the kind of place that encourages participation from the community. Appointing SMEs, in my opinion, will remove that spirit.

My preference would be to keep the open forums where everyone is encouraged to participate, and create "deep" FAQs on the topics you mention. One very real issue here at M-F is the fact that many first-time posters put up questions that have been answered dozens of times and we point them to the Search function: a library-- maybe a Wiki!-- of answers would be the better answer, IMHO.

Just my thoughts. :-)

eric
12-29-2006, 07:08 AM
good points for sure.
and i agree with pretty much everything you've said (and i was the animal rights example <blush>).

if somethig like this were implemented, obviously it would have to be adminsitrated carefully. and for sure it would be easier to just not do it. but i think carefully implemented it could be pretty neat/useful.

and yes, i do think a library of answers would be excellent!

maybe something stickied in the switcher forum with lots of links (as i've been posting for a lot of the new users) and/or like the thread that was recently started that was a bit more like a f.a.q. (i think i suggested that it actually be stickied).

schweb
12-29-2006, 05:49 PM
Thanks for the idea eric. We'll have to look into the long-term feasibility of this, but it's an interesting idea.

D3v1L80Y
12-29-2006, 05:53 PM
My preference would be to keep the open forums where everyone is encouraged to participate, and create "deep" FAQs on the topics you mention. We did try the FAQ before and I think it did show promise. Unfortunately members seemed to lose interest in this. I wouldn't see anything against giving it a try again. It would be a much more viable option to SME's in my opinion.

schweb
12-29-2006, 05:57 PM
Yes, I think the FAQs would have been great but despite widespread clamoring for such a thing, no one volunteered actively to create a FAQ.

xtophercaa
12-29-2006, 07:25 PM
This is a great idea! Part of our product strategy for Mac-Forums in 2007 is to find experts (and elevate folks that might not know yet that they're experts) in the community to work on content that beyond our traditional message board. This kind of content includes a blog, maybe a wiki, video and audio tutorials, product reviews, commentary and more. And it certainly includes the experts posting proactively (before a question or problem is posed) into the board. Stay tuned.

ToddG
12-29-2006, 07:39 PM
There are FAQ programs out there which would allow the community as a whole (or people specifically authorized, or whatever) to create and maintain the list without needing much high-level involvement for day to day organization or oversight.

Once the initial work was done (who can add to the FAQ? what broad topics to use as an organizational structure) it would be almost too easy.

eric
12-29-2006, 08:51 PM
thanks for the consideration! either way this goes, or in a completely different direction, i think it'll be a really positive thing!

the wiki idea really made me pause for a second there xtophercaa!

ooh! on the subject of f.a.q.s, perhaps a super easy way to deal with this may be to cherry pick the threads that deal with a specific issue really well and move them (with a title correction if necessary) to a dedicated f.a.q. forum where no new threads can be created (only added to).
members could then search one forum first that has more descriptive titles for the individual threads for their specific problem.

obvioulsy this won't stop the panicked user from posting the threads titled "help me!" about not being able to delete a dmg file off their desktops, or the non-internet-savvy from posting willie nillie. however, it may help those with a better idea of how to use a forum like this to find specifically what info they need without having to sort through 100 poorly named threads that may or may not contain actual answers.

in a way, it would be a bit of f.a.q. and wiki rolled up into a low-fi forum version.

caribiner23
12-29-2006, 08:57 PM
This is a great idea! Part of our product strategy for Mac-Forums in 2007 is to find experts (and elevate folks that might not know yet that they're experts) in the community to work on content that beyond our traditional message board. This kind of content includes a blog, maybe a wiki, video and audio tutorials, product reviews, commentary and more. And it certainly includes the experts posting proactively (before a question or problem is posed) into the board. Stay tuned.

I believe a Wiki is the way to go. If this is truly a community environment, keep it with the community.

My final comment on this is that if you create/appoint an elite class of "experts," people will be much more likely to quit these forums. I've seen it happen several times over the years on other boards, both technical and non-technical.

Your use of the word "elevate" is highly disturbing to me: it implies someone who's "better" than others, and we don't need any more arrogance here.

xtophercaa
12-30-2006, 02:33 AM
Your use of the word "elevate" is highly disturbing to me: it implies someone who's "better" than others, and we don't need any more arrogance here.

Absolutely, and that's a good point. I mean elevate in a sense of getting content and members "floating to the top" someplace/somehow, so that their contributions aren't getting buried. There's good content in here--but if you're not a regular user, you wouldn't always see it, because it's often on page 2 (or deeper).

nukemm
12-30-2006, 04:13 AM
I like several aspects of this idea so far, although I do agree that a literal designation as an "expert" may create an elitest system of sorts, keeping others from contributing. On the other hand, I think that it would be good if people could have a way of knowing who to ask for help in certain subjects.

On the topic of FAQ's, I'm all for writing up DIY's... I've been doing them for years on all sorts of topics (car repairs/mods, computer mods, photoshop, etc.) and am willing to research subjects to be useful. I may be new to Mac's, but I've been building computers for almost 15 years, and have been networking since token ring was popular.

As far as pointing new users to the search function, I think it may be better to inform them of the search function, and potentially take the minute to search for ourselves and post a few relevant results (props to eric for doing this on several occasions as of late) - that way they get the help they are looking for, along with some gentle guidance (not forced down their throat) to use the search.

My $.02

ToddG
12-30-2006, 10:24 AM
As far as pointing new users to the search function, I think it may be better to inform them of the search function, and potentially take the minute to search for ourselves and post a few relevant results (props to eric for doing this on several occasions as of late) - that way they get the help they are looking for, along with some gentle guidance (not forced down their throat) to use the search.

+1

Nothing sounds more elitist than responding to someone's question with, "We've been through this already before you got here ... do a Search and bother me no more with your petty questions!"

eric
12-30-2006, 08:50 PM
Nothing sounds more elitist than responding to someone's question with, "We've been through this already before you got here ... do a Search and bother me no more with your petty questions!"


I agree, that's an easy way to alienate potential strong members and people who may just drop by for a hint or two.

that's why, like nuke said, if i'm going to take the time to respond at all, i'm going to do a little foot work. hopefully that will guide them as well into understanding how useful the search function is.

baggss
12-30-2006, 09:07 PM
My only real question about this idea is this:

Who and what mechanism is used to determine that someone is an SME? I deal with this sort of thing as part of my job and creating a solid criteria of knowledge requirements is important if you are going to recognize someone as an SME, particularly when they are going to help others with your organizations name on the label. That means that someone, who themselves is a recognized SME, must create a standard for all future SMEs to follow to gain the appropriate level of recognition. How do you determine who that person is? Considering that everything done here is voluntary by the members, this process has the potential to be arbitrary and extremely subjective at best. The only other way is for an organization to step in and make the determination.

Not to sound like spoil sport, but the fact that the guy from iNet has embraced, and even expanded on, this idea leads me, and perhaps other older members, to believe that contrary the continued denials by schweb, iNet is slowly but surely taking a more active role in the running of this forum. The fact that the iNet guy doesn't have a "Member" label, but is a part of a different group contributes to this feeling.

Or perhaps I'm just paranoid.

D3v1L80Y
12-30-2006, 09:17 PM
My only real question about this idea is this:

Who and what mechanism is used to determine that someone is an SME? This is one of my main concerns as well. I have no problem with appointing someone as an SME, but there would need to be some sort of credentials attached to that person that help define them as such.
For instance, if someone were a Graphic Designer by trade and that was their career, then that would be fine to make them an SME for posts relating to that field. If that person held some sort of degree in the field, all the better.
Just because someone has a Mac with a pooched copy of Photoshop and holds some skill with the app, doesn't necessarily designate them as an expert. Sure, I have 20+ years experience in using Macs but I hold no certifications or degrees for Apple/Mac knowledge. Designating someone an "expert" would not be an easy task, but if someone had some sort of solid way of 'proving' themselves it would be a bit less daunting.

ToddG
12-30-2006, 09:58 PM
Absolute paranoia is absolute awareness.

I volunteer to be the forum's official small arms SME. :)

eric
12-30-2006, 10:11 PM
if the powers that be decide to move ahead with something like this... we could just call them something else. something to simply indicate a deep knowledge of some topic. again, with some sort of fence to jump besides simply going on rep. it would have to be based on history in the forums. if the user has only 30 posts, but 20 of those are in the programming/scripting forum and each one was a gem that showed excellent understanding and actually helped the OP, that might just be good enough.

maybe we call them something besides sme though.
guru? [photoshop guru]
sherpa (in so much as they are a guide)? [networking sherpa]
or just describe them as:
handy with __________

anything that could act as a pointer. and if there were a place to view all those people, then if you had a specific question about a given subject that went a few days without an answer, you could check the associated list of "sme"s (whatever they're called) and contact a couple of them by pm to please respond to the thread.


at this point though, i could go either way, i really like the f.a.q. forum idea too.

PowerBookG4
12-30-2006, 10:24 PM
Not to sound like spoil sport, but the fact that the guy from iNet has embraced, and even expanded on, this idea leads me, and perhaps other older members, to believe that contrary the continued denials by schweb, iNet is slowly but surely taking a more active role in the running of this forum. The fact that the iNet guy doesn't have a "Member" label, but is a part of a different group contributes to this feeling.

Or perhaps I'm just paranoid.

Nothing against you xtophercaa, but I do feel that we are being over run and are not being allowed to develop at a natural but upgrading pace, and agree 100% with bags. I feel that schweb is doing an amazing job here, so well that he should be getting paid for all the work he is doing. I feel that more systems should be put in place to make mac-forums a better place for searching for information, but I also think that this is all going to fast. (schweb correct me if I am wrong.) The SME is a great idea, and I think that I could contribute being a Final Cut Studio SME along with maybe surfwax, however, I am not sure that we should be putting this system into effect right away and we should have more time to discuss it so it benefits the whole community and not just the people just signing up.... I think that if you were to put this in action right now that it would put a lot of pressure on the older members and the mods.

baggss
12-30-2006, 10:33 PM
I volunteer to be the forum's official small arms SME. :)

Hmmmm, I've shot a Howitzer before (55mm) so I'll volunteer and the lightweight mobile Artillery SME.


Nothing against you xtophercaa, but I do feel that we are being over run and are not being allowed to develop at a natural but upgrading pace, and agree 100% with bags. I feel that schweb is doing an amazing job here, so well that he should be getting paid for all the work he is doing. I feel that more systems should be put in place to make mac-forums a better place for searching for information, but I also think that this is all going to fast. (schweb correct me if I am wrong.) The SME is a great idea, and I think that I could contribute being a Final Cut Studio SME along with maybe surfwax, however, I am not sure that we should be putting this system into effect right away and we should have more time to discuss it so it benefits the whole community and not just the people just signing up.... I think that if you were to put this in action right now that it would put a lot of pressure on the older members and the mods.


Just to clarify my last statement a bit. I realize that this forum is owned by a corporation and run by schweb (quite well too). I also realize that they can do as they please this being their investment. I don't meant to imply that I disagree with the idea, simply that I wonder at the correct implementation and the fact that iNet appears to more active and has other plans for this forum, something we have never seen in the past. That being said, one of the nice things about this forum, and others that I frequent, is they tend to self policing. The staff doesn't have to be here 24/7 since there are many who will report appropriate posts as needed and help in general. The fact that iNet is now coming to the forefront simply makes me wonder where all this is going and how much we are going to find out about any of it before it happens.

Change simply for the sake of change is rarely a good thing.

ToddG
12-30-2006, 10:48 PM
maybe we call them something besides sme though.


Like maybe geniuses?

cath462
12-31-2006, 01:25 AM
Like maybe geniuses?

*ack* Please, no.

My concern is that SMEs are not defined solely by degrees or certifications.

The absolute best Photoshop person I know has taken a few classes but by profession is a Baptist minister. I've worked as a designer for the past several years and I learned most of what I use daily from this person. I'd consider him an SME but "on paper" he'd be better suited to writing a sermon. :D

Change is inevitable, but each step needs to be taken with some sort of forethought.

On a related topic, can someone clarify for me the difference between "moderators" and this "xtopher" person and his role in this site? I'm confused because they both seem to be talking about the direction of Mac-Forums. Is there some sort of corporate ownership here?

Cheers,

--c

(edit): Well, my questions were answered by this thread (linkie (http://www.mac-forums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=40666)), but now I'm even more confused about iNet's role and the moderators' roles.

baggss
12-31-2006, 02:18 AM
(edit): Well, my questions were answered by this thread (linkie (http://www.mac-forums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=40666)), but now I'm even more confused about iNet's role and the moderators' roles.

To date iNets role has been nonexistent here. They were merely the company who owned the board and the place was run by schweb with no interference. The fact that this "hands-off" approach seems to be changing is what concerns many of us.

D3v1L80Y
12-31-2006, 11:02 AM
*ack* Please, no.

My concern is that SMEs are not defined solely by degrees or certifications.
I agree. There are several factors that define one's expertise. I do believe though, that some credentials are needed. Degrees are helpful as they do provide something "on paper", but there are other things that would qualify as credentials. Experience speaks volumes as well.
Take your minister friend for example. He is already a few steps above most in that he has actively participated and attended classes. He is apt to know and understand at least a little more than someone who simply read a book and looked at a few tutorials online. Also, just because his occupation would be "minister" if he were to apply for a pasport or something, doesn't make him any less of a designer. Churches have websites, bullitens, weekly service programs, flyers and posters to advertise upcoming events and services, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a hand in creating things similar to those on a regular basis. These things add to his credentials as a designer and someone with some degree (at the very least, a small amount) of authority on the subject.

Keep in mind, knowing how to do something is one thing. Understanding why something is done is another.

I am not trying to imply that someone absolutely must take a class or hold a degree to be considered an "expert" in a certain field, but doing so does help to give someone credence and credibility. Combine that with some "real world" experience and you would have a much better choice for someone to be appointed an SME or whatever colloquialism or vernacular is decided upon. This is because a person with some sort of training and experience is more likely to understand why something works. That person is therefore somewhat more qualified to then give advice and instruction to others.

Essentially, both training and experience are needed to be considered an expert, in my opinion. Keep in mind as well, that this is simply my own personal opinion and that I don't speak for anyone but myself. :black:

MacHeadCase
12-31-2006, 11:15 AM
To date iNets role has been nonexistent here. They were merely the company who owned the board and the place was run by schweb with no interference. The fact that this "hands-off" approach seems to be changing is what concerns many of us.

Well people that have been hanging around in forums for a while know this very well by now: if the forum becomes unattractive to hang around, for any reason, they just leave. I think that if this is the case, a lot of members that were part of it because they liked it the way it was would simply move on.

Yes a new type of membership would replace them but I have seen forums die this way as the newer crowd for the most part seems even less inclined to want to belong somewhere and work at making a community. I find that I used to look for a home, no matter how tacky this sounds, but now as I gather more and more forum experience I find it less painful to just leave when it gets boring or rather if the atmosphere changes in a bad way.