WWW Expert Finder

May 20, 2006 at 4:38 pm 1 comment

Dave Pollard is writing
about creating a world wide web expert finder:

I've been waiting for Google, which has already provided a definitive 'know-what' information finder and 'know-where' place finder, to follow up with the definitive 'know-who' people-finder. My initial thought was that only Google and one or two other giants could get enough profile with this to get everyone to participate and accept it as the standard, and hence achieve the critical mass to succeed where so many Social Networking tools that have tried to do this have failed.

I received this reference from Stephanie Lemieux courtesy of the Taxonomy TOC.
This is an interesting reference and I read Dave Pollard on a semi-regular basis so I'm familiar with his tendency to think big!
Dave does note that this is only a start:

Here's my first cut at some of those principles and guidelines. We need the people who know the Internet best, both as a technical and social phenomenon, to add to this list — we won't get it 'right' the first time,

So in the spirit of that conversation, here is a rather long reaction to his post.
On Taxonomy vs Folksonomy:
On one hand I follow his contention "here are too many terms and types and they change too fast. " Such a system would needs something a bit more dynamic — thus he suggests folksonomies. I have read of knowledge management efforts trying a blended approach with a formal taxonomy that is fed by popular tagging. This might be an approach to consider. The blend would take into consideration some reservations I have about using a folksonomy in this endeavor.

It is not a given that experts will utilize the same terminology. It was not until I became involved in a KM effort that I realized techies and info scientists were trying to solve information issues that librarianship had been dealing with for years. Likewise, I saw solutions from IA and content development that I could have really used as a solo librarian! It is not difficult, even in this well linked age, for people to be oblivious to similar issues in other circles of influence.

The situations can be quite similar — and yet the specific contexts are different and may generate different terminology. I don't want to eliminate the serendipity that could be supported via a well-done cross-referencing of terms. I want to see such tools guide us to people no matter what their job label or academic degree says — no matter if they refer to users, patrons, clients, customers, or people.

Information Wants to Be Free
He states that:

Corporations will initially want to use this within their Intranet firewalls to find experts within their own organizations, and won't want that data accessible outside the firewall. But information is always trying to be free…

Knowledge does want to be free — but not all knowledge is of value everywhere. Internal expertise may include the person who knows the most about the development history of a specific product or service. This is not the same sort of expertise that is easily generalized outside the enterprise. Certainly not in the same way as the best way to gather and organize historical information about product development. Thus, we do need to have a balanced view that notallinformation is of value outside of a specific context and thus not all information will fly as far free.

Defining Expertise
Figuring out the best way to define and share experts is a juicy problem that is a huge information issue for the very reasons Dave states. The possible results are not limited in the same way that results to a request for what and where are.
As an attempt to measure a person's expertise, Dave suggests:

The best gauge of expertise, one that is independent of the financial wealth of the voter, is how much time you would be willing to spend listening to and learning from that other person on that subject. Your personal time and attention is the ultimate investment, and your willingness to invest time and attention is hence the ultimate measure of another's expertise.

I strongly feel this is a limited view of "expertise." I have an auto mechanic I would highly rec commend to anyone needing his expertise — but I sure have no desire to sit and learn from him! When you open a concept like this to the public it needs to be able to include various perspectives and needs.
I look for experts for many reasons:

* I want to learn from them
* I want to see examples
* I want to connect with their projects
* I want to know who they know
* I want someone to do something

There are people who are brilliant in their field, but they are NOT good speakers or teachers. Sometimes, I just want to see details of a product. This is especially true of learning code. One of the best learning approaches I've found is toexamine and dissect as much of a good site as the author will let me. It is a stretch though to say I'm spending time learning from them. I will often download the source to several sites using a technique and refer to all of them. On the other hand, there are enjoyable speakers that will not have the ability to provide what I am seeking.

While he mentions social media systems such as Linked_In, he ignores mechanisms that already exist in a lot of portal and collaboration platforms. Within our portal, the expert systems is very simple and would not suffice in this context. Our system permits adminstrators to assign users as experts to topics. In addition, empowered users can add themselves as an expert to any topic folder. We have talked about adding the ability to rate submitters based upon their submissions. However, the numbers of submitters to our digital library are limited and some have already been through a rigorous review.

In addition are well known reputation systems that exist in Slash Dot, Amazon, EBay, Each of these depend upon transactions — either a comment posting and rating as a result of a known interaction or a history of posting behavior. Amazon has the lowest bar to participation in that one need only sign up and click the five star rating of a reviewer's reviews. Even in that case though, the users are rating the reviewer's writing — not something so amorphous as someone's expertise.

It seems like there should be a way to cross this with a reputation system. Any such system has to have checks and balances to cope with human tendencies to use applications for their own purposes.

~Kelly Green

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Entry filed under: Internet, Intranets, Knowledge Management, Social Networks.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Blogs, news and more!  |  January 12, 2007 at 10:08 am

    I am just amazed at how well you write! Keep-on going you are just so good… mary

    Reply

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