Are Experts Participating?

A few weeks ago, I was in a discussion with a pretty noted computer scientist who doesn’t participate in social media, doesn’t blog, doesn’t tweet, doesn’t share bookmarks — is for all intents and purposes off the grid. He asserted something that’s been itching at me for the last few weeks. He told me that [to summarize]…

“Experts don’t participate in communities anymore. Ten years ago, you could ask a question on any bulletin board and get answers, loads of answers, back. Now there are so many bulletin boards and lots of dead questions. If networking and community works so well, why aren’t the experts there?”

I contended that himself, as an expert, choosing not to engage or participate was the karmic part of his observation; that the notion of community is a virtuous circle. All these things I *assume* to be absolutely true.

But what if I’m wrong? As I hunted around, I started to find, alarmingly, that experts aren’t as easy to keep involved in community activity as everyone else. I have a few quick assumptions as to why (top of mind being that they find no WIIFM in staying involved).

How can we keep experts engaged, responsive and contributing to the greater network? Will a tie to some greater sense of “social responsibility” be enough? What intrinsic motivations keep them in the loop?

My initial thoughts around this subject are that we’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to “accelerate” access and delivery to expert knowledge — but what we’re really end up with is the ability to connect to an expert and query them for a response, like we do with Google or Bing. Experts (even engineers and computer scientists) have feelings. They’re not interested in a transaction with people who don’t know what they know because, quite frankly, there’s nothing to offer at that transaction that an expert may want or need. This goes at the very heart of building communities, which is to say, building *relationships*: empathy.

Friends, in the traditional sense, are probably far more likely to help you with the tough questions because when you ask them for help, they know by virtue of you being friends that you’ve explored other options and you’re not wasting their time.

I want to discuss this in our next Community Catch-up and anywhere else, because I’m wondering if this is the big chink in the armour? Your thoughts?

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