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In the last post, we talked about a visualization tool that would allow us to tag ourselves and each other, and how that could be helpful for locating talent and sparking innovation. There have been great comments and ideas, and I want to continue that conversation in the next post. In the meantime, the concept of ‘expert‘ has been on my mind.

As I thought about the potential pitfalls of self-tagging, I couldn’t help but remember that article on mashable from December – There are 15,740 Social Media Experts on Twitter and wondered how we’ll get around this problem in the future.

Calling yourself an expert doesn’t make you one.

I looked at how the collective has defined expert on Wikipedia, and it starts with:

An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.

This kind of interested (frightened?) me, in that the status of expert can be deemed so by ‘the public.’

It does go on to qualify that an expert has “extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study” and that the knowledge comes “by virtue of credential, training, education, profession, publication or experience.”

Unfortunately, many of the self-proclaimed experts out there do not have knowledge based on any of those criteria, but ‘the public’ can be easily (mis)led. There’s a difference between being popular and being an expert. What happens when the public begins throwing around the label ‘expert’ without a proper vetting process? Are we going to create yet another layer of noise that needs to be filtered through in order to find actual value?

{Leaving the definition of expert to the “Wisdom of Crowds” is not a decent answer. I’ve been doing a bit of research on the wisdom of crowds theory, and there are actually more criteria involved for it to be accurate than just saying ‘many people’s opinions are smarter than one person’s.’ That logic may actually lead to the creation of a mob mentality, not a collective intelligence.}

So what do you think? How we define merit when anyone can have an opinion? Does open access to information and people change our criteria for gaining expertise? At what point do we decide we’re all experts……which is the same as saying that no one is…


From the Twitterverse: Yesterday I asked you, “In 140 characters or less, what is an expert?” (responses are below)

@nedkumar Expert-Someone who understands the context of your existence, constraints of your problem, and the limitations of a solution

@T_C_P maybe an individual who has acquired substantive knowledge in a specific domain and is therefore able 2 reach peak insights?

@RitaJKing An “expert” is someone who knows they can study and work all their lives on a subject and still have so much more to learn.

@michelemclellan Expert: Someone who knows a topic and knows the limits of that knowledge

@faustshausuk Someone who has more to teach than they have to learn, but still plenty to learn. 🙂

@plevy an expert is someone who knows personally what she speaks about

@jsnovel expert: someone who can express exactly what they know.

@valdiskrebs Expert understands your problem, the context, and is willing to help you work thru it. No magic all-purpose answers provided.

@Hugimo impeccable ability to critically discern and demonstrate solutions in a narrow sphere challenge set

@aurelielb Someone who knows better!

@vanbael expert = someone with in-depth knowlegde & the skills to use this knowledge to face new challenges / solve new problems.

@clemwork Expert owns a subject. Has deep knowledge acquired through education, experience, reflection and (hopefully) communication .

@tdebaillon Expert has deep ‘knowledge’ of his field, and is able to analyze content and context each in regard with each other. [‘knowledge’ being taken in the French ‘connaissance’ sense, not ‘savoir’.]

@BFchirpy Accountable, situated, history of failure and success, eclecticism tests boundaries of domain, self-critical OR confident.

@jeremyriel an expert = someone who recognizes there’s always more to learn, even after it’s all been learned

@pancheee Expert: vast experience and vast training on something

@andrewmsmyth Expert: one who has mastered their passions

@adeliyannis An expert is a person who knows what questions to ask.

@toppundit An expert is somebody who deeply understands, respects, and can work with something complicated.

@SemiraSK s.o. you trust to know what there is to know and what not


Further Reading:

Collecting Expert Opinion about High-Ipact Nonprofits: Review of Philanthropedia’s Methodology [PDF]