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Strategic Adjustment: Next Steps for Experts Exchange

Greetings Experts,

Over the last 3 months, we took a long hard look at our past business strategies, decisions, and direction in order to effectively plan for our company’s future. In recent years, we’ve explored various strategies supporting free membership and the freelance economy. While this solved some membership needs, increased traffic, and retained members, we realized these initiatives moved us away from the core strength of this platform. We solve the world's technology problems through collaboration and learning. The driving force behind that? The question and answer (Q&A) system.

You may have already noticed that we’ve been putting a lot of work into the improvement of the Q&A system in order to provide a better service to all members of Experts Exchange. Along with that, we want to share our long-term plan for Experts Exchange and what you can expect from us over the next few years.

We are returning to our roots and will spend significant effort showcasing the expertise and accomplishments of our contributing members. This effort is fueling the development of the “Certified Professionals” program, built to show subscribers which experts are knowledgeable in their fields and endorsed by Experts Exchange. All new users who wish to reach expert levels will go through an application process, and will only be determined an expert after a vetting process. Users will be able to register and start commenting, but will not reach expert level until their application has been reviewed.

For existing experts, this change means we will be getting rid of the monthly point requirement for Qualified Expert status and assessing contributions on an annual basis instead. There will be two attainable levels above Verified Expert to indicate those who have proven themselves to be outstanding and well-known in their field. We plan to have this program completed by the third quarter of 2019, but you will start seeing some changes this year. We will also be creating an expert recruitment program to increase participation on the site and address topics where additional expertise is needed.

With the introduction of free members and the ability to ask questions as a free member in recent years, we’ve unfortunately seen a dramatic increase in spam. We have also seen a decrease in the quality of participation on the site. This not only devalues Experts Exchange as a company, but can diminish the perception of high-quality professionals who contribute to Experts Exchange. Going forward, only vetted experts and paying subscribers will be able to fully participate on the site.

For all that you do on Experts Exchange, we want to promote you as an expert in your field. We don’t want to focus on trinkets or “another T-shirt”, rather we want to put that effort towards promoting your expertise and high-ranking achievements, like the most recent Expert Awards Trophies. We will be creating a Hall of Fame and inducting inaugural members in 2020. The current Hall of Fame is made up of users who earned points over a specific threshold, but we know there is so much more to our top contributors than points. In the spirit of celebrating our experts and their contributions, we plan to enhance and relaunch our annual Core Conference and quarterly regional conferences by 2020.

Also in recent years, we have added many new features and products that have, in some cases, detracted from the core strength of the site. We intend to clean out some low-use features and hone user experiences that are in need of attention. For example, the workspace will get a much-needed revision and Expert Website Testing will only be used for feedback on Experts Exchange.

Our continuing goal is to be recognized as the professional technology solution provider we are today and to increase our level of service to best serve users like you.

Regards,

Craig Kehler
Director of Customer Service & Community Relations
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Rank: Guru

Expert Comment

Al Jee2019-01-11 07:27 PMID: 2451117
<waiting to comment>
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Rank: Master

Author Comment

Craig Kehler2019-01-16 01:59 PMID: 2451684
Thanks for the feedback Lee, we are very grateful for the candid feedback we get, even if it stings some times. :)

A lot has changed in technology and in some ways old technical hurdles are highly automated now, but that also means that there are fewer people who have hands on experience doing those tasks manually and they may struggle trying to troubleshoot an unintended consequence.

but I also blame experts-exchange for not focusing on the Q&A part enough.
but it seems you're a bit like Microsoft in that you always give up or change direction before any initiative can really take hold.
Yes, we lost our focus on Q&A and we have chased a few new directions, we completely own that. Last year we carefully developed a strategic one pager and this discussion was started to announce that change. We are taking great care to stay the course and not waver from that plan. It doesn't hurt that the 5 of us that developed this plan have been here implementing the plans of the past 10 years. We are well aware of the costs of chasing a new shiny idea and are dedicated to focusing on the core of the business, Q&A and the vast amount of professional experience that fuels it.

NOTHING beats interaction
100% agree. I'm very excited about the return of core conferences. In the interim, if you'd like to get on a video/phone call and provide more feedback, I'm happy to do that.

Improving time to solution is one of the major focuses of our plan. We are going to re-evaluate the mobile app and explore the possibility of a desktop app. I'm coming up on my 10 year anniversary, so I came in on the heels of QuickEE and QuickPost, however I'm very interested in furthering the conversation around API needs and how that plays into our app development.
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Rank: Ace

Expert Comment

Kent Olsen2019-01-17 05:46 AMID: 2451744
Next month will be my 16th anniversary with Experts Exchange.  I've seen most of the changes that Lee describes above.  Despite a diverse background, I've tended to lend support in areas that are needed (OWL, DB2, etc.), not necessarily where I can contribute the most (Oracle, networking, algorithms, etc.)  That gets me out of the bickering that you see in a lot of discussions, or the point grubbing that makes it impossible to teach as well as solve.

Most of my personal angst here is made better by the current system, where points are spread rather freely.  Lots of happy people and a lot fewer "MY solution is 1 character shorter than the other one" kinds of nonsense.  But that has come as a cost.  I've seen 16 years of evolution in the site (and in some ways devolution) -- and each change reasks the question, "what does EE want to be when it grows up"?  I've never known, and still have no idea.  I've read the "customer focused", "easier for the experts", "profit requirements", etc. announcements.  They sound just like the announcements that every vendor issues.  But they don't really tell us anything more than we already know.  They're a marketing tool, even if its just selling EE to its existing membership.

What has happened is that Experts Exchange long ago went into "catch up" mode.  In my early days here, the results of a web search produced at least one link to Experts Exchange in the list.  I honestly can't remember the last time a google search returned a link to any EE article or discussion on the first page.  Other sites now dominate the search results.

After this many years, I'm still curious.  What does EE want to be when it grows up?  How prominent does it want to be on the big stage?  Is the goal simply to plod along making some money for the owners/investors?  Is there any interest in elevating the site above its current club-like environment?  If so, how does EE intent to do that?
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Rank: Sage

Expert Comment

Craig Wagner2019-03-29 10:23 AMID: 2463089
I'm pretty late to this game so not sure if anyone will even see this, but what the heck...

I was what I considered to be a pretty regular contributor a few years back. I probably only got the notice about this change because I recently posted a solution for the first time in about four years. I'm still registered as an "expert" in certain areas so I still get the emails about questions that need answering, but mostly I read the subject line and delete them. So why did I stop contributing?

I got tired of the stupid/lazy questions. I know, there's no such thing as a stupid question. Maybe, but there are lazy questions. People take the time to write up a question that a 30 second Google search would solve. To me that sends a strong message that the person isn't invested in learning, they just want to be spoon-fed the answers. Frankly, I can't be bothered with people who choose this line of work and then won't put in any effort. The site needed (and maybe now has) a way to shut down the dumb, lazy, irrelevant questions.

I got tired of people trying to snipe points. I know that shouldn't bother me, and I honestly don't need another EE t-shirt, but it just pisses me off when I take the time to write up a solution and then someone comes along and essentially copies my answer because they want the points.

Askers who, after I take the time to answer their question, request the question be removed. Kind of related to the above, but once I've provided a working answer they shouldn't be allowed to just delete the question. I ran into this more than once and got sick of spending a bunch of time putting together an answer just to have the asker pull it.

Related to the above, askers who abandon the question. I would answer a question, and a couple of months later get an email saying it was going to be deleted because it was classified as abandoned. No, before doing that find out if any of the answers provided actually answer the question. Don't penalize the "experts" because some question asker was too lazy to click a button saying their question had been answered. Don't make it my responsibility to challenge the deletion of a question.

And finally, most of the questions were starting to come from older technologies that I have moved on from. I really don't want to answer another question about DataSets, DataTables, GridViews, or the WebForms implementation of partial page updates.

It's for these reasons that more of my effort has gone to SO over the past few years.
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Rank: Master

Author Comment

Craig Kehler2019-03-29 01:41 PMID: 2463134
Thanks for sharing your feedback.

There are a few things we've been doing to address these concerns and we've received similar feedback from other members. We've seen an improvement in the investment in each question with the removal of the free account. Additionally we have to spend a lot less time policing spammers. Since the beginning of the year only expert contributors and subscribers can ask a question. Customer Service is now monitoring every new question that is asked to ensure a high level of service for all parties involved in the problem solving process. Their goal is to see each problem through to a solution. If you come across a question or comment that you think is substandard, please report it and we will review it and address it.

We've also made some changes to the question process for both parties. At a high level the focus is on collaboration and making it easier for both sides to give feedback towards what was most helpful to the solution.
You can see more information in these two discussions:
https://www.experts-exchange.com/discussions/220849/We-are-excited-to-announce-our-new-Question-Answer-Beta.html
https://www.experts-exchange.com/discussions/221504/Announcing-our-new-Expert-Experience-Beta-for-Q-A.html

To your final point, we are working on a new method for notifying you about content in your areas of interest. The current way relies on you to manually update your saved searches as your interests progress. We are working on augmenting what we suggest based on what content you've interacted with.

In case anyone else didn't have that "what the heck" moment or wants to deliver their feedback privately, please feel free to message me.

Regards,

Craig
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Rank: Sage

Expert Comment

Craig Wagner2019-03-29 02:07 PMID: 2463144
Sorry, didn't mean to imply the last point was something you folks should try to address. It was really more about the audience that the site seemed to attract.

BTW, great name. :-)
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