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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
View Previous CommentsLoad All Comments (96)
Rank: Sage

Expert Comment

Daydreams2019-01-02 10:36 AMID: 2450008
@Craig I appreciate your taking care of the lizards.
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Expert Comment

bsod2019-01-02 10:52 AMID: 2450016
Thanks Craig!

I didn't notice any on-site banners, but then my eyes are trained to ignore banners anyway.  However, I definitely did not receive an email from EE about the need to get certified.  The sudden lockout was a disconcerting surprise to me, and I expect it will be the same for many more Basic Membership experts.  I expect you'll be busy doing damage control for a while...
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Rank: Savant

Expert Comment

Lee W, MVP2019-01-11 06:10 PMID: 2451112
As I near my 22nd anniversary as a member of Experts Exchange, I find myself disappointed and my participation waning.

To some extent, I blame the technology trends today... the cloud has removed many of the questions I might answer, such as setting up servers and networks... but I also blame experts-exchange for not focusing on the Q&A part enough.

10 years ago, you held a conference (and repeated it two years later) where you brought in 30-50 of the top experts and site volunteers from all over the world to ask their opinions.  I don't quite know what you got out of that, but personally, I thought it was a great idea.  Forum posts, surveys, and email are fine, but NOTHING beats interaction, one on one and I thought those conferences could have provided you with tremendously useful information.

One of the things I remember saying that was apparently dismissed, is that (at the time) experts-exchange should be using their response time as a selling point. I don't know when you started Craig, but 10 years ago (maybe a little less) a couple of experts created software - QuickEE and QuickPost - which allowed those who used them to monitor questions incoming through an application (NON-WEB) interface AND RESPOND via that application and without signing in to the web site.  During the "good old days" you could find questions asked with responses - GOOD RESPONSES - within 1 - 5 minutes depending on the complexity.  "Ask your questions on Experts-Exchange and get a response faster than anywhere else!"  COULD have been a marketing statement where you actually could have displayed metrics proving it.  Unfortunately, those programs died because every rewrite of the EE interface broke them and, I think, the developers got tired of compensating for the changes.  Sad, because at one of those conferences, there was a discussion of creating an API which could have made that a non-issue.  Shortly after they died out completely (or maybe just before), you started emailing notifications... filling my inbox and making answering that much more difficult.  I have to believe if you analyzed your response time, you'd find it got worse.  MUCH worse compared to when QuickEE and QuickPost were around.  

Honestly, I appreciate the community you've tried to make... 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.  You miss the boat on so many things.  SpiceWorks - *NOT* my favorite forum, puts on a CHEAP conference each year where 2000 people +/-, in my opinion, gather for technical sessions and vendors.  "Experts Training Experts" could be a tag line for an EE conference.  You have the talent - look at who's creating courses, articles, and answering questions... but while SpiceWorks has done it for many years now, you've done it never... or if you have, you've advertised it so poorly that people like me, a 20+ year veteran don't even know about it.  

It's all very disappointing... I'll still participate... EE will have a place in my heart for a long time, but I view you more like the good-intentioned brother who always has these good ideas but somehow always manages to fail and next Thanksgiving, you hear about their latest venture doomed to fail (though you always hope they succeed), rather than the successful brother who keeps coming up with ideas and build successful ventures.  

I'm open to providing more feedback if you like... publicly or otherwise... but I won't hold my breath... and maybe you don't like what I'm saying and don't want to hear more.
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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.
7
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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