Where the Experts Aren't

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A long time back, I encountered a thread on a discussion board I occasionally browse. The original post asked why there weren't any higher-profile participants in the discussion. Although the discussion board in question isn't about software, a post about the same phenomenon occurring on software discussion boards shed some light on why there might be a dearth of expert opinion in many online discussions.

The post also raises some issues regarding what might be missing from such discussions:

That we're unable to learn from the silent majority of experts casts an unusual light upon online discussions. Just because looking down your nose at C++ or Perl is the popular opinion doesn't mean that those languages aren't being used by very smart folks to build amazing, finely crafted software. An appealing theory that gets frantically upvoted may have well-understood but non-obvious drawbacks. All we're seeing is an intersection of the people working on interesting things and who like to write about it--and that's not the whole story.
And this is for a topic about which it can be relatively easy to lay out one's reasoning. On more complex topics, it can take even more time to address a question, meaning there is much more territory for a potential author to cover: More time and less enjoyment, at least  for those who aren't interested in rehashing basics.

Needless to say, rudeness or trolling, or even the impression that, say, most of the participants in a discussion are non-objective, will often further discourage expert participation.

-- CAV

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