Experts, Expertise, and 20% of Questions

Nick writes about the role of experts in communities of practice (although the post is appropriate for any kind of community).

He also shares this table:

In most situations, expert predictions perform worse than both AI and the wisdom of the crowd. Nick terms this ‘the expert squeeze’.

In many support communities, deep subject matter expertise isn’t worth much more than someone who solved the problem yesterday. Once someone has given you the answer, you can share the answer with the next person.

In fact, the majority of questions asked are so far below their level that a real expert would be bored to tears answering them. It’s like asking a scientist to answer questions on Twitter.

Hence, many superusers aren’t top experts, but simply people who like helping out and have solved the 20% of problems which account for 80% of the problems people face.

For some projects – especially big, internal, collaboration projects real experts are important, as Nick notes, for guiding the debate and identifying what’s needed to move the discussion forward. But in many other communities, someone who solved the problem yesterday is as good as anyone else.

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