You told us how to reboot, we listened
If you’ve landed here sometime in the past decade, chances are you’ve been frustrated. You came looking for help. Then. Hit. Paywall.
Punches weren’t pulled in your feedback:
Fact: There’s no raw evil baked into our code base. However, negative feedback always traced back to the paywall. Building a system that helps people, while simultaneously not, was a very difficult balancing act.
So we took down the paywall. A massive shift in strategy. We knew there’d be repercussions. Some good. Some bad. But we were undeterred.
rm -rf /var/www/html/paywall
We quietly celebrated on release day, but it’s not like the Hodge conjecture was solved; dropping the paywall only brought us to status quo. Which led to a difficult introspective: why come to Experts Exchange over our competition? What makes us better? Questions that only you could answer.
We started by reviewing themes from our Netpromoter surveys:
Then turned to Google to see if those themes held up, patted ourselves on the back, and said yeah, sounds right:
But, friendliness? Would it compel me to join when I’ve spent months or years building a reputation elsewhere? Honestly, no. If I want to build my reputation, I’m going where the most opportunity is. And if I need help, I’m looking for the fastest path to resolution, friendliness be damned!
We had to provide a better opportunity.
Again we went to your feedback to understand your pain points and discover how to evolve. Two different camps emerged. Two camps who unintentionally clash within the constraints of a Q&A system.
In one camp, we have experts. You take time to contribute to the community. You’re the solution makers and content creators. Your main points of contention, summarized:
- (A lot of) question-askers just want us to do the work for them. They aren’t actually looking for guidance. They want free consulting.
- I don’t participate as much as I could (because):
- the same questions get asked over and over again, or they aren’t articulated properly
- I don’t have the spare time to consult for free
In the other camp, we have askers. You have a problem/project/etc and want to get a second set of eyes on it. Your main points of contention, summarized:
- I’m not looking to become an expert, I just want someone to do the work for me.
- Please find a way to get answers in a more timely manner.
With this understood, the challenge we set out on was to provide ways to reduce these friction points between our members. Because when friction occurs, it too often results in a bad experience. These were our opportunities.
The end result? Three new products under the Experts Exchange umbrella; Live, Gigs and Courses. All designed to improve the ability to share knowledge, better. As for the what, why and how for each product:
“I want to get my answer, faster” was an extremely common request from askers. This is just inherent with the Q&A format. You post a question and then you wait.
With Live, we built a real-time interface, where askers and experts can collaborate instantly with each other. Askers can near instantly have someone helping them.
At the same time, instant, direct access to an expert is pretty demanding. We knew that experts weren’t interested in being bombarded with conversation requests all day long. So for Live we give experts the ability to set an hourly wage for their real-time support service, so they can earn an actual check for this higher level of consulting.
We look at this as the evolution of Q&A. Instant help, with the ability to hire the best.
- Expert Benefit: Ability to provide real-time consulting and get paid.
- Asker Benefit: Immediate response time & faster problem resolution.
So often, we’d see experts feel overextended when asked to do more than they felt comfortable with. With Q&A communities, there’s an unwritten rule that experts are guides, not do-ers. Unfortunately, conflict arises when an asker just needs something done and doesn’t want to learn.
For example, picture a business owner whose web site is suddenly reporting an ODBC error. Her original developer is unresponsive. Is it time for her to start learning about database management? No. It’s time to shine the Bat-Signal and post a project.
Experts get to submit bids and are paid for delivering if they are selected to be the freelancer.
- Expert Benefit: Ability to provide more complete solutions, transforming concept to deliverable while building a portfolio of real-world work and get paid.
- Asker Benefit: Ability to get a project of any size, built from the ground up, without having to learn a new skill or invest significant time.
For quite some time, we’ve made it a point to ask new members why exactly they signed up. While a question/answer may have brought you to the site, your want for additional knowledge is what really motivated you to join the community. Overwhelmingly, we heard how you wanted to learn more about specific topics.
The issue here was we didn’t offer a comprehensive training course library. Sure we had individual articles and videos, but if you wanted to prep for the VCP5-DCV certification, you’d need to venture elsewhere. At the same time, if you could train people on the VCP5-DCV, earning points wasn’t a strong motivator for investing hours of time in video recording/editing/etc.
Enter Courses. We built a platform to support the training needs of our members, while facilitating a way for trainers to earn profit from their time investment.
- Expert Benefit: Ability to establish reputation as a trainer, reduce amount of time spent answering the same questions and get paid.
- Asker Benefit: Ability to learn new technology, from proven experts.
Through your feedback, we saw these products would foster a more cooperative and productive community, giving everyone more opportunity to learn and grow. We hope you’ll take some time to explore how they fit into your toolbox and can benefit you on a daily basis.
After 20 years, our vision for delivering on our mission statement has never been stronger. We connect you to people and information to solve problems, inspire learning and influence the future of technology.
tl;dr; We dropped our community paywall, making it free to ask questions and then based on your feedback we released three new products: Live (instant real-time help), Gigs (freelance marketplace) and Courses (training on demand).