Mar 07 2008

What Makes an Expert? The Journey to Web 3.0

One of my About.com colleagues forwarded a link to an article in this week’s Newsweek called “Revenge of the Experts.”

The article analyzes Web 2.0 — a term synonymous with “social media” — like blogging, wikis, facebook, myspace, you-tube or all the link-to-link programs like Stumble Upon or del.icio.us (I never know where to put those dots!), saying Web 2.0 represents power-to-the-people. It’s where everyone becomes an expert by simply sharing ideas online with anyone else who will read or watch or listen.

My personal opinion — I think Web 2.0 de-experts the experts — waters them down.

The Newsweek article suggests that the next generation of web — Web 3.0 — will return the power of ideas to the experts. The places online that are actually making money are paying for expert content, and therefore most of what we find in search engines in the future will become more solid information, featuring less of those opinions proferred by those who don’t have the real background needed to form an expert opinion. And it does a real nice overview of how About.com chooses its experts, called guides, of which I am one.

I say – yes to Web 3.0! Thank heavens. Not that I don’t think everyone should have access and the ability to share — in fact, I think that’s very important. But sharing in general and sharing expertise are not the same thing, and social media clouds them.

Some of my readers know that prior to my transition to Every Patient’s Advocate, I worked as a web marketer. Beginning with my first web experiences in 1988 (yes, really!) I watched as websites went from text only and bulletin boards, to text and graphics and plenty of surfing, to making websites the be-all and end-all for information about businesses, to the social web. According to Newsweek, the pendulum of expert-ization will now swing back toward the center. Access for all, room for everyone, but the cream rising to the top. As it should.

So what makes an expert? It’s someone with passion, reason, enthusiasm, grasp and the ability to be always-questioning about any given topic. Through my work, I’ve met and befriended so many people who are experts in their particular fields. I like to think I’ve grown into my definition of expert since my misdiagnosis and through my work since 2004. I expect my expertise will continue to grow. As it should.

So today’s post isn’t so much about your health or your ability to be a savvy patient. It’s more about who you regard as an expert. It’s one of those cautionary tales that says — hey — anyone can claim to be an expert. But it’s up to each of us to decide whether that claim is warranted. Learning to vet who can be helpful, and who stands in the way of improving our healthcare, is key.

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2 comments

  1. I find myself torn in the whole Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0 developments. Having only recently joined the 2.0 world, I am more skeptical of the 3.0 world. I see profiteers putting emphasis on gathering audience members/customers ahead of providing ‘true expert’ guidance or resources.

    A number of the growing sites have hired folks who do not directly have background in their area of expertise (ie. Revolution Health Multiple Sclerosis Community Group leader who has no background with MS) or the experts seem willing to ‘plug’ questionable physicians, theories, or products which have been determined to be in violation with licensing requirements according to state boards(ie. a particular expert on about.com who writes alot of fluff – not you!!)

    I also see alot of freelance writers providing content and attempting to engage patients (ie. HealthTalk Blogs and HealthCentral). It is fantastic when there is a writer who is also a knowledgeable expert and who is able to engage with the audience in a meaningful manner.

    Of course, my perception of the situation is determined somewhat by my own place within the process. I guess that so far I’m disappointed in some of what I’m seeing in development of 3.0 just now.

    But I do thank you for this post as it has given me something to ponder in considering the direction of online information.

  2. During a bout with severe chronic illness, I had to research my own medical condition and develop a natural treatment protocol because non of the doctors in my area had a clue and no books on the market addressed my particular problems.

    I would not recommend this approach to anyone because my recovery has taken over 20 years. Much of the information that worked for me is not accepted by mainstream medical “experts”, but is available on the Internet and through alternative medicine professionals, whose help I used periodically. Some mainstream professionals now accept what I have discovered as fact and have developed comprehensive protocols to address many of my issues.

    Because of my undergraduate studies in science and intermittent experience in the natural foods and alternative medicine industries, I was able to understand what would work and why.

    Don’t underestimate the value of personal experience. If I had not stepped outside the realm of the accepted, I would still be an invalid.

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