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Community and Q&A

GBA Editors Introduce Expert Member Badge Program

Kiley Jacques | Posted in General Questions on

A number of GBA members consistently share informed answers to questions posted in the community forum—arguably the site’s most popular offering. Because those exchanges are so highly valued by site users, Editorial Director Brian Pontolilo and I have initiated an “Expert Member” badge program to acknowledge the quality information readers regularly volunteer their time to share. We chose a few of our most prolific members to kick things off. Our idea is to point new users and building science novices in the direction of opinions we trust, and that they can too. It is our way of thanking those of you who make GBA what it is—a trusted resource among forward-thinking green building professionals. It is the members of this community that enable us to offer an ever-evolving and always-edifying conversation.

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  1. user-36575 | | #1

    I think this is a good idea. The quality of answers of some GBA members is extraordinarily informative and useful. The quantity is also impressive.

    I would encourage GBA to keep the designation process in-house and not to divulge their criteria. The worst parts of the internet are driven by (bogus) popularity ratings of one sort or another.
    I just hope that no one gets their feelings hurt if they're not badged.

    Thanks to all the experts, badged or not, that share their advice and experience.

    1. GBA Editor
      Kiley Jacques | | #2

      Thank you for your input, Andrew. I'm glad you agree with the sentiment behind our idea.

  2. exeric | | #3

    I'm not sure I like this idea. There are many individuals here that contribute an extraordinary number of useful and accurate answers to reader's questions. There is no question that this is true and that some contributor here are better informed than others. It would be great if that was all that was needed to insure that people looking for answers actually got them. Unfortunately life isn't that simple.

    Everyone has a sphere of competence and those spheres emanate outward in density gradations from a central core of deep understanding and experience to outer spheres of less understanding and competence. The problem, at least in my opinion, is when individuals proffer knowledge on a subject that is outside their field of knowledge but they do not know that. People very often do not know what they do not know.

    This happens just as often to experts in narrow fields and to generalists on a wide range of fields. It is just a fact that people often assume things based on vast experience in a rather narrow range of outward circumstances. This most often applies to regional differences in climate. But it can also apply to other limitations in their personal experience that they just aren't aware of.

    A lot of the utility in getting answers from people here is knowing where that individuals sphere of competence lies. Many people who are extremely knowedgable about building science are overconfident in areas that they are less competent in. It happens. Everyone is human. And people have egos.

    I think that part of being human is exercising critical thinking facilities so that over time one knows where to apply someone's advice rigidly and when to apply a grain of salt. If you confer expert status on certain individuals I think it will erode people's exercising of that critical thinking facility. After all, in all fields of endeavor there are specialties and sub specialties, and even sub sub specialties. I think you may be opening up a can of worms where ignorance and ego and "man-splaining" could become a toxic brew by people who don't acknowledge the limits of their understanding. I apply that to myself as much as anyone else and its something I think most people always need to work on.

    1. GBA Editor
      Kiley Jacques | | #4

      Thank you for your feedback, Eric. As with any new initiative, there are bound to be differences of opinion, and we will pay attention to the feedback. Please know we value the entirety of what the Q&A forum offers readers--namely, information gleaned from the experience of green-building industry professionals and enthusiasts. It is not our intention to elevate any one user over another. We simply want to thank those of you who put a lot of volunteer time into these conversations. And, it is not a static program. New "Expert Members" are sure to emerge. That is our hope.

      1. ssnellings | | #7

        I don't have a problem with the program, but I don't understand your statement: "It is not our intention to elevate any one user over another. We simply want to thank those of you who put a lot of volunteer time into these conversations."

        If you wanted to thank people you'd give them a membership discount, or a fun decal. Instead the program specifically tags people as "Expert Member". That's pretty explicitly elevating some users other others. If these anointed contributors are experts, what does that make everyone else?

      2. exeric | | #8

        I went over the top saying this will encourage "man-splaining" so I take that back. I wasn't being specific enough. I think this idea of giving merit badges will increase a problem that already exists, unless it's modified in some way. The articles here are very well rounded and I have nothing bad to say about them. The problem is the geographic emphasis of much of the advice of people answering other people's questions. Most of the time the specificity of the advice to the climate is buried and is not clear to people reading it that are in other climates. Other times I've had to correct people going off on a tangent on their build in their climate because they read advice that was appropriate for another climate. It really is a problem because most people giving advice come from the Northeast. I don't see those same people giving advice chiming in and correcting those individuals who are building inappropriately for their climate. I'm specifically remembering advice given to individuals living in Southern California that was totally inappropriate for their dry summer climate.

        It's a real problem and is not self correcting. Rather than this site being helpful for west coast dwellers it can actually be harmful in specific cases. If you now give those same individuals living in humid summer climates the label of expert what is that going to do? It's going to make that bad advice have even a worse effect. Have you considered this?

    2. this_page_left_blank | | #5

      I understand some of what you're saying, however in my experience the type of person who allows their ego to run amok does not need any designation to do so. I really can't imagine that having a few people with expert designations is going to increase the incidence of this phenomenon.

      I'm also pretty confused by your use of the term "man-splaining". I don't recall ever seeing anyone behaving in a way consistent with that term here, and I can't imagine why someone having an expert designation would influence it either.

  3. joshdurston | | #6

    I like the idea.
    I've seen posts where an expert weighs in with a detailed high value response, but the OP will ignore it and engage with some other more dubious responses. This might help focus the microscope a bit better.
    Agree that is should be kept under GBA's black box control. In reality based on what I've seen in the last year or two, there are only a small number of people that will get the designation anyways, so I don't see it being that controversial.

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