Will wonders never cease

Those of you who have been following the soap opera that is (or was) my relationship with Experts Exchange will get a kick out of this. Heck, you might get a kick out of it even if you’re not intimately familiar with all the details.

Back in 2009, I was introduced to Craig Kelher, who had recently been hired by EE as its QA manager. Those of you who have been around EE long enough to remember the days when EE’s marketing staff was bigger than its development team will remember that the idea of hiring a Q&A team was a welcome improvement. The problem, of course, was that the development staff was building systems designed by the marketing department — a group that had no clue when it came to how EE worked for users, or how users used EE. The result was systems that functioned, but didn’t really work very well.

As one of EE’s Admins, part of my job was to help staff identify and prioritize what most of us called “bugs” — even if, in the technical sense of the word, they weren’t, because after all, they did what the marketers had asked for. Unfortunately, Mr Kelher’s department was on the receiving end of the complaints, a circumstance that didn’t exactly endear me to him.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. Mr Kelher, who has now been promoted to “Director of Quality Assurance & Community Relations”, sent a message to my non-Badger account asking “I would like to discuss a few things with you, including the Impact Award for 2016. Do you have some time to have a video call?” Since Netminder hasn’t been able to participate on the site since late July, I didn’t reply, because I don’t see how the opinion of someone who was rather abruptly terminated would matter to the people who terminated him; had I suggested any specific member to receive what I considered the most important award EE hands out, my merely suggesting it might well have disqualified that individual.

Last Wednesday, things got even more surreal. Another message appeared in my inbox: “We would like to honor your service on Experts Exchange with the Impact Award for 2016. Please let me know if you are willing to accept this award.”

The Impact Award was officially created and first awarded as such in January 2010 to reward someone whose contributions to the site during the previous year weren’t recognized in other ways (most points, most answers, most articles and so on). Netminder doesn’t really qualify (after all, he was fired halfway through the year), and ericpete hasn’t done much of anything for years, so he doesn’t qualify either.

I spent a lot of years trying to provide a pipeline through the firewall between the users of the site and its various development and management teams. Based on their actions of last July, those activities were of no value to the current regime at EE, and since then, most of my contributions, however meager I might think them to be, have been dismantled, diminished or suppressed to the point of irrelevance.

The words “incredulous”, “dumbfounded” and “flabbergasted” come to mind.

  • Tarros Farmer

    There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that your contributions to EE have been far and above anyone else there. Be it Netminder or your Expert account you were always there for the community and for anyone needing a bit of help. In terms of impact award, putting politics aside, I couldn’t think of a more deserving recipient.

    • Eric Peterson

      I appreciate your kind words, my friend, but here’s the thing. The Impact award was created as a way for the community to recognize a member whose contributions during the past year transcend having the most points or most answers or those kinds of metrics. We selected people like AnnieMod, who spent over a decade keeping the cleanup process moving along (and didn’t even get the courtesy of an email when her permissions were removed; at least I got that), Lunchy, the Moderator whose patience, fairness and clarity were the characteristics I tried to emulate from the day I started as a Mod, and webtubbs, who built his nice little tool for Experts to use.

      The key phrase, however, is “during the past year”.

      More to the point — and leaving whatever politics Mr Kelher was attempting to engage in aside — Experts Exchange has made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t want me involved in the site in a role I’m temperamentally most suited for (and enjoy). Since I don’t have the skills to compete as an Expert, there’s not much else there. I can’t conceive of the circumstances that would provoke my participation at the level it once was (I don’t go where I’m not welcome), and frankly, it’s not the kind of site I care to participate at anyway.

      I know I don’t deserve the award — and they know I don’t deserve it too. That’s a junior high school game I stopped being interested in playing half a century ago.

  • Clemens Hoffmann

    That invitation isn’t the fault of Expert Exchange. They were pressed by members which thought there should be at least some amount of acknowledgement you had an enormous impact, whether they liked it or not. And of course Craig was not keen on doing it.
    Whether you should be asked at all has been discussed with some heat; I agree it doesn’t do anything good for you to receive, but for EE to offer. It is a sign to the Badgers still caring about the site, despite all the backfire they (Office) get because of changes they did in a hurry without you being able to intervene ;-).
    Of course you cannot accept the award, if you consider it EE-driven instead of community-driven. But you deserve it.

    • Eric Peterson

      Clemens,

      As I noted to our colleague Mr Farmer above, given that the award is for the past twelve months, much of which I was not active (by Experts Exchange’s actions and no choice of mine), I don’t qualify for it. But that’s not my point.

      Rather, while I absolutely appreciate (but don’t think I deserve) the accolades of the membership, the fact is that the award wasn’t offered by the membership (as had been done in the past); until I posted here, the only mention of my being considered for it came from Experts Exchange, and as you might imagine, I consider it extraordinarily hypocritical of SLO to offer me what I consider to be the community’s highest honor a) less than six months after sending me packing and b) making no mention that my colleagues in the community had nominated me for it.

      You’ve known me for a long time, my friend, and you know that just as you answer questions and help out with the various Badger roles because you enjoy it, I filled my role at EE because I enjoyed the tasks and truly loved the community. That you and our colleagues went to the mattresses on my behalf means far more to me than any award I could possibly receive; my personality is such that I was only doing what needed doing, and didn’t really do anything anyone else in the role wouldn’t have done. Indeed, just look at some of the people we have been fortunate enough to moderate with; I hesitate to start listing names because there will undoubtedly be someone I’ll forget.

      If I thought for a half-second that by accepting it, SLO would somehow see the light and rebuild the vibrant, intelligent and respected community I knew it to be, then I’d be happy to overlook the mendacity with which the company has treated both me and the community. Unfortunately, the past decade has shown that EE’s management and staff have never had the interests of the community at the fore; it’s just that now they’re a lot more blatant about it.

      It’s unfortunate that SLO appears to be trying to appease the membership through this kind of show; to me, it is making a mockery of everything we tried to accomplish over the 15 or so years I was involved — but all things considered, it also doesn’t surprise me that SLO would do that. For the last eight to ten years, that’s what they’ve been all about: making a show of things (often at great expense) rather than doing something innovative and substantial.

      ep

      • Clemens Hoffmann

        I won’t argue about anything you said. I (think I) understand very well what your feelings are.

        As I’ve learned recently it is exactly as many of the old guys perceived it: Da Offiz (again) thought “why we need X, remove!” and “established practice is bad practice” without performing any consultation. They did not only remove the admin team, but also stripped off privileges from the remaining badgers (but reversed at least that after massive protest). And they still have difficulties understanding what “community” means. Obviously still a very strange thing, community. Must be something those on Mars do.
        Not that I’m against changes, but cutting off hands and head to allow for growing of new limbs just because the old parts did stuff one might not agree to is disastrous (and lethal, in most cases).

        If I were a malicious person, I would say a certain, recently elected old man you all know has taken over. But I will never say that, of course.

        Some of us have not given up trying to push some awareness and understanding into the Office. May we succeed, for the sake of the community.