The paywall is finally gone, and the Experts Exchange is talking about it
|Richard Harris in Enterprise Friday, November 4, 2016|
Experts Exchange is the original worldwide online community of technology professionals, developers and programmers who collaborate on current and emerging technologies. Members of the community help each other solve problems learn new skills.
It started as a question and answer site by a Computer Science professor from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in October 1996. The site grew with the development of the internet, allowing people around the world collaborate on new technology. The first question ever asked in the community was for a “Case sensitive Win3.1 HTML Editor”. Over time, the site evolved by adding new topic areas and levels of recognition for experts within various topics. Recently, Experts Exchange expanded its products to include additional learning components (Courses, Videos and Articles) as well as other methods for members to post their issues that they need help with (Live and Gigs).
We recently chatted with Gene Richardson, Chief Operations Officer at Experts Exchange about some of the interesting history of the platform, why people use it, and some of the challenges they have faced along the way, plus why they finally removed their paywall after 20 years.
ADM: What are some of the most inspiring things seen happen on the Experts Exchange site?
Richardson: The most inspiring thing for me is when someone comes to Experts Exchange with an issue that they have been trying to solve through many other channels, yet our community was able to solve it within a few hours of the initial question. Other sites spend more time asking users if they have tried different things or flat out berating them for asking a “bad” question, versus coming to Experts Exchange and getting connected with someone capable of helping and actually knowing the answer. For example, Jim Poole, a member on our site said, "Experts Exchange provides answers that I find more accurate to my situation rather than the shotgun approach of answers I find while searching the web. The people here have provided me with solutions that get to the heart of my situation - one that I may not have even considered."
Another thing that I find inspiring is the career development that occurs on our site. For example, member Stuart Scott gained so much recognition within his industry from the solutions and articles he’s contributed on Experts Exchange, he was recruited for his current position as AWS Trainer at Cloud Academy.
Many issues our experts help with are when people or companies find themselves in emergency situations, such as dealing with an outage or deadline that could be catastrophic if not solved.
ADM: What are the main reasons people use Experts Exchange?
Richardson: Experts Exchange has a longstanding reputation of having a very high caliber of experts available within a respectful and welcoming community. People come to solve tech problems, learn new skills, grow their reputation, help others and, just recently, earn some extra cash by consulting with others on Live, completing freelancing projects, or teaching courses.
ADM: What is your favorite part of Experts Exchange?
Richardson: Seeing the many interactions between our members and the experts. It’s amazing to see the problems our community can solve and the things people get to learn and teach each other. And, it’s being done on a global level!
ADM: What are some of the challenges Experts Exchange has faced over the last two decades, and what has the company done to overcome those challenges?
Richardson: When we put up a paywall, we ended up pushing people to seek alternatives, which made our experts and members antsy as they saw a decline in onsite collaboration. We relied solely on Google search as a natural traffic gateway, and spent five plus years trying to keep the paywall up. This took our focus off the core of what made Experts Exchange great in the first place. As a result, we knew we had to take the paywall down to get back to the heart of who we are and what our purpose is: connecting people and information to solve problems, inspire learning and influence the future of technology.
ADM: Why did the team at Experts Exchange decide to remove the paywall? What do they hope to accomplish by removing it?
Richardson: As the internet continued to grow and information become more readily available, we realized the decision to have a paywall in place did not help people in need of solutions to technical problems. Having a paywall also affected our Google ranking. We want to continue to build Experts Exchange into a place where people can learn and better influence the future of technology. What is unique about Experts Exchange is that we can impact people's lives and the world around us, by providing them with an infinite knowledge resource.
ADM: What can the tech community expect to see next from Experts Exchange?
Richardson: Without the paywall, we can continue with focusing on expanding the quality of our resources for our community through new partnerships and learning opportunities.
ADM: What does the future look like for Experts Exchange?
Richardson: We are going to be the most valuable online resource for any user of tech. Whether your goal is learning Java, recovering from a DDoS attack, or putting people on Mars, our goal is to be most reliable resource to help.
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