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Experts-Exchange.com (EE) is a membership-based online "ask an expert" site for computer and IT related questions that was founded in 1996.
At Experts-Exchange, users are awarded points for answering questions asked by other users or writing articles the general community values as resourceful. This results in a competition for obtaining more points to achieve various experts' certifications.
The site offers a paid subscription service that offers full access to those who primarily use the website to get their IT and tech questions solved. By actively participating in answering questions, users can earn points in order to gain a free subscription. Those who obtain 10,000 overall points are given access to all features of the web site known as premium services, and they need to obtain at least 3,000 points each month, or 5 million lifetime points to retain these privileges.
Experts-Exchange went bankrupt in 2001. Austin Miller and Randy Redberg took ownership of Experts-Exchange later and the company was made profitable again. Experts-Exchange claims to have more than 3 million solutions. Its users are mainly young to middle-aged males in the IT field. Originally, Experts-Exchange could be reached by visiting expertsexchange.com, but this domain was later abandoned because it was felt that it could be too easily misinterpreted to read as "Expert Sex Change".
Zones, points, rankings, administrators
Users can post their questions in relevant "Zones" after they are registered at the site. The experts propose comments, and the asker is expected to select one or more comments that best solve the problem as the answer, and to grade the answer (from A for excellent answers to C for answers that helped a bit but didn't provide a complete solution) in order to award the most helpful experts. This is achieved by a patented system (U.S. Patent 6,064,978) that encourages the non-paid experts to accumulate award points by providing satisfactory answers, and questioners to continue pushing experts until an adequate solution is obtained. If the awarded solution or grade is disputed a Moderator will evaluate all responses and may change the distribution of points or the grade.
The maximum point value for a question is 500 points and the minimum is 20. Based on Experts-Exchange guidelines, 500 points should be assigned to questions of a high level of difficulty, for an urgent request, or where some other large time or cost savings benefit will be gained by the asker. However, members with a premium services subscription often assign the maximum point value to their simple or intermediate questions.
An expert ranking system is provided to certify the experts according to their expertise, contributions and activities. A high ranking in most topic areas is generally indicative of an expert who devotes a substantial amount of time and may have a high level of expertise. The list of top experts includes a number of Microsoft MVPs as well. It is announced on Microsoft Exchange team's blog that Experts-Exchange is among the communities they actively look into to find people who make good candidates for Exchange MVPs.
Volunteer members with various administrative privileges maintain the site by resolving arguments, closing questions left open by the asker, and assisting members with their site-related questions.
Membership is either gained by bartering expertise (in the form of answering questions or writing articles) or by paying for premium membership.
Experts (those who have reached 10,000 points overall and maintain at least 3,000 points per month) and subscribers get the benefit of using the site's search engine without limitations and no ads are shown. Premium service members can also ask unlimited questions, write Experts-Exchange articles, create a blog, browse the site using the alternate "Experts" skin, save solutions and other content to their knowledgebase, follow friends and other users and add to their growing list of favorites on the site. Articles and blogs are free to view by non-members.
There is a lag between answers, accruing points, and receiving free membership. New members who pay to access the site accrue fees until they answer enough questions to qualify for the free membership. However, there is a free registration option that allows users to answer questions without any form of payment and earn free services.
There is a lag after canceling membership in that the member benefits continue through the paid period. So if a user prepays for a year but cancels after 6 months, the remaining 6 months are still considered paid and the site is accessible through the balance of time. However, the subscription will not auto-renew at the end of the year.
A community membership is available, which allows viewing one solution per month. However, one must be a member of Experts-Exchange to be able to ask questions.
Experts-Exchange went live in October 1996. The first question asked was for a "Case sensitive Win31 HTML Editor".
Experts-Exchange went bankrupt in 2001 after venture capitalists moved the company to San Mateo, CA, and was brought back largely through the efforts of unpaid volunteers. The period following the bankruptcy recovery was marked by a rapid growth and expansion of the knowledge base and saw technical advances.
In February 2007, Experts-Exchange made what was seen by many as a major change to the look of the site. Following that, they offered a skin (Expert Skin) that paid members or qualified experts could use if they preferred the Legacy site over the newer one. The benefits of the Expert skin were a less graphically-intensive, more text-based layout that results in faster page loading times.
The new site also brought about many new topic areas (now called "zones") and the ability to cross-post. Cross-posting provides benefits for both those who ask and answer questions. Those who ask questions can place a link to it in up to 3 zones (instead of just one), which means more experts are likely to see the question and answer it. Experts who receive points on such a question will get the allotted amount of points in all 3 zones, making it easier for them to get certificates in other zones that are related. When a solution is selected for a question that appears in multiple Zones, the Expert's per-zone point total is increased by the award amount and their overall point total is also increased but only once. So if a question appears in three zones for 500 points and is awarded an "A" grade, the expert earns 2,000 points in each of the three zones but only 2,000 points are added to the overall total (not 6,000).
Additional rankings were also added, as some experts have achieved the Genius ranking and had nothing else to shoot for. The new rankings that come after "Genius" are: "Savant" (for 10 million points), "Elite" (for 25 million points), "Technocrat" (for 50 million points), and "Legend" (for 100 million points).
The latest official list of ranks a member may receive are as follows:
On 13 November 2007, the number of solutions on Experts-Exchange reached 2,000,000.
Experts-Exchange ran a competition for almost a month before that date. The competition was announced on Experts-Exchange web site and its newsletter. A Dell laptop and a t-shirt was given to the user who asked the 2,000,000th question, the expert who answered it, and the user who made the nearest guess for the time and date of the 2,000,000th solution.
In 2008, it was announced that an Expert has reached 20,000,000 points in total and 18,000,000 points in one zone. Both of these values were the most in Experts-Exchange to date. Changes in the Experts-Exchange business model has, however, shifted the value of points (sometimes referred to as "point inflation").
Experts-Exchange also recently announced the addition of Articles, which are free to view for members and visitors.
In January 2012, after 2 or more years of work, Experts-Exchange replaced all legacy code (some of it dating back to the original launch) with a new version, dubbed EE v10 (referring to the 10th version of the site). With this launch, it rolled out a new look as well. Following this, in August 2012, it announced that the website would be ad-free.
Community response to change in business model
After employing obfuscation techniques that prevent anonymous users from seeing answer content, a few members of the community responded with articles about how to bypass the obfuscation. Stack Overflow was created in 2008 by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky as a more open alternative to Experts-Exchange.
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