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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Help

My post New Work is about changes in work skills. One of the bigger changes in work skills have to do with getting help. I looked at a couple examples this recently in LinkedIn for Finding Expertise and Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers

This topic came up again in a discussion - Blogging to ask for Help - Colin asked:
If you need input from like-minded people around the world, where's the best place to ask?

Today I posted a request for reader input in my blog because I didn't know where else I could ask for help from people outside my company. Is there a more effective way to approach this kind of problem?
There's some interesting discussion in the thread around whether it makes sense to post a question in a blog. And some alternative places were suggested for getting help. Some suggestions:
  • Discussion groups (TrDev, ???)
  • Ning or LinkedIn Groups
  • LinkedIn to find individuals
  • LinkedIn to ask questions - via Answers
  • Twitter (only if you've participated quite a bit)
The issue with Twitter and posting questions through a blog is that you only will get responses from your existing audience.

Am I missing any options here for getting help?

Are there good resources for helping someone know how to use these things to get help?


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I was considering something similar to Colin's question recently while trying to solicit my networks for resources on some research I was helping with. Some forums were better than others. Those that were more responsive had higher subscriber counts.

I think the forums you listed above are good ones. But I think another dimension needs to be looked at before posting a question with any serious expectation of getting a reasonable hit rate. And that's scale.

It seems the 1% rule is key when asking for feedback in a blog (or twitter or discussion forum, etc.). Unless the channel in which the question is being asked has achieved some degree of "critical mass," it may be a bit like whispering in a forest. :(

Anonymous said...

I found asking a specific question works best for me in a Discussion Forum. Particularly forums I frequent in some cases I can ask a question, go refill my coffee, and by the time I return have more answers (and often opinions) to my question than I bargained for.

On the contrary, if I find a forum I am not a regular user and first need to create an account to ask a question, often that post will get no response at all or my post gets hi-jacked off into some other topic.

Of asking questions in a blog, LinkedIN, etc. I find discussion forums to be the most useful

John said...

This is an interesting question and for some reason I have seen variants around social networks frequently in the last six months. I have even asked it myself on two or three different sites (fora?). The results have all been along the lines of "just ask wherever you want and if you don't get an answer, ask somewhere else". That sounds logical, but unsatisfying.

I know that if I have a question about a particular travel destination, I can find sites where people with like interests are eager to answer. For WLP, and e-learning 2.0 in particular, I have not found such a place. Yes, Tony's suggestions in today's post have been useful for some things. I also ask on the ASTD boards, sometimes. I find, though, that the more traditional sites are often filled with very traditional WLP folks who have traditional ideas about design and delivery.

It also seems that the only places wher I have been able to have real discussions is on discussion boards (kinda makes sense, given the name, huh?). Sometimes I've seen good discussions on Ning communities, but there is also the critical mass issue melaclaro brought up.

The converse to the issue of critical mass is that there may be lots of comments in a large group (e.g. linkedin) but there is seldom discussion. The ASTD groups seem to have good discussions on some topics, but it is frequently the same small group of participants.

It seems to be a learning or communication styles sort of thing. I like the back-and-forth of a good discussion; other seem to like hearing multiple opinions. For some, the word of one experienced or well-respected individual is enough.

Has anyone done any research on this dimension of learning? Is there a correlation with marketing? Am I being crazy about this whole thing?

Tony Karrer said...

Thanks for the thoughts on this so far.

You are right about number of participants and how well they know you as being big contributing factors. I would add to that how relevant, interesting and answerable your question is to the audience. If I factor those together then I have a sense of how well questions will work.

One thing in favor of blogs and social networks is that you most often feel you know the person. However, reach is often limited as compared to a forum especially if you've not built a large network/following.

John - I've also had that sense on a few of the forums. I've never really spent the time there to get to know the players very well. But, I also really welcome discourse like this and on my last post that I don't feel I could ever have as part of a forum. Not that these questions are well formed and relevant to the forums, but there's also a vague sense I have about the participants that I'm not sure I can voice.

Any thoughts?

John said...

I mostly agree, Tony. I think that it varies depending on the discussion forum, too.