(I, CSWA President Stephen Strauss, had intense discussions with Stavros about his new approach to helping journalists finding experts. I thought it was interesting both as a Canadian development and as something that could be of use to our members. What particularly appealed to me was that it was free and that the journalist could craft his or her search for experts according to their own criteria. Accordingly, I suggested Stavros write the blog posting which you will see below.)
Help. I Need An Expert: Now!
While working as a producer on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin I was too often scrambling to find quality experts by deadline. It was frustrating to put less than ideal guests on air. I thought there must be a better way. But nothing beat the power of the Google sledgehammer.
I teamed up with an engineer in Waterloo with a similar passion for knowledge and together we created the tool I wished for as a journalist.
Expertise Finder is a search engine for journalists to find experts.
How Expertise Finder Works: An Example
Canadian Arthur McDonald wins a Nobel Prize for the discovery that subatomic particles called neutrinos have mass. Speaking with specialists in neutrinos would help enhance your story.
Step 1: Search
Step 2: Result
Step 3: Contact Expert
Total time: 10 seconds
American journalists like to note that we have a disproportionately high number of Canadian experts. We certainly do. This makes Expertise Finder particularly useful for Canadian journalists.
Build for the New Paradigm
We don’t have a permanent office or corporate swag. We use open source software. It’s a tool and a business model for the web era. We exist because we have rejected old models that limit experimentation and require lots of money. The result is a tool where it’s utility does the marketing and is free yet has a sustainable business model.
We are not supported by grant money or philanthropy even if our mission has similar goals. Expertise Finder is a money making enterprise. I worked in international development in the former Soviet Union and the experience of seeing unsustainable projects frustrated me and the core issue was not necessarily money.
It could be hard to define success, even if most of the final reports claimed otherwise. My feeling is that the greatest influence often comes over time. Resources spread over a longer period of time to support seemingly intractable situations can do more, but this is not the norm for NGO work in part because funding is cyclical.
For journalism the ability to speak with knowledgeable experts on an ongoing basis is a key to supporting an informed and fact based society. No one story, not even if it wins a Pulitzer can do this.
I’m a Clay Shirky fan, I call him the modern day Marshall McLuhan. The web is redefining how we communicate, and possibly approach knowledge/information. My eureka moment (since science has disproven the eureka moment I use it in the literary sense) was in 2010 with the cost of AWS (Amazon’s cloud computing) to the point where people like me with limited means had the possibility to do something like Expertise Finder.
Video: Why Journalists Use Expertise Finder
Who Is Using Expertise Finder
Mainly journalists from major media across North America from CNN to CBC. Why You Should Not Trust Us
MIT and Memorial University do not carry the same weight, this if for you to judge, not us. We currently do not list experts where our subjective judgement is a key to determine credibility of an expert for a journalist.
Our search engine is based on relevancy of expertise. We do not rank one institution higher than another. There is no way to buy a higher ranking or listing. There is no advertising.
How We Make Money
We primarily make money selling our software for custom experts directories for universities and colleges. It’s a cloud solution; with no IT they get a directory with our search technology.
Here is a client’s directory we power, Ryerson University: http://experts.ryerson.ca/.
How to Contact Me
Feedback and suggestions appreciated.