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Mining for Experts

By Steve Jones,

We try to help people here at SQLServerCentral. Actually that was one of the founding principles from Andy, Brian, and myself when we built this site. We liked writing about SQL Server and helping people in the forums, and wenwanted to build a great place for that to happen. We consciously separated out news to our Database Weekly site, and let SQLServerCentral focus on learning, training, and answering questions for you SQL Server professionals.

But how do you find other expert advice? I've been asked about where the OracleCentral or MySQLCentral is to help you learn more about those products. What about where you find answers, or even ask questions, on other subjects?

There are some data guys working on this. A system was shown recently at the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI2009) conference that uses data mining to not only determine what skills a person has, but also how likely they are to respond to queries. Now that's a very interesting use of data mining!

And it's not necessarily for the Internet. This is a system that could potentially help larger companies find out who has the knowledge to answer questions. It searches their hard drives and determines what they work on and what knowledge they have. It's configurable and allows for privacy as to which parts of a user's computer are examined, but it tries to then determine what subjects they are knowledgable in.

I'm sure many of you can see issues with this. There will likely be people that download lots of information, or read about lots of topics they may not understand. Perhaps  a search of my work would show that I've done a lot of research on video editing and recording, but I'm certainly not an expert. I think any use of this technology should enable an end-user to edit their rankings and exclude themselves from areas they might not be experts in, but are learning themselves about, or even just interested in.

It also does some calculations to determine if the person is likely to respond to questions. I'm not sure how well that works, especially as I can see a snowball effect. You respond to some queries, trying to be helpful, and then you raise your ranking and get more queries. The cycle continues until you've overwhelmed and don't want to respond. Some throttles would definitely be needed here.

Using computer systems to learn more about the world (in this case people), and then applying that knowledge to try and build a better world is very interesting. I have a lot of doubts about how well this will work, but I'll reserve judgment for now. I'm also definitely concerned about what happens as people try to game this system.

In either case, it has to be a very exciting BI project for someone.

Steve Jones


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