Experts Earn Their Title

A conversation the other day got me wondering what is an expert? I mean, what makes them an expert in their field? Is it that they’re smarter than everyone else? Is it just that they spent more time at it that everyone else? What is it?

In the web the idea of an expert is often a misnomer. It seems that to web people the expert title is often given freely to any person who knows more about a specific topic than you do. For example, I was once labeled a Joomla! expert after a single installation of the software without even launching a site on the platform. Why? because I had done it and the other person hadn’t I must be an expert.

On the flip side, after coding CMS systems for 11 years I was told the other day that I was a rookie as I didn’t code in this particular person’s language of choice. To this I had to say really? Simply because I don’t know your language I am a rookie at all things web? How strange.

A single install of Joomla! does not make you an expert in Joomla!. However, the ability to look at the code of Joomla! and be able to understand it and modify it could very well make you an expert in PHP. On the other hand, the ability to code a million line PHP application may make you an expert in your application, but if you can’t read and understand anything else you might never truly grasp the language and will never be recognized as an expert. This last example I see all the time as a CS student in code which is never written, but merely cut and pasted together to perform some function. After all, if you can’t explain or understand what you’ve done than you really haven’t done much at all.

So then, what really makes an expert. In my humble opinion and expert is someone who through their merits and experience is recognized by their peers as a leader in their field. Someone who can not only do the work, but actually understands what they are doing and can communicate that idea to others. So, web people, when throwing around titles such as expert make sure they’re going to a deserving soul and not simply someone who can follow a readme file. Anything else is just insulting to those who really have mastered their craft.