Subject matter experts

From Artisans Asylum Wiki

Subject matter experts (SME or SMEs)

Why subject matter experts?

Cultivating an up-to-date wiki on A2 shops, machines, and tools will help to make our space more welcoming and useable to the entire community, whether they are long-term members, new staff, occasional users, or potential new members.

Subject matter experts (SMEs) are crucial to building clear and comprehensive pages on A2 shops, machines, and tools. There is a wealth of knowledge which lives in the minds of SMEs. If you're reading this, you are likely someone who has a vested interested in documenting that knowledge so that it can be documented for both preservation and dissemination purposes.

Who is a subject matter expert?

There are lots of different "types" of people who can serve as subject matter experts. In building the wiki page for a particular shop or tool, it is likely that you will need to draw on the knowledge and efforts of multiple people. Regardless of where/how you find them, a subject matter expert should exhibit one or more of the following traits:

  • Knowledgeable about an A2 shop and what equipment lives there
  • Knowledgeable about a specific A2-owned machine or tool
  • Knowledgeable about a process (e.g. welding or sewing) which is done in an A2 shop
  • Experience with machines/tools which are similar to the ones owned by A2
  • Has time and motivation to contribute to the wiki

Where to find subject matter experts?

Potential SMEs can generally fall into two categories: people with A2 specific knowledge, and people with process/machine/tool expertise.

Some examples of people with A2-specific knowledge include:

  • A2 shop leads (current or former)
  • A2 tool testers (current or former)
  • A2 instructors (current or former)
  • Long-time shop or tool user

In a communal makerspace like Artisans it's essential to learn from the people above, as certain machines may exhibit idiosyncrasies which would not show up on a manual (if a manual even exists!). These people will also be familiar with shop dynamics and organizational challenges.

You can also ask the above users (i.e. shop leads) for a list of other known SMEs.

In the other category, there are potential SMEs who may be newer to A2 but with lots to contribute:

  • New A2 member but with deep expertise in a process, machine, or tool

There are some pieces of knowledgeable which are universally applicable (independent of equipment) where these users can contribute to a wiki page. Their experience might come in the form of either hard technical chops or skillful intuition. They may be able to pick up on machine-specific quirks or perform repairs on their own.

  • Shop/tool users with little expertise, but lots of time/interest in contributing

In this final category is a person with less existing knowledge, but potentially more time and motivation to contribute to a wiki. Don't shy away from working with them. These SMEs might be willing to read through a manual and learn by synthesizing that knowledge for others. They can also work with more knowledgeable SMEs and perform an important role of ensuring that instructions are clear to a novice user.

How to work with subject matter experts

Some of the members above are quite busy and contributing to the wiki will not be a top priority. Someone may be willing to contribute and have a wealth of knowledge, but is slow at writing prose for whatever reason. This is why it is important to work with numerous SMEs. Some things to keep in mind which may help:

  • Provide motivation for contributing to the wiki. Some SMEs (i.e. shop leads and tool testers) are used to people demanding their time to get up to speed on a tool or machine. A good wiki page should be a resource they can direct prospective users as a supplement to tool testing and as a way to prevent machines from being ruined (reducing downtime and repair needs).
  • Make it easy for SMEs contribute and take what you can. Some SMEs will never edit a MediaWiki page, but we can still get input from them, whether in the form of handwritten notes, a voice recording, or an email.