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Written by EventHorizon on December 26, 2004.

I reserve the right to improve or change this essay at any time.

Please put all comments on the Talk page.

While I am currently the sole editor to January thaw, I am no climatologist, meteorologist, nor even a local weatherman. I am an amateur. I do consider myself fairly well-read, for a "lay person", on matters of climate and weather, but compared to a professional scientist who has spent the bulk of her life studying these phenomena, I don't hold a candle.

So, when I felt the call to write January thaw, I felt confident in writing what little I did— I feel that it was a conservative article appropriate to my level of expertise. Yet throughout the article's creation, I thought: "I wish I could talk to a real climatologist right now." The advice of an expert would probably lead to a better article.

I'm sure that, with thousands of people editing Wikipedia regularly, there's got to someone around in such a profession as climatology: the issue is how to find that person. Wikipedia doesn't, as far as I know, have a mechanism whereby one can find the true experts on one topic or another.

I recognize that Wikipedians are often secretive about their in-person identities. I myself have not disclosed by occupation nor my geographic location, and I don't intend to. So do I expect that all Wikipedians should readily volunteer that information? No. This much I do not ask. What I would like to see, however, is a social mechanism whereby experts in a given field (such as climatology) can

  • identify themselves,
  • verify their expertise, and
  • make themselves available to the Wikipedia community.

Not all contributions are equal— I would revert a seasoned climatologist much more hesitantly than a snot-nosed 15-year-old, after all. Yet presently, I have no way of distinguishing (except "by ear", and I myself am an amateur on most topics) which is which. I think that most good-faith contributions are valuable to Wikipedia, but clearly there are situations where the advice of a professional or expert is indispensable.

So I present this problem to Wikipedia: How shall we make readily available the advice and attention of willing experts on a specialized topic? Through what mechanism shall the well-meaning amateur bring his contributions to the attention of a more seasoned editor?