Learning patterns/Networking with outside experts to improve your project
What problem does this solve?
Sometimes we have ideas that come from experience or personal need. We have the intuition it is feasible, maybe we partly have the skills to make it real, but we are not sure: we are not experts in the field.
Asking feedback from people that are expert in the field will not only add value to our idea, but it will also measure how feasible it is and ecourage/discourage us to work on it. Asking opinions from a number of people (not just one) we trust as experts is the best way to proceed.
What is the solution?
Working on a project always means dealing with new things and problems never tackled before. Not having all the skills to realize a project should not stop you from realizing it or at least evaluating its feasibility.
It is important to ask for opinions about the viability and the interest of the proposed idea to experts in the field. You might possibly start asking people with some kind of knowledge on the topic, and then scale up to people that have a higher level of expertise. People with expertise can give you feedback on your idea which will boost your project from start to end as they will give you the confidence that the idea you have can actually be implemented, as you will face many difficult steps that will very likely discourage you anyways along the way.
Things to consider
- Don't hesitate asking people with expertise. People generally enjoy giving their opinion on things.
- Don't get discouraged if when you ask for help, for example by email, you don't get any answer. Contact a different person. That person might be unavailable, busy with other things or might just answer in a year...
- Work on the way you ask for help, make your requests interesting, polite, straight to the point.
- Think about which different fields of knowledge are involved in your project and make a list: for each field try to contact at least 5 experts.
- Ask for opinions on mailing lists, someone might point you to the right resource.
- Do not overwhelm people with questions, or they won't help you next time. When you start a conversation with an expert try to be concise, and concentrate all your questions in a few organized points.
When to use
I used this pattern for my project on etymological trees. I am a physicist with experience in programming and data analysis. I had no previous knowledge in natural language processing or linked data but I had an idea to use them to visualize etymological relationships between words, as I have always been interested in the history of words.
I did some literature search, to see if anyone else had already worked on the same idea or a similar idea, and then I investigated if my idea was feasible by asking them and other experts in the field. I especially looked for someone that could be somehow interested in the topic and somehow related to me, and contacted them by email. At the end two people showed interest in my project and gave great feedback: they where one academic from my University and a person working on linguistics data in a different country. Other people also gave constructive and positive feedback. I also received negative feedback but overall, by weighting opinions based on expertise, I could see I had an encouraging result.