The power of the “technical” internet.

When I started working for British Mohair Spinners in Keighley in the late 1980’s everything seemed very clear in the ways things were done. You did an apprenticeship with on the job learning and went to college for the official part of your qualifications. The people around you had a level of knowledge and if they could not answer the technical questions then you had either the option of a networking meeting or going to one of the larger dyestuff manufacturers and using their extensive laboratories and highly skilled technicians. From a UK and European point of view this skill base has been greatly reduced and much of the manufacturing and technical expertise initially went overseas. The generation of technicans has moved to other industries or retirement and less technical people are coming into the industry. The focus for those joining the industry has changed to a more design based or IT based structure so there is a gap in knowledge and expertise. Some of this gap is being filled by companies such as Coloursmith with our range of training and consultancy services, www.coloursmith.co.uk and services can be provided either on a short term basis or as longer industry placements etc.

For those organisations who do not know where to go to fulfill their technical expertise needs, there is the growth of systems such as Linked In and Zintro. This means there is no longer a need for companies or individuals requiring technical consultation and expertise to leave their homes or desks. Help is provided by a willing group of people who can answer questions and propose solutions to a wide variety of questions and situations all from the comfort of their own homes etc.

This might seem like a perfect situation, someone with a service, finding their customers without having to leave the house / office and someone looking for said service being able to find an expert with the same ease.

While this may seem ideal it is actually where everything starts to fall down and the whole client and supplier relationship suffers.

The people who are asking the questions are looking for free advice, you can see this when an individual posts the same question and comment across a wide number of forums. In many cases they do not see why they should have to pay for this resource, after all its all out there on the internet.

Experts who are answering the questions are doing so in the hope that they will show their worth and some more lucrative fee paying work will come their way. After all with the changes that we mentioned earlier the experts are mainly freelancers who have to find a way to pay the bills etc. This is where the two groups start to move apart and antagonism can begin, you see a thread of discussion developing, and the experts will provide part of the answer to try and hook the potential client. The client becomes more frustrated because they do not get the complete answer and these frustrations can spill over.

The thread will usually come to an end when messages begin to appear that basically state – I agree with the above. This is because most of the points have been covered and quite frankly in many cases to deal with textile issues you actually have to be stood inside a factory to see the process and advise correctly. Only receiving parts information via forum message or email is not going to resolve the situation very quickly.

Of course the one thing that is guaranteed to kiil a thread is when someone says ” email me directly I can help with this” I hope that this email takes place and some consultant is able to gain some business. This is my sincere hope, I actually suspect it is more likely that the person posting the question realizes they have used up their free credit in this forum and moves onto another forum to start again and gain more information they do not want to have that direct email conversation because cost will be discussed.

As I said the technical internet has replaced a very human resource and relationship, the payback for the dyestuff companies in the past was that you used their dyes and chemicals to get the product you and your customer wanted. I hope that with the relationship that has replaced it. Rather than potential clients posting technical questions across different areas to try and get the freebies, start to appreciate that true quality information costs and that they have to pay some price for this.

If they use the Zintro form of a 1 hour consult or maybe some longer consultation then fine, but we all need to live and develop our businesses. If this demand for free information and help continues then the technical internet will dry up. Already some people I know refuse to get involved in the threads because they do not want to be giving their product i.e their knowledge away. This will happen more and more as this imbalance in proceedings and the demand for everything for nothing continues. If you wanted a physical product and went into a shop and took it without paying then you would be arrested for shoplifting – why is trying to get peoples knowledge and skills for free any different ?

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