One-on-one advice now comes in a variety of flavors!

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Officehours seems like a simple project. Like most simple things, though, it’s a tad more complex than we first imagined. We learned this early on, as we thought through the application. (Our roadmap already extends to 2017.) Knowing the work ahead, we made a conscious decision. We’d put off certain necessary features, until we had more pressing ones sorted out.

For example, there’s categorization. We knew that we needed to allow filtering of users; but, when we started out, we had no advisors. So, it was more important to get call quality and other UX matters sorted out first. But, after a couple of traffic surges (like the Product Hunt mention) the need for this feature became more urgent.

As such, we moved the addition of categories up, in our timeline. I’m pleased to tell you that @shelkie pushed this feature live, earlier today. Some things you should know, before you pick your categories:

Featured categories vs. regular ones

Our hunch is that we’ll see many dozens of categories added to Officehours, over the next few days. To keep this list manageable, we selected 6 categories to feature. These include: Content Strategy, Design, Marketing, Startups, Technology, and UX. (The types of expertise seen most on Officehours, informed our selections.)

Meanwhile, you can find more granular categories (and ones with fewer advisors) in the Categories index. In time, we’ll add some of these to the featured list, and include them in the main menu. If you feel that we should add one sooner, tell us.

Choosing categories

To select the categories you offer help in, go to the Edit Profile area. From there, you can add categories, by filling in your Expertise. Each selection represents a category that we’ll list your profile in.

An auto-complete feature is in place, which allows you to select from existing categories. Alternately, you can add new ones, if you hold experience that isn’t yet listed as a category. (Remember to click Update Profile, or your selections won’t stick.)

We moderate…

Categories are challenging. Left unchecked, these lists can grow long, and become unusable. Done badly, we could end up with many difficult-to-navigate categories, with only one or two advisors in each.

So, we intend to actively moderate categories. This means merging synonymous terms (e.g. UX and User Experience). It also means deleting categories that offer limited benefit to the Officehours community.

If you add a new category, you’ll see a “review pending” note on that item. (While in review, we’ll show it in grey, in your profile.) If we approve this addition, we’ll add it to the Categories index. Alternately, we might merge it with the common category (e.g., Graphics Design becomes Graphic Design). Or, we might remove it altogether. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Choose wisely

You can list up to 10 areas of expertise—but do carefully consider the ones you add. This isn’t a place to over-reach. If you have deep expertise in an area, list it. If you aren’t an expert in it, refrain from adding yourself. (Offering to help in an area you hold limited expertise in, is unfair to those who give you their trust.)

Additionally, karma and categories are closely related. The more often you’re recommended in a category, the higher your karma score in it. As such, the fewer categories you’re in, the higher your ranking will likely be. (In other words: the greater the number of areas you offer help in, the more you dilute each score.)

I list myself under a small number of categories. I accept that most of my expertise lies in just a few areas—so I limit myself to these. Doing so helps ensure that I offer those who ask, my best advice.

The benefits of high ranking

Expertise can be difficult to quantify—especially in vocations with less-traditional career paths. Associations vet doctors, but there’s no common licensing for careers like design. So, we sometimes need ways to prove/determine respective expertise.

This is a real benefit of the Officehours system. Those who provide solid advice will see better reviews—and higher karma scores. We believe Officehours users will, in time, use their karma/rank here as a way to illustrate their expertise. (Much like how a high Twitter follower count says something about who you are).

This feature is in it’s infancy, so most won’t know about it. Nevertheless, we’re collecting ratings, session information, and other data right now. So, please attend the meetings you schedule, and give others here your very best!

As with any new addition, we anticipate some issues as we roll out this new feature. That said, we’ll work to get it to 100% as soon as we can. If you spot issues—or have questions—please talk to us on the #Officehours channel, on Chapp.