The Expert Question

March 17, 2016

What are you an expert in? Or, what do you know a lot about?

Now let’s say that you’re at a party and someone says they’re an expert in your field but you’re pretty sure they’re bullshitting. What is the one question you would ask them to call them out?

The point of this isn’t to call people out on things, it’s to help people tell you something interesting about their field. When you ask people this question you get into pretty interesting conversations. I’ve never failed to learn something new. So here we go!

Hip hop expert: What’s your favourite golden era album?

Turbulence expert: What is the slope of energy cascade in 2d and 3D turbulence?

Crochet expert: What’s the difference between a back post double crochet and a front post double crochet?

Anatomy Expert: What’s your favourite structure and why?

Metal recycling expert: What’s the difference between stainless steel 316 and 309?

Jazz Expert: Did you see Wycliffe Gordon play with the Berlin Philharmonic?

Quadcopter control systems expert: What’s your opinion on how challenging it would be to implement non linear global attitude control of a quadcopter?

Theoretical Origami expert: When do you think we’ll solve the perimeter problem?

Movement expert/massage therapist: Theres no question, I’d just watch them move.

Bitcoin expert: What property of Bitcoin makes it interesting?

Music expert: Name all the modes.

C++ expert: Why can’t you throw an exception from a destructor?

SciPy expert: So do you save your stuff in HDF5?

Film Theory expert: What do you think about the use of the time-image in The Train Robbery?

Logic expert: Is first order logic complete?

A few of these are trick questions. Wycliffe would never play with the Berlin Philharmonic and The Train Robbery has virtually no time image (it’s mostly movement image). Others like the anatomy question are so straightforward that they’d be hard to answer confidently. You need to think laterally to come up with good questions like these.

Some people, like the movement expert and hair cutting expert said there was no question that they could ask. The expertise was in ‘doing’. Obviously there’s knowledge involved but they said they’d just have to see the person in action.

My favourite thing about this question is the jargon. It’s so field specific. People are often hesitant to speak to you in their field’s jargon, but I think without it it’s hard to really learn something.


I originally saw this question here on Reddit, which made me want to ask it to people I met.