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Is it possible to give a user a flair (or badge) that denotes their relevant expertise? This would help validate informed answers from users who have a background or relevant experience in the subject at hand.

My username is Octopi so here are some examples of possible flairs:

Octopi - BE (Civil) | Hydrology and Flood Modelling

Octopi -BE (Mech), PhD (Aero) | Vortex Generation

Octopi -BSurv | Surveying

The best example of a system like this in practice is on the Science sub-Reddit where moderators verify the qualifications of the users before giving them a customised flair. Examples of how the flair works in practice can be seen here (Scroll down to the comments section). Their description of the flair awarding process can be found here.

A flair verification system would lend legitimacy to verified experts in their fields. The users would have to be hand selected after submission of proof and would need to be held to a higher standard then other users. Flairs should be able to be revoked if required.

I am new to the stack exchange community so am unsure if this type of flair or badge process is even possible or would be beneficial to the community here. A quick search of other stack exchange sites has brought up no answers or similar features however I may have simply missed something very obvious. Thoughts?

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    $\begingroup$ IMO the reputation system takes care of this neatly and cleanly without requiring any pieces of paper from any particular institutions. I'm proud of my pieces of paper, but I've known near idiots with the same ones and brilliant individuals without any. $\endgroup$ – Chris Mueller Mar 15 '15 at 21:09
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I hesitate to claim that anything is not possible.

That said, this doesn't feel to me like something that fits with Stack Exchange's model. It is decidedly social-network-y, which we are decidedly not.

Fortunately, the network has several existing features that help here. First among them being your user profile, where you may display your qualifications, certifications, L.Et.T.e.Rs. and so on. The established user privilege expands your profile's functionality to include an optional "user card" that appears when someone hovers their mouse cursor over the avatar associated with one of your questions or answers. In keeping with the philosophy of the network, you earn this via your contributions to the site, not via any outside efforts or accolades.

Another, more significant measure of credibility that you can earn is a tag badge. Again, this represents your contributions to our site, but specific to the topic of an individual tag. There are three levels, culminating in the difficult-to-achieve gold badge and its corresponding phenomenal cosmic powers. These badges are on display in your profile with a unique styling that helps them to stand out from among the more mundane badges.

It makes sense for users to earn credibility on this site based on their contributions here, because it's their future contributions here that will be affected. We do not provide professional engineering services; we do not provide legal advice; we do not employ or contract users to ask questions and offer answers. Your off-site credentials are far less relevant than the degree to which any answer you provide is helpful.

Answers that are verifiable are even better, and tend to be well-received. Do as much as possible to ensure that your credentials are truly irrelevant to your answers. An ASTM standard does not care if you are a professor emeritus, junior partner, registered professional engineer of 40 years, sales clerk at the mall, touring musician, high school student, barista, et ceterea ad nauseum.

And if your answers are helpful and verifiable, neither does anyone else.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarification. As I mentioned, I am not that familiar with the stack exchange community and was unsure whether a feature such as that would suit the style of contributions valued by the user base. The tag badge sounds like a very useful feature, achieving a very similar result in a very different way. $\endgroup$ – octopi Mar 14 '15 at 7:54
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What Air said.

I have no doubt that the verification process, were it pulled off smoothly, could certainly help lend credence to the users on the site who (rightfully) should be considered experts in their respective fields. They are the people who need to be the lifeblood of the site, and I'm quite happy to have talked with some of them and learned quite a lot from them. We need them.

I'm slightly worried, though, about how this could affect other users. Take me, for example. I'm simply a kid. I do have some things going for me that make me a lot more knowledgeable about STEM subjects than the average kid my age, and I can write good answers and write good questions1, but I must be frank: I'm no expert.

What I'm worried about is that if I post an answer to a question and another person - an expert - also posts an answer to the question, my answer could be dismissed right off the bat, no matter if it contains no inaccuracies and is backed up by valid sources. Okay, I tend to back up a lot of my answers with sources (Wikipedia, if I can't find anything else, which isn't really valid but can lead to some great sources), and I know that the experts we have here aren't dismissive of us enthusiasts, but it could happen. Could. Not "definitely will."

That's the one-in-a-rather-large-number issue. I think that it won't really come up a lot, if it comes up at any significant rate, or if at all. And besides, I'd rather have my contribution ignored and have a good answer from an expert than not have the expert give a good answer at all, or even weigh in on the question. Fortunately, we have quite a lot of people who are willing to share their expertise here, which has helped a lot of people (including me!).

I think the idea is a good one off the bat, but just as Air said, it may not fit in with the SE model, and there are other ways of showing off expertise.2


1 I can also write crappy answers and crappy questions, but I tend either retract them or (in the case of the questions) substantially edit them to a usable state.
2 Though I don't think that all of them work quite as well as they could. For example, a bronze tag badge isn't much of an accomplishment (on some sites). But I bow down to gold tag badge holders.

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