Scirate.com

Dave, where have you been? Your posting has been almost nonexistent over the last few weeks. Why?

I’ve been busy.

Really? Academics are busy? I thought that they only taught one course per term. Sounds like you are a bunch of tax payer sponsored lazy bums to me.

Bah, you have no idea! Grumble, grumble. But more seriously I haven’t been blogging because I only have a certain small amount of free time and I’ve been dedicating all this time to a new project.

New project? Like your project to make an information theoretic transactional interpretation of quantum theory?

No, even more bizarre. A website.

A website? Come on, Dave, last time I created a website it took me like a few minutes. Are you really that slow?

I am slow. But that’s another issue. What took me so long was that I needed to learn php and a little javascript and extend my mastery of pyton to get the website working.

Ah, becoming a true computer scientist are you, Dave?

Hey, since Scott Aaronson can now claim to be “the second funniest physics blogger,” maybe with these skills I can claim to be “the second least funny computer science blogger!”

So what is this website of which you speak? I hope its not pornography related.

No, no pornography. The website is called scirate.com.

Scirate.com? Are you irate about science or something? I’m certainly irate about science…I hate how that damn thing called reality keeps dragging me down.

No, I love science. It doesn’t make me irate at all. Just filled with a deep calm. So take that! But anyway, scirate.com is a website inspired by digg.com, the arxiv, the open archives initiative, conversations I’ve had with Joe Renes, Michael Bremner, and a host of others, and my desire to have some fun.

Fun? So it IS pornography related.

No. No pornography. The idea came from the observation that while the arxiv is a amazing tool, one of the problems was that the volume of papers was high and, to put it bluntly, the quality of these papers was not necessarily so great. So the question became, how do I do something to filter out the arxiv? Now, of course, everyone will want a slightly different filter. One person’s noise might be indeed another persons operatic masterpeice. But there should be a way to produce at least “some” kind of filter based on the quality of the work. And certainly computers aren’t smart enough to do this filtering (okay that’s a challenge to all you AI people out there!) And using citations is too slow. But there is a group of experts out there who can do pretty good filtering…

Who?

You! And by “you” I mean the people who read the arxiv listings.

Me? What can I do?

Well, each day postings from the arxiv (actually only from quant-ph right now, see below) are listed onto scirate.com. If you are registered, you can then look through the listing and vote (or “Scite” as I call it) for the preprints. Then, when you display, or anyone else displays the page, the listing will be sorted by vote. So, with enough user participation, the hope is that the signal will “float” to the top. A noise filter!

Are you calling me a Butterworth filter?

Nothing of the sort. I’m calling you a useful!

Okay, but aren’t you worried about vote stuffing?

Certainly vote stuffing is possible. But I’m an optimist when it comes to others behavior. That being said, I have a few tricks for avoiding vote stuffing.

Fine, but aren’t you worried that this just adds another layer to the popularity contest of science. Aren’t you just adding another leg in the “publish or perish” beast?

No, I’m not worried. First of all to have an impact it must be used by more than a few crazies like those people who read this website. And if it is used by more than a few crazies, well then I think the site is worth it. Second of all, anyone who takes seriously citation data of any sort is setting themselves up for “the wrong kind of science.” Just because the reality of how academia works is a pain doesn’t mean that you have to buy into carrying about how cited your paper is. You should be doing science for the reasons of expanding knowledge.

Okay, maybe I’m a little interested. Oh wait, I’m a high energy theorist, but you only have quant-ph. Why?

Well right now I only have quant-ph. This is because quant-ph is what I read and I wanted to start somewhere familiar. Second, I do plan on extending it to the other arxiv’s and allowing you choose which arxiv’s to browse, etc. Third, the arxiv is moving to a new format for papers sometime soon and this will certainly break my oai harvester, so I will wait until they make that change before I attack the other arxivs.

Fair enough, but the site seems a little barebones, doesn’t it?

Yep. Mostly I’ve just been focusing on getting the barebones site up and running. Further improves will come if there is enough interest. And of course it would be great if users could tell me about problems their having or features they’d like to see. To do this I’ve set up a blog scirate.com/blog.

Why are the abstracts displayed in small font?
Click on them and find out.

I voted, but the paper didn’t change order.

Yes, right now you have to reload to get the new order. This will, eventually, be fixed.

Can’t you do something more sophisticated like feature X on digg.com?

Eventually there will be more features. Believe me I have a long list of ideas, but I’m always open to ideas. Again The Scirate Blog is a good place to post your ideas.

What software did you use to write the site? Why didn’t you use Pligg, the digg clone?

Php, mysql, javascript, some serverside ajax stuff, python. Doing things on your own is funner. Did I ever tell you about how I learned Calculus? I bought a book on quantum mechanics and on about page 12 came to an integral sign (the famous integral sign that Planck turned into a sum sign!) and didn’t know what it was. I took it to a teacher who knew it was an integral sign. So I went off and learned Calculus.

You really are obsessed with quantum theory, aren’t you?

Yes.

Well, Dave, I’ll see you later. I’ll see you at QIP right?

Um, did I mention I’m teaching this term?

You inserted that last sentence to make this blog post one big circle didn’t you?

This entry was posted in Computer Science, Physics, Quantum, Science, Self: Meet Center. Center: Meet Self.. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Scirate.com

  1. mick says:

    You may be the funniest quantum physics blogger but I’m far and away the best looking.

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  2. Yin Zhangqi says:

    I registed several times before succeeded. So I think there must be some bugs in your registing program.

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  3. Dave Bacon says:

    Hey Yin,

    What did it do when you tried to register? Did it just throw you out?

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  4. Yin Zhangqi says:

    I saw the error messages said it failed. So I tried again, and used another user name and password. But failed again. I waited for about half an our and tried the third time. This time no error meassages appeared and I registed. I forgot the error message in detail.

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  5. Chris says:

    Nice work Dave!

    Your mastery of pyton is to be commended, one more letter and you’ll be there!

    But seriously, I’m really glad to see this. I had no problems registering.

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  6. joe says:

    Very nice, Dave. If this gets enough users, I’m sure it will become very useful.

    – joe

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  7. Lea says:

    Hi. Looks interesting but I still don’t understand the idea. What does it mean to scite one paper: “I am interested on this and probably will read it” or “I know about the subject and it is interesting”?

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  8. Kaveh says:

    Nice work Dave…. Arxiv+Web2.0…

    I am just thinking that the science community might not be very happy to embrace it right now…

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  9. Daniel Doro Ferrante says:

    Hi Dave,

    Although i used to be quite a regular here at your blog… this business of ‘trying to graduate’ (plus maintaining the *nix network overhere) and ‘stuff’ has kept me sort of out-of-the-loop… So, unfortunately, i just bumped into this post of yours.

    Anyway, here’s what i have to say: “It’s magnific! Fantastic! A great idea!” :-)

    Now, i’m known for being pretty easily excited with ideas like this, scientific activism in a kind of anarchic (Paul Feyerabend style) way, where everyone gets a ‘vote’, where everyone is a ‘peer-reviewer’. That’s the very reason why i started blogging way back in 25Apr03 (even though a couple of HDs crash have set my archives back a bit)!

    What’s even ‘funnier’ is that i’ve been working on something similar/analogous to do this myself, but dedicated to portuguese speaking readers (a sort of “Scientific Portal” in portuguese) — just because i felt that there wasn’t enough material covered in that language.

    Anyway, i’ve registered, already started voting (which i do usually after reading more than just the abstract ;-), and already publicized SciRate to some people i know — i also plan to use SciRate for my daily-arXivs-fix, rather than going straight to the arXivs. Now, i’ll go to the SciRate Blog to post a couple of things i’ve seen. ;-)

    But, for whatever it’s worth, if you need some help or anything like that, i’d be happy to offer whatever i can. :-)

    Cheers.

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