One interesting thing about quantum computing is that because it is a very new field, a large amount of the research in the field is on the arXiv (interestingly the worst users have historically been computer scientists.) Back in 2006 whenever I would sit around BSing about the arXiv with other quantum computing people, the idea of improvements that would bring the arXiv more up to date would come up. After hearing repeatedly about such ideas, in January 2007, I got fed up of hearing about these ideas and so I sat down and wrote scirate.com, a Digg-like front end for the arXiv. Okay well mostly I did it to learn PHP and Python. Oh, and because coding is fun and I can actually succeed at it as opposed to opened ended research which if hard. Also I did it because I hated spending time filtering through the arXiv each day and wanted to use the power of group knowledge to help save me time. I figure if I add up the time Scirate has saved me versus the time spent reading it I’m pretty close to having gained time. What you didn’t know the point of this blog is to slow down all you competing quantum researchers and thus effectively increase my own effective research speed?
After some initial development, however, I mostly stopped working on Scirate. Why? Well first of all because I didn’t think I’d succeeded in a very elegant way. Second there was never much traction: there is a group of quantum computing theorists who use scirate fairly often, but outside of that it is not widely used (though there are around a thousand users signed up.) Probably this is also because the development of scirate was essentially closed, consisting of me, hacking away in his spare time. Third, well this thing called a “real job” called (but I keep getting this “hold” music, heh.) I am, however, very proud that until last week, I basically haven’t had to touch the website in any way (last week my host moved Scirates server and didn’t copy over my crontab jobs, thus there is a day missing where I didn’t catch this) besides fixing a few double votes (that occur via a mechanism I’ve never been able to track down.)
So now the question is: what should I do with Scirate?
Some things I’ve been thinking about.
- One problem with Scirate is it’s closed nature. Thus it seems that it would be useful to open up an API for Scirate, allowing for its integrated functionality in other Science 2.0 websites. Indeed I’ve been thinking a bit about a very general framework for the type of functionality Scirate provides, but haven’t mapped the idea out fully.
- I’d like to learn more about Google App engine. Seems like what I do next would be a good opportunity to achieve this.
- One thing that was clearly missing was the ability to use Scirate for some sort of social networking. I’m a bit of a skeptic of “scientific social networking” sites, simply because I don’t see how scientists are all that special in their needs for social networking. Or to say it another way I don’t quite see how a more general social networking tool can’t be “extended” to be useful for scientists, but also be very useful across a wide swath of society. This would imply that I should investigate integration into other social networking sites. But does anyone really want Scirate on Facebook? (Farmville proves to me, however, that I have no idea what people want with Facebook.) And something like LinkedIn doesn’t seem to me to be as widely used as a social networking site (it’s more of a contacts / job site) nor does it allow for extend-able apps as far as I know. Actually this makes me realize that there is a huge hole in the professional social networking genre, though I’m sure that there are people out there attacking this problem. Anyone have any leads?
- There are rumors that the arXiv will soon be accessible in “the cloud.” What sorts of functionality would this allow that it currently missing?
Anyway it seems that I’m due to be working on something new…and yes I know I need to update my iPhone apps as well