You’ve heard me say it before… Crowdsourced websites like StackOverflow and Wikipedia are changing the world. Everyone is familiar with Wikipedia, but most people still haven’t heard about the StackExchange brand question and answer sites. If you look into their success, I think you’ll begin to see how the combination of crowdsourcing and online reputation systems is going to revolutionize academic publishing and peer-review.
Do you know what’s happened to computer programming since the founding of StackOverflow, the first StackExchange question and answer site? It has become a key part of every programmer’s continuing education, and for many it is such an essential tool that they can’t imagine working a single day without it.
StackOverflow began in 2008, and since then more than 1 million people have created accounts, more than 3 million questions have been asked, and more than 6 million answers provided (see Wikipedia entry). Capitalizing on that success, StackExchange, the company which started StackOverflow, has begun a rapid expansion into other fields where people have questions. Since most of my readers do more statistics than programming, you might especially appreciate the Stack Exchange for statistics (aka CrossValidated). You can start exploring at my profile on the site or check out this interesting discussion of machine learning and statistics.
How do the Stack Exchange sites work?
- A couple of my friends are involved in a startup called ScholasticaHQ which is facilitating peer-review for academic journals, and also offers social networking and question and answer features.
- The stats.stackexchange.com has an open-source competitor in http://metaoptimize.com/qa/ which works quite similarly. Their open-source software can and is being applied to other topics.
- http://www.reddit.com is a popular news story sharing and discussion site where users vote on stories and comments.
- http://www.quora.com/ is another general-purpose question and answer site.
It isn’t quite as explicit, but internet giants like google and facebook are also based on the idea of rating and reputation.
A growing number of academics blog, and people have been discussing how people could get academic credit for blogging. People like John Ioannidis are calling attention to how difficult it is to interpret the a scientific literature because of publication bias and other problems. Of course thoughtful individuals have other concerns about academic publishing. Many of these concerns will be addressed soon, with the rise of crowdsourcing and online reputation systems.