15

When I read questions like this one I wonder if we are aware of the fact that Academia.SE, and the whole Stack Overflow network, might be totally unknown to a large fraction of the academic world, especially outside fields like computer science or mathematics. And even if they knew, they might be totally unimpressed.

For instance, my nearest colleagues know about it just because they happened to look at my computer's screen seeing Academia.SE opened in the browser. And then the conversation typically goes like this (yeah, real kindergarten conversation from 50 years old people!):

Colleague: Academia? What's that, another one of your nerdy sites like [...]?

Me: This one's international!

Colleague: Ha! Academia?

Me: It's about the academic world: teaching, papers, PhD students etc.

Colleague: So, not only do you pester us and your students, but also them?

Me: Yes, you know that the main goal of my life is to annoy as many people as possible.

Colleague: I know, I know. But do they listen to you?

Me: It appears that I'm a top user... I'll probably even get a t-shirt!

Colleague: Gee.

Me: I'll wear it.

Colleague: ...

Me: I'll ask you to take a picture in the lab.

Colleague: Can't wait!

Hence, the titular question: do we have any data, even very rough, or general idea, on how much Academia.SE is known in the academic world? What is your impression?

  • 2
    Wait till the swag is shipped, then we can run experiments on conferences and similar. – Wrzlprmft Jan 16 '16 at 15:59
  • @Wrzlprmft Actually, I think the swag will help get the word out quite a bit. I'm sure I'll wear my t-shirt around campus and to various conferences. – Kimball Jan 16 '16 at 19:04
  • 3
    @Wrzlprmft Oh, the swag is on! Mine just arrived! – Kimball Jan 16 '16 at 21:25
  • Is there any way to get IP-based analytics for a SE website, as a non-mod? – Franck Dernoncourt Jan 17 '16 at 16:59
  • 1
    Taxpayers and whoever else pays for our salaries surely hope it stays as confidential as possible. – Cape Code Jan 18 '16 at 7:34
  • 2
    @CapeCode I don't get it: why? My participation to Academia.SE doesn't have any significant impact on my working time; besides, having a wider view on the academic world surely allows me to do a better job. And I think that this is true for many other people here. – Massimo Ortolano Jan 18 '16 at 9:29
  • 1
    Anecdotally, several weeks ago for the first time ever a colleague asked me do you post on Academia Stack Exchange?. – gerrit Jan 18 '16 at 18:47
  • I've met people at conferences who knew me first through my Stack Exchange posts. – JeffE Mar 12 '16 at 15:58
  • 1
    @JeffE Your case might not be surprising because CS and mathematics are probably the most represented fields here, while all other fields are probably fairly underrepresented. – Massimo Ortolano Mar 12 '16 at 16:24
6

Last semester, one of my MS students (an international student from India) asked me a question, and I wanted to point him to an answer I had written on Academia.SE that I thought addressed his question. (And I thought that the other answers to that question would also be helpful to him.) I started to explain to him about the Stack Exchange network and Academia.SE, and he told me he had heard of it, and had used it extensively in navigating the graduate school admissions process.

I don't have any data, but having met someone in real life who used Academia.SE before meeting me made me think we're not as unknown as I had previously thought.

  • 1
    At the moment none of the students I've talked to seem to know Academia.SE, and, when pointed to, they looked uninterested (which is a pity, especially for those who are seeking to go abroad). However, a few days ago an international student asked me if I could write a strong recommendation letter: I've wondered if he could have got that adjective from here, because it's the first time I hear that expression from a student in my university (typically, they simply ask for a rec letter, without any adjective). – Massimo Ortolano Jan 17 '16 at 11:10
  • @MassimoOrtolano there exist many other websites about graduate admissions. – Franck Dernoncourt Jan 17 '16 at 16:58
16

My impression is that Academia.SE is virtually unknown, but that this is not a problem for three reasons.

  1. The goal isn't to be famous, it's to help people by building good curated answers, and a lot of people do get helped by our answers, judging by the views and votes. If you google for random academia-related questions, Academia.SE actually shows up fairly often amongst the professional advice-givers.
  2. This community isn't all that old yet, and it is still growing.
  3. The larger StackOverflow community is fairly widely known, and I find it easy to explain Academia.SE by saying it's a topic site as part of that network.
  • 3
    A note: I didn't want to suggest that Academia.SE being virtually unknown is a problem, but (if it's true, indeed) it should be taken into account in answering certain type of questions. In addition, SO is surely widely known, but I suspect only to developers, computers scientists etc. For many other fields, it might be virtually unknown too. – Massimo Ortolano Jan 16 '16 at 18:51
  • 1
    This is my impression too. Indeed, I was talking to one of my (rather tech savvy) colleagues at lunch yesterday. He has seen MathOverflow (which I think is pretty well known in math by now) and MathStackExchange, though doesn't have accounts. When I mentioned Academia, he said "What?" – Kimball Jan 16 '16 at 19:02
  • @MassimoOrtolano StackOverflow is somewhat more widely known than that because many other fields also deal with data these days in ways that cause people to be googling for help and stumbling onto SO. They may not particularly notice or stay around much, however. – jakebeal Jan 16 '16 at 19:08

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