Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why has Academia.edu gotten so boring?

I find myself rarely scrolling through the news feed on Academia.edu any more. I used to like to review the articles listed, often finding things of interest. But there are two new developments in their algorithms that make my news feed almost painful to read.

First, the same articles are listed over and over again. Someone posted a paper: it is listed, Someone bookmarked the paper: listed again. Someone recommended the paper: listed again. Someone looked at the paper. Someone sneezed at the paper. Someone whispered its title. It is bad enough having to wade through the same papers over and over again. But it is made much worse by the second problem

Second, I now get all sorts of papers listed that I don't have the least interest in. Postcolonial this, materiality theory that, phenomenology here, conceptions of the body there. Ugh, I really don't care about this stuff. I used to tweak my list of interests to keep out this kind of fluff, but now it is all over my Academia.edu feed. I deliberately follow only a few people, to keep down the number of items in my feed. But now there is an explosion of junk mail. The entries all say something like "Ten people connected to you bookmarked this paper." This must mean that, for example six people who follow me have bookmarked "The phenomenology of temporal experience." Well, that is nice for them, I guess, but the probability that I will look at such a paper has several zeros after the decimal point.

I still consider Academia.edu as a useful place to post my papers for people to see. But it has ceased to be a place where I go to learn about new papers. There is so much garbage in my feed--repeated again and again--that I can rarely stand to look at it.

Perhaps if I was more in tune with the anti-scientific trend in archaeology, I'd love getting all this stuff. But I'm not, and I don't.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too detest this feature, it has been trashing my newsfeed for months now, to the point that I hardly look at it. And the "people connected to me" are actually people followed by people I follow, so the connection is indirect and tenuous.

Michael E. Smith said...

Yeah, the followers of followers makes more sense of the nonsense I get now.

bookandsword.com said...

Some slightly older colleagues use their Sessions feature to get comments on drafts. I don't like the way that it spams you with emails, or is very eager to take things in (with an ambitious user agreement) but not so eager to let them out without logging in and enabling all kinds of third-party Javascript. They seem to be imitating Facebook. Physicists and mathematicians seem to do just fine running their own arXiv, but they have more computer skills and funds than humanists do ...

Anonymous said...

I had the same observation about the newsfeed becoming very spammy and boring. But it seems like they've taken your post to heart, sort of. As of yesterday, my feed no longer has any of the "X # of people connected to you..." stuff and is now filled with documents that my contacts "recently" uploaded. Some of these documents have been on Academia.edu for years and have thousands of views. Not sure what is happening there.

Michael E. Smith said...

I got an email over the weekend from Zachary Foster, Product Manager at Academia.edu. It basically said, thanks for the comments, we are working on improving the situation. So maybe they did! I haven't had a chance to look yet, though.

Anonymous said...

After seeing your blogpost I complained (again) about this truly awful feature, and gave the link to your blogpost. It may have had some effect: I'm still seeing occasional items of the "x people connected to you" type, but they no longer dominate my newsfeed to anything like the previous extent, so I can actually look at it again.

Michael E. Smith said...

Well, maybe informed input does sometimes have an impact!

Varun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It seems I spoke too soon - after a few days of what seemed like a reprieve, with very few of these "spam" items in my newsfeed, they are now back in full flood.

Michael E. Smith said...

My feed looks much better than previously. It does include some things that I would NEVER look at, and that do not seem linked through keywords. AHA, the link must be through Michael B. Smith, who wrote "Ontology and Alterity in Merleau-Ponty". Weird.