Friday, March 06, 2015

Identity Boosting on Social Media

There is a service for researchers called Research Gate which some of you may be familiar with.  I have an account there that I never use.  I started it because other people use it to search for research papers, similar to Google Scholar but with much richer metadata about the publications and it includes papers, slideshares, videos, and other media all in one place and filtered by author. 

So if other people search for keywords that I have written a paper on, they get my paper in the search results and an easy way to see what else I have published and a rich profile of who I am.  It makes me more "discoverable."  Plus, if people like what they read, they can "follow" me, getting updates every time another one of my publications goes up.  A lot of international researchers who do not have extensive academic libraries use Research Gate as their research search engine.

But since I don't ever use the account, it should be empty.  But they use a clever technique that combines identity-boosting and gradualism strategies. Every week I get an email from them with two or three papers that have my name on them.  They ask me if these are really me.  All I have to do is click yes and they get added to my Research Gate profile.  Easy.  And just a few at a time so it is quick.  And it is ego-boosting because these are "my" papers (even though the copyright is owned by the publisher). 

If the web crawlers are any good, they should be able to fully populate my research archive within a year or two and keep it updated.  Their crawler doesn't actually find everything, but it is not bad.  At the moment, they have 45 of my publications (out of about 200).  But that is with me investing virtually no effort.  If I spent even a modicum of time, I could probably get it up to 100 or 150 without too much effort.

And interestingly, 1600 people have viewed a paper of mine on the site, 636 people have downloaded one of my papers, and 244 papers have cited one of mine and logged that into the system.  I have no idea who any of these people are, so this is not exactly going on my resume.  Every couple of weeks I get an email that someone new is following me, and I have no idea who they are or why.  But it does give me a little ego boost to think my research papers are valuable enough for this kind of traffic. 

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