October 10, 2008
Will SSRN Ever Crowdsource Its Digital Depository Like Amazon?
Have you noticed that SSRN has some really exciting new features like simple submissions, a "more intuitive, user-friendly" sign-in "modeled after commonly used websites and forms," and redesigned author and abstract pages? You can also export SSRN paper cites into common bib apps like EndNote and share papers through Digg, Del.icio.us, etc. In other words, no-brainer
improvements add-ons, certainly nothing to write home about.
CiteReader, an Infometric Tool. I have been playing around with the Company's CiteReader, a work in progress, but useful should you get curious about the download count noise law schools and their profs like to generate. Take a look at the numbers to put some meat on bony claims based on clicking a mouse button: track (1) number of abstract views, (2) number of downloads of SSRN paper(s); and (3) number of citations of the paper(s) in the SSRN database by law school, by prof, by article. Oops!
Amazon-esque Features. The Company has added one useful feature. On a paper's Abstract Page you will find a "People who downloaded this paper also downloaded" display listing other SSRN papers. Full of hubris, the Company writes:
We love this feature, and many users have actually told us they “found” papers relevant to their research through this list. ... As you can see, it is similar to other features on popular sites like Amazon.
So when will SSRN implement a commenting function to Abstract Pages like Amazon does? It might help abstract viewers make more informed mouse click decisions.
Distributing Works-in-Progress, Why? On a more serious note, Online crowdsourcing might even contribute to improving the quality of legal scholarship. Any SSRN user can see that authors upload to SSRN revised versions of their papers. Perhaps the papers were revised because some downloaders have actually read the papers and emailed the authors comments. But wouldn't crowdsourcing these works-in-progress by online commenting be a plus too? Wouldn't it be a more timely and contemporary way to do this? Contemporary as in using social media, as in SSRN not even having to invent the necessary applications to do this ... [sigh of relief] ... (SSRN isn't exactly known for being a design and implementation coding powerhouse, evidenced once again by the new features listed above).
Remember the bad old days when scholars tried to obtain input from other scholars by circulating drafts in the US mail, hoping recipients would take the time to write back a letter with comments and criticism. In library school we learned about this "informal college" of review and its drawbacks -- unknown writers not getting responses from known experts in the field, useful suggestions and corrections received too late to be added before the article had to be published.
So one has to ask the question, what is the point of e-distributing works-in-progress in SSRN without crowdsourcing via something called the "World Wide Web"? To date it appears to be the narcissistic self-stroking of law prof egos based on absurd download counts. If their articles aren't being cited, at least they are being
read downloaded, right? Or from an infometric perspective, at least SSRN's CiteReader provides a psychiatric fix for the academic delusions produced by drinking that info-antic Kool-aid. [JH]
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