Why do people become registered users of iMechanica?
The number of registered users of iMechanica is approaching 3000. This sustained growth has been surprising to many, considering that iMechanica was launched less than a year ago, in September 2006, that iMechanica uses an off-the-shelf open-source software, Drupal, and that everyone can read everything without registration. Why have so many people registered? There might be many reasons, such as
- To post anything in iMechanica, whether a blog entry or a comment, a writer has to register for a free account. He has published papers in journals, and given talks at conferences. Posting on iMechanica is just another way to promote the subject and enhance his reputation. Why not? iMechanica is free and has a lot of readers.
- A graduate student has a question, and would like a know how other mechanicians think about it. To post the question, he needs to register.
- A reader likes what she reads, and would like to see iMechanica succeed and becomes a registered user. The more readers iMechanica has, the more quality entries it will attract. Why not? Registration is free, and only takes 18 seconds. She will never receive a single mass email from iMechanica.
Given these reasons, why not even more people become registered users? For a while, iMechanica has seen a linear growth, about 10 new registered users per day. Why wasn't the growth exponential? There can be many reasons, such as
- Many mechanicians still don't know about iMechanica. If you like iMechanica, send an email to your friends, or talk to them when you meet. There are many other ways that you can help to promote iMechanica.
- Many people feel uncomfortable about posting on a web site. They might think that it is immodest to talk about their own work online. This concern seems to be unnecessary. Mechanicians have long engaged in self-promotion by publishing papers in journals and giving talks at conferences. What's so different about posting an entry on a professional web site? A case may be made that every paper published anywhere is an advertisement.
- Many people feel that they have no time. Time is a scarce commodity. If you don't see the value of iMechanica, taking 18 seconds to register for a free account is a waste of time. Perhaps most mechanicians believe that iMechanica is worth 18 seconds of their time. The question is how much more time iMechanica is worth to you. Should you spend 5 minutes to comment on someone's post? Should you spend 10 minutes to post an entry to tell people about your recently published papers? (After all, you have just spent several days and $1500 at a conference to tell people about the paper.) Should you spend even more time to post your lecture notes?
I'd love to learn about your thoughts on these.