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Friends of Extreme Mechanics Letters

Zhigang Suo's picture

When I traveled in China in June, I was once again irritated by the Internet.  It was often slow and broken.  Many important services are inaccessible, blocked by someone.  Why would someone do that?

But I found my Chinese colleagues extremely well interconnected.  Everyone has a cell phone.  They actually use their cell phones!  

I, too, have a cell phone, an iPhone 5S given to me when my son was upgraded to iPhone 6.  Before I went to China, I found little use of my cell phone.  I certainly did not use cell phone to connect with my colleagues.  I used emails.  

In China it was easy to be a Chinese.  Colleagues showed me how they used their cell phones.  They, of course, had each other’s cell phone numbers.  So I started to exchange phone numbers with people.  Calling colleagues on cell phones was socially acceptable.  I got things done more quickly by talking to people, phone to phone.  One more way to communicate, in addition to face to face, and email to email.

They also showed me Wechat.  Wechat is a free cell phone app for chatting, similar to many, many such services all over the world:  Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp...  But one thing is different:  A large number of Chinese academics use wechat!  They even form groups!  Everyone has a cell phone at all time.  Almost everyone uses Wechat.

This gives me an idea.  When Teng Li and I founded iMechanica, in 2006, the tool of the day was Web 2.0:  everyone can write online, as well as read online.  We should use the tool of today to talk about mechanics.  That tool today is cell phones.  Everyone has a cell phone at all time.  

I have just started a Wechat group called “Friends of EML”.  The group has now 121 members.  The purpose of the group is to talk about hot areas of mechanics and how to use Extreme Mechanics Letters to propel them, and use them to propel the new journal.

If you want to join us at the “Friends of EML”, and if you know me in person, please contact me at my wechat address zhigangsuo.  If you don’t know me in person, perhaps you know some alumni of my group.  Most of them are Friends of EML and can invite you.  You can also contact other editors of EML.  Of course, you need first download the wechat app to your cell phone.

Comments

Pradeep Sharma's picture

Zhigang, this is a good idea...I too, until perhaps very recently, did not use my cell phone beyond its classical features. I started using Whatsapp (---which is similar to Wechat) in order to stay in touch with some of my friends from high school and now many others around the world including my relatives in India.

Discussion of mechanics will be an unusual application of Wechat! But, in a short while, may feel as natural as it now feels to use iMechanica on our laptops.

Lifeng Wang's picture

Dear Zhigang, it's very cool to have a such a tool for mechnics people to communicate directly!

Teng Li's picture

I was at a conference in Hong Kong when the Wechat group of "Friends of EML" was established by Zhigang. Many attendants of the conference are already indeed friends of iMechanica, so it took minimum efforts to get many of them in this new Wechat group. Before the conference was over, I noticed the number of group members went from 2-digit to 3-digit. You start to see people inviting other friends in their circles to join the group. This reminds me the early days of iMechanica: after some initial publicizing efforts, the registrated users of iMechanica just increase by word of mouth.

The advent of smartphone is changing many facets of our life everyday. Mobile messaging communication service such as Wechat and Whatsapp makes connecting and communicating with each other radically easier and in ways that are nearly impossible in past. I was first amazed by the power of Wechat about two years ago, when a friend of mine snapped a photo with a monk at a tea stand in Tibet and shared in our Wechat group in real time. Then a few group members online started to converse, including him in Tibet, one in Japan, some in Beijing and Shanghai, and some in US, me included. While such a conversation was technically possible even before Wechat was launched, it often involved the use of a computer and took some time to set up. So not many people bother to set up to discuss a random snapshot while traveling. Now with smartphone and apps like Wechat, such communications and sharing become so easy that even my folks can do so. I feel much more closer and connected with family and friends, and I'm sure many find the same.

The ease to use aside, Wechat cannot serve all we need at iMechanica. Conversations in a Wechat group go in a single thread, so one can easily get lost in an active discussion. Time stamp exists but is transient. It is challenging to retrieve historical communications. By contrast, iMechanica allows multi-thread discussions, with permanent time stamp and archiving of all conversations, which are searchable as well. Many of us have enjoyed the in-depth discussions over iMechanica and our monthly Journal Club has been a signature feature of iMechanica for exactly the same reasons. On the other hand, iMechanica is not ideal either.  For example, posting an image or a figure in a post or a comment is not trivial. I've answered tons of questions, such as how to post images, from many iMechanica users and still find the solutions we can offer awkward to apply.

So for us, Wechat will not replace iMechanica, but we need both. Per Wikipedia, as of August 2014, WeChat has 438 million active users; with 70 million outside of China. I assume these numbers still increase. Per BaiduBaike, Chinese version of Wikipedia, by first quarter of 2015, wechat has 549 million users from 200 countries in 20 languages, it's installed in 90% smartphones in China. Just like computers, smartphones will be everywhere, only at a much faster sweeping pace. Let's just embrace all possible ways to get connected with each others and wait to see how wechat can do for mechanicians and mechanics. 

 

—posting from a high speed train at 180 miles/hour in China (I took a snapshot of the speed display but find not easy to post the image here…. :-)

Zhigang Suo's picture

Exllent points. I write this iMechanica comment within wechat. See if it works. 

Zhigang Suo's picture

Here is an analysis of WeChat.  Technical but worth reading.  Some background of WeChat is found in this wikipedia page.

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