Business and Open Access

What exactly is the business model of Academia.edu? Will this be the future? To analyze the situation we must observe two different aspects, at first the technological side. Academia.edu is a website, the content there is pure digital. That is different to classical libraries which were based on printed journals. The second aspect is the idea of an Higher education market. That neoliberal ideology is different from Meritocracy which is widespread used in non-capitalist systems.

Academia.edu combines both features. It is based on modern technology and on the idea that education is a product which has to be consumed. And now we can answer the original question how to earn money with this idea. Because Academia.edu is not the first company who is trying to do so. Digital oriented education markets are also important for companies like Apple, Google and AT&T. For example, the business model of AT&T is, to deliver DSL bandwith to the customer and he has to pay 40 US$ per month. The business model of Apple is to sell ipads to the customer which costs also a huge amount of money. In that domain, Academia.edu is located. That means, it is one of the companies who identified a higher education digital market as their business model and are now trying to get as much customers as possible.

Perhaps it becomes clear, why most universities are not happy with this ideology. If an institution has selected the opposite as their market, for example a non-digital form of education plus a non-business lifestyle then he sees in Academia.edu the worst-case scenario. Let us go into the detail of how some universities of the past are working.

So called public universites are taking taxpayer money, they are not financed by customers, but by a socialist ideology which beliefes that earning money is wrong. The same universities beliefs also, that only printed journals are the right way of teaching, because digital pdf documents will lower the quality. What we will see is the perfect storm. If an university sees themself not as market driven but as a public institution which is outside the normal business sector and at the same time, sees their pathway into the future driven by printed books stored in a library, then this university has a problem with everything which is different. For example, with AT&T, Google Scholar but also with Academia.edu This explains, why Academia.edu is hated by most public universities, it is something which is out of their radar.

Gets Academia.edu money from the taxpayer? No. Has Academia.edu printed books? No. The logical consequence from a neoluddist view is, that it can’t be good. Everything which is market driven and which is digital has to be defeated. That is the reason, why Academia.edu gets so much pressure and why many professors are boycotting the company. They are not against Academia.edu they are only against technology and consumerism. Quotes:

– “I distrust it for an entirely different reason”

– “I can say that I am not real satisfied with the service.”

– “Academia.edu is academic spam.”

https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/44632/is-academia-edu-useful/102246#102246

Let us investigate in detail, who money is earned in the education market. Everything is grouped around products. For example, the ipad is a product (physical goods), the AT&T DSL cable is a product, the Academia.edu subscription is a product, the Google website is a product, Microsoft Software is product, edutainment games are a software product and so on. The number of companies is endless. The consumer get access to the product through buying it. Sometimes it has to do with money, for example for the Apple ipad, sometimes the money is earned with advertisement. In nearly all cases the products are connected to technology. For example a DSL modem has to do with fiber optic cables, while a Search engine has to with a datacenter full of linux computers. What companies like AT&T and google are doing is basicly transform computer technology into consumer friendly products and compete for the money the enduser is able to pay.

This is the main difference to classical education system. Classical education 100 years ago was not focussed on technology but on institutions like a school or a university. It was not market driven but access to the ressources was based on structure of society, for example only a pastor was able to read the bible. The idea in the past was to exclude people from education because the ressource is limited, the idea of a market driven economy is to increase the number of sales, that means to sell the ipad as much as possible.

Academia.edu is focussed on a special aspect in higher education. The publishing of papers. THe system of the past was not market driven and the aim was to no publish too much. The normal way academic publishing in the past worked was, that a certain person for example a professor or a pastor has written a manuscript and he is allowed to publish it in the journal. In the workflow two things are missing. At first, technology and secondly the money.

Antipattern

In the last run, I want to describe an antipattern to Academia.edu. It is a system which can be called classical education in the past. A typical scenario might be, that we have an pastor which is a respected part of a smallville. He has read some books and now want’s to publish his own manuscript. He is doing so because he feels that there is a need to bring forward the education. It takes around 5 years until his manuscript get printed in a journal. With this plot is nothing wrong. It is pure neoluddism, because it is oriented on the society of the past and on classical printed books about a topic of the church. It is not possible that everyone is pastor, and it is not possible that the mansucript gets published on the Internet.

Is consumerism and Meritocracy the same? Open Science

Quote: “the public education system. It was created to do just what it did—manufacture a neoliberal, social Darwinian, consumer driven market place that marginalized students along socioeconomic lines based on a score from a standardized test.“ page 14 “Neoliberalism, Social Darwinism, and Consumerism Masquerading as School Reform”, 2013, https://christienken.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Neoliberalism_Tienken_2013.pdf

According to this quote consumerism results into a Meritocracy system. But is this conclusion right? As far as i know, a Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT Test) doesn’t measure the household income, but the skills to answers questions about Math, English and Physics. Or in detail: the students have to answer questions which are already known, at least by the professors, so they want to know, if the students have done their homework. Consumerism is something opposite. For example, if somebody is buying a book at Amazon, Amazon is not interested in his ability to read the english language, Amazon is only interested in money.

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Some milestones in TeX history

The initial release of TeX was introduced by Donald E. Knuth in the early 1980s. The paper is called “The texbook”: Knuth, Donald Ervin, and Duane Bibby. The texbook. Vol. 3. Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1984.

In 1986 the LaTeX extension was programmed: Lamport, Leslie, and A. LaTEX. “Document Preparation System.” (1986).

The first description of the Lyx GUI was published in a Linux journal. In contrast to TeX and LaTeX before, Lyx was not focussed on university needs but had the enduser as a target group. Quill, Ulrich. “Introduction to LyX: Make working with LaTex easierusing the WYSIWYG editor LyX.” Linux Journal 1999.57es (1999): 6. https://www.linuxjournal.com/article/1355?page=0,2&%24Version=1&%24Path=%2F&quicktabs_1=1

A modern backend for the LaTeX language itself was introduced in 2005, called Xelatex. It is basicly a pdflatex program with improved font-encodings which works fine under modern operating systems. Kew, Jonathan. “About XETEX.” (2005).

The most obvious feature in the history of TeX is the long development time. From the initial TeX release until the current software around 40 years were gone. So TeX can be seen like UNIX as some kind of universal innovation which has evolved over the time. The first version of the UNIX operating system was modified heavily until his today iteration which is Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and the same is true for TeX. The first TeX version could be started only on commandline mainframe computers. A modern recent implementation has a GUI, runs well under any operating system and produces a modern PDF layout as default. Tex itself is not very mainstream compatible, but the underlying Bibtex format is well known. For example, the WIkipedia article about Bibtex has more traffic then the article about the endnote software. So perhaps some users who are not familiar with LaTeX are using Bibtex as well?

The most interesting aspect in TeX is, that it can be combined easily with modern technology. For example, the pandoc formatter which is a markdown parser uses for it’s pdf output an underlaying LaTeX backend.

What the future will bring is easy to explain. The latest development in academic publishing is called Open Access which is on a technical side a fulltext search engine like Google Scholar. With such a search engine it is possible to find a certain paper very fast. So the future of TeX will be in online publishing of PDF papers. The arxiv project for example, is based entirely on TeX. With Lyx it is possible to extend the effort into a mass market.

The main reason why TeX was a success has economical reasons. In theory it is possible to use any other wordprocessor for formatting an academic paper for example MS-Word or Adobe Indesign. But with TeX the amount of time which has to be invested by the author is lower. That means, if the bibtex database is there, the LaTeX template is ready and the images are available in JPEG format, the final pdf paper can be rendered very easily. It is way more faster, then drag and drop all the information into a MS-Word document and adjusting manually the floating images. Sure, the TeX ecosystem is a bit complicated to grasp. But it has improved over the years and todays version of Lyx has everything out of the box what beginners in typesetting will need. The most interesting feature in Lyx is not the sophisticated layout but it is the feature to export a text into a plain-ascii format which includes the bibliographic references as well. That means, even somebody doesn’t like LaTeX he can write with Lyx nice looking pure ascii files. Left on the screen he has the outline editor, and after he has typed in the text he simply exports the file to plaintext ascii. This bypass the xelatex backend and it works quite nice.

How to defeat Google in AI

https://ai.stackexchange.com/questions/6333/who-stands-a-chance-against-google-in-the-ai-race

Nice question on the Stackexchange board. The OP want’s to know, how it can be possible to resist against the latest AI technology from Google, especially Google Duplex and the Waymo selfdriving car. The answer is simple: Google doesn’t have invented such technology. The Google IO Duplex presentation was an inside joke. No AI was used in the telephone call but it was the recording of a normal conversation done by two ordinary people. The same is true for the Waymo driverless car. It works not autonomously but it is remote controlled like the Knight Industries 2000 in the 1980s tv-show. What Google is planning is, that one day a computersoftware will be capable in doing such tasks and they are searching for developers who are realize such AI systems.

Early history of TeX

The beginning of TeX can be dated back to the late 1970. Google Scholar finds for the author “Donald E. Knuth” from that area some papers, which are introducing TeX and metafont. The interesting aspect about the first papers of 1979 and later improvement is the very low speed the development itself. That means, the first version of TeX was presented in 1979. It takes until 1984 until Bibtex was ready, and in 1989 some type3 fonts were released. That means, a minor improvement took not weeks but years. And this slow development speed is an ongoing process. For example, it takes many years until the first version of Lyx was programmed. Literally, the TeX community is working since mid 1970 on his system and every 5 years or so, they have invented something new.

The first question which has to be answered is, does TeX makes sense? I think the answer is yes. The productivity is higher then with MS-Word and it has a high output quality. The next question is, how can we improve the current software. I would guess, future improvement have to build on top of Lyx. Lyx is the most important frontend right now, it uses an underlying bibtex and latex backend for generating the output. I would guess the most room for improvement is the sourcecode itself. Rewriting Lyx and LaTeX with modern C++ would be a nice task for future students.

The year which can be called the birthday of TeX was 1984. That was the year, in which the TeXbook was published (written by Donald E. Knuth) and in the same year, the LaTeX manual and the Bibtex draft was presented. The PDF format was unknown in that area, also Type1 fonts and the Lyx GUI. These developments came later. The basic idea behind TeX was to replace mechanical typesetting machines. The idea was to generate a printable document with a computer. TeX can be seen as direct competitor to Phototypesetting.

A long journey

According to the timeline it is a fact, that between each iteration of TeX many years were in between them. TeX was programmed in 1979, LaTeX in 1986, pdflatex in the early 1990s, Lyx in the late 1990s, Google Scholar in 2005 and so on. Each step adds an important functionality to the work done before, but the overall workflow took around 30 years. It is very likely, then in future improvements will come also in a period of 10 years or more. Why?

One possible explanation is, that the computersoftware TeX is used by people, and if new sort of users are become aware of it, they are programming an extension. The long years between each period has nothing to do with the software itself, but it’s adoption from a certain usergroup. Lyx is perhaps a good example. The Lyx community is different from the original Tex and LaTeX community. They are not familiar with the commandline or Emacs, but with MS-Word. So they have programmed their own TeX which looks like Word, but is more powerful.

Perhaps the future Facebook generation is not familiar with desktop applications, and they have a need for a Lyx version which runs in a browser window. I don’t know, because it is unclear what the future will bring.

Productivity in printing history

The first gutenberg printing press in 1500, the Koenig&Bauer fast-press of 1811 and the Linotype machine from 1930 have something in common. They were all used for printing books and newspapers. They can be classified according to their productivity, that means how many man-hours it takes until a result can be seen.

The printing process was not done by a single person. It was not the case, that Gutenberg alone has used the machine, and also a steam driven printing press of 1850 were always put to work by at least 20 workers. They can work on different steps of the workflow at the same time. This is called parallel executation like in an assembly line. It helps, to get the result faster done. But, it didn’t changed the productivity. If the amount of work which is needed to get a book printed around 1000 hours, then it is possible to use 10 workers with each 100 hours, but if we want to pay the salary for the workers it is the same amount like letting one worker work for 1000 hours.

The main difference in the technology was an increased productivity. The number of invested hours reduced over the years. This results into a cheaper product. The costs for making a book are smaller on a Linotype machine compared to the gutenberg printing press of 1500. But the disadvantage is, that modern machines are more difficult to built. The first gutenberg press was build of wood, while a modern Linotype machine is a complex mechanical device.

So called printing museum are available worldwide. What is missing are the negative aspects of printing. Usually the printing press is described as a beautiful machine which has made the life easier. But in reality, printing was criticized from the beginning. The ideology in doing so is called Luddism. Luddist asks what a printing machine is replacing and what society will lost from reading too much.

Daily Open Access answers

https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/109439/is-it-appropriate-if-my-current-affiliation-is-different-from-the-ending-of-my-e

A student ask, if he can use the old e-mail address from stanford if she leaves the university. It is important to make clear, that in the year 1991, most professors didn’t had an e-mail address in. Here is an acceptance letter from that period, https://i.pinimg.com/474x/83/ba/ff/83baffb1a3eb1cf130639f28896e9b76–things-i-want-i-wish.jpg which was send by the secretary, and only a Telex number if given on top. Telex was widely used because it is a cheap form of communication, so I don’t understand the OP.

How to make advertisement for Academia.edu?

Usually a product is promoted to the people with ads. An advertisement explains the product and give hints what the concept behind is. So, how does a campaign look for a very new website, called Academia.edu? It is very hard to say, even after some thinking about it, I don’t know. But what is interesting, that it is possible to make an anti-campaign for Academia.edu. That means, not to sell the website of Richard Price but make some bit applause for the opposite. Perhaps, this will help to understand the general idea.

At first, I found a printing museum in Germany. They have some kind of old printing press available which can be used by the audiance. For example, a hand driven press which was invented in 1750, but also some modern devices which a driven by steam, like the Koenig&bauer like model from 1811. Here is a short video which introduces some of the revolutionary machines.

In reality, the situation with the machines was not so easy as it shown in the clip. But a museum is a place in which the past is a bit better explained. This can be seen as some kind of advertisement for a printing process which is 200 years old. In the last section of the video, also a linotype machine is shown, which is very new in printing history. The idea was, that the user only types in characters on a keyboard, and the machine prints them like in a typewriter.

Overall, that was the physical anti- Academia.edu campaign which explains former printing devices. Now we are coming to the social aspect of education.

Here is a promotional clip for the Miami University. The idea is to recruit new students with a tv ads in under 60 seconds. The clip was made great and sells the university to the public. Here is another promotional clip which focus entirely on the exam test:

All of these advertisement have something in common. They are campaigns for some kind of past educational resources. For example, an outdated printing machine, a university which is nobody aware of it and a SAT test which can be seen as outdated. Nevertheless it seems to be very easy to promote something which doesn’t work in the past. That means, a paper based printing machine will not only get huge audience in a museum but million of people who want to try out in real, for example for printing their phd thesis. The same is true for the sat test, which is done every year by thousands of people, not because they want to get an experience about the past, but they belief in the sat test. In contrast, the Academia.edu website is hated by the mainstream, everybody knows why this doesn’t work. It seems, that the campaigns for the outdated technologies are very strong, and it is impossible to guide the people to a new idea.

The reason why it is so easy to make promotion for outdated educational systems and less productive technology has to do how modern society is organized. It consists of neoluddism groups. For example the group of printing press fans are very huge. They like everything which has to do with mechanical driven printing invented 200 years ago. So it is easy to promote this social behavior, because there is a group in which somebody can be part of it. The same is true for a group called SAT fans. These types of neoluddist are preferring SAT test which is known as a very bad choice because it is unfair to 90% of the people, but nevertheless, the number of fans is huge. In contrast, Academia.edu has no fangroup which contains of neoluddist, because Academia.edu is brandnew, it is modern educational technology and that means, it is hated by the neoluddist. It is hard or even impossible to make promotion for it, because there is no neoluddist like group in which the user can be a part of.

What I want to express, is that it is very easy and common to make commercial advertaisment for technology used by neoluddist, which is equal to mainstream behavior, and very hard to promote something which has to do with modernity. Most people are prefering to stay in the shadow of a group, they get respect because of a certain behavior, and this has to do with rejecting technology. For example, steampunk fans of classical printing press gets reward by rejecting modern DTP like alternatives like laser printers or digital publishing. And the steampunk community is rewarding such rejection, that people who can express well that a steam driven printing machine is superior will get a bonus in the social game.