> Prof. Aaronson, given your expertise, we’d be incredibly grateful for your feedback on a paper / report / grant proposal about quantum computing. To access the document in question, ...
At least if I'd email someone (out of the blue or an acquaintance) for feedback due to his expertise, I'd be grateful for the time taken and try to make it as easy as possible to do.
Edit: it has been made clear to me that it's not about individuals contacting the author, it's some big corporation that probably sends this out, probably in an automated manner. I still don't understand why anyone would bother with this when "peer reviews" can happen between "peers" (i.e. sending each other documents for review, rather than going through the middleman that everyone seems to hate such as Elsevier, if blog posts linked on HN are to be believed).
It's most fun when you are just trying to decline this invitation because you do not have time and are asked to create an account and password (with stupid password rules, naturally), and fill out an amount of personal information just to do that.
"Why don't you just stop doing X thing you don't like?"
"Because if we do, they won't let us do Y thing we do like. Or, well, we would like it, except the way they make us do it is so awful."
"So stop doing that, too, or go do it your own way instead."
"But if we don't do Y thing we don't like, then they also won't let us do Z thing. Incidentally, we don't like that one, either. But we need it to be able to do X."
But I'm not sure how this world works anyway. I read about research in books that refer to it, Hacker News and Reddit that links to it, etc. but never in a magazine. Yet the magazines seems to be what everyone is aiming for to be published in, they are apparently some big deal. I suppose there is some reason why "peer reviews" are not between "peers".
I'm not saying this is the best way to do it, just how it is now.
Also, if you want someone to just read your paper, sure, email is fine. One does not exclude the other. The central system is there to ensure that should any doubt arise over the quality of the work, the feedback can be read and interpreted.
Again, there might be many other more high-tech solutions out there to solve this problem.
1. Authors write paper.
2. Authors send paper to journal or conference address. (...using a web form)
3. The editor gives the paper a once-over and decides to send it out for review.
4. (Editor sends links to reviewers, who log in, read paper, and leave comments.)
5. Lather, rinse, repeat until accept/reject decision is made.
They used to send pdfs, but now use web systems for roughly the same reason HN isn't a mailing list.
Note: the last time anyone let me review a paper was a long time ago, when they sent paper forms to fill out. Parts in (...) are how I assume it works now.
Imagine you trying to get someone to review a 1,000 line patch. If you can just get them to log in to GitHub, they can use all of the pull request commenting tools, and it'll be easy. Otherwise, you have to mail them a big .patch file, and then somehow manually manage comments across all of that. The assistive tools are more convenient.
A journal may have dozens of submissions at various stages of the peer review process. Each requires two or three peer reviewers, who are busy academics who will often fail to meet the deadline. The editor has to track all of these, follow up with lagging reviewers, and then put together all the reviews for a paper to make the final decision.
Doing all that by email would be a mess. Reviews would get lost, the editor would lose track of which reviewers were sent which papers, and so on.
So the online systems make sense. But they all suck. I've reviewed for several journals which use the ScholarOne system, for example, and despite all being hosted centrally, they inexplicably require separate logins. The website is a clunky piece of crap. If they just had an automated system email me a PDF and ask me to email back a review, and had their script grab reviews from the inbox and format them for the editor to review, it'd be a lot easier. Or if they emailed me a personal link that let me view the paper and leave a review, no login required. But alas, they must overcomplicate it...
It's a bit burdensome on the patch submitter, to collect the feedback into one place, but not that much. At least the burden is on people who want to get the patch in.
If publishers all used the same software package for content management, we might be somewhere. But every company with an IT department seems to build their own Content Management System at some point. I joke with coworkers that we would solve the developer shortage in north america if we figured out how to stop everyone from writing their own CMS.
Not saying you could do that with GitHub, but there's design space for it.
EDIT: Folks email is not secure. Even if someone doesn't have access to login to your mail account. Emails in transit are insecure.
Using outside systems to send confidential data is common practice and has been for years.
And if you want to take matters into your own hands, you use PGP. But outside of the computer security business I guess that's mostly unused.
But the pledge was just a formality - should there be any interest to check the mail, there was nothing technically stopping anyone with the required access except for someone else with equal access having a problem with it. Likewise, various management offices had no issue with submitting email fetch requests for the simplest of things, with date ranges exceeding two or three years sometimes for what turned out to be incredibly minor reasons.
There really is no expectation of privacy with academia in the US when it comes to University owned property or services.
(The only reason I found out about any of this from legal was because I asked for clarification on our "duty to report", and one of the lawyers was almost excited as he told me about how we own everything legally.)
At my company we trust our people and have a web of review. However, we try never to have anyone be the final trusted party - even the boss.
There's nothing _private_ about the paper, since the author intends to publish it, or about the reviews, since they're going to the author anyway. Only the identity of the reviewers is confidential, and for that email is perfectly sufficient. Well, a standard email client would be far too error-prone; you'd want something like a blind mailing list just so the editor doesn't click the wrong button and accidentally unmask the reviewer.
It's odd, but it still happens all the time.
When I write my reply to them and submit, I get an ACTION-REQUIRED from boxbe.com telling me to register + captcha so that I can get on the receiver's whitelist.
It's so invasive that I don't bother. They'll have to check their spam folder for my email.
It is a moot point now, because googles spam filters are good enough that I never see spam, but I just wished there would be an easier way to mass unsubscribe marketing email.
So to reply to your "if people aren't willing to complete a captcha to send me an email, that email is probably not so important for them.". No. Replying to your request isn't that important to me. It probably was to you though....
I realized recently that I have space in my life for three log-in websites (HN, a gamedev site, one subreddit), three web apps (gmail, github, slack), and three non-built-in phone applications (instapaper, ride sharing app, twitter). If there's something new in town - it needs to be more valuable than these to knock someone else out of rotation!
The last one is often a bit of an anti-pattern. For most websites a person who actually lands on and engages with the site is pure gold and putting friction on that interaction adds noise...there are people who won't bother to create an account in the absence of more information than can be gleaned from the 'public' resources (often because most functionality gets hidden behind the login).
More and more commonly, logins are a way of growth hacking: Look at all these email addresses that we can pretend are users and sales prospects.
For me, it is the burden of having to create accounts for stuff I'll probably only use once, plus the mental burden of knowing that the website has my personal information and might leak it.
That, and the fact that having an account/app these days is synonymous with "oh, sure, send me all the spam you have!", via e-mail or mobile notifications.
If anything, password managers help me see which accounts I should be deleting.
I think this is a hint towards what, IMO, password managers should be moving towards. I would like a password manager to really be an account manager that can do things like:
* Alert me if a site I have an account on has a publicly declared breach
* Let me manage personal details (such as associated email address, phone number, etc.) all in one place
* Tell me how often I use each account (and when I login to them from 'unusual' locations/computers)
I also wish I could sign up for new websites/services using such a manager. If it already had all my personal info, it would take just one click to sign up. And maybe selecting which personal details I would like to disclose with the website.
Mozilla Persona with browser integration was the closest thing to that. Too bad it was abandoned.
Increasignly I just say "no". I've been cutting back on services and apps. It's something of a relief.
What makes it different is that as a profession, we have decided that Github is nice, good, and ubiquitous. Unfortunately, the portals that he's describing are crappy, bad, and balkanized.
As for the other half, they're asking him to comment, so fully anonymous access simply doesn't work. The fact that Github is publicly viewable would also be part of what's nice about it, thought I obviously wasn't explicit about that.
How so? Just give a link with the equivalent of Google Analytic's utm_source query parameter. Or a link that creates/uses an account that they internally tag as "this is Scott Aaronson".
They have his name, his email address, and can convince him to click a link. That should be enough.
Then you find that GitHub forbids multiple identity contexts for free accounts in their terms of service ("One person or legal entity may maintain no more than one free account"), so if multiple people want you to do things on GitHub but you don't want to mix the activities together, your options are to pay for a monthly subscription (possibly forever) or break the rules and hope your ability to continue participating doesn't suddenly get taken away if they catch you.
Centralization of interaction by type creates social paradoxes like this.
It would be as if part of your job required code reviewing open source projects in your area of expertise, even where you hadn't previously contributed.
I think Github/Gitlab/Bitbucket have shown us that you can do better than emailing patches. I think the academic world could do better than just emailing crap (the arXiv has already done this, but not for full on peer-review). It's just that the current tools are not good.
I think Aaronson is mostly right to tell off these journals. However, I think the idea of tools that improve peer review is a good one.
Add a hurdle, any hurdle, to your potential users' workflow and you are doing yourself a massive disservice.
When you visit a typical modern website, within 15 seconds an overlay appears encouraging you to sign up, give away your email address, and become part of what's really happening.
In a hypothetical parallel universe where telling the truth is mandatory, you would visit a website and ask, "So, what are you selling, what is your product?" The website will be forced to reply, "You."
All this apart from the present state of the scientific-technical publishing business (also discussed in the linked article), which uses different methods to obtain the same result: monetize people's wish to communicate with each other.
"You can support this site by giving us an email, which we will then add to a list we can sell to various entities. You don't have to give us your main email address. Just please use something other than mailinator (and their ilk) so it's an saleable address. This will help us stay open despite most of our visitors blocking our ads. We will send you a newsletter occasionally so we can pretend this exchange is not purely about money. Thank you."
Funny, I've had the same issue. Between legacy Skype passwords, Microsoft accounts, and what not, for a period of time it became almost impossible to log into Skype. It has improved, but the reset process was designed almost as a maze to help shed all but the most determined. I was not determined enough and eventually gave up and forced Skype contacts to reach out to me via WhatsApp/GChat/Signal/Duo/Allo/FBMessenger. Anything but Skype.
Side note: Same thing happened to Wunderlist after they too got purchased by Microsoft.
Some months back, another HN user mentioned as an aside in comments that he had over seven hundred site authentication credentials. This is a slight inflation over ordinary users, but not tremendously -- the typical citizen will have a score or several accounts -- social media, email, various vendors, and quite easily 100 or more.
There's also the problem of multiple worlds colliding. As YouTube's founder famously noted when faced with a "Please create a G+ account" prompt a few years back. After being reasonably assured that G+ and YouTube activity were separate, I've just learnt that they are not, with results that 1) I'd inadvertantly changed my G+ identity and 2) I've yet again blown away a YouTube profile I really don't care for.
I'm not sure what we're going to replace this system with, but extending the current path ain't gonna work.
As for the haircuts, a $25 set of electric clippers addresses that need. Or a blade. A 35 year old man is old enough to learn to cut (or shave) his own hair.
When submitting them for peer review, there was an absolute requirement from the journals in question that the sites did not require a login to use, and not even an email address to be entered to alert the user to results/completion. Result pages and download links were to be provided at a hidden URL which was linked to from the submission page after the form was submitted. So while we did this, we also ended up maintaining emails for job alerts, but optionally so. Most users have since used their emails to run jobs as it is more convenient for them.
But for the reviewers, their requirements made sense. We were submitting to journals which had entire dedicated editions for online scientific apps. Hundreds of them, all of which required peer review by scientists who were being very generous with their time. For a free service, such requirements don't seem at all unreasonable.
Words to live by.
Of course that doesn't work with all of science, you don't always want open peer review, usually because several people are working in various stages on similar or related things, or you don't want to publicly criticize the reviewed party, or you don't want to make the reviewer look bad when the reviewer doesn't know what s/he is talking about
On the other hand, most of us want to split between work and friends, between private and public. So we have different accounts for this purpose. I don't use Twitter and Linkedin the same way, and I don't have the same circle of relations connected by those means. So it may be "convenient" to have separate accounts, but at the same time this becomes a burden to maintain and check every of these (not counting data breaches and so).
My current practice is the following :
- an email address for my close friends & family.
- some public accounts for infosec usage (linkedin, twitter...)
- some undisclosed accounts for my professional usage.
- some undisclosed accounts for my private usage (ecommerce etc.)
- all the rest (a vast majority) uses throw-away emails (I own a domain, enabling me to generate unique email addresses per website) and random passwords, so I don't care to monitor them or if they are breached. If I know I won't use the site frequently I don't even remember the password, I just do a "recover password" if I need it in the future.
1. never reuse the same email twice for websites. That also helps me monitor breaches and/or spam and/or db resellers.
2. never reuse the same password twice. Obviously.
3. never use 3rd party authent such as "Login with FB, Twitter or Gmail", as it breaches the first rule.
It generates some work to maintain all of this, but I've been doing it since probably over a decade, and it's now an habit I can't quit, considering the benefits.
So, back to the paper, I'd tend not to follow this guideline, even if I'm tempted to do so.
Works well and is pretty cheap.
And the site is solid black text on a solid white background. This article would have literally been better as a link to a .txt file on a static file server. The modern web is really such a disaster.
Although I would have then missed out on this gem of a comment ( www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=3203#comment-1733204 ) -- and I do mean that sincerely, no sarcasm. Seriously, I can't stand places that make you call in advance either :P
I just remember in the 90's when the web started taking off and all these designers and people used to regular print publications came along and had to control the page layout when the whole point was to let the layout change to fit the users needs. Margins are not necessary at all - the user can adjust the width of their browser window to alter the width of a line of text, but that's not fashionable these days.
And as you said, the forced margins are also a problem here.
Also, to any designers reading this: please don't use text justification, either. I know it looks prettier as abstract art, but it does nothing but harm readability of your actual content.
Interesting. I hadnt thought of a reservation as being unsolicited. What about online reservations that are more pubsub-like?
If you think that this brings no "interesting thoughts", this probably says more about your intellectual tastes than it does about Aaronson's work.
Just imagine telling a client, "sorry I don't open Google Docs on principle. Life is too short and too precious."
I applaud the stand he's taking. Rent-seeking publishers are not only extracting value without providing much to justify their slice of the pie, they're doing it in such a way as to put an additional burden on everyone else.
If I had a client who forced me to spend twenty minutes creating an account and logging into a service that provided a hostile user experience, I'd try to educate them about better alternatives, and if they weren't amenable to that, I'd charge them for the wasted time.
That's just the most recent example but I've had to deal with countless insane demands from suppliers like this over the course of my career. In several cases being borerline to saying "if you don't want our business then there's plenty of other suppliers that do".
However by far the most annoying one I've had, and one that used to be common place 5 years ago in the UK, was recruitment agencies refusing to accept CVs in PDF form. They would accept a Microsoft Word document or RTF. Some even accepted plain text files. But a PDF was point blank refused even in tech-agencies. This used to be a real pain for myself, a Linux developer and administrator who didn't run Windows so couldnt guarantee what OpenOffice would spit out when exporting to .DOC. I ended up having to use a spare work machine and thankfully had a very forgiving boss.
Thankfully I've not had the same issues when job hunting again recently. At least not thus far.
That put me in a position to dictate pretty much everything, be it the company policy on a maximum of one month legal binding on any contract, or how I wanted to be contacted.
After a few years of setting 15 minutes aside as prep for Skype calls and 30 minutes for Hangout call or any "enterprise" group chat thing, I started to dictate that anyone who wanted to talk to me, had to call me on my desk phone or write an email. If you didn't like it, to bad, you have competitors that will call a normal phone number.
In my current job we sadly accept that customers want to use Skype, but you have to be pretty a pretty big customer, otherwise it's phone, email or an in-person meeting. We do tell customers that we prefer email, or actually that we NEED them to write us an email to have an audit trail. Putting stuff in a Google Doc isn't helpful either, we still require you to send an email.
I understand that if you're a one person shop, then you can't be picky, but maybe you should. For most of us, requiring a phone call or an email is very much doable.
Did you read this: "I’ll continue to devote a huge fraction of my waking hours to fielding questions from all sorts of people on the Internet, and I’ll do it cheerfully and free of charge."
The guy is doing more than most, is it so much to ask people to be polite and make things easy when asking for help?
Many in the tech industry are happy to offer advice to random people at the start of their careers. But the onus is on the person looking for advice to make it convenient for other person.
If you received an email that said someone was looking for advice on some tech topic you were familiar with, but in order to see the details of the request and respond you have to create an account and log on to this unfamiliar website, how would you respond? I'd delete it and move on with my life. I'm happy to help, but I'm not a circus animal and I'm not going to jump through hoops for free on behalf of random people that I don't know.
Did you even read the article and its main point?
Like, that's not the point! That's barely tangential, and not even mentioned anywhere as 'the issue'! It's about mandatory account creation! How would a password manager even solve that! /rant
BTW. I don't see it as being "out of touch". I see it as a gentle reminder of how we're all wasting each other's time building stuff that requires creation of accounts for no real reasons (except sales tricks).