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I've created a community and learning platform for math, physics and CS lovers (functionspace.org)
132 points by aditgupta on Apr 16, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments

Very polished site from the little I saw of it - and there lies the rub - I saw so little of it.

Why don't you allow browsing without registration? I am sure you will miss out on a lot of traffic and future sign-ups because the initial experience is opaque.

An email address is not part of a painless signup as we don't know what type and quantity of emails we will receive. As a result, I will sign up with a disposable email and never return. As it happens, I went there on an android phone and found lots of problems with the layout. On that note though, HN is pretty bad for browsing on a phone too.

Registration is literally no more than the three boxes on the signup page, which was a pleasant surprise.

I think people are starting to suffer from signup fatigue (even with just 3 boxes). Wherever possible, services should get right into the kernel of the experience and ask for registration later.

Seconded; it may be "only" three boxes, but I can browse SO or SE by filling in zero boxes. This reminded me of a site (can't remember which) that comes up in Google results for some UNIX CLI searches I've done and requires sign-in or payment(!) to view community contributed answers. Bugger that for a lark.

Quora? I always avoid Quora links for that reason. Worthless compared with SO.

Experts-Exchange[0], perhaps? There were (are?) some workarounds for getting E-E's full results, but SO/SE is so much better, it doesn't matter what's on E-E anymore.

[0] Don't look here for a link from me, I'd rather not encourage them by sending traffic their way.

I hate to be a citation dodger, but partly due to laziness, and partly due to not wanting to send any traffic their way, I didn't bother digging up what site it was. I'm all for paying for expert opinion when a) it's better than I could do and b) the people providing the expertise get the majority of the money. Charging money for unverified, uncompensated answers? Too lame. I am one of those people who used SO/SE for quite some time and finally signed up for an account when I stumbled upon a question I had an answer for. I don't mind giving back, much as I didn't mind contributing to CDDB until Gracenote ruined it. Whatever other gripes I might have with SO/SE, I think it's so successful because of its model.

Yes. I was interested in the site, went to the page, saw the signup boxes, and left.

Went to the site, was annoyed by the sign-in requirements, and left.

Came here to write a comment, then decided to go back to the site. It accepts joe@example.com as a valid email. Typed throwaway password.

That is still far too much before I even know what it is! At least show a picture or two of what's behind the registration wall.

Tip for others: Just register with fake details in order to see what the site is. There is no email verification step. If it takes your fancy just re-register again properly.

Edit: I realise I sound a bit negative, so I want to say that everything I didn't mention was a positive. The site looks beautiful, what content is there is fantastic and you should definitely keep it up.

This site doesn't necessarily need off-the-bat registration, so forcing users to register when we think registration isn't a necessity is the issue I think.

3 boxes, or 1 social sign-in, is the norm nowadays.

That doesn't make it good. Maybe you're arguing that the target market won't care?

I'm just saying that this is the standard way now. Everybody wants to make it as easy as possible for new users to sign in.

Look, the thing is, the only reason why you are asking for registration is building an email database. If you stated that clearly like "please provide your email so we'd contact you later" or whatever -- that would be perfectly acceptable. However, by forcing me into surrending you my email address you make me wonder what else I'm going to be forced into down the road. So, thanks, but no, thanks.

True. He's more than welcome to email asfasdfasdf@asfasdfasdjfasdfjs.com with whatever further information he would like to release.

True, but the site accepts foo@example.com ... so ...

Why can't I see anything without signing in? Do I need to pay?

No need to pay. You can sign up within a few seconds and you're in! :)

It really seems like a pointless obstacle. The value of a site like this is in the content, which is inaccessible without handing over an email address, so nobody can tell if it's worth it. I think you would get far more participants if you made it openly viewable (and hence google-able).

So is it a policy decision to not allow browsing unless you're signed in? Or just a beta thing? Saying it's easy to register doesn't address the question of why it's necessary :)

I just launched it a week ago. So, things will surely change with time. How about something like StackOverflow? You can view everything, but to vote or answer you have to login. All this feedback is really going to help a lot! :)

I think that is a good idea, or something along those lines. I too clicked the link to the site, but when I noticed I had to register first, I came back here to check the comments rather than continuing. Showing more content before forcing a signup should gather a lot more interest. Looks nice though, and you seem very receptive to feedback, so I guess I will go sign up anyway! Good luck!

Thank you!! I would also like to add that the content would NOT be greyed out for non-registered users and it would be licensed under creative commons :)

Sorry, I accidentally downvoted you.

I wanted to say yes, this. Allow viewing of everything but to participate, you have to register.

Yeah, that's better. You at least need to offer something before asking me to trust you.

Yes. The model they have is ideal IMHO - viewing the site doesn't require a login, and then when you do sign up, it is an extremely low friction process.

Oh, I really feel bad when I try to access http://functionspace.org/topic/22 without signing in, and it redirected me to homepage to sign in! How the content of this site become crawlable to search engines, huh? I am in a doubt!

So what do you want to achieve here, because such a platform is just useful if you find either people that are willing to answer specific questions - such as in mathoverflow - or if you want to read something up (and then you probably go to wikipedia or grap another introduction to a topic). Anyway, it is nicely done, but I wonder if there was another intention than "because we can". I have read the "How Function Space is different?" section, but it is not that convincing.

I wanted to create a complete learning environment for these three subjects. So apart from discussions and articles, there are various other things like Video lectures, book reviews, problem solving techniques, subject groups and visualisations(which will soon evolve to virtual labs). Rather than quickly-learn,quickly-forget model, I wanted to implement a model that is based on solid understanding of concepts.

I actually think that for a lot of maths/CS/Physics issues, wikipedia is a horrible introduction to people unfamiliar with the topic. A site which curates explanations in normalspeak with some form of interaction (i.e. "Can you explain why...") would actually be a very useful resource for a lot of people, myself included.

Yeah, that's true, but you can also use free ebooks, slides from lectures, etc. and you often find really good stuff. Furthermore one should not have to register for such a service ... consider wikipedia would require you to login to find out how, e.g. merge sort works.

Wikipedia is supposed to be static, without questions from readers on any engagement besides reading and maybe correcting or expanding something.

Also, no serious Wikipedia article about math or physics is thought of as an introduction. Sometimes its the other way around, its written for experts and goes into surface or line integrals, or sometimes even tensor notation, when an introduction would not.

I think this website is trying to reduce friction for user interaction and aggregating it, and also tries to curate material into different levels of difficulty. Both things merit asking for a login, for social its obvious why, and to curate for difficulty its helpful to use the feedback from users as a signal of an innadecuate label.

khan academy, among others, already addresses this

Khan academy is nice for the material it covers, but anybody going beyond high school will find it rapidly becomes obsolete (according to the content ca. the last time I checked). The treatments are simply too elementary and the topics too low level.

I would think a site where people can ask anything, ala stackoverflow, would yield more useful results for many physics/math/cs students.

That may have been true a couple years ago, but they are rapidly expanding. They now include calculus and diff eq with plans to go beyond. They're even researching med school related content for the future.

That being said, I wouldn't take that as a reason to not pursue this.

Looking at what's on there, I'm really not convinced. You could not get through an physics, engineering or math program on the material that is there, not even close. If I search for, say, complex analysis, all of the material I get is about complex arithmetic. No multivalued functions, branch cuts, p.v. integrals, harmonic functions, DEs, nothing. It's all what they expect you to know going INTO the course, or that they cover in the first two days.

Similarly, if I go into the physics topics, they are all <= intro courses, at best. Optics? Doesn't talk about fourier optics, lasers, etc. E&M? Doesn't seem to mention Maxwell's Equations anywhere... enough said. Quantum mech? Nothing. Statistical mech? Nothing.

Okay, how about math? Take a look at the differential equations stuff. No higher order, no series methods, no numerical methods, no coupled systems, no non-linear. Probability? No markov chains, MCMC methods, or anything except basic RVs and statistics (which is not the same thing as probability). Same for linear algebra: no fitting methods, no matrix decomposition, no graph theory.

I could go on. The point is that they cover the most basic elements of each subject, and they miss a hell of a lot of important subjects. That's okay, but don't claim that they're anywhere close to being able to educate you at a university level.

> They now include calculus and diff eq with plans to go beyond.

So first year of uni tops, where most of calculus is still high school.

The differential equations videos have been up since 2009.

khan academy does so but with a definite focus on children, this feels a little more grown up.

Besides, just because khan does similar things does not reduce the value potential this has.

There is a lot more of a social SO type feel with Function Space whereby a user can ask questions and receive answers in an open forum. That is more hidden on khan.

For those of you complaining about the login. Give it a shot, there is a fairly well thought out site behind that login and the dev has expressed his intent to make things more open. With a site like this being able to ask and comment is kinda key to it working anyways.

Use your spam address on the site until you feel it's worthy of your "personal" one. But do check it out.

Free and open access to knowledge and knowledgeable people needs to be done in as many places and formats as possible. I hope this goes far.


Looks good - I've signed up :)

I would say though that I think your articles and lectures could do with a bit more organisation. In both cases, the user would benefit from posts having tags denoting subject content, and from a search facility so that I can find things that specifically interest me. If you have five hundred videos about mathematics, finding one on Analytic Topology, say, by scrolling through them would be a bit painful. I also think it would be good if the lectures had some way of tying subsequent videos together - it seems a tiny bit messy to have 'Cosmology - Lecture 1', and 'Cosmology - Lecture 2' as separate entries. I'm also not certain that you want to limit lectures to being videos. A well-written explanation of a broad subject is sometimes better than a video that I can't search or skim through - and I think it serves a different purpose from the articles. It's also easier for your community to add written content than videos.

Hope that was useful to you - but obviously take it all with a pinch of salt. You know your strategy better than some guy off the internet who's only spent ten minutes on your site :)

Thanks for signing up! And thanks a lot for positive criticism. I have noted your feedback regarding Lectures and Articles. Will surely implement it within few days! :)

Really like the idea of this, and especially enjoyed that you took the time to make the 2 minute video walkthrough (it made it easy for me to say "ok, I'll give you 2 minutes, let's hear your pitch"). I think the idea of having a focused community will work quite well.

A suggestion: Redis has a very cool documentation system, where the documentation is "live" - for example, http://redis.io/commands/set (scroll down to the example, you can type in the box). It'd be really neat to have something like that integrated with the code side of things.

Clicked on link -- I am interested in learning about math, physics and CS.

Saw registration screen. Closed window.

Have you considered integrating something like Persona? While I have never like FB sign up, this is the exact situation where I would be tempted to use it. Possible interest, but I don't really wanna go through the sign-up. I keep hoping to find a site in the wild using Persona.

of course... in the time I typed this I could have just signed up. :P

Looks good, I look forward to exploring the site properly after work. One small niggle for you to address though. Log out and go to your home page. Navigate to the About page. Now try and get back to the home page without using your browsers back button.

I would expect your site logo in the top left to take me to your home page, especially as it appears clickable, but it doesn't. It puts a # at the end of the url and that's it.

Thanks!! Fixing it now! :)

Interesting. LaTeX support?

yes, LateX support is there! Inbuilt visual equation editor coming in a week or so! :)

Excellent, site looks great :) I'd love the ability to edit/delete my "opinions" though.

Cool site. I think you should include a citation importer and exporter for people referencing published articles in their posts.

Thanks!! Point noted! :)

I love the look and feel of the site, well done. I understand some of the frustration in the discussion about required registration but the site is still definitely worth a look. The half alive/half dead cat icon for quantum mechanics made me laugh, kudos to whoever designed it.

Home page tells me nothing, just wants me to sign up for something I don't understand yet. That's when I closed the tab. If you want idiots like me to signup you'll need to sell me before you ask me to type.

There's a video on the home page :)

Ain't nobody got time for that.

Thank you all for such an overwhelming response! I will deal with the sign-up issue ASAP. All other suggestions would also be implemented soon. :)

aditgupta, What I saw of this was pretty neat. Have you considered adding Common Core alignment for high school students/teachers who would benefit from it?

Heads up: I left the site, and it didn't remember me when I came back. I forgot my random password and requested a password reset. Got a confirmation that an e-mail had been sent, but that hasn't arrived after a good 30 minutes so far.

Thanks! I am considering some kind of tie-up with schools and colleges. I see that a mail has been sent to some emails. If you can send me your email id, I will cross-check it for you.

Great idea! How did you make the website? Ie, did you contract out or make it yourself? And if so, how were you able to do it? Thanks.

Thanks! It took me about 2 weeks to design and a month to develop. I left my full-time job for Function Space. My wife also helped me out with some ideas. The biggest motivating factor was my love for these 3 subjects. :)

How do you plan on monetizing Function Space?

On this tangent, I wouldn't suggest premium features, unless they're minor because they tend to tear apart communities (look at all the games). I'd suggest nonintrusive ads and/or affiliate links to books, which would fit this site nicely. You could also put a store in there selling things relating to these topics, either setting that up yourself, or again going the affiliate route. Honestly, you could just look into how similar sites are doing their financing, and see what you can copy from their methods.

The favicon is slightly unreadable, and could easily be improved.

A FAQ would also be nice/neccesairy. If it's allready there, put it somewhere where people can find it.

Great site your created. Thanks!

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