Papers vs. webpages

Aleks and I made some progress on a small part of our Bayesian Assay Analysis project, and I said, we should write a paper: “Estimating the Maximum Slope of a Curve.” Aleks said, No, we should do a website. Websites get linked to and noticed, papers disappear. Me, I’m used to making everything into a paper, but maybe Aleks has a point. I have had difficulty in my time trying to find papers that have never been published online. Then again I have been frustrated with the design of some sites making it difficult to find online articles. If you also agree with Aleks’ point and you’re wanting to create a website, I would suggest you find a website designer that can create a good search box and overall layout. Or if hiring help is not in your nature there are other means. You can gain information and tips on good website/article creation with a professional look over at guide sites like

Aleks sent me an example of a successful webpage of his; he wrote:

It’s a very simple web page, it shows some distortions generated by the JPEG compression algorithms.

This page ended up being cited by JPEG itself as a reference on artifacts, and my terminology was adopted. I was approached by ~20 people about it, it got cited in a number of academic papers (~30), it’s linked to from Wikipedia. There are ~50 academic papers on the topic, none of which really gets used.

To which I responded:

Very nice. This is basically a paper. The key difference is that it is in html rather than pdf. I have no problem with writing our papers in html format, or I suppose in both formats so that we can also submit to journals. I wouldn’t think it would be too hard to go from one to the other. I could also convert old papers to webpages if you think that might help.

Aleks elaborated in a later email (our offices are one floor apart, so of course we communicate by email):

After some thinking I might be able to nail down the difference between a paper and an article [what I would call a “webpage,” I think — AG].

A paper:
* includes extensive bibliography and study of related work
* presents an innovation
* follows a formal structure, thorough in defending and teaching
* printed then read carefully in an hour or two
* paper-formatted (PDF)
* published in the usual academic citation networks, through peer review
* reviewing, reading and writing is a pain because of ossified formality; yet everyone has to do it because the bean counters look for this; very few papers deserve the “paper” format

An article:
* only basic bibliography
* accessible, with a headline, executive summary, tags; meant to be scanned within seconds, read in a couple of minutes
* detailed information/code linked to from the entry
* attempts to inform
* published by posting on blogs/forums; people can freely comment beneath the posting
* linked with material on the web

Here’s an example of a good way of organizing one’s papers online, and here’s a good way of describing one’s research.

My final thoughts (for now):

1. It makes sense to publicize results in five formats:
a. press release or “executive summary”
b. blog entry
c. webpage
d. lecture or “powerpoint presentation”
e. paper

Books are also good; unfortunately readers don’t always realize that books can actually contain original research. (Feller commented on this in the introduction of the second edition of one of his books.)

I’ve been presenting results as papers and lectures (more of the former than the latter) and, in recent years, as blog entries. It doesn’t seem like it should be too much work to also have the press release and the webpage. Having done the effort, I’d like to have more people aware of my various research ideas and results.

I wonder how much effort it would take to retrofit my old papers as webpages, and whether it would be worth it. From the other direction, I could upgrade some old blog entries to webpages and articles. I’d also like to have a way to move more smoothly between webpages/papers and talks, so it’s not so much duplicative effort to prepare both.

I agree that, when writing papers, the refereeing process is a lot of effort. I say this as an author and also as an editor and referee at journals. It’s unpleasant to have to write for the gatekeepers rather than the readers. One thing I’ve liked about writing books (and blog entries) is that I can go straight to the readers.

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