Academia.edu — Building and Validating a New Product

June 13th, 2016

Client

Richard Price

Project

Product Build and Validation

“10x Management has consistently provided us extremely talented and professional engineers, often at a moment’s notice.” – Richard Price, CEO

 

Academia.edu is the easiest way to share academic papers with millions of people across the world for free. Over the last 3 years, Academia has hired a number of contractors through 10x Management to build out the company’s web application to support the sharing and citing of academic papers.

We interviewed 10xer Yuri Niyazov, the most recent 10xer to work with Academia to find out what it was like working with Academia and how he was able to add value as a part-time contractor.

10x: Why did Academia originally reach out to 10x?

Yuri: Academia originally reached out to 10x because they were looking for more resources, they needed more help with managing their site in general. I did a number of small projects (added features to the analytics product, improved testing, streamlined the setup of the development environment, fixed race condition bugs, etc.) for Academia before I started working on the citation study. The citation study was a natural fit for a part-time self-managing contractor. For the citation study, they wanted to figure out a way to quantify the impact of their product on the number of citations an academic paper receives. Receiving more citations is a major value-­add for academics. It can lead to more funding, faster tenure, and greater prestige. If we could demonstrate Academia’s online community and citation tools led to more citations for individual researchers, we could prove their entire value proposition.

10x: Why did they choose 10x for this project?

Yuri: In my experience, finding decent coders who come to work every day to carry out a series of tasks is rather easy. Finding someone who can come in and help manage the entire development process including architecture, work planning, third­ party vendor selection, etc. is nearly impossible. After meeting with Academia CEO Richard Price and learning about their needs, I was excited to make a meaningful contribution to help meet their goals. On the citation project, I helped them build out a scope of work that made sense, thought through complex project specifications with many unknowns, mitigated risks, managed external resources and tried to be extremely fair about building (and billing for) only what was necessary.

10x: What were Academia’s requirements?

Yuri: Their project requirements were rather high level. They knew generally what product they wanted to build, but they didn’t have specific technical requirements. Those are the best projects for me. I enjoy helping clients scope out the project and think through questions they hadn’t even considered yet.

10x: What was the hardest part of this project?

Yuri: When you think about how regular employee programmers work on a product, they usually get tasks that are doable in one to two day chunks at a time, and they proceed by receiving more and more tasks from their team that are all doable in one to two day chunks at a time. Whereas here, with sort of an amorphous project, my task was: “Fix this research project.” But the individual tasks weren’t clear and when I tried to get clarity on what the individual tasks were, each time more and more complexity would come about. More and more details that hadn’t been thought through would come about, and so I primarily was the one that was managing this complexity, this long list of tasks that would be discovered on a day to day basis.

10x: How do you think your work there changed the company?

Yuri: Academia had a huge vision and a growing community when we met, and they wanted to quantify the product’s impact in terms of citations, which ultimately affects academics’ careers. Figuring out tough problems is my favorite thing to do. It wasn’t easy, but we were able to demonstrate that papers that are uploaded to Academia receive a far greater number of citations than those not on Academia.

In fact, our study was peer-reviewed and recently published in PLOS ONE – read the full study here.  We found that papers uploaded to Academia receive a 69 percent boost in citations over 5 years.