When 11-year-old Jesse Friedman won a programming prize at the Wolfram Technology Conference last year, I pondered the diversity of our global user community—from children to Nobel Prize laureates, from CTOs to astronauts, to the thousands of people on the planet who help the world tick every day using the tools we make.
We always have a great atmosphere at our annual Technology Conference, where developers and users mingle and share their stories. Imagine if we could take this interaction and somehow make it available every day to everyone. We hope to achieve this with Wolfram Community, a new virtual home for our big family, which we are very pleased to announce today. Now the people who make our wonderful technologies and the people who use them to make wonderful things are just a few clicks away from each other.
At the outset, Wolfram Community is a platform for questions and answers, idea sharing, and discussions about all of our technologies—including Mathematica, SystemModeler, Wolfram|Alpha, and all the rest. With time, not only do we envision uniting users across our technologies, but that the system will grow to provide additional features, including deeper integration with our products themselves, file sharing, and much more, offering a medium designed for creative collaboration. And if you already have a Wolfram ID, you’re all set to go—just sign in and start chatting.
When you sign in you will probably see some familiar names and will be able to put faces to them. We encourage real-name usage to make Community feel more like a family. With roughly 800 members and 500 posts, there is already a lot to explore. Neat profile pages help put discussions in the context of members’ backgrounds.
For example, you can find out that long-time user and prolific Demonstrations author Seth Chandler, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center, started a discussion about blogging with Mathematica.
From that discussion you may learn that our senior data scientist and Wolfram Science Summer School instructor Paul-Jean Letourneau has just the tool for that. He developed and shared a WordPress client for Mathematica to post directly from a notebook—which he uses for his personal blog.
From the same thread you will learn that Robert J. Frey, a Research Professor at Stony Brook University and Director of the program in Quantitative Finance, finds Paul-Jean’s project “fantastic!” And this is what I call a “happy ending.”
Or you could learn that the executive director of Wolfram|Alpha, Luc Barthelet, was previously leading the development of SimCity and founded the virtual gaming community TirNua. Recently he purchased a few intelligent Nest thermostats for his home and figured out how to hook them up to Mathematica—which he shared on Community. Now, what could be more inspiring than creativity with personality?
When Mathematica was born in 1988, so was the first community of its users, who interacted via an email list maintained by Steven Christensen. At first a small group, it grew into what we currently know as MathGroup. With more than 130,000 messages, it has helped a myriad of our users to connect, share, and figure things out together.
As our global audience grew, reaching many corners of the world, users started founding their own communities suitable for a specific demographic or goal. For instance, the Mathematica Users Group on LinkedIn and Mathematica Stack Exchange Q&A forum currently count almost 3,000 and 6,000 members, respectively. We also have large communities dedicated to localized language groups, such as those in Japan and Russia.
This abundance of communities and general user “cohesion” tells me how fostering and positive our users are. I am very proud of the amity they provide toward those in need of help. And, I can tell you as an active member of Mathematica Stack Exchange, our users are full of humor and creativity, sometimes taking over the internet with posts that go viral and are viewed by tens of thousands of people in a day. I believe this is also the opinion of many of my Wolfram colleagues who frequent these forums and enjoy discussions and brainstorming with users. And I am delighted to think that technologies we develop attract such brilliant people.
These communities are mostly focused on answering questions about our flagship product, Mathematica, which makes them very efficient due to the clarity of their goals. But a quarter century is a significant time, and over these years Wolfram Research has expanded dramatically. As the company grew, its products helped a lot of people to advance research and education: from individuals to organizations to entire countries adopting our technologies or initiatives we support.
As a consequence, our users show an emerging need to connect and share their experiences with the new vanguard technologies we develop, such as Wolfram|Alpha, CDF, or the upcoming Mathematica Online. The realization of how tightly these new technologies are integrated with each other and Mathematica is a powerful motivation behind Wolfram Community. It wasn’t planned, but it’s remarkable and quite symbolic that Community is announced while we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Mathematica.
The unique signature of the global community surrounding Wolfram is a creative, fostering culture. I hope this will seep in and soak the Wolfram Community, making it a true home for all of us. See you there!