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7 June, 2011 - 20:11 By News Desk

CUE finalist Qiqqa picks up pace

Jimme Jardine

With Qiqqa, pronounced ‘quicker’, you will complete your PhD in less time – by helping you work smarter, not harder.

Researchers read hundreds (if not thousands) of papers during the course of their research. Qiqqa combines the versatility of pen and paper with the power of computers to search and organise these papers so that you can quickly recall, summarise and brainstorm the knowledge you need.

Qiqqa InCite, which arrives this summer, completes the picture by helping you write your dissertation, not only by automatically formatting your references for you, but also by suggesting and reminding you of the papers you should cite as you write your paper or thesis.

The story so farQiqqa was started by Jimme Jardine at the beginning of 2010 out of necessity. While completing his MSc dissertation in Financial Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in 2005, he found that there was no software tool to alleviate some of the cumbersome, boring and repetitive tasks that are part and parcel of doing research.

On arriving at the University of Cambridge five years later to read a PhD in Computational Linguistics, he found that a tool still did not exist, and he was not going to repeat the mistakes learned during his MSc.

The first public version of Qiqqa was released in May 2010.  It has proved immensely popular, predominantly with the English-speaking academic world of 10 million students and two million postgraduates and academic staff.  In the year since its launch, Qiqqa has been downloaded and used by thousands of researchers.

The Qiqqa team has grown as well: now a team of four who work part time on everything from building the website to introducing people to Qiqqa.

Qiqqa is free (which sits rather nicely inside a student’s budget) and always will be free. Qiqqa was designed so that the costs of maintaining the free version are negligible. Qiqqa Premium is available to those who want to show their appreciation and who want a little bit more from Qiqqa: be it additional online storage space or some of the more interesting features that are partially limited in the free version.

Qiqqa’s road ahead“So far it has been tremendous fun building Qiqqa – especially when we get to wake up every morning to some of the wonderful feedback we receive from the Qiqqa community, and more recently since the release of Qiqqa Premium, to emails from PayPal, our payments gateway,” says Jardine.But the team at Qiqqa have bigger plans. The thousands of PDFs being read, annotated, highlighted, searched, commented on and uploaded to Qiqqa web libraries every day provide a rich stomping ground of valuable information for the research paper recommendation algorithms Jimme is building for his PhD.

“Science is not like music,” says Jimme. “Although it’s probably a good idea to read the paper that everyone else is reading (and I would wholly recommend listening to Lady Gaga’s latest album), often in research it is more important to know about a niche paper that is particularly relevant to your research, and yours alone.”

Traditional recommendation systems can’t do that, mainly because of the data with which they have to work. Qiqqa implicitly – that is, without requiring any additional work from you – has at its disposal the kind of information it needs to know exactly what you want to be told about.

The Qiqqa team expect to start seeking funding in early 2012, primarily to allow them to hire and accelerate execution of their feature pipeline. Two of the more exciting upcoming developments are the addition of full-featured support for Android-, iOS- and Windows-based tablets; and the extension of Qiqqa to some of the bespoke needs (such as audited, intranet-based shared libraries) requested by many of our users in industry.

Jardine says: “People go to Google to search, Facebook to socialise and Amazon to read. We see a world where people go to Qiqqa to learn.”

• Photograph shows: Jimme Jardine

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