What About Chempedia?

June 22, 2010

Every great website requires two things: great content and people interested in using it. Getting there is remarkably difficult, as the countless millions of failed websites and services can attest to.

Chempedia is a public-facing chemical substance registry. In plain English, it offers the ability for anyone to assign a unique identifier and one or more names to a pure organic substance. Every substance has a summary page (for example, serotonin) and the system is searchable both by structure/substructure and by name/identitifer. Unique to Chempedia is its review system, in which the user community assigns points to both substance namings and users, setting the stage for game mechanics-inspired features such as a leaderboard.

Chempedia was relaunched last year to a fairly warm response. However, over the last several months, there has been a significant decrease in use of the system. Less than one new substance per week on average is being registered and just over 120 visits per week are being logged. The trend in both measures is down.

So the question arises: what to do? Costs for running and maintaining the system are not exorbitant, but they are also not trivial.

I'm all for being patient, but the Chempedia usage stats suggest a service that at first glance seems to do something useful, but on closer inspection does not. Sites that don't fulfill their mission and don't serve a user community need to be either changed or shut down.

Rather than just go for the second option, I thought I'd throw the question out to you folks. If you've used Chempedia, what got you interested? If you didn't use it much afterwards, what might get you to do so?