theARTS

I’ve noted that the Antwerp ring theory research group has a blog. Admittedly, it’s not particularly active at the moment, but it’s still good to see more established entities than marauding bands of grad students starting blogs.

Maybe I’m just high on blog triumphalism, but looking at how blogs have infected fields like politics, I can’t help but wonder if they will soon be ubiquitous in math, with every department, every research group (every conference?) having one. It might sound dumb, but what would you have said 10 years ago if I told you that by 2008, almost every serious political campaign for President, Governor or Congress would have a blog? Or 15 years ago if I had told you by now it would be considered a vital part of someone’s academic career to have a website? It would sounded like madness, no? Welcome to the internet age.

Of course, it goes without saying that by the time everybody warms up to blogs, the early adopters will have found another technology they think is so much better, which we will wait another 10 years for everyone to decide is a good idea.

3 thoughts on “theARTS

  1. It’s not clear that academic departments will want to have blogs – I can see lots of reasons for them not wanting to have them. But then, companies are dabbling in blogs, so who knows?

    There are very good reasons for conferences to have blogs, since a conference is basically a bunch of people talking to each other… as is a blog. They’re different, of course. But, over at the n-Category Café we set up blogs for lots of the conferences we go to. It seems like a good thing, but it would be even better if everyone at the conference knew there was a blog officially associated to the conference, ahead of time, so they could start chatting, exchanging links for papers, and planning where to meet each other for dinner.

    In 10 years I hope to be vlogging about math, not just blogging. And, for more permanent organized stuff, I’m gonna have a wiki. And, in 10 years, maybe people will have figured out how to combine these new media in more effective ways.

  2. It might sound dumb, but what would you have said 10 years ago if I told you that by 2008, almost every serious political campaign for President, Governor or Congress would have a blog?

    I hope I would’ve said: “Please don’t use words that haven’t been invented yet.” If you then went on to explain to me what a “blog” would be, maybe I would’ve said: “Won’t people in the future believe that it’s okay to have unexpressed thoughts?”

    Or 15 years ago if I had told you by now it would be considered a vital part of someone’s academic career to have a website?

    Is it? I see an awful lot of very successful mathematicians without websites.

    Of course, it goes without saying that by the time everybody warms up to blogs, the early adopters will have found another technology they think is so much better, which we will wait another 10 years for everyone to decide is a good idea.

    The model of having a handful of people authorized to make original posts and 6 billion people authorized to make comments doesn’t seem ideal. Both the mailing list model and the wiki model seem more useful to me.

  3. Mailing lists and wikis are good when you want a centralized store of information, and blogs are good for people who want absolute control over the content. My experience so far has been that I learn much more from math blogs than from wikipedia math pages and mailing lists.

    For example, just from the last few weeks on blogs, I saw a neat proof of Cauchy-Schwarz using symmetry arbitrage and a solution to the cubic by radicals using symmetric functions combined with Fourier transforms over cyclic groups. I have yet to find any exposition that is quite so elegant on any wikis. I think both nuggets were written by Tao, and perhaps this says something about how sources should be centralized. If everyone can contribute to a certain body of work, searching for really good stuff can become like mining for diamonds.

    At this point in the development of the web, anyone can create a blog, but the burden is on the writer to come up with something to say that others are willing to read. This means we don’t need a very fine-grained filter to choose content we like. The only way I found to do this on wikipedia was to find a contributor that I knew to be really good, and read that person’s edit history.

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