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• CommentRowNumber1.
• CommentAuthorjamievicary
• CommentTimeApr 14th 2010
Hi! You know, I never knew until Urs just told me that this place existed. I like it!

Forums like this are the best place for discussion. I guess most of you remember the glory days of sci.physics.research --- I spent a lot of time haunting that when I was an undergrad!

We need a good place to talk about maths, physics, and category theory. I think this forum should be it; forums make much more sense than blogs, where only 'special people' can post new topics.

The problem with the nForum is that it feels like a place that just exists for talking about the nLab, rather than a place to talk about maths and physics in its own right. For example, to make this post, I've just had to "select the category for this discussion" --- I was given 8 options, and 7 of them are technical things to do with the nLab!

That's fine. If people want a place to talk about the lab, then it obviously should exist. But we desperately need a place to talk about maths, categories and physics --- and we don't have one! Urs has said to me that he thinks the nForum should be that place, but while it keeps its focus as a technical discussion area for the nLab, I just can't see how that's going to work.

What do people think? Does anyone else think that we're missing something, something that we even had 10 years ago in sci.physics.research?

Jamie.
• CommentRowNumber2.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeApr 14th 2010

I don’t feel I have the time to send text messages into some black hole.

That’s one reason I am posting less at MO than I did. Whenever I post a long reply there, I am left with the feeling of having wasted time. I should have typed that message into an nLab entry.

There is a huge painting to be drawn. Whatever we discuss about math and physics is part of this one single painting. I want to see this painting develop with net progress.

• CommentRowNumber3.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 14th 2010

I like it!

Great! I like that you like it.

Forums like this are the best place for discussion.

My sentiments exactly and the basic reason why I suggested this place in the first place.

The problem with the nForum is that it feels like a place that just exists for talking about the nLab

That's because it was set up to be such a place. It's expanded a little bit, and I have a feeling that not everyone is quite so strict about the categories as I am!

However, I disagree slightly with the phrase (emphasis mine):

as a technical discussion area for the nLab

since I think it functions quite well as a discussion area for anything to do with the nLab, from technical stuff to the content of pages.

while it keeps its focus as a technical discussion area for the nLab, I just can't see how that's going to work.

Here's two possibilities:

1. Launch another forum. Pros: obviously separate from the nLab. Cons: obviously separate from the nLab.
2. Add more categories to this forum. Pros: this becomes a one-stop-shop. Cons: this becomes a one-stop-shop.

That's the technical side. On the more "should we do this?" side, then my initial thoughts are broadly positive, but that's just an initial thought.

• CommentRowNumber4.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeApr 14th 2010

Well, there exist lots of other places to talk about things, like various mailing lists, and lots of blogs, including the n-cafe. None is quite the same as a forum, of course; mailing lists don’t have itex and end up in lots of people’s inboxes, while only the owners of a blog can initiate a discussion there. So I can definitely see the advantage.

I’m not sure what I think about whether a purely content-based forum should be part of the nforum or a separate entity; Andrew’s listing of the pros and cons about nails the issues. (-: On the one hand, it might be nice to keep purely nlab-based discussion clearly separate from general content-based discussion. But on the other hand, if we keep them together, then the more content-based discussion will still clearly be part of the “n-community,” and may help draw more people into the nlab through the forum. And we do have discussion categories that can be used to segregate different kinds of discussions. So I think right now I’d lean towards the latter: expand the scope of the n-Forum by adding more discussion categories (and being more careful about which categories we post in).

If we do want to start promoting the n-Forum as a place for more general content-focused discussion, I would really like it if we could find a good-looking, expectation-compliant, css skin to set as the default. I haven’t really found any that I like the look of, so to me the n-Forum still “looks” kind of like a back-room hack, rather than a publically open and “live” Web Site.

• CommentRowNumber5.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeApr 14th 2010

“That’s because it was set up to be such a place. It’s expanded a little bit, and I have a feeling that not everyone is quite so strict about the categories as I am!”

Understatement of the month!

@Jamie: It seems to me that just about any discussion on maths, physics, and category theory from an “nPOV” is either already in the nLab somewhere or has the potential to be, so I propose that if you have something to talk about which would be worth recording as a note in our open Lab book (and with an eye to actually doing so), then you could bring it up here under the General category. Seeing the types of things that are talked about around here, and knowing you from the Café, I can’t imagine that you’re going to get into any “trouble” here!

Welcome!

• CommentRowNumber6.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 14th 2010
• (edited Apr 14th 2010)

Please don't bring the discussion here. i have seen it happen before. Once a "general discussion" board opens up, all content-relevant discussion evaporates, I can say from my surprisingly large amount of experience in this subject. I do like Todd's suggestion that discussion is fine if it's relevant to the lab, but a general discussion board seems too open.

• CommentRowNumber7.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeApr 14th 2010

Todd writes:

It seems to me that just about any discussion on maths, physics, and category theory from an “nPOV” is either already in the nLab somewhere or has the potential to be, so I propose that if you have something to talk about […] then you could bring it up here under the General category.

Once a “general discussion” board opens up, all content-relevant discussion evaporates.

Yes, true, let’s not de-focus too much. We have seen recently what a too general discussion attitude brings with it.

But we don’t want random people here anyway. We do want exactly people like Jamie, though!

• CommentRowNumber8.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010
• (edited Apr 15th 2010)

@Harry: I told you you would object to any new idea (except an irc channel) :)

I don’t think discussing something on the n-Forum is a waste of time at all. In fact, I think it is crucial. HOWEVER, I think each nLab page should have a link to the corresponding discussion. In this way, it does not “get lost”.

The n-Forum and n-Lab should be more integrated.

So far we have not been very good at linking from the nLab to the nForum and have concentrated on the reverse. Linking to a discussion from the nLab makes good sense. I’ve wondered about whether we should have separate “(Discussion)” pages on the nLab, but now I think the nForum IS the discussion page. We just need to be better about providing links to the discussions.

• CommentRowNumber9.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Eric, I’d like to see some examples you have in mind where it would be worthwhile to link from the nLab back to the nForum.

Personally, I find that there is rather a lot of noise at the Forum, and rather a lot of insubstantial comments. In some ways that’s completely fine – we’re having conversations and sometimes useful debates – but I think we need a sense of discipline too in transferring insights over to the Lab and keeping a forward movement, and I think sometimes the self-discipline at the Forum needs to be tighter. This applies to me as much as to anyone else.

I would point to Domenico as someone who exemplifies a kind of focus at the Forum that I think is very healthy for the Lab.

As long as discussions are focused, the Forum is very worthwhile, but I’d like to get back to greater use of query boxes inside pages, because (I think) one is far less prone to blather in query boxes, and it helps keep the focus sharp.

• CommentRowNumber10.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

@Todd #9: I could skim the forum and find plenty of examples, I have no doubt. One off the top of my head is this one.

• CommentRowNumber11.
• CommentAuthorjamievicary
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010
Reading all your responses, and browsing around the forum a bit more, I see that it is indeed a vital part of organization for the nLab, and I agree with Andrew and Harry that it wouldn't make much sense to try to expand it into something that it's not.

Andrew says that one option would be to start a new Forum, and I think that's a good idea! Doesn't anyone else agree that we need somewhere to talk about maths, physics and categories? A forum is exactly the correct format --- you can see all the active conversations immediately, participate easily, and start your own discussion if you want to. Blogs and Labs and Overflows are great, but they can't match Forums on these three points.

@Todd: You say that if I have something worth talking about then I should open a discussion here under the "General" section. The problem is that while the nForum retains its focus for discussion about the nLab, it's never going to get the big community associated to it that, say, s.p.r did back in the day. And it's a big, thriving community that's the prerequisite for a great discussion venue. I'm not too worried about getting into trouble :). And thanks for the welcome!! Anyway, hopefully you see what I mean.

@Mike: I basically agree with what you say. But I don't agree that the nLab can itself function as a good, general-participation forum for debate, and I think that the provision of a great discussion place on the net is the most important thing to have. I don't think we'll get that by adding a couple of extra discussion categories to the list.

All I want is a forum where we talk about maths, physics and categories, which "anybody who's anybody" in the field frequents, with good latex support, and where everybody can start a discussion, not just some chosen few. Is that really too much to ask? I guess the nForum isn't the place for this, but somewhere new could be. Does anybody else feel the need, or is it just me?
• CommentRowNumber12.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

I guess the nForum isn’t the place for this,

Why not? Just give it a go. What is it you want to think about today? Start a thread here.

• CommentRowNumber13.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Yes, just give it a go already! :-)

I see what you mean that the nForum is not the bustling place you’d like for a real forum, but lacking that at the moment, you might as well start a discussion anyway. Or, you could phrase your discussion in the form of a question and start talking at Math Overflow, which really is bustling.

• CommentRowNumber14.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Eric, I wasn’t doubting you; I just wanted to see examples so that we’d have something concrete to look at to continue that discussion. The example you picked is a good one and supports your point IMO.

• CommentRowNumber15.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

I’ve actually got an idea that seems like it could be interesting.

Every so often on IRC, we have a seminar in a special channel reserved for seminars. I think it would be a pretty cool thing to do with the n-people at least once over the summer (maybe even more than once!). It’s a surprisngly good format for a seminar. Does anybody else think that this might be a good idea?

1. not been using IRC from ’95 or so.. alphanumeric terminals at that time.. I see something must have changed in the meanwhile :)

an IRC seminar sounds cool, but I really can’t imagine how it works in concrete. so Harry, could you post an advice next time you have an IRC seminar so that anyone interested in the idea will be able to attend and to better figure how it is? I’ll be attending for sure. well.. I could be quite sleepy if it is scheduled at a time which here would correspond to something between 2 am and 6 am :)

• CommentRowNumber17.
• CommentAuthorjamievicary
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Urs said

Just give it a go. What is it you want to think about today? Start a thread here.

Well, I don’t have anything I particularly want to talk about right this minute! But if I really had something I wanted to talk about, right now, I’d probably get more of a discussion going my posting a comment at the Cafe, or at MathOverflow.

But the point is these venues aren’t ideal, because they’re not forums. At the moment they’re probably the best we’ve got, but we should have something better. MathOverflow is probably the best of the bunch, if only because it’s so slick, but still, it hardly encourages discussion and debate.

Anyway, I’ve said my piece … and maybe next time I want to talk about some maths, I’ll post it on the forum and see what happens :)

• CommentRowNumber18.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010
@Domenico: If you were using IRC in '95, I probably ran into you there. I was a "regular" on #physics, #math, and #mathematics :) I probably started in '93-'94 (when few people outside academics knew about the "web") :)

IRC is completely addicting though. I finally gave it up probably around '98 only through an intervention involving family and friends :)
• CommentRowNumber19.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

There are so many people on IRC who are completely incompetent at math because they just ask all of their homework problems in #math, unfortunately.

• CommentRowNumber20.
• CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010
• (edited Apr 15th 2010)

Well, northern hemisphere summer, anyway. I couldn't say for sure, but I think I'm the only regular antipodean contributor here ;-) Anyway, I don't get the summer holidays like I used to!

• CommentRowNumber21.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Here's a few random thoughts (from a random person!). Starting with the idea that the nLab is our "lab book" where we write stuff that we want to remember, I'd like to propose that the nForum is that pile of scrap paper that you always have near at hand. Some stuff (a lot of stuff?) gets worked out there, but anything that is of any worth, or that needs a little more permanence, should get transferred to the lab book.

Probably in common with many people, I work best in an environment with few distractions. Physically, I find it easier to work in a library than the lunch room (though, working in a cafe can be quite fun, too). So I wouldn't want to see the nForum getting full of distractions.

However, it's also nice to have a tea room where one can kick back and hold forth on more speculative ideas.

But a tea room by itself wouldn't necessarily work. The thing I like about a physical tea room in a mathematics department is that they almost always have boards where you can go to work if something interesting comes up. So the problem with simply setting up a completely separate forum is that if something good comes up, there's no way to move it to the more serious part.

But things can be separate with out being apart. We can have a separate category on this forum, say "nTea", where such random discussion can take place. It can be "hidden" from the main forum and such that you only see it if you go into it. But as it would be part of this software, interesting stuff can be moved out of it (and appropriate stuff can be moved into it). With proper use of subcategories, it could be like a "forum within a forum". And the bonus being that you don't have to keep logging on to different sites.

(And the added bonus for me that I don't have to maintain two completely separate installations!)

But the real difficulty is not technical, it's social. Starting a new site and publicising it takes time and effort.

• CommentRowNumber22.
• CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

I'd like to propose that the nForum is that pile of scrap paper that you always have near at hand.

I agree. But then my physical lab book looks like scrap paper, and often is temporarily replaced by actual scrap paper (I have folders of the stuff that needs going through for all the flashes of insight that haven't been worked on yet).

• CommentRowNumber23.
• CommentAuthorBruce
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010
I'm here in the corner, listening in from time to time... I laughed out loud at the "nTea" idea.
• CommentRowNumber24.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Jamie,

I am not sure I understand.

Do you maybe mean to ask for technical help in setting up a forum? I am not against you setting up a forum and trying to attract good math and physics discussion to it, if you can do it.

All I am saying is that I don’t quite see why the attempt we are having at it here already isn’t at least worth a try. I see that people like you and Bruce and many others who I originally imagined we would have active and exciting discussion with here are very quiet. I don’t understand why.

• CommentRowNumber25.
• CommentAuthorTim_van_Beek
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Is there a (technical or social) problem to use a category for these more general discussions? The "General"-category could be split into "nLab-theme related" and "somewhat more general". I don't know if it is technically possible already for users to filter for categories and therefore be able to completly ignore the "somewhat more general" one, is there? If you start a few discussions in the "somewhat more general" category, people like me could figure out what kind of topics are appropriate.

• CommentRowNumber26.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010
• (edited Apr 15th 2010)

“nLab-theme related” and “somewhat more general

By the way, I gather that there is some funny psychological thing going on, apparently, but it really shouldn’t : it’s actually not true that the are “nLab-related things” and “more general things”, in a way. We are not here for the sake of the nLab. The nLab is here for the sake of us. The point is that we discuss here generally all the things that we are interested in – just as Jamie seems to wish! – only that we also have the possibility to archive whatever good insight is obtained in a wiki.

To me this looks like a compelling idea.

• CommentRowNumber27.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

I like Andrew’s suggestion #21, except that I don’t see why it has to be “hidden” from the main nLab. The nLab is like a lab book, but because it’s a public wiki, it’s also like a chalkboard. The nForum can be like scraps of paper, but it can also be like a tea room. This is the 21st century – we don’t have to limit ourselves to a single metaphor! (-:

IRC-type seminars/meetings are a neat idea, but they should definitely be held somewhere that has something itex-like. It might be even better to combine them with the nLab, so that whoever is “speaking” could use the ’lab for their presentation, but other people could chat and ask questions simultaneously elsewhere in realtime.

• CommentRowNumber28.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Jamie, are you saying that the problem with the nForum is just that there aren’t enough people here (yet)?

I admit to being a little mystified that so many people have glommed onto MO so quickly, whereas so few people contribute to the nlab and the nforum, which are just as open to participation by anyone. If starting a new nforum-clone would somehow fix this, I’d be all for it, but I don’t really see any reason why it would.

• CommentRowNumber29.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

I have to say that when I first came to the nForum, everyone was very welcoming and extremely helpful, but the constant “Latest Changes” threads made me somewhat reluctant to post anything that wasn’t strictly on topic (that’s also probably why I don’t have the same bad reputation here that I have at MO though [hopefully?]). I could definitely see someone more shy than I am being intimidated to post anything at all here, especially since you guys are such experts. Also, unlike MO, the bar to contribute here on the main project is much higher. Any idiot can ask a question on MO (and many do!), but to write something up for the nLab that isn’t completely useless or incorrect enough to be a nuisance (you know who I’m talking about [I warned you, btw]) takes a decent amount of knowledge and effort.

Also, on the nForum, there’s no “Welcome to the nForum” stickied thread that sets out the purpose and rules of the site. It seems like, as Andrew said, the nForum was pretty much devised for the kinds of “Latest changes” types of posts. If the nForum is to actually be a discussion forum as well, there should be a sticky thread explaining things. The current FAQ is three paragraphs about how to make links back to the nLab and other technical stuff.

If you really want to turn this into a discussion forum as well, there is basically one change that you need to make. Add a sticky explaining what types of discussion you would like to see, add some rules, and tell people not to be intimidated by the vast amount of information that is linked from here every day. Then, start a few discussion threads here or there on interesting topics (but ones that don’t require too much background). Then, make a post on the café that the nForum is open to discussions and invite people to come here. I’m reasonably certain that this plan will work quite well, if it is your intention to turn the nForum into such a forum.

Personally, I would rather have it split off from the current nForum, since the current nForum is serving its original purpose very well, and it doesn’t make sense to fix something that isn’t broken.

• CommentRowNumber30.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Yes, the historical problem is that originally we thought (I thought, at least) that we’d have lots of discussion on the nCafe and use the nForum only for alerting us of latest changesto the nLab.

But for some reason that still completely mystifies me, nCafe discussion doesn’t get back to the point it used to be. So now the nForum is being used for discussion, not just for latest changes alerts.

Probably Harry is quite right,and we should just make it official by having a widely visible statement to that extent here as a sticky thread.

• CommentRowNumber31.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

Reading through all the above, it seems that one thing that should be done is to make the nForum a little more welcoming. Whether or not one wants to have more discussion here or somewhere else, we certainly don't want to put off potential contributors by a confusing interface. It is true that historically, only the die-hards came here, but it's role has expanded a little over the months and maybe it's time to do a bit of spring cleaning.

As part of that, we can look at the various categories and how they are used and how they could be used. Categories, as used here, are quite versatile and we can have subcategories and the like, so it is completely feasible to separate parts of the nForum in such a way that those who only want to know about the "latest changes" don't get disturbed by the raucous crowd in the "nTea Room" (should we trademark "n-Stuff"?). If there is a desire to have a place open to "general discussion" then there is no technical reason why it has to be another site and plenty of good reasons to have it a part of this one.

But I think that, as several have intimated, we should get our n-house in order first. Many of the things we'd do before opening it up would probably be a good thing to do anyway (fixing the CSS, making the FAQ actually helpful, the odd sticky discussion to explain what's going on) so there's no harm in doing them with a view to expanding the role a little further.

It would be useful, in that context, to hear from those, like Harry and Jamie (Tim as well?), who came along after the whole thing was set-up and so had completely different "first impressions" to those of use who were using the nLab before the nForum sprang into being. What is confusing? What would it have been useful to know when you first got here? That sort of stuff.

• CommentRowNumber32.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 15th 2010

I think I gave all the suggestions I have. I have very few complaints about the n-forum.

• CommentRowNumber33.
• CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

I admit to being a little mystified that so many people have glommed onto MO so quickly

two words: reputation, badges. It tickles people's fancy. I"m not particularly keen to see it here just yet, though (and I'm sure Andrew doesn't want to have to implement it :-)

• CommentRowNumber34.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

Don’t forget the massive efforts that Anton and crew put into spreading the news and trying to get people to participate. In particular, the nforum is hard to find. It’s buried on the bottom of the front page of the nLab, there’s no links to it from the café, etc. I think that the forum link should be in the header on the nLab on every page, and a prominent link on the café. This is just if we want more contributors at all!

• CommentRowNumber35.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

Yes, with all due respect to Anton and others (who have done a great job), let’s please not have “reputation” and “badges” here, ever. It would really sour me on the Lab, which I like as it is.

• CommentRowNumber36.
• CommentAuthorTim_van_Beek
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

In particular, the nforum is hard to find.

I'd second that.

Andrew wrote:

What would it have been useful to know when you first got here?

Urs, Mike (and others) have a very clear understanding of what they would like to talk about, and what kind of community should form around the nLab and the nForum. I don't, for me, it is not quite clear what "the nlab and the nforum...are just as open to participation by anyone" actually means (technically yes, of course, anyone with internet access can contribute, but that's certainly not what Mike has in mind) or what Urs means when he writes

By the way, I gather that there is some funny psychological thing going on, apparently, but it really shouldn't : it's actually not true that the are "nLab-related things" and "more general things", in a way.

The nLab is still focused on n-categories, the nForum is it's associated forum - for a time I was certain that I should only post material about categories (and I still think that this is true, to a certain extend). Maybe Urs' understanding of categories has grown so much that now everything is a category or about categories :-) But you certainly do not want to communicate to the whole world that everyone may talk about everything here?

• CommentRowNumber37.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010
• (edited Apr 16th 2010)

With the recent improvements to the nForum (Andrew rocks!), the line is blurring even more among the n-Spaces (n-Cafe, n-Lab, n-Forum). Each space has a special function. The n-Cafe is like the n-Community newspaper. It has a crew of journalists writing about interesting stuff that generates lots of interesting discussions. Despite any other intentions, the nLab is a great place to do work and write reference material. It is not Wikipedia, but it is not completely unlike Wikipedia either. Just as every Wikipedia page has a corresponding discussion, I have viewed the n-Forum primarily as the “Discussion” pages for stuff that goes on at the n-Lab, e.g. announcements of new pages, discussions about pages, discsussions about discussions about pages, etc.

With the huge technical (and texnical!) improvements recently, the n-Forum can AND SHOULD become much more than that. I think it can become that thing Tim envisions.

So there are some things we should keep in mind:

• The n-Forum is not broken

The n-Forum is great. Whatever changes are made should not change (much) the function of the n-Forum. We should be able to continue in very much the same way we have been.

• Everything should be made as open as possible, but not opener

Moderation is important, but passive moderation is best. The n-Forum has solved one the major problems of SPR by requiring a login. Anyone should be able to create an account and login, but a login should be necessary if we are going to open things more. This is important. Some brilliant people should not be allowed to participate if they tend to intimidate and deteriorate conversations. This is one thing that killed SPR for a lot of us. A simple login can control this. Once you have a login, you can participate freely with no need for a “Moderator” approving all comments. The fact you have a login means you are free to comment, with the understanding that this is a privilege that can be revoked.

• Do not reinvent the wheel

There are many examples of successful technical discussions forums out there. They all tend to have some basic things in common. One very well managed forum I used to participate in (until I lost MY privileges) is Nuclear Phynance.

Notice on the top, there is a link to “Library”. We can have similar links to n-Cafe and n-Lab.

Notice the discussions are broken into categories that are easily visible from the front page. No drop down menus. I like this. We can start simple, with just a few categories for now, but something like that is what people expect to see in a discussion forum. I believe this should be easy to do with the current software.

We should “borrow liberally”. Nuclear Phynance (NP) is populated by some of the very best of the best with many senior managers at top investment firms.

I’ve never been a fan of “Sticky” posts. Notice NP does not have sticky posts. Rather, what happens is that when you create a new account, you are presented with a page explaining the rules and the purpose of the forum. You need to indicate you have read and understand the rules before you can create an account. This is much better than a “Sticky” post which we will have to look at forever, when it is really only relevant to new members.

PS: If you are interested in why I lost my privileges at Nuclear Phynance, have a look at these threads:

It was the beginning stages of the financial crisis. Not everyone was quite aware of the scope of what was to come. It was clear to me in March 2007 what was about to unfold. Just imagine if you were one of a handful of people who knew that an event of that magnitude was about to take place. How do you communicate it? How do you warn people? Looking back now with hindsight, what I was saying back then turned out to be fairly accurate, but at the time, it seemed to others (who were likely suffering “group think”) thought I had lost my mind.

• CommentRowNumber38.
• CommentAuthorIan_Durham
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010
• (edited Apr 16th 2010)

you know who I'm talking about [I warned you, btw]

I'm guessing that would be me. I'm not entirely gone. I'm only lurking. :p
• CommentRowNumber39.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

/me leers at Ian_Durham

• CommentRowNumber40.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

PS: Sorry, this is a little off topic, but if you want to read one veryfascinating conversation read this from beginning to end:

The people participating in the conversation (including me) were on the front lines as the crisis was unfolding. It is fascinating to reread. I come back to this conversation often.

• CommentRowNumber41.
• CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

leers at

maturity, Harry, maturity. :)

• CommentRowNumber42.
• CommentAuthorIan_Durham
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010
• (edited Apr 16th 2010)

/me leers at Ian_Durham

I don't have your "precious" but my wedding ring is at the bottom of a river (though I am still happily married).
• CommentRowNumber43.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

Yes, there are two meanings of leer.

I meant the one that is a “look of malicious intent”, not a “look of sexual desire”.

Paraphrasing the dictionary =p.

• CommentRowNumber44.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

I think that up until now, the n-Forum has intentionally been kept a little “hard to find,” because it has been envisioned mainly as a technical backroom for the more committed nLabizens. Obviously that can change.

PS. @Harry #43: no matter which meaning you intended, you were still displaying immaturity. (-:

• CommentRowNumber45.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010
• (edited Apr 16th 2010)

Tim wrote:

Maybe Urs’ understanding of categories has grown so much that now everything is a category or about categories :-)

That’s right. It’s not a joke.

I enjoy people putting whatever decent material into the nLab there is. We’ll go over it later and explain how the same looks from the nPOV. But you, as a contributor, should not worry about this. For instance I am very happy about all the contributions on AQFT that you have inserted. The more stuff you put in, the happier I am! :-)

• CommentRowNumber46.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

no matter which meaning you intended, you were still displaying immaturity. (-:

A little bit of immaturity never killed anyone.

• CommentRowNumber47.
• CommentAuthorjamievicary
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

Urs said:

All I am saying is that I don’t quite see why the attempt we are having at it here already isn’t at least worth a try. I see that people like you and Bruce and many others who I originally imagined we would have active and exciting discussion with here are very quiet. I don’t understand why.

Mike said:

I think that up until now, the n-Forum has intentionally been kept a little “hard to find,” because it has been envisioned mainly as a technical backroom for the more committed nLabizens. Obviously that can change.

I think that this is the answer to Urs’s question. As Mike says, things can change. That would require a brand new forum, though, as a technical backroom for the nLab IS needed, and the nForum is clearly it.

I’m not saying that I want to be the one who makes the effort to develop a better online place for discussion. All I’m saying is that I don’t understand why EVERYONE isn’t saying the same as me, that they think such a thing is necessary. I think that Bruce does. Urs, in a way, I think that you do too — you have said to me several times that you don’t think discussions online are as good any more — but I don’t understand why you think that the nLab would fill the void.

We want to recreate a real, buzzing ’cafe’ atmosphere — and a Forum is the best way to do that. A forum dedicated to discussion maths, physics and categories. Not a series of closed-off seminar rooms (i.e. the nLab), albeit with a relatively high-functioning seminar announcement system — not a technical support lab for those seminar rooms (i.e. the nForum) — not a cafe where only special people are allowed to start new conversations (i.e. the nCafe) — and not an adversarial gladiator’s ring where the best comment wins, every topic under the sun is discussed, and there’s no space for long-winded discussions that spiral into new topics (i.e. MathOverflow)!!

• CommentRowNumber48.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

That would require a brand new forum, though, as a technical backroom for the nLab IS needed, and the nForum is clearly it.

I’m pretty sure few of us would agree with this statement. There is no reason I can think of why this place can’t accommodate both.

• CommentRowNumber49.
• CommentAuthorDavid_Corfield
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

One option we might consider is to rethink the Cafe. A lot of the conversation we used to have there has drifted over here, where I imagine less people get to see it. With John's change of interests, one of the driving forces of the Cafe has been much weakened. I imagine this was a part of his rationale for suggesting the expansion of hosts. If it still lacks a certain vigour, why not allow more hosts?

• CommentRowNumber50.
• CommentAuthorTim_van_Beek
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

Urs said:

We'll go over it later and explain how the same looks from the nPOV. But you, as a contributor, should not worry about this. For instance I am very happy about all the contributions on AQFT that you have inserted.

That will work as a modus operandi. And some people in AQFT have adopted some categorical language during the last 10 years or so, so maybe someday I will use some of it, too, although I don't understand if they do anything interesting with it. Saying that a Haag-Kastler net is a co-presheaf is just a rephrasing to me - BTW, what is "coflabby"? The "Haag-Kastler axioms" page seems to be the only one that mentions this term.

Eric wrote:

Just imagine if you were one of a handful of people who knew that an event of that magnitude was about to take place. How do you communicate it?

Do you know the ancient Greek's myth about Cassandra ? Something about her situation (getting important insights, being unable to communicate it and therefore being shunned) must have fascinated humans enough through the ages to ensure the survival of this story :-)

• CommentRowNumber51.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

I agree with Eric. I don't see why a new forum would be needed.

One thing that any "new" thing needs is a community - it's very hard to launch one of these things from scratch. The nForum came from the nLab which came from the nCafe, MO came from SBS/Berkeley. So given that it would be possible to divide up this site into "nLab-specific" and "general", the fact that one would have a ready-made community.

It might even be possible to make them look completely different!

• CommentRowNumber52.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

By the way, people on MO are always looking for a place to discuss mathematics. If you want to have a general mathematics discussion forum, I’m sure you could get Anton to put in the FAQ that this is the right place to go.

• CommentRowNumber53.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

Yes, that had crossed my mind.

But I suppose they'd want to be able to vote on answers, and have community moderation. Next you'll all want tag clouds.

• CommentRowNumber54.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

I’m not sure I really want hundreds, maybe thousands of comments in my comment reader each day if a whole bunch of people start using the nForum to have their discussions.

• CommentRowNumber55.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

@Todd: This is a good reason to keep it separate from this part of the forum.

• CommentRowNumber56.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010
• (edited Apr 16th 2010)

@Todd: but you’ve forgotten something! You don’t have to subscribe to the whole forum. It’s possible to subscribe to some of it and leave out others. It’s also possible to specify it by an “exclusion” principle. I have several feeds in my feed reader: “latest changes” (since that’s the highest traffic), “organisation” (since I need to be sure I don’t miss anything there), and “everything else”. If ever anyone did make a new category, it would automatically go in the “everything else” feed. Neat, huh?

Let me make this absolutely clear: it really, truly is possible to have two completely separate parts of the nForum which don’t interact unless you want them too. But by being part of the same overall set-up, when you do want them to then they can.

Incidentally, looking around the plugins for this software, I came across one called “BlogThis” which makes a sort of “announcement” page whereby a comment can be “promoted” to a blog post to bring it to everyone’s attention. Kinda neat, I thought.

(PS Bleugh. That’s two “neat”s in one post. I’ll put a kroner in the charity box.)

• CommentRowNumber57.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010
• (edited Apr 16th 2010)

Andrew,

given what you say, why don’t we give it a try: let’s create a forum category “Math and physics – general” or the like, set it up in a fashion that Jamie is imagining, as far as possible (eventually).

Then we ask Jamie and Bruce to start chatting there about something, and once there are a few messages there, we post a link to this part of the forum – and this part only (if possible) – around on the nCafe, on SBS and elsewhere. Then we see what happens.

• CommentRowNumber58.
• CommentAuthorjamievicary
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

I think I would feel a bit like I’m in a zoo :)

• CommentRowNumber59.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

Jamie, I think you can expect that if you propose a topic that you’re interested in discussing, other people (besides Bruce) will be happy to discuss it with you. Assuming that, there should be no difference between here and the Café, as far as feeling like being in a zoo or fishbowl is concerned! :-)

@Andrew: you’re right of course; I have that option.

• CommentRowNumber60.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

@Urs: Okay, I’m game.

The number one rule, though, is that this shouldn’t make it harder for the nForum to support the nLab. So if anyone spots something that’s getting in the way, please speak up - don’t suffer in silence.

It won’t happen overnight, though - I’ll have to test a few things first and next week’s a bit busy for me (2 days of pedagogical course …).

@Todd: We should have details of stuff like that on the FAQ.

@Everyone else: We’ve shifted from “Is this possible? Is this a good idea?” to “Let’s have a go”. But the discussion can still continue and be useful. Those with worries, please say so so that we can figure out if there’s some way to ensure that they don’t happen. Those with good ideas, please say so!

• CommentRowNumber61.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

I am extremely absorbed these days (writer's work, reviewer's work, applicant's work, collaborator's work, information gathering, information giving, form feeling, lecture attending, report filling, student correspondence...) so I have not even notices there is this discussion with 60 entries and I read quickly most of them, with most liking with Mike's posts 27, 28. There are definitely ways to optimize our collective nEffort. The current category "General", though often supports math/physics content discussions, is not clear to me by its title and description and having something like math/physics discussion ("math-physics general" phrase is not good as it invites undergraduates to post questions on experimenting with liquid helium; general in the connection to physics means like any physics).

On the other hand, in creating one should be careful: cafe is getting less active recently (and with John's anouncement of getting into ecology research and possibly lower his category activity a perspective may be worse) in terms of new posts and comments; only about 2-3 posts are kind of active simultaneously. Second the fact not all of us can post there directly can be repaired in part by having occasional guest posts, or to otherwise catch the attention of nCommunity to activate some topic there. Definitely there is more general audience there. What is not always useful. I see the most technically demanding entries like Urs's master post on Bousfield localization have receieved almost no attention (or at least comments), unlike easier topics.

MO is popular because of its wide scope; $n$Lab is rather limited and most of the activity is in the area of foundational concepts (examples: measure space, graph, inhabited set, cyclic order, proximity space...), categorical mathematics (including things like stacks, topoi, cohomology), topology and some differential geometry, and a small part of physics directly related to it. I was pushing much of my own effort creating basic entries and tables for other disciplines, like algebraic geometry, analysis, noncommutative geometry, D-geometry, algebraic analysis, classical mechanics... and basic concepts in some of those, especially those related to geometry. Existence of such structures can make nLab much more friendly; while it is not really going on tangencies and particulars still, I believe.

Urs suggested in a moment of my unhappiness that we should try to get attention of more writers in nLab in a bit wider topics by presenting efforts in creating such topics as guest posts or as a sort of nPeriodical like "This Month's Finds in nLab" at a well-expounded place like nCafe, dwelling on hi points and more prominent themes in recent additions to nLab. This would of course require more than one person to create such an nPeriodical issue as nobody contributes to all, or even is aware of what is going on overall, and because it may really be time consuming to write at once on more than about couple of topics of recent expansion.

• CommentRowNumber62.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeApr 16th 2010

It occurs to me that in a way, the n-cafe is misnamed. A cafe is a place where anyone can meet and talk about anything they want to, without the discussion having to be started by a “host.” A real-life cafe is a better metaphor for, guess what, a forum or newsgroup or mailing list. A blog is instead more like an informal seminar, where one person starts by talking about something they are interested in, and then questions and a discussion follow if the listeners are interested (and can diverge onto other related or unrelated topics, of course). Both have their place, but it makes sense not to try to use one when the other would be more appropriate.

Also, why should the n-community have only one blog? Especially if Jacques’ customizations manage to get ported to melody, as he’s talked about, it will become easy for new people to set up blogs with all the itex+mathml goodies the n-cafe currently possesses, and we could even start hosting such blogs at mathforge.

• CommentRowNumber63.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 17th 2010

it will become easy for new people to set up blogs with all the itex+mathml goodies the n-cafe currently possesses, and we could even start hosting such blogs at mathforge.

Actually, if anyone does want a blog with itex->mathml capabilities, then while I was working on the upgrade to the forum, I also adapted my plugins to work with wordpress. I have no particular desire to start my own blog so haven’t installed it anywhere.

But that’s by the by. I think that the combination of a special area on the forum and the ability to promote comments to a special “blog” area is much more exciting than just a proliferation of blogs (not that I’ve anything against such a proliferation, and I’d be happy with mathforge hosting more things than just the nlab).

• CommentRowNumber64.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 17th 2010

Okay, I’ve just been trying out the ’BlogThis’ and ’TagThis’ addons on my test site and they seem to be working fine - just the usual XHTML validity issues that I’m getting to know and … know.

So we need a name for the new area! Actually, there will be two new areas. The forum, as we’ve discussed, will split into two major categories: and nLab-related sections and an “everything else”, so we need a name for the “everything else” bit. It needs to be short and sweet, but of course can have a longer description. Then there will also be a “blog” area on this site, and any post can be “promoted” to a blog post. So the blog area is a bit like an announcement board - anything that someone thinks “hmm, everyone should read this” can be posted there.

So to kick this off, here’s my suggestions: ’n-Tea Room’ for the first (naff, I know, but Bruce liked it). And ’n-Board’ for the second. Those are pretty poor, I’ll readily admit, but it’s late, my brain has shut down, and by threatening such appalling names I hope to spur the rest of you to greater things.

(By the way, if anyone wants to take a peek at what it will look like, the test site is http://www.math.ntnu.no/~stacey/Vanilla/MathML. You can’t log in there (partly because I’ve mucked up the recaptcha bit) but you can see what it’ll look like.

2. I like the idea. Thanks, Andrew.

• CommentRowNumber66.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010

The dash is meaningless in n-Board and n-Tea room, just a nuisance to type...I'd opt for no-dash version (no-dash is an expression with a dash though ;) ).

• CommentRowNumber67.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010
• (edited Apr 18th 2010)

Actually, if anyone does want a blog with itex->mathml capabilities, then while I was working on the upgrade to the forum, I also adapted my plugins to work with wordpress.

John Baez has been trying to figure out the best way to go with his new blog (which hasn’t started yet). Perhaps he would like to set up shop here? That would help maintain the “community”. Especially since we are opening up the scope.

• CommentRowNumber68.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010

If he’s stopped doing n-stuff, why would he want to be hosted here? Wouldn’t that just be another temptation for him to come back to doing math?

• CommentRowNumber69.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010

66 > John Baez has been trying to figure out the best way to go with his new blog

Any reference ? I know he said he might leave categories and cafe for a while to do some ecology/energy research to help save the planet and help make his sabbatical meaningful in Asia. I also know that the graphics of This Weeks Finds with having to type formulas ASCII is a bit annoying, though he still does it well, so maybe he wants to migrate This Weeks Finds ? Remark 67 makes sense.

• CommentRowNumber70.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010

I’m surprised so many people still do not use RSS. How do you keep up with everything?? :)

Here is a reference:

Currently I’m thinking of doing my new blog on wordpress.com. One alternative is to do a Wordpress blog on my own website. Has anyone out there done this? I think that has some advantages, like better LaTeX abilities. It costs some money. But how hard is it to do? Suppose I’m an absolute klutz at UNIX…

I’m still trying to think up a good name for this new blog. Right now my favorite choice is a word that sounds cool but doesn’t mean much to most people. Other choices seem too specific (“Green Mathematics”), too erudite and hard to pronounce (“Techné Verte”), or too clichéd (“Pale Blue Dot”).

Suggestions, anyone?

• CommentRowNumber71.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010
• (edited Apr 18th 2010)

I put some thought into some suggestions and composed a comment here.

As far as I can tell, with the flood of other good suggestions it felt it bit like tossing a pebble into a stream. Did anyone have a look at NP? That is a very good example of an extremely well-run forum populated by professionals (many of whom are PhDs in maths and physics).

One feature that I like is the rating on an entire discussion and NOT individuals. This is helpful and might be a little bit attractive to the MO crowd. A discussion that elicits a certain number of negative votes is moved (not deleted) to the “Trash” forum. Conversely, when you see a discussion with a bunch of 5 stars, you know you might want to have a look.

• CommentRowNumber72.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010

Eric, is your suggestion of looking at NP with regard to the software or with regard to the features? Which glasses should I have on when I look at it?!

• CommentRowNumber73.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010
• (edited Apr 18th 2010)

Hah! Andrew :) When I visit the n-Forum, I always land on All Discussions. I’ve never even looked at Categories :)

Is that new?? That is precisely what I had in mind. Has it been there all the time? hehe!

In my opinion, the Categories page should be the default page where people should land. That is great!

I would redo the main categories a bit though. Here is a suggestion:

• Latest Changes
• This is the place to record significant changes to the n-Lab.
• Mathematics, Physics & Philosophy
• Where the professionals come to discuss their trade
• University
• Where aspiring students come to learn and teachers come to teach
• Careers
• Yeah right!
• Software
• This category is mainly for announcements and feature requests regarding the software behind the n-Lab and n-Forum
• Preprints & Publications
• Announcements and discussions about preprints and publications
• Off-Topic
• Where (almost) anything goes
• Events
• Announcements about upcoming conferences and seminars
• Trashcan
• The final resting place for garbage

Anyway, Categories is definitely looking good. I would make this the default page rather than All Discussions,

Awesomeness.

• CommentRowNumber74.
• CommentAuthorIan_Durham
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010
@Harry: you're meaning of leer is precisely the one I was thinking of. I was making a veiled reference to Gollum from Lord of the Rings (hence the comment about my wedding ring at the bottom of a river).

@Andrew: Wordpress currently supports LaTeX. I am not that familiar with the differences between this and itex/MathML. Enlightenment would be appreciated (feel free to contact me directly).
• CommentRowNumber75.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010

@Ian: I’m happy to clarify this publicly as lots of people are a bit confused about this. Wordpress does not support LaTeX. It does a lousy hack whereby it strips out any LaTeX equations, sends them off to some remote server which converts them to images and sends them back. (That’s what this place used to do.) That’s not “supporting LaTeX”, that’s using gaffer tape to hold the car together in the desperate hope that it makes it over the hill. True support converts the mathematical syntax to a decent format .. MathML. That’s what itex does. So, rant aside, the difference is not so much in the input but in the output.

@Eric: yup, that’s always been there! The “vanilla view” is that the user should be taken straight to the discussions and not have to “click through” to get to any actual content. I’ve been thinking that the “welcome message” for unauthenticated users should be a little more informative.

• CommentRowNumber76.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010

a lousy hack

Whenever I hear people use this term, I think of this guy.

• CommentRowNumber77.
• CommentAuthorIan_Durham
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010

that's using gaffer tape to hold the car together in the desperate hope that it makes it over the hill.

Hey, it saves me money, man. (I'm serious - a portion of my front bumper is held together with duct tape).

Anyway, given that, I would be very interested in a better implementation for Wordpress since I have a blog there.
• CommentRowNumber78.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010

In the words of this guy: “You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment.”

• CommentRowNumber79.
• CommentAuthorIan_Durham
• CommentTimeApr 18th 2010
• (edited Apr 18th 2010)

Whenever I hear people use this term, I think of this guy.

For once I think I agree with you Harry (I think)! I actually live near "that guy" and a friend of mine is somehow related to him. Aside from being a hack, his writing is formulaic and yet, somehow, he's gotten rich off of it.
• CommentRowNumber80.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

One should perhaps also link to this comment. Perhaps the reasons for using MathML should be mentioned on the nLab FAQ?

• CommentRowNumber81.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

@Mike: I invoke Rule 42.

(To save you looking it up: “It’s the oldest rule in the book” and in the case of the nLab it is: “Anyone saying ’Page X should have …’ is the one who should put it there”)

@Eric: We also have the ability to have subcategories so we can structure them a little more coherently.

@Everyone else: I’m pondering about whether or not the new area should have an ’n-’ prefix or not. My current favourite is “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”.

@Ian: Is your blog hosted at wordpress itself, or is it your own installation of it? I’ve no idea how the central hosting stuff works with regard to plugins and the like. I suspect that what I ought to do is launch a “live showcase” so that people can try it out and test it before launching it on an actual blog. I mean, I’ve tested it on an installation on my own machine, but that’s different to a live site. However, I’m keen to do this and just need an excuse! The comment that Mike links to is very pertinent: MathML is how maths on the internet should be done and we need more people using it. It’s “chicken and egg”: the major mathematicians won’t use it because not everyone can read it with their broken browsers (*glares at Harry*), but the non-compliant browsers won’t fix it because not enough people are complaining about it.

• CommentRowNumber82.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

@Andrew: Awesomeness. I think most of what is currently “The n-Forum” falls under “Latest Changes”, “General”, and “Technical”.

I think “Technical” makes sense as a subcategory of “Software” (or maybe just change the name). Or leave it. No big deal.

If we want a more general discussion, I think we should simply create a new category: “Mathematics, Physics, & Philosophy” or something. Then it will have very little impact on the original n-Forum function.

Simple.

• CommentRowNumber83.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

Following Eric’s comment on the cafe here about the wordpress+itex capability, and also with regard to Ian’s interest and in the hope of sparking John’s interest, I set up a test wordpress installation at http://www.math.ntnu.no/~stacey/Vanilla/WPMathML/. Feel free to break it! And if anyone wants to try it out “from the other side” (ie posting privileges), contact me by email.

• CommentRowNumber84.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

You rock! :)

• CommentRowNumber85.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
• (edited Apr 19th 2010)

Comments are still moderated, but it works! A diagram in a comment. Awesomeness.

Edit: Just to let others know, comments are no longer moderated. Comment away :)

• CommentRowNumber86.
• CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

My current favourite is “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”.

I like this a lot, but perhaps less than impressive from a professional POV. For instance, I just got my thesis examiners’ reports back (yay!) and it was mentioned in one that I am a regular at the n-category cafe and the nLab, and that this was a big point in my favour. I’m also pondering whether putting ’member of steering committee of nlab’ on an academic cv - should I need to do one - as ’professional development’ is a realistic option (thoughts? The nature of the steering committee is that at best it wouldn’t need to do anything, though). What with the exposure the nlab gets through MO, for example, it may be a boon. However, if I said something like ’facilitator of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’, even if such a position existed, and I actually filled it (both of which are unlikely), then perhaps an employer would think twice. Also, with potential political tones for Americans, I think that it becomes a little bit less attractive. Also, the timing is bad given recent cinematic releases: it will seem like coat-tail-grabbing to some.

For all that, I still like it. But perhaps it is like jokes or puns in one’s first published paper - they aren’t funny 10 years down the track (thanks, Terry Tao for that bit of online advice) and we may have to go something a smidgen more staid.

As far as name go, I’m not sure about having the ’n’ in the title, as we are looking for something more general, but without it, we lose some of the branding associated the the nFamily already in existence, and the trust people have in that idea. Something like nChat? (no- taken already) nTalk? (nope- also taken).

Ideally, if I was a designer working for this community to create a linked family of sites, I would consider branding the ’look’ of the sites, or having some sort of logo. The nLab logo (which coincidentally looks like an element of a Matisse painting about gerbes (the bunch-of-flowers type)) is a good logo. I know the nforum look depends very much on the stylesheet chosen, I wonder if there is a way to put the nlab logo at or near the n-forum heading (and being fancy, making it stylesheet linked, so as to get colours to work right). I would try to work a version of the nlab logo onto the main page of the n-cat cafe (a neon version of the outline?). The new site - the ’new forum’ - would then use the same logo, and mention prominently that it is related to the existing suite of sites (cafe, nlab) and potentially that it was formerly the nforum.

Anyway, these are just some ideas. You can ignore them if you like, but this is the sort of stuff we need to think of, IMHO.

• CommentRowNumber87.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

I think those are all good points. Maybe we can have “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” as the subtitle. (Honestly, there was no thoughts of a “Holywood tie-in”. I figured I wouldn’t be allowed any of my more Tolkeineske titles and so went for Lewis Carroll as one of the next greatest Oxfordian authors, following the idea of a ’n-Tea Room’. Mind you, that sounds a bit like an ’Empty Room’!). The problem is finding a nice balance between something you’d happily put on a CV and something that will attract people to it.

The logo is also something to think about. The current nlab logo is actually the default instiki logo, so not really a good one for us to use as a specific logo. And the ncafe favicon (which is also the nlab favicon) has the word “cafe” in it, so also not great for the wider scheme. I had a vague idea of a highly calligraphic “n” which also looked a bit like a 2-morphism. It’s tricky drawing with a mouse (they ordered me a graphics tablet, but hasn’t arrived yet) and I’m not bothering with colours, but here’s an attempt.

Incidentally, thinking also about some details, I had the following ideas on “roles”: at the moment, we have the following “roles” on the forum: Administrator (can do anything), Moderator (can hide posts and some other small extras), Steering Committee (can see the discussions thereof), Member (anyone with an account), and “Unauthenticated”. I would propose merging “Moderator” and “Steering Committee” so that we have a slightly larger number of people who can hide spam posts (note that posts are never actually deleted), and creating a two-tier level of “ordinary member”. The purpose there being that you have to hang around a bit before having the ability to create blog posts and to mess around with the classification categories - but once logged in you can start a discussion in an existing category and so forth. I would propose that promotion from the lower to the higher being the “expected action” after someone’s been here a short while, but not completely automatic.

3. actual chapter title in Lewis Carrol is “A mad tea party”; so what about “A mad nTea party”?

creating a two-tier level of “ordinary member”. The purpose there being that you have to hang around a bit before having the ability to create blog posts and to mess around with the classification categories - but once logged in you can start a discussion in an existing category and so forth

I find this an excellent idea, but with an essential drawback: a way of finding out how welcoming the nCommunity is, is asking questions on the forum and receiving answers (at least, this has been my experience). I find in an early stage are more the questions one has coming here than the answers, so I would find it difficult to invite to interaction if one has not the ability of creating posts from the beginning and is required to participate to pre-existing disussions first. I don’t know if this can be implemented, but we could give a trial possibility of creating posts at the beginning (let us call this position “trial member”). then one moves to “ordinary member” participating into existing discussions or creating new posts which are participated by ordinary members. if a trial member creates a few nonpartecipated posts, then looses the opportunity of creating new posts and can recover it only actively participating to existing threads.

I would propose that promotion from the lower to the higher being the “expected action” after someone’s been here a short while, but not completely automatic.

agree with this.

• CommentRowNumber89.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

Something like this:

(Finally figured out how to include SVGs here. Not quite the same as the lab, unfortunately)

• CommentRowNumber90.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

How difficult would it be to add nLab/nForum style links, i.e. double brackets, to the Wordpress blog?

• CommentRowNumber91.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

Domenico, you misunderstand my proposal slightly. There are certain “actions” that one can do on this forum that you wouldn’t expect to be able to do. You can create a whole new category if you like. You can move posts from one category to another if you think it’s in the wrong place. You may not know that you can do these things, but you can. I allow these because I think that they aren’t going to be used very much, it’s useful to be able to do quickly when it’s needed (especially the “move category” part), and I trust the people registered here to act responsibly. What I propose is that in the proposed expansion, when someone initially registers here then they can’t initially do these “extra” things. So they can start a discussion in an existing category, they just can’t start a whole new category.

I was also putting the “promote a comment to a blog post” power in this higher tier. Note that it would be possible for one of the steering committee to take an arbitrary post and promote it to a blog post, whoever it was by.

So it’s not about limiting users abilities to use the forum, it’s about limiting their ability to use the extra features.

• CommentRowNumber92.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

@Eric: already there: the wordpress plugin is a simple adaptation of the plugin in use here.

I propose that discussion of Wordpress+MathML either take place on that site, or have its own discussion here (either’s fine by me) - I’d like to concentrate on the central issue of this site in this thread.

4. Andrew,

yes, as you argue I totally misunderstood “having the ability to create blog posts” with “having the ability to start a discussion (in an existing category)”. so I totally agree with what you wrote.

(and, as you correctly suspected, I had no idea of my superpowers here in the forum :) )

• CommentRowNumber94.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

The problem that I have with the name nTea is that we don’t allow the “unwashed masses” (read: physicists =p) to come to department tea.

• CommentRowNumber95.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
• (edited Apr 19th 2010)

Please don't. For people who do not come from Anglo-American language and cultural background, fancy long names make it harder to observe when referenced somewhere else. Have the meaning clear from the title, please

P.S. I knew that I heard the phrase Madhatters somewhere, and did not remember where when I was writing upstairs (I lived in US for about 9 years and still do not know the meaning). Now I recall: there is a snobish bar in Madison with that name, and I was once thrown out from there by the police (not my fault really...).

• CommentRowNumber96.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

I also opt for a sober title. “n-Tea room” or similar sounded good to me.

• CommentRowNumber97.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

I really don’t think that “n-Tea” sounds like a serious thing. I think we may even want a more sober title. How about something like “n-Discussion” - “Because the internet is serious business”.

• CommentRowNumber98.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

96: I second, though I still think dashes are a bit useless (just a think more for unicode etc compatibilities to take care of when linking). nlab is fine without a dash, so I would continue in that spirit (though I still do not support Toby's view that R-Mod is worse than RMod in real math text; some separation of name phrase from a variable is often useful to disambiguate).

• CommentRowNumber99.
• CommentAuthordomenico_fiorenza
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
• (edited Apr 19th 2010)

let’s give a try to my diplomatic abilities.. :)

name: nTea

description: a comfortable place for discussions (or nDiscussions, if you pefer, but I would avoid a redundancy of n’s)

appearance: we could have a picture like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:De_Alice%27s_Abenteuer_im_Wunderland_Carroll_pic_27.jpg (which is public domain)

• CommentRowNumber100.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeApr 19th 2010

I don’t really like the sound of “n-Tea room” or anything with “tea” in it. Maybe it’s just because I don’t go to my math department tea, but it doesn’t roll off my tongue the way n-cafe, n-lab, and n-forum do.