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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorzskoda
    • CommentTimeAug 17th 2010
    • (edited Aug 17th 2010)

    There was lots of discussion on the reorganization of nForum some time ago, which I followed at theh beginning and got lost later. So I do not know what the sections mean. There is a help page Welcome to the nForum (nlabmeta) which does not address the basic organization. For example what is the meaning of the non-intuitive section name in nForum called “Atrium” ? Even if I may have heard the answer I forgot it. It is strange to use a directory with help page which has no explanation what the basic tree is about. Second there is a claim that nForum can be used as a blog. What do you mean ? Where are the blog pages and how they differ in their construction, look and function from others ? Apart from answering some ongoing discussions and doing latest-changes I absolutely do not know how to use nForum after so much of discussion on these issues, nor know where to find what. I expect that when I press Help button, I will have the explanation where to write what, some sort of TOC explained.

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeAug 17th 2010

    Zoran, you will find some explanation of ’Atrium’ here.

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorzskoda
    • CommentTimeAug 17th 2010
    • (edited Aug 17th 2010)

    Thanks. Welcome to the nForum (nlabmeta) does not have a direct link to the useful page you provided.

    I think I might fail here some cultural difference. In Europe we have lots of geography and the things are usually geographically organized. In US usually things are organized by purpose, what makes us often disoriented. I recall when I was a graduate student in US and I would visit homepga eof some university that I had trouble often finding list of links to the departments. Geoegraphically university is a structured set of departments so I expect that the top list would be the tree of the departments. But it is not so. The top list is usually product-oriented rather than geographically oriented, having titles like "For students", "For visitors", "For faculty" etc. Special sendwich family pack rather than flour, meat and vegatables and choose and match yourself. This also disoriented me often when using yellow pages. I would look for delta airlines under D for delta or under A for airlines or under transport, transportation. But no, it is under travel. It took me long time (several years) to learn this. Once I missed the bus to the airport because I could not find the critical numbers in time.

    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeAug 17th 2010

    There is a direct link, but I can see that it might not be obvious. On the Welcome to the nForum (nlabmeta) page is a list of “pages relevant to the nForum” (top right, where tables-of-contents usually are). The second of those is called “Finding your way about the nForum” and links to the page that Todd linked to.

    One of the key points of the redesign was to ensure that anyone who liked the nForum as it was and didn’t want to deal with the extra bits didn’t have to. I think that the fact that you’ve gone this long before noticing them has shown that I succeeded in that!

    If you have any suggestions as to improvements, please do say. For example, you mention that “It is strange to use a directory with help page which has no explanation what the basic tree is about.”. I presume that you are talking about the “Navigation” link. If so, I can easily put in descriptions as to what each category is for, if that seems a good idea. Or I can simply put that list a little more clearly on the Help pages.

    Regarding the “blog” part, that’s what you get if you click on the “Notices” tab at the top. I don’t think that it is used much at the moment, though. Everything there is also in the main part of the Forum, it is meant to be a way of drawing people’s attention to particular posts.

    Finally, as for your comment

    I absolutely do not know how to use nForum after so much of discussion on these issues

    I completely disagree! It is the purpose of the nForum to help you in your work and to adapt to your needs, not the other way around. I think that how you are using the nForum is fine. If you would like to use it to do something more, then please say so. But if it is more that you are worried about missing out on something, then I don’t think that you are.

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorzskoda
    • CommentTimeAug 17th 2010

    I think that the fact that you've gone this long before noticing them has shown that I succeeded in that!

    I diagree as I was many times lost in wrong traids and did not orient in finding old information. Once I see the physical true tree I remember it. Few days ago I spent about over an hour trying to find one old discussion which was important to me.

    While you guys have argued for TOC of all that too many pages in nlab, why are you simulatenously against reasonable toc approach to nForum ?

    I presume that you are talking about the "Navigation" link.

    No. Help button is the button which is called Help. It has a link to Welcome page which is in my view a boring political manifesto, rather than a map of possibilities for a newcomer. It roughly explains well a difference between The New York Times, Facebook and nlab-community. I have not joined the nlab in the first several months of its existence in Fall 2008, but joined in early 2009. The reason is because all I knew about it was reading many discussions about it about purposes and so on, which were abstract politics for me. Once one sees how it works then one changes its mind. So for me much shorter explanation of the form

    1. nForum is a site of a community of category theory (mathematics), where one can post notices anonymously or as a registered user
    2. notices are about activity of nlab, a site which functions as a collectively maintained knowledge notebook about category theory and its applications. Thus the main section of it is devoted to log of latest changes in nlab.
    3. the notices and their followups can go into a discussion, so they are organized into threads, and threads into several section which are: da da da (here explained TOC)
    4. when posting a notice one can choose one of the several modes including html, tex mode, a mode supporting wiki-links called markdown and mode which in addition can do a variant of a subset of TeX which is called itex. More technical advice is here: link.

    would tell it all.

    As far as Notices, I noticed there are different graphics in those entries, but it looks a minor difference to me. Some of the entries seem to be classified there by mistake of the authors, not as blog entries, like one of the Tim Porter's messages.

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeAug 18th 2010

    Your university is divided into departments geographically? We should be so lucky… seems like 90% of our math classes are in the social sciences building. (-:O

    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorTim_Porter
    • CommentTimeAug 18th 2010

    OOPS. I often forget to classify my contributions to the n-Forum!

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorzskoda
    • CommentTimeAug 18th 2010

    Your university is divided into departments geographically? We should be so lucky… seems like 90% of our math classes are in the social sciences building.

    Thanks for the witty joke. Well, the geography is not necessarily that spacial. European universities have even more of that confusion, as parts are often in different parts of the city :) On the other hand, when talking buildings, it was confusing to me once I came to Wisconsin campus that the names of the buildings were according to rich donators and other people and not departments. My physics departemnt was in Chamberlein Hall and in Sterling Hall. Chamberlein was having to do with physics though, you know, one of the responsibles for Mahattan project. This made me a bit sad, as the department did not commemorate the victims of Hiroshima on the 50th anniversary, which was commemorated at so many public places elsewhere. Around 1970 or so, there was a graduate student activating a bomb in Chamberlein Hall as a protest against something, I do not remember what. He done it in the middle of the night so that nobody would be hurt. But somehow there was some late worker unexpectedly who got killed. So the student felt guiltdy and surrendered to the police.

    Few years ago, the university decided to move the whole physics into Chamberlein and move the farmacy from Chamberlein into a new building. Regarding that the Chamberlein and Sterling are connected through a corridor having the departmentin two buildings was never a problem, it was effectively one. And the moving was quite a cost, you know the laboratories have all the special hard-wired installations, equippment fixing and so on, which is really expensive to remove and destroys a lot of equipment. In addition the faculty and the students were disturbed by a process which lasted several years. The reason is that after farmacy went away they had to invest something into renovation before other guys come in. But renovation of a part fo old building does not sound good to administrators. You know spending 10 million for renovation. So instead they make aditional expense say of say another 10 million moving and packiung iunto one building so that you can say that you opened the whole new-old building for sigle purpose on the side. You know for administrators one building with new opening, redone sounds as a better and cleaner expense than renovating parts. So it is easier to claim 20 million expense in one box than 10 million in 2 boxes, I was told by the university insiders. You see it is more complicated than math.

    • CommentRowNumber9.
    • CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
    • CommentTimeAug 18th 2010

    seems like 90% of our math classes are in the social sciences building

    I’m curious about “our” – do you mean at UCSD?

    (And now completely off-topic and not at all beneficial to the nLab, this reminds me of one recurring motif in the “teacher dreams” I often have while asleep, where for some reason I have been assigned a section of English or something and realize toward the end of the term that I have missed meeting practically all my classes. Most of my teacher dreams are not very pleasant ones!)

    did not commemorate the victims of Hiroshima

    I believe this year is the first time the US has sent representatives to Japan for their yearly memorial of the atomic bombings. (There is also Nagasaki, which to my mind is even harder to rationalize than Hiroshima. But this is not a proper topic for the Forum.)

    • CommentRowNumber10.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeAug 18th 2010

    Well, the geography is not necessarily that spacial.

    Then I don’t understand what you mean by ‘geography’. Is not a division into departments also an organisation by purpose? You seem to be saying that Americans and Europeans divide universities (or at least university homepages) differently, but I don’t see how this reflects geography vs purpose.

    By the way, I agree that American university homepages are often atrocious. Xkcd has a nice cartoon about this.

    teacher dreams

    Yeah, I’ve had that one!

    • CommentRowNumber11.
    • CommentAuthorzskoda
    • CommentTimeAug 18th 2010

    Geography is here clearly in the generalized sense of realities it consists of, like Croatia consists of Dalmatia, Lika, Slavonia, Zagorje, Međimurje etc. It is possible that the departments were historically formed by purpose, but this is not a present purpose of “customer”-“user” of the web page. Once they are formed they are really entities consisting of real things (people, offices and so on) which are mostly disjoint and have their own subject (so botany has botanical garden, astronomy has an observatory and history has some historical library, geology has stones around the place…) and which are really the basis of official organization of the university (unlike web pages). When you write a cartoon or do pantomime to describe university you really depict what it consists of – and you will draw a professor at a blackboard, students in chemistry labs, lectures on the grass and so on. If I go to an unknown university I will think of what is there, who is there, and will think first of all of physics, math and linguistics departments, then some more.

    So a natural “geographer” will really classify things by their basic nature and place in nature, while a customer of a consumist society according to their present day packing. So natrium-bicarbonate in shop in US will be mostly in cleaning supplies department and in big packages while in Croatia exclusively in cooking department (for raising dough) in very small packages as these reflect their main local usages. For a consumer society and trade business this is probably normal, but sometimes it helps to organize things according to the way the things are organized in first place. The closest one is to giving away from packaging, one is closer to real content. For example, I am used to think of my diet content in terms of estimate based on known values for 100 grams. So I know approaximately how many kcal or some vitamin content corresponds to 100 grams of walnuts or 100 grams of sugar or 100 grams of apples, and such a table is the basic thing which I need. I also know how much I need per day. I also know what are MY OWN needs, from experience, reading and all I learned in my life. Now if I eat a new product I like to know how much vitamin, kcal etc. it has per 100 grams. It is easy to me to estimate if I eat 30 grams of something or 300 grams, especially if it is a net weight label on the whole thing. But some consumer societies started not to label the informations per 100 grams, nor in basic units but in “percent of recommended daily intake per meal”. Jeasus! What is my meal and what is yours ? The size is really depending on the standard of the producer, and it is a new measure with each product. Also RDA, what do I care about it ? I know that in normal state when I eat normally I do not need vitamin C but when I am sick I need 500 to 1000 mg the first day what is about 10 times the RDA in some countries. This is packaged according to somebody’s usage, and it is one size fits all, prepackaged, preinstalled and “recommended”. I hope I was plastic enough to show what is the difference between the “customer oriented” and explicit content-oriented “geographical” approach, even if the term is not as intuitive to you as to me.

    I think that the web pages of universities in Europe are mainly worse than American, though for other reasons and not for the basic organization, but mainly carelessness about PR aspect. Besides, as US universities were the first to start and organize the web pages, EU universities later followed the organization and in recent times (and less in late 1990s) have similar basic structure.

    There is supposedly a new university in Southern Croatia, one of the suspicious power people with suspicious political background and involved in several past affairs (but never ended in prison) is a private founder of it. The university gets of course as a university special status, to get the loans, the chancellor gets invited here and there, they can get a loan, and they got to be ina nice building which they pay little about. The university has just 2 students I heard. Never mind, the chancellors of all universities in Croatia were invited to a celebration of my institute 60 years and HE was as well. For me that university does not exist, except as an anomaly, not as university. It is an anomalous fiction of iudicial system.

    Your cartoon is nice :) If we agree or not on what should be “geographical division” things like the “letter of the president” are typically not helpful to any looker for a content (except maybe to a psochologist or a sociologist investigating the phenomenon) :)

    • CommentRowNumber12.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeAug 20th 2010

    do you mean at UCSD?

    No, I was thinking of Chicago. I don’t start at UCSD for another month.

    If I ever got rich and decided to donate money to a university to build something, I woudn’t want them to put my name on it. That said, if putting donors’ names on buildings makes them more willing to donate money, I can live with it. Although it did get annoying at Caltech that we had the Beckman Auditorium, the Beckman Laboratory, and also the Beckman Institute of Behavioral Biology. (-:

    Now that you explain what you mean by “geographical” I agree, Zoran, although I wouldn’t call it geographical. It sounds to me more like the distinction between “user friendly”=”dumbed down” interfaces and “power user”/”flexible configurable” ones.

    • CommentRowNumber13.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeAug 20th 2010
    • (edited Aug 21st 2010)

    it did get annoying at Caltech that we had the Beckman Auditorium, the Beckman Laboratory, and also the Beckman Institute of Behavioral Biology

    IIRC, we undergrads called them ‘the Wedding Cake’, ‘Beckman’, and ‘Beckman Institute’ in the ’90s. Sometimes I mixed up the last two, but never the first one.

    I don’t start at UCSD for another month.

    When you get there, look for the ‘Sproul’ building; supposedly there’s one at each UC campus. Sproul Plaza at UCB is most famous, from the Free Speech Movement in the ’60s. The math department was in Sproul Hall when I came to UCR, but we moved shortly afterwards.

    It sounds to me more like the distinction between “user friendly”=”dumbed down” interfaces and “power user”/”flexible configurable” ones.

    As far as university websites are concerned, I’m not sure that it’s even an attempt, however misguided, to be user-friendly; it looks simiply like shallow public relations. From a PR perspective, a button labelled (for example) ‘prospective students’ makes prospective students (and their parents) feel that they are being catered to, even if pressing that button never actually helps them find out anything useful. (Although that button usually does help you find the admissions process, if that’s what you’re after.)

    Navigating university websites takes an odd frame of mind. Do not think ‹What am I looking for?›; instead think ‹What kind of person would the PR department expect to look for this?› (which is subtly different from ‹What kind of person would look for this?›). This strategy has solved more than one puzzle for me in the past.

    • CommentRowNumber14.
    • CommentAuthorTobyBartels
    • CommentTimeAug 20th 2010
    • (edited Aug 20th 2010)

    As for the topic at hand …

    I propose that the Help link here on the Forum go to nForum FAQ (nlabmeta) instead of to Welcome to the nForum (nlabmeta) as at present. In anticipation of such a change, I have put a link to the latter at the top of the former (within a suitable new introductory question), so that people can still find it easily if it’s what they need. Until the change occurs (if it does), I have put a prominent link to the former at the top of the latter, so that people will be encouraged to look at the latter, which I think is probably what they’ll really need.

    Edit: And I put a question about organisation on the FAQ so that Zoran would have been helped by it.

    • CommentRowNumber15.
    • CommentAuthorMike Shulman
    • CommentTimeAug 21st 2010

    Yes, we called it the Wedding Cake too. I think we called the Beckman Institute “BBB”, although I never had much occasion to talk about it.