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• CommentRowNumber1.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeFeb 10th 2012

Urs suggested in the discussion on OpenID that the nForum have some sort of “explanation” of what it is clearly displayed when people arrive. Seems reasonable to me. Two questions:

1. What should it be? The nForum started as a place to discuss the nLab, and that certainly remains the core focus - in that I suspect that if the nLab vanished then the nForum wouldn’t last long - but I think I’d go for something just a little broader since in truth I feel we’re open to anything mathematical. It’s a place for the nGroup (that’s the name of my email folder for any correspondence related to the n-Stuff) to interact, and if anyone wants to interact with any of us it’s probably the best place to do so, even if that doesn’t start out as being particularly nLab-related.

2. Should it be always visible? If you aren’t logged on, you get a special message which currently reads (to save you logging off to read it)

Welcome to nForum
If you want to take part in these discussions either sign in now (if you have an account), apply for one now (if you don’t).

It would be simple to extend that, or the message could be added somewhere else.

• CommentRowNumber2.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

The nLab and the nCafe both have “Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy” in their tagline. Beyond that I don’t have much to suggest.

As for visibility, how about in smallish type just below the big letters “nForum” at the top of the page?

• CommentRowNumber3.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

It may be true that we allow for general scope here, but every newcomer will be – and likely has been – puzzled by the majority of threads here if we don’t explain somehow that we are dicussing action happening on some wiki here.

Also, at least once upon a time there seemed to be a certain consensus that, conversely, any useful discussion had here should eventually find some stable reflection on the $n$Lab.

So the tag-line must be more specific than “Math, Physics, Philosophy”. Also. so far we had had hardly any physics discussion and about no useful discussion of philosophy here, so mentioning this first will be more obfuscating than illuminating to the outsider.

That outsider instead needs first and foremost a quick hint why on this forum people have the funny habit of posting one-sentence messages saying things like “Created stub for XYZ” that you’d not usually see on a “forum”.

So I suggest something like

“A forum for discussion of nLab edits – and all question about maths, physics and philosophy that this entails.”

Whatever we do, I’d like there to be “$n$Lab” with a link right at the beginning, because this is the point without which the $n$Forum will seem mysterious.

• CommentRowNumber4.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
• (edited Feb 11th 2012)

Sounds good, Urs. If I were writing it, I might tweak it to read, “A forum for announcement and discussion of nLab contributions, and accompanying conversations on mathematics, physics, and philosophy topics of interest to nLab participants.” (Or is that too long?)

• CommentRowNumber5.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
• (edited Feb 11th 2012)

“A discussion forum to accompany the nLab and the nCafe.”

(with links to both)

• CommentRowNumber6.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
• (edited Feb 11th 2012)
The nForum:

"A bunch of mindless jerks who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes"
• CommentRowNumber7.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

In my opinion, Urs is the closest, so I would change just a bit

“A forum for discussion of nLab wiki edits and of related areas of math, physics and philosophy”

I think “question which this entails” would mean that one is very technically pertaining to $n$Lab arising questions. While the true intention is not to discuss only $n$Lab questions but the general discussions of whatever in the wider area clouding around it.

Todd has suggested about the same as I do, and I would accept it even more than my own suggestion, except, it bothers me that the interest is defined by “nLab participant” rather than the wider community surrouding it. I think it should not be sound like one needs to understand the wiki notions and be part of $n$Lab effort to participate here. I know of people who are of interest to our community but do not contribute to $n$Lab because they identify themselves with more practical approach and questions.

• CommentRowNumber8.
• CommentAuthorTim_Porter
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

On a related question… do the home and discussion tabs lead to exactly the same place? It looks like it.

• CommentRowNumber9.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

I like Harry’s suggestion #. Only that it’s still not specific enough, We should continue with the full quote.

It is very easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of the $n$Lab by the sense of achievement you get from getting it to work at all. In other words - and this is the rock solid principle on which the whole of the $n$Lab’s internet-wide success is founded - its fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by its superficial design flaws.

;-)

• CommentRowNumber10.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

I support Zoran’s amendment.

• CommentRowNumber11.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
Urs, to be honest, I was afraid that you wouldn't get the reference. Imagine my delight when you exceeded my expectations so thoroughly.
• CommentRowNumber12.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

Harry, for future quips like this, it might help to give a link to the reference, just in case some people don’t get it or (worse) misunderstand.

• CommentRowNumber13.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
@Todd: I actually put it in and then edited it out because it ruined the funniness.
• CommentRowNumber14.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

@Harry: speaking as someone who didn’t get the reference (I’ve read Hitchhiker’s Guide, but not as a devotee, and it’s been a while), I think that’s maybe true only for those who were in the know. I knew only that it was a reference to something (which I didn’t bother googling). I think Urs was on the mark here.

• CommentRowNumber15.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

And don’t forget that there are several versions of HHG - Harry’s quote is also in the radio play (which came first) but Urs’ quote isn’t. In the audio version, the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation’s tag-line is, due to a problem with letters sinking into the ground, “Go stick your head in a pig”. Slightly more succinct!

Incidentally, no-one’s answered my other question. Should this be on display for everyone, or only for newcomers? If for everyone, then brevity is the soul of wit as a long tag-line uses up a lot of space. If for newcomers then I’m less bothered about the length (though concise is nice).

I think I prefer Zoran’s to Urs’, but I’d keep the word “contributions” from Urs’ version as “edits” sounds a bit too technical and too precise. It’s possible to “contribute” to the nLab in some way without actually editing a page. So my proposal is:

A forum for discussion of contributions to the nLab wiki and of related areas of mathematics, physics, and philosophy.

(I expanded ’math’ to ’mathematics’ to avoid degenerating into a math maths debate[1].)

[1] There’s a feeble pun in there if anyone can be bothered to dig it out.

• CommentRowNumber16.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
• (edited Feb 11th 2012)
Blech, you can get rid of the "philosophy" part. We really don't actually do that here. Plus it makes us sound like a bunch of slackers instead of a bunch of mathematicians/physicists.
• CommentRowNumber17.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
• (edited Feb 14th 2012)

(Sarcastic sentiment redacted.)

David Corfield is a philosopher. Have you read his book? Did you know his philosophical interests play a role here? You sure you really want to stick by “bunch of slackers”?

• CommentRowNumber18.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

Re #6, it wasn’t even clear to me that it was a reference to something.

Andrew’s proposal in #15 looks good to me.

• CommentRowNumber19.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012

Andrew,

I am fine with your proposal.

And mostly I am concerned about newcomers. But maybe it cannot hurt to have us all each day remember what the $n$Forum is actually good for. ;-)

• CommentRowNumber20.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
• (edited Feb 11th 2012)

Harry has a point. We don’t actually ever do discuss philosophy here. (And the only time I ever did I sincerely regretted it afterwards.)

I know we all think we could do otherwise, but it remains true that it is a tad weird to have an established forum be subtitled by a topic that has never ever played any role.

Not that I don’t think we shouldn’t discuss philosophy here. But since this discussion here is motivated from trying to make clear what’s actually going on at the $n$Forum, it might be worth thinking about this.

• CommentRowNumber21.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012
• (edited Feb 11th 2012)

Also, there are almost no philosophy-related entries on the $n$Lab.

Not the I think that there shouldn’t be any. But maybe at some point we should admit that, despite possibly other intentions, there is just nobody in the $n$Lab project really pushing the philosophy topic.

And maybe there is a reason for that. Maybe the whole idea of the $n$Lab of “archiving stable information” is somewhat orthogonal to the nature of philosophy?

My impression is that if a piece of philosophy becomes fully “stable”, hence beyond debate, then in effect it has transformed into a piece of science, essentially by definition.

(Actually, I’d be interested in hearing David’s reaction to that impression of mine.)

• CommentRowNumber22.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012
• (edited Feb 12th 2012)

Be that as it may, Urs, I consider it really inappropriate for Harry to dismiss philosophers in this manner, and more so when there is one among us.

it remains true that it is a tad weird to have an established forum be subtitled by a topic that has never ever played any role

Never ever? I’m not so sure of that. I believe I’ve detected echoes of David’s philosophical interests in some of his comments on the nForum, even if there is a dearth of philosophy articles on the nLab. Probably he could speak better to that than I, but I can try finding some, if you are in doubt.

I also like Andrew’s #15 (in blue).

• CommentRowNumber23.
• CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012
• (edited Feb 12th 2012)

I also like Andrew’s #15. (I knew exactly what you were referring to, Harry, but not what you meant)

’A discussion forum about contributions to the nLab wiki and related areas of mathematics, physics, and philosophy.’

(removes the chain ’..for…of…to…of…of’)

EDIT (after Eric’s comment #25): actually replace ’about’ by ’for’, or possibly ’for and about’.

• CommentRowNumber24.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012

I mean, for example, don’t you feel that the discussion of the nPOV had a strong philosophical component, a matter precisely of interest to mathematical philosophers like David? Surely this wasn’t straight mathematics or physics!!!

• CommentRowNumber25.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012
• (edited Feb 12th 2012)

I like something that highlights the discussion forum as a third component of the nLab, nCafe, and nForum triad. The three pieces together form a complete nCommunity. Early versions (as usual) downplay the role of the nForum. That is why I suggested a simple neutral tag-line:

’A discussion forum to accompany the nLab and the nCafe.’

However, the latest version in David’s #23 seems ok to me too if that is the direction you want to go (no mention of nCafe), but I would suggest removing the word “wiki”. For no good reason, that word seems to be a distraction from my experience.

’A discussion forum about contributions to the nLab and related areas of mathematics, physics, and philosophy.’

Is the nPublications considered part of the nLab?

’A discussion forum to accompany the nLab, nPublications, and the nCafe.’

The tag-line could advertise those other elements.

• CommentRowNumber26.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012
I thought that the discussion of the nPOV was based on a bad pun.

Maybe the one concept that is really philosophical in nature is the notion of evil, but I think that too much focus on eliminating evil forces us to ignore the very real applications of strictness (in providing a rich and simple scaffolding for a higher "non-evil" theory). If you try to start with everything being fully weak, you'll end up being able to prove very little. Remember, Street's "fibrations for bicategories" was the sequel to his earlier article "fibrations for 2-categories". We see things like this happening all over higher category theory, so I think that focusing too much on philosophy instead of on mathematics has a pernicious influence on a category theorist's ability to solve problems.

Also, while a public forum for discussing mathematics and physics can have a professional reputation, philosophy is not a science, and such a public forum will inexorably trend towards nonsense. Mathematics (and to a slightly smaller degree physics) has rules that must be followed, and these rules allow us determine whether or not someone knows what he is talking about. The same cannot be said of philosophy, and I think that having "philosophy" in the tagline will reflet poorly upon us in the eyes of mathematicians and physicists.
• CommentRowNumber27.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012
• (edited Feb 12th 2012)

Harry, classifying things into science and non-science is among the lowest kind of philosophies, and I despised it most of my life. It is usually based on some simplistic picture of the world, talking “experiment” as some sort of highest purity cocaine and dismissing other activities as being just a potato. As a cook (i just made a delicious dinner) I do not believe the experiment is that different from the generic activity of a talanted and smart human being building up his way through the world on the basis of his experience mixed with thinking, reflecting together with living. Astronomy is so observational, I can not imagine making experiments with black holes in another galaxy, while still this side ponderation of the results is classified by the same kind of lowest kind of philosophers as science (what should be pronounced with music from Beethoven’s Eroica). Science, communism, democracy, crusadership and american style of life are to me as philosophical notions on the same level of trash ideology.

Having said that, I do often feel a bit awkward when citing the philosophy as a separate part of $n$Lab activity. We do not do typical philosophical entries like creating the passages on history of philosophy and I think we do not intend to do. I think even David’s activity is mainly toward the philosophy of issues related to the other two areas – math and theoretical physics. We sometimes discuss publishing, typesetting, terminology, history, art of mathematics and so one, as it comes up in studying the geometry, categories, string theory and so on. So I would say that philosophy is definitely NOT a separate topic on the $n$Lab but an aspect occasionally and naturally extending it, here and there. We could equally place art as one of the topics of $n$Lab, as many of us do feel artistic view of mathematical creativity. I do not see why would then one occasional extension of the content of the $n$Lab be proclaimed in its definition, while the other would not ?? Why philosophy but not art ?? This or another way, no true intellectual endeavour qualifies for it, if it is not doomed to break its own boundaries.

• CommentRowNumber28.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012
• (edited Feb 13th 2012)

I agree in spirit with much of the first paragraph of Zoran #27, although I wish he wouldn’t paint “American style of life” with a single tarbrush. Much of pop culture is trash, but there are many different cultures and lifestyles, even in America.

But I really disagree with

while a public forum for discussing mathematics and physics can have a professional reputation, philosophy is not a science, and such a public forum will inexorably trend towards nonsense

Did the n-Category Café, more than five years old now, “inexorably trend towards nonsense”, even with philosophy explicitly and prominently declared as something the blog is about? (No blog is completely nonsense-free, of course, but I think the Café has generally done pretty well for itself.)

With such sharp-minded people as the regular contributors to the nLab and nForum around, I think we’re in no present danger of trending towards nonsense. (I am happy to include you, Harry, in this group!)

I think that having “philosophy” in the tagline will reflet poorly upon us in the eyes of mathematicians and physicists

Is that what happened in the case of the Café? Or, if people do sometimes disparage the Café, is it ’philosophy’ they blame?

I also have no clear idea what Harry is referring to in this:

We see things like this happening all over higher category theory, so I think that focusing too much on philosophy instead of on mathematics has a pernicious influence on a category theorist’s ability to solve problems.

Who exactly is “focusing too much on philosophy”? Whose problem-solving powers are thereby being diminished?

(I should add that I think it’s a good idea to discuss the place of philosophy in the nForum. I think I’d really like to hear from David C. on this soon, if he has some time.)

• CommentRowNumber29.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012
• (edited Feb 12th 2012)

although I wish he wouldn’t paint “American style of life” with a single tarbrush

Todd, i did NOT say that science, communism, american style of life, democracy etc. on the list are bad things or equally or even uniformly good/bad. I did not say anything about what I think of communism or democracy or racism or american style of life (if you want these are to large extent empty phrases more than anything what people usually assign fiercefully to). I meant that GIVING THEM A STATUS OF IDEOLOGY or using them as a sacred WAR FLAGMARK, a tribally accepted license to oppress, hate, rob or kill others for, is bad (similarly Europeans used for centuries to conquer, kill and enslav “primitive” people of the new worlds in the name of European peoples’ “civilization” and “culture”). Stalin has done lots of bad deeds in the name of communism, though his reign was very far from the idea of communism. American army, CIA etc. were many times bombing others or supporting bad allies just in the name of ideology of we and them, american style of life as opposed to some others. Finally, it is a very well known thing in mathematical circles to list american style of life among the ideologies – it was Grothendieck (around 1972 or so) in Queen’s journal of mathematics who wrote that every human being should made the wars and tribal animosity illegal, and first in their own country, and not fight wars in the name of various -isms. And then he named a dozen or so of -isms out of which I remember for sure communism, capitalism, zionism, racism, fascism and american style of life.

• CommentRowNumber30.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012

Okay, I misunderstood you, Zoran. So it was really a reaction to the blindness and oppression of “ideological -isms”. That makes a lot more sense. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

• CommentRowNumber31.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012

Thank you, Todd, for saying what I would say.

To be honest, I do feel that some philosophers (perhaps even many) don’t spend their time very productively, seeming more interested in arguing than in reaching a conclusion, and (in the case of philosophy of mathematics) not listening to what mathematicians and mathematics themselves have to say. But even to the extent that that is true (and I freely admit that my experience with philosophy is limited, and some of it I have greatly enjoyed), it just makes it more important to encourage positive interaction between philosophy and science/mathematics.

Another example of the influence of philosophy in the nCommunity, by the way, is structural set theory, where there is a fascinating convergence of philosophical ideas and mathematical (and especially category-theoretic) ones. In particular, the name “structuralism” comes from philosophy.

Relatedly, Colin McLarty and Steve Awodey are both professors in philosophy departments.

• CommentRowNumber32.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012

In an effort to steer the conversation away from the alleged deleterious effects of philosophy, and more toward the discussion of what place (if any) philosophy has either at the nForum or at the nLab, I’d like to submit that we do have a few nLab articles which have strong ties to philosophic thinking or schools of mathematical philosophy, and which have been made mathematically rigorous sometimes only partially. I’d also like to point out that at least some of these articles do discuss some of underlying philosophy. It is by no means intended as a complete list.

Some professional philosophers whose interests align with nLab research interests:

• CommentRowNumber33.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012

Thank you Todd and Mike. I guess we are now, as far as the main topic is concerned, back to Andrew’s proposal of 15 ?

• CommentRowNumber34.
• CommentAuthorTim_Porter
• CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012
• (edited Feb 13th 2012)

I went to a very good talk by Jean-Pierre Marquis last autumn in Toulouse, and his aim was to discuss the philosophical implications of homotopy theory, with regard to the idea of ’equality’ and ’identity’. His home page lists his current projects as including

• Statut et nature des types d’homotopie : ontologie, épistémologie et logique

• Le rôle des modèles en topologie algébrique

and his slides for his talk included discussion of crossed modules and related ideas. (I say his slides because he ran out of time!)

There is going to be a a Thematic School “Mathématiques et Philosophie Contemporaines” in the Cantal, (France) this summer and this sort of topic is on the list to be discussed. It will be organised by Toulouse.

This is for info and is not intended to contribute to the discussion on the Tags etc. When I know more I will put it in a separate announcement.

• CommentRowNumber35.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012
• (edited Feb 13th 2012)

@Todd #32:

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this before, but I have generally been cranky about all of those subjects.

Also, to the extent that I respect the people who you listed, it’s because of their mathematical work, not their philosophical work.

• CommentRowNumber36.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012
• (edited Feb 14th 2012)

[edit: my original message here was a complaint about a previous message, which has meanwhile been edited, so I have removed what used to be here]

• CommentRowNumber37.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012

Okay, so before this discussion gets moved to The Cave … !

We can experiment. I’ll start with David’s reformulation in #23, I’ll put it up for everyone to see (rather than just guests) so that we can all see if we like it or not. I find there’s only so far I can think without seeing something like this “live”. We can also experiment with where it appears on the page.

• CommentRowNumber38.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012

Thanks, Andrew. Please do that.

• CommentRowNumber39.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012

Urs, although the milk was already spilt, I mopped it up and removed the two things you said (in #36) bothered you. I still stand by what I said, both before and after. If you’d like to respond to #28 as it now stands, I’d welcome that.

(By the way, I don’t consider this particular thread a philosophical discussion; it’s too “meta” for that.)

• CommentRowNumber40.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012

Wow, I really screwed up that last sentence…. It should have said “extent that I”, not “extend that a”

• CommentRowNumber41.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012
• (edited Feb 14th 2012)

Harry, I can appreciate that you have a strong preference for mathematics. Mathematics and philosophy are both very deep and difficult subjects (I think), but for rock-solid certainty and coming to clear agreement, mathematics is the clear winner. I often enjoy reading and thinking about philosophical things, but I am far more comfortable with mathematics because such certainty, coupled with real intellectual depth, is possible. So, on that, I’m sure we agree.

Nevertheless, the ties between mathematics and philosophy are certainly there and always have been. This is a bare fact (echoing Urs’s #36), and it seems worthwhile to archive such facts here. Mostly those articles I have cited, when they discuss philosophical underpinnings, do so in a descriptive matter-of-fact way – they do not particularly assert a philosophical position. (The nPOV and accompanying discussion was a rare exception; unlike Urs, I do not regret it at all, and I’m sincerely sorry to see that the discussion still rankles him.) I cannot see anything wrong with the nLab and nForum continuing to discuss philosophy at least at the level of description, and having us continue asking one another if the descriptions are accurate, or if something more should be added, the same way we do for mathematics articles.

In the same way, we all know that physics also has the capacity to inflame passions, with raging arguments which make whatever we said before and then edited out (which by the way had a precedent, but it’s not important) seem like sweetness-and-light. And likewise, physics can never attain the same certainty we enjoy in mathematics. Still, that doesn’t stop us from the idea of discussing physics here, again not from a standpoint of asserting a position like “superstring theory is right and loop quantum gravity is wrong”, but from the standpoint of getting the facts down right.

Does this seem like something we can agree on?

(Note: this comment has been edited.)

• CommentRowNumber42.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012

The fact is, when we discuss physics here, it is mainly “mathematical physics”. I don’t know that there exists a similar area in philosophy aside from “mathematical logic”, which is basically part of mathematics proper. If there’s some other technical discussion in philosophy that admits a mathematical description, then it’s fine to have on the nLab, but I don’t know that it should really be put in the subtitle of the website.

• CommentRowNumber43.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 14th 2012

I cannot see anything wrong with the nLab and nForum continuing to discuss philosophy at least at the level

I would be very happy about decent discussion of philosophy on the $n$Lab. What I said – quite clearly, I think – is that it is noteworthy that to date there is almost no discussion of it at all. The list in #32 is more a proof of this than of the contrary. I don’t know what this implies, but I do still think it is quite worthy a moment of thought when one is trying to find an explanatory tag-line for this undertaking here.

In this context I cannot refrain from one remark: decent discussion requires decent exchange of arguments, and I am disappointed in this regard. Since David Corfield’s name has been invoked a few times above: let’s try to take his discipline of discourse to be a guiding example. If you are about to counter your discussion partner in a way that David is unlikely to be seen to do, then think about it again.

• CommentRowNumber44.
• CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
• CommentTimeFeb 14th 2012

Let’s try to take his discipline of discourse to be a guiding example. If you are about to counter your discussion partner in a way that David is unlikely to be seen to do, then think about it again.

Don’t talk about him like he’s dead!!

• CommentRowNumber45.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 14th 2012

let’s try to take his discipline of discourse to be a guiding example

Sure. I have been trying to maintain such discipline at least since comment #32, and can understand your disappointment with earlier comments.

I would be very happy about decent discussion of philosophy on the nLab

Good, I’m glad to hear that. My understanding is that not everyone in this thread welcomes discussion of philosophy on the nLab.

there is almost no discussion of it at all

Yes, I agree there has been little discussion of philosophy thus far.

but I do still think it is quite worthy a moment of thought when one is trying to find an explanatory tag-line

Fair enough. Some people have said they feel a little ’weird’ that philosophy is in the tag line when there is little of that going on. I’m sort of curious about the level of discomfort about that. So far only Harry has expressed a view that there would be actual harm in having it.

My own feeling is approximately this. First, I foresee no harm in it whatsoever in mentioning philosophy in the tag-line. Second, it’s not at all a big deal if there’s little philosophy as of yet – it doesn’t make me feel weird. Third, the nForum, nLab, and n-Cafe are presumably linked in people’s minds (isn’t this also part of the tag-line?), and it could also be seen as a little weird if the n-Cafe mentions philosophy but the nForum deliberately excludes it. Fourth, most importantly and out of respect to one of our founding members of the n-group, David, I believe his philosophical research interests should always have a warm and welcoming home here. (Although what form this takes, I’m not sure. We should continue discussing this, but there’s no rush on this discussion as far as I’m concerned.)

My earlier strong emotional reactions in this thread came about from a feeling that these interests were being slandered.

• CommentRowNumber46.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 14th 2012
• (edited Feb 14th 2012)

not everyone in this thread

Since Harry is not a regular contributor here, I feel as free to ignore his opinion about how the $n$Forum should look as I would feel free to ignore his opinion on how my living room should look.

I don’t think there remains much to discuss. We have all agreed on the tag line proposed in #15 with very minor edits #23. I am looking forward to Andrew finding a spare minute to implement it.

• CommentRowNumber47.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeFeb 14th 2012

I feel happy with the conclusions.

• CommentRowNumber48.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeFeb 14th 2012

Just to repeat an earlier comment, since #23 seems to be the version you’re going with, I’d still recommend removing the word “wiki”. It is not necessary, it adds nothing, and it will actually detract some for whom the word seems odd. No one refers to “the Wikipedia wiki”. When I mention the nLab, I never refer to it as “the nLab wiki”. It is just a great online reference called the “nLab”.

• CommentRowNumber49.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012
• (edited Feb 16th 2012)

I strongly disagree with 48. The content line should be informative for the newcomer. The newcomer will often not know what are $n$Lab, $n$Forum, $n$Cafe etc. and, if they saw them and used them already, how to distinguish them say, from String Theory Cafe and MathOverflow (similarly, I still have, even as a light contributor, problem in distinguishing Azimuth from Azimuth Project when I refer to them). It is much harder not to know what is wikipedia, for those who are online and know what a “wiki” means at all, besides it has a suggestive name. We would like new blog/discussion contributors even among those who have not done any wikis yes. “Wiki” is just 4 letters for an essential information.

P.S. I generally dislike any style based on tradenames, abbreviations and other inventions of esoteric cryptography and prefer to be explicit rather than relying on secrets one is “supposed to know” (personally dislike the latter phrase, which can be used positively, but is quite much used in socially oppresive environments).

P.S.2 If we do not say wiki, one is not even sure that it refers to a webpage. Do you really think it is shorter and more informative if we say propagandic “great online reference” than the correct/precise and non-selfpraising designation “wiki” ?

• CommentRowNumber50.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

I agree with Zoran, in particular I strongly disagree that “wiki adds nothing”. It is a crucial piece of information.

• CommentRowNumber51.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

And as you can (hopefully) see, it’s now up for everyone to tear down!

• CommentRowNumber52.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

Would it be possible to center it, instead of having it read from the left margin? I think it might look nicer that way.

• CommentRowNumber53.
• CommentAuthorTim_Porter
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

For me the left hand end is obscured by the NF.

• CommentRowNumber54.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

Uh-oh. What browser(s) are you two using? It is centred, as far as I’m concerned.

• CommentRowNumber55.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

Mozilla Firefox 10.0.1, running on Windows XP.

• CommentRowNumber56.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

Hmm. It looks fine on FF 10.0 on Linux. I’d be surprised that 10.0.1 broke it.

I’ll try and look tomorrow from Windows - don’t have access tonight.

(It looks right on Mobile Safari on an iPad)

• CommentRowNumber57.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012
• (edited Feb 16th 2012)

Thanks, Andrew!

Could you make the word “$n$Lab” hyperlink to the $n$Lab home page?

Because for those readers who don’t already know the information in the tag line, the word “$n$Lab” is possibly not carrying any information either.

That would also solve the discussion about the word “wiki” above: if we add the hyperlink we can remove that word, since this and more is explained at the $n$Lab home page.

• CommentRowNumber58.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

Done, but I left the word “wiki” in for the time being. I’m swayed by Zoran (49) and Todd (50)’s arguments. People tend not to click on links so the word wiki, even though the nLab is linked, does still add something.

• CommentRowNumber59.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

Thanks Andrew!

I would like to ask Zoran and Todd to reconsider their objections now that there is a hyperlink. I think the hyperlink takes care of the points raised, and more.

Personally I think that, with the hyperlink present, the word “wiki” is unnecessary and indeed undesireable. But I will not fight over this and will not further argue the case.

• CommentRowNumber60.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

@Andrew: Sorry to sound nitpicky (and thanks for all your attention to this), but from where I sit the text is not only to the left, but is crammed pretty close to the tabs (Notices, Home, etc.) and it’s hard to see the underline that indicates a link. If it were equidistant between nForum and those tabs, there wouldn’t be a problem.

• CommentRowNumber61.
• CommentAuthorzskoda
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012
• (edited Feb 16th 2012)

I am still in favor of the 4 letters wiki, though I agree with Urs that part of the need in great part diminishes with the existence of the link. One is indeed however not resorting to the link always, nor one understands after taking a short snap that one is in a wiki software. E.g. if I thought from vague memory that the nLab is in fact nCafe (confusion of many of my acquaintances) and that nCafe is String Cafe, I would not click on the link, like I do a mistake between Azimuth and Azimuth Project, without checking if I made mistake. If I printed the front page for students, I wish they had crucial info on the printout without need to go to the web. Also whatever we choose for a slogan will likely be cited in classrooms, various forum citations, journals mentioning us and on the web pages which quote it, often without a link to the nLab. Having said that I will also not argue more about it, whatever Andrew decides.

• CommentRowNumber62.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

At the moment I agree with Zoran #61, and I don’t see why the word “wiki” is considered odd or undesirable; it’s a standard term. But if anyone besides Urs wants to argue the case, I’ll be happy to listen and possibly reconsider.

• CommentRowNumber63.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

You guys are thinking like tech savvy mathematicians… oh wait :)

How many times have you tried to launch a collaborative software platform to a group of highly qualified yet possibly not tech savvy professionals? Todd? Zoran?

I’m telling you that, although accurate, the word is a turn off for most humans. The primary users of the nLab do not care much that there is an edit button. They only care that it contains useful information. The fact that Wikipedia is a wiki is irrelevant to almost everyone who uses it. Like I said, no one refers to Wikipedia as a wiki despite the fact it is the pennultimate example of one. The only time the fact Wikipedia is a wiki matters is when people are talking about wikis. When the focus is the content, the fact it is a wiki doesn’t matter at all and is a distraction to mention it.

On the tag line itself. I think it is too long and I have similar display problems on my iPhone that others have mentioned.

• CommentRowNumber64.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

no one refers to Wikipedia as a wiki despite the fact it is the pennultimate example of one

In my experience, to many people (including many mathematicians) the word “wiki” means “Wikipedia” — they don’t even know that it refers to a general type of website.

• CommentRowNumber65.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

I’m using FF 10.0 on Linux, and the text is left-justified for me (with the “NF” covering part of the word “discussion”).

• CommentRowNumber66.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 16th 2012

(“justified” – that was the word I was searching for!)

Eric: regarding “I’m telling you that, although accurate, the word is a turn off for most humans.” How do you know this? (Do monkeys like it better? Kidding!)

• CommentRowNumber67.
• CommentAuthorEric
• CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012
• (edited Feb 17th 2012)

@Todd #61: Sometimes it has felt like I’m working with monkeys :)

I’m not sure if you care about the iPhone, but the tag line is two lines.

Edit: I take that back. Now that it is center justified, the tagline is three lines on the iPhone.

• CommentRowNumber68.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012
• (edited Feb 17th 2012)

I don’t see why the word “wiki” is considered odd or undesirable;

Saying “nLab wiki” to me is like saying “bible book”.

But I promised that I won’t fight over this…

• CommentRowNumber69.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012

bible book

Okay. If the majority wants to get rid of ’wiki’, no further objections from me.

• CommentRowNumber70.
• CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
• CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012

Now that I read ’nLab wiki’ in context it does look weird. As someone pointed out, we don’t say Wikipedia wiki, or Cantor’s attic wiki. If people are truly wondering what the nLab is, then either they will look at the link, or by reading posts here and clicking on things, pick it up quickly.

I’m now leaning to removing the word wiki, in short.

• CommentRowNumber71.
• CommentAuthorTim_Porter
• CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012
• (edited Feb 17th 2012)

I was viewing it on my MacBook running Firefox 3.6.26 (remember the numbering is different on Macs) The heading is now centred, well away from the NF and looks good. I do not worry about the term ’wiki’ in either way. but putting a blank line between that heading and the tab-labels would improve the appearance.

Note that Google now picks this up if you search for nForum and that is very useful.

Oh, and I double checked it on Safari 4.1.3 and it is fine.

• CommentRowNumber72.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012

Now I’m on Windows (bleugh) with FF9.0.1 (yes, I know it’s hopelessly out of date) and it looks fine.

Google Chrome 17.0.something on Linux also looks fine. Opera 9.64 on Windows also looks fine.

There was a brief period where I’d gotten the tag-line up but hadn’t styled it. Sometimes browsers cache the stylesheets longer than they cache the pages. If you force a reload of the page (clicking on the circular arrow), that should force the browser to load all the stylesheets and so forth from the server and not just grab them from the cache (which it might do even if you leave the page and come back to it).

• CommentRowNumber73.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012

It looks fine to me now, Andrew – thanks!

• CommentRowNumber74.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeFeb 17th 2012

Looks fine to me too now.

• CommentRowNumber75.
• CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
• CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012

Now that it’s been up a few days, I’m wondering what people think of it1. Particularly David’s comment:

Now that I read ’nLab wiki’ in context it does look weird.

and Eric’s:

Now that it is center justified, the tagline is three lines on the iPhone.

I agree with David that ’wiki’ looks a little odd, but I’m still of the opinion that just ’nLab’ isn’t enough. How about ’nLab project’? The key, for me, is to show that we don’t expect the reader to know instinctively what the nLab is. I don’t expect us to come up with a single word there that would encompass all that it is, but by providing at least one word we show that we recognise that it needs some explaining - even if that explanation is inadequate. (Not sure how much sense that made.) So although the word “project” doesn’t really add a lot, the fact that we include any word does add something (I think), but ’wiki’ doesn’t quite look right to me.

For Eric’s issue, the smaller the screen the more important real estate is. I don’t know if it is possible to detect small-screen devices, but if so we could provide a mini-tagline that wouldn’t take up too much space. Perhaps:

nUff said

or

nLab nEws

1. And given that I’ve just hit Ctrl+R several times in succession instead of Ctrl+F, I’m wondering how many more times I’m going to have to write that before I get this comment written.

• CommentRowNumber76.
• CommentAuthorUrs
• CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012

we recognise that it needs some explaining

That’s what the hyperlink is for.

• CommentRowNumber77.
• CommentAuthorTodd_Trimble
• CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012

I can live with ’wiki’ being removed. Most of those who have already spoken on the issue don’t like it or find it odd (Eric, Urs, David, and now Andrew), and I can see their point.

• CommentRowNumber78.
• CommentAuthorMike Shulman
• CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012

I don’t really have feelings either way.

• CommentRowNumber79.
• CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
• CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012

I like ’project’ very much.

• CommentRowNumber80.
• CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
• CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012

I like ’project’ very much.

• CommentRowNumber81.
• CommentAuthorTobyBartels
• CommentTimeFeb 23rd 2012

And given that I’ve just hit Ctrl+R several times in succession instead of Ctrl+F, I’m wondering how many more times I’m going to have to write that before I get this comment written.

None, because you’ll compose it in a text editor where it belongs. It’s all text! (^_^)