Peter Krautzberger on the web

YSTN first look

The last week was rather busy and I did not find time to blog. The good news is that I will be attending BLAST 2010 [Wayback Machine] in Boulder come June and they are very kind to support me.

After having been very excited last week with the start of the Young Set Theory Network [Wayback Machine] I wanted write a follow up on the project that hopefully helps people who want to become active in it. The text was supposed to help me identify how I would want to contribute. But it became a bit more so I decided to post it.

Technology

Well, that’s easy enough. The YSTN [Wayback Machine] uses a wiki, more specifically wikimedia’s MediaWiki used by Wikipedia itself. That is one reliable and flexible piece of software. The YSTN [Wayback Machine] does not allow for editing without registration since it is too small a project to battle spam. But I hope they will change that in the future — after all, MediaWiki does allow for other measures such as captcha.

At the moment I would say the biggest drawback is that registration does not allow for free editing. For this you have to wait until a user with “Set Theorist” status upgrades you to that status. This probably hinders the development of the network in the beginning. But I don’t think it will stay that way, rather it will speed up the development once critical mass is reached. So if you want to be upgraded to Set Theorist status just contact me via the comments.

I think in the long run it might turn out that the project needs a more dynamic technology such as specialised social networks via e.g. mixxt. But even in that case an open and established platform such as MediaWiki is a good start. Now if only MathML was used instead of these ugly PNGs…

Concept

The YSTN’s [Wayback Machine] concept is explained at its Community Portal [Wayback Machine]. In my humble opinion the concept is too complex, it is trying too much at once. Reading it for the first time left me with the impression that the YSTN [Wayback Machine] wants to be a simultaneous (albeit set-theoretically specialised) copy of a ton of other projects that have been around for a while. Following Jeff Jarvis’s Rule I don’t think this is a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong everything on that list would be really good to have. But most points are already covered — and extremely well at that! So I think it might be a better idea for the YSTN’s [Wayback Machine] development to follow Jarvis: do what you can do best and link to the rest. In other words, add and aggregate to other projects and only do what is not already done better elsewhere. This is also important so as not to isolate the content from a more general (mathematical) audience.

Let me comment on the list from the Community Portal [Wayback Machine] to show you what I mean.

This may seem very negative, but I believe it can prove to be a strength. With a better focus on areas that are not covered anywhere and a high level of transparency and connectivity towards other projects it will be much easier for the network to create momentum.

Content

Ok, so this is a bit of problem and the reason why I think the YSTN [Wayback Machine] needs focus. There is no content as far as I can see. The wiki claims to have four articles, three of them help pages (which is quite ok, help pages are extremely important). So the YSTN [Wayback Machine] needs to gather a few people that will actively contribute. Content that either gives people something to read or something to do. If this is not possible a later relaunch could be an option.

Conclusion

The main conclusion is that the YSTN [Wayback Machine] uses solid technology and has many ideas on what it wants to become. So I think I will invest time into contributing. However, it is not without alternatives so for most people it will have to prove that it can be a good addition to the status quo — wikipedia, tricki, mathoverflow, arXiv, email, social networks, blogs, twitter cannot be ignored but easily embraced. In particular, I think there is need to give those visitors that want to help more concrete tasks, tell them how they can contribute, be it small or large.

Above all the YSTN [Wayback Machine] needs a small group of engaged people with focus to start breathing life into it. It need not be perfect, it just needs to grow.