Dear Keith Devlin16 Jul 2011
Edit, July 2015 Please note that below is a stupid piece of trolling. I leave it because it’s been public too long anyway and to remind me not to troll. Far too late but my apologies to Keith Devlin.
Dear Keith Devlin,
I love your work. Really, I do. So please don’t take this rant the wrong way. I promise I’ll shut up after this one rant, I just really need to get this off my chest.
Do you know what work of yours I read first? No, it wasn’t your fancy new Fibonacci book. It wasn’t even the Math Gene book even though it really changed my way of thinking about mathematics. It was, in fact, “A weak version of which follows from ”.
I’m guessing you wouldn’t have guessed that. This was the very first research paper I read and my first seminar talk as a Diplomkandidat in Munich (many, many moons ago). It literally changed my life because it marked my final “conversion” to set theory, and – much, much more importantly – indirectly introduced me to my partner. So, when I say I love your work, believe me, I really mean it. (which is probably the reason why I’m ranting so hard…)
Seriously, what are you doing online?
You’re very active on the interwebs and intertubes. That’s awesome because too few mathematicians of your calibre are. But have you looked at your homepage at Stanford recently? I mean, you probably haven’t (a box with blue-grayish background, bright red border and purple text?).
You’re website is stuck in the 90s.
The thing is: you are doing awsome stuff! You’re giving away lots of information: you’re letting people know where you’re giving lectures, you’re sharing videos, sharing research. That’s exactly what I hope for when I visit a scientists homepage. But…
This might sound silly, but web technology has actually advanced since 1998. It now allows you to share content in such a way that people do not have to look up your homepage every other day to check whether there’s something new. It also allows people to connect with you and makes it easy for them to share your content with a much wider audience.
The thing is you should know better. You write on your homepage that you have a twitter account and a blog. That’s so Web 3.0! Well, unfortunately, it isn’t, because, well, you’re doing it wrong.
First off, you don’t even properly link to either of these on your homepage. Then your blog is not a blog. It’s a magazine column that has an rss feed. It is not a log and, more importantly, it does not allow for discussions, which is the essence of blogging. So, in reality, it’s just another website that happens to have an rss feed. That’s not a bad thing – it’s just not a blog.
And then there’s your twitter account. Did you know that your replies are not that visible in your subscriber’s streams unless you put something in front of the @? What’s left is a lot of advertisement… and this morning, you even got the self-advertising wrong!
I mean, in this tweet you actually seem to try to hide the fact that, once more, you’re essentially advertising your new book. Now, I’m fine with good advertising. But don’t hide it and, for goodness’ sake, include a bloody link! I mean, you’re advertising your segment on NPR about your book and I still have to google to actually listen to it?
You really expect me to?
As they say, the web has no fury like a nerd scorned (or something like that).
So, please, install wordpress on your homepage and join conversations on twitter. It makes life so much better.