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please, use this bookmarklet!

Great! You’ve finally managed to arXiv your paper after months of laborious research, and now, you’re eagerly awaiting response…

The odds are you’ll be disappointed, if not frustrated. Chances are high that if you get any response at all it is only to clarify that someone else (usually the person emailing you) proved this result a long time ago, or that your result could be generalized enormously, or that you could have shortened your proof tremendously if only you were more educated, or …
Mathematics seems to be more of a pissing contest than anything else, at such moments.

Imagine someone would be kind enough, at that particular moment, to send you an email saying not much more than : “Gee thanks! Ive just browsed through your paper arXived today and you really made my day! Keep up the good work, all the best :: lieven” (change the name to your liking)

Sadly, math-circles are not known for their ‘good-vibes’ generally. Mind you, Ive send similar emails to people posting on the arXiv, but, admittedly, I did it far fewer than I might have. Often I like (even admire) a result but repress the urgent need to communicate that feeling to the author, perhaps my Asperger kicking up…

Now that you may feel some empathy with the situation, let’s get to a similar situation in math-blogging. Sometimes, you spend a lot of time writing a post (( but probably you have to be blogging yourself to appreciate the amount of energy it takes to write a genuine post compared to a link-post or a couple-of-lines-not-going-into-the-specifics post )) , release it to the world, see tons of RSS-bots and genuine hits passing by and then what?… nothing! no reply, no email, no comment, nothing at all!

Personally, I’m not that influenced by this. When I blog I do it because (1) Ive the time, at that particular moment and (2) I like to write about the things I do, at that moment. But sometimes, it comes to us all, that feeling of ‘why am I doing this after all? can’t I spend my time more sensibly doing something else?’ and when you begin to have these doubts it usually marks the beginning of a long silence at your blog (( browse my archive and I can tell you specifically what happened at that particular moment to stop blogging ))

So, here’s an appeal to all you lurkers at math-blogs : give these people, once in a while, something back…. Ive thought for a long time that this lurk-but-no-comment attitude was something typical of mathematicians, but, as often, when researched in more depth, I have to admit that I’m wrong! Read the post Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute by Jakob Nielsen to find out that most blogs act along a 90-9-1 scheme :

User participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

So, the good news is, it’s not that particular to us autistic mathematicians. But, wouldn’t it be even better if you could do something positive about it? Speaking for myself : often I read a post I like, and (being a semi-pro myself) appreciate the work had to be put into producing such a post, but even then I don’t feel the urge to communicate this positive feeling to the blogger in question. Perhaps, we could accelerate things by having a bookmarklet in your bookmarks-bar that does the following : when you like a post, go to the post-page where you are asked to leave a comment. Hit the bookmarklet and it will automatically fill in your name, URL, email adress and a supporting message along the lines of “Nice post! I’m not so much of a commenter, but rather than not replying at all, I found it important to let you know that people actually read and like your post. All the best (and perhaps later I’ll comment more to the point) :: lieven (again, change the name to your liking).

Well, I’ve just done that! So please take a few minutes off your time to read and follow-up the instructions below and have a math-blog-bookmarklet up in your bookmark-bar to tell the blogger in question you really liked her/his post. This may just be enough motivation for them to carry on…

Okay! Here the nitty-gritty (it takes under 2 minutes, so please, do it now!).

part 1 : copy the following text and save it as blogmarklet.html

  • Download mathblogmarklet.txt and save it into your favorite text-program as bookmarklet.html and change your URL, name, email and custom message (please extend on your compliments…)

  • Once you saved the file as bookmarklet.html open the file under your favourite browser (Safari or Flock) and drag the link to your bookmark-bar.

part 2 : use it!

  • Whenever you visit a blog-post you like, go to the page of that post where you can leave a comment. Hit the bookmarklet and your comment-fields are filled (but PLEASE ADD TO THE DEFAULT COMMENT IF YOU FEEL LIKE IT) and press the submit-button!

  • That’s it!

For example, Ive just changed the layout of this blog. Please leave a specific comment what you think about it.

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