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the unbearable lightness of math-blogging

Back from vacation and wanting to know what I’ve missed. Not much, it seems. Hence this rant.
Sit back and relax, I appreciate all hard work done by the few math-bloggers around entertaining thousands of math-lurkers wordwide. Still, I cannot refrain from adding this version of Carly Simon‘s refrein :

“You’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you
You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this post is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you?”

Let’s start on a positive note. Here is the math-blogpost that touched me most this vacation. But then I’m (old) European, Ive been to their place and even know where they’ve taken their picture, so I’m a big fan of Vivatsgasse 7.

The last couple of months new math-blogs were started up at an almost weekly pace. Compared to last year, when my blogroll contained predominantly physics-blogs, I can now afford the luxury of admitting only Backreaction as Bee continues to do a great job. But, some people ask, will all these new blogs survive the winter? Here’s my test to determine this for yourself :

  • Check-out who runs the blog and verify whether they ran an continued updated webpage before (if necessary use the WayBack Machine to find out). Chances are, these people moved to the blog-format because it is a lot easier to maintain. Predication : these blogs will survive for as long as it takes to morph to a new format. Excellent examples of such blogs are What’s New? run by Terry Tao who continues his excellent pre-blog What’s new site or the n-category cafe run by John Baez (who has been described as the proto-blogger) and the restless Urs (from the former string coffee table).

  • Count the number of posts written during the first month of existence. If they make the effort of starting up a blog they are likely to have a number of posts ready in their head, don’t they? My rule of thumb is : if this number divided by 30 is greater than 1/2, add the blog to your news-aggregator, if it is below 1/10 : wait and see.

  • What is the ratio of ‘link-posts’ to all? Anyyone who maintained a blog for over a month knows the difference in energy required to write a “proper post” compared to one merely linking to other posts or events in the blogosphere without too much added value. The lower the ratio, the better.

  • The major test though is subjective : do you really believe the people running the blog are in a “sharing mood” or are they only into it to show off the (sometimes inexcusable) little they know and want you to feel it is terribly important?
    Because this is really what blogging is all about : sharing the things you discover or are in the process of learning in the hope that it will make life a little bit easier for others interested in the same things. Of course, sometimes you will only broadcast your own blissful ignorance, but it’s always better… etc.

Based on these criteria Im afraid Ill have to update my blogroll sometime early december. Until then I’ll refrain from my former idea to separate it into further categories such as vanity-blogs or the more recent phenomenon of testosteron-blogs.

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