Tags and Difficulty Levels

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    Lately, I’ve been wondering about ways to improve the blog (in ways other than writing better/more posts).  One of my principle concerns stems from the fact that the level of assumed knowledge varies significantly from post to post.  Hopefully, the title and first few paragraphs do an ok job of conveying who the target audience is.

   However, is there more we can be doing?  We’ve been talking about using categories to label roughly what the difficulty level of a talk is, as opposed to just using them as glorified by-lines.  I was thinking of maybe four categories: High School, Undergraduate, Beginning Grad Student, and Advanced Grad Student.  As the categories are pretty broad, they would just be used as guideline.  Would you guys find this helpful?

    On a related note, is there any other use of the categories system that might be useful?  I suppose if anyone had any other feedback on how the blog is going, this is as good a time as any to comment. 

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11 Responses to “Tags and Difficulty Levels”

  1. mnoonan Says:

    Re: blog progress (blogress?), I wish Jim hadn’t been deported to Wikipedia. I sure would like more “Combinatorial Julia Sets”. Also, I’d like to know if Thompson’s group is amenable or not. Surely he has had enough time to decide.

    Re: tags, what about topic tags? Do people use tags much? I can’t think of other blogs where I really payed them any attention, but I’m not sure how other people use them. Do we need tags like “differential geometry”, “algebraic geometry”, “things with unclear axiomatic foundations”?

  2. Greg Muller Says:

    Jim will be in town at some point in the near future, and maybe, just maybe, we can guilt him into posting some more. Besides, he’s sort of better suited for wikipedia, his high-production values are wasted in the transient world of mathblogging (can we contract this word any more? malogging, maybe?).

  3. Jim Belk Says:

    There is an elementary proof of the amenability of Thompson’s group. Unfortunately, it won’t fit into this comment.

    Hey guys. I’ll be blogging again soon. 🙂

  4. Isabel Says:

    That seems like a good system; I’ve thought of doing the same thing myself.

  5. Ben Webster Says:

    At SBS, we have a wild, uncontrollable thicket of tags that seem to mostly have been added for our own amusement (some of the best are “blog triumphalism,” “selling out” and “things I don’t understand”). Nothing terrible seems to have resulted from this yet.

  6. Terence Tao Says:

    I myself use the ArXiV categories (math.CA, math.DG, etc.) in my own blog. I was hoping that others would use them too, so that one could then go to, say, http://wordpress.com/tag/mathca/ , and see all the math posts throughout wordpress that pertain to classical analysis. I seem to be the only one doing this, though.

    I have a tag, “non-technical”, which is somewhat similar to the “high school/undergraduate” tags you propose; it has the advantage that it generates a non-technical version of my blog at http://terrytao.wordpress.com/tag/non-technical/ . You might consider a similar binary classification into technical and non-technical; with more than one label it is difficult to do things like “show me all posts requiring only an undergraduate knowledge of mathematics”.

  7. Greg Muller Says:

    Oh, I like the idea of matching categories with other blogs. I will try to adopt the Arxiv tags where possible.

    Hmm, I also wonder if instead of a binary classification of posts (which isn’t a bad idea), we should also consider a a handful of levels, but then nest them, so a post for undergraduates would get the “undergraduate” tag, and “basic grad student” tag (if we did nest them, advanced grad student would be unnecessary, being presumably the highest level we will use).

  8. Kurt Says:

    Nested levels of tags might be handy for someone browsing your blog, but I suspect that maintaining the necessary discipline to tag all your posts is going to be much harder if you make your tagging scheme too complicated.

    Regarding what to call math blogging, John Armstrong has suggested blathering, but I don’t think I can quite bring myself to use that. In the same way that blogging comes from web+log, math logging would give rise to thlogging, which I think has an appropriately evocative sound to it.

  9. John Armstrong Says:

    Kurt, actually I was going in analogy with the accepted law+blog = blawg.

    And when I get the time I’m going to move to nested tags myself. I don’t see that it will be that hard to maintain once I’ve put in the sunk cost of the conversion.

  10. Kurt Says:

    John, I understand about the analogy to blawg, but I think blawg works mainly because of the play on phonemes with stretching the short “o” into an “aw”. Sure, you can contract blog+math into blath, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Actually, it makes me think of blood-bath. I don’t know why, but phonetics seem to carry more weight than semantics in this sort of thing.

    Now, one could take the initials instead, and then posting an entry could be referred to as “having a b.m.” Hmmm, somehow I don’t think that one is going to catch on (although perhaps some might think it was appropriate for my blog).

  11. John Armstrong Says:

    Maybe we could call these less-travelled side roads of the web “mathematics blogging alleys”. Anyone can have an m.b.a.

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