Monday, October 16, 2006

1. Editorial post & FAQ

If you don't know what a blog is, or if you bought the idea that blogging is just a form of alternative press, you might be missing a lot of fun. Essentially, a blog is a website with a predefined structure which is organized as a time-ordered sequence of entries. There are many imaginative blogs where this format, however limited it appears to be, has proved to be really useful for a specific purpose.

Advantages of blogging are:
-Minimal time consumption.
-Search ability incorporated.
-Readers' comments allowed.
-Immediate publication.

After a one-year satisfactory experience with my personal blog, the other day it suddenly dawned on me that blogs may be really useful to small, heterogeneous scientific communities. I guess I am a member of one such community: those interested in the interface area between Statistics & Probability and Fuzzy Set Theory. Trying to keep up with the developments takes me a lot of time spent on Internet searches, because:

-Papers are not published in a small number of core journals, but spread across journals belonging to Statistics, Mathematics, Computer Science and subject-matter studies.
-Papers are typically not posted on preprint servers like e.g. the arXiv.
-Papers are typically not available at the author's website because many authors (like me) just do not keep, or have the time to update, a website.

So it is just typical that I miss a paper by an author I follow closely; and I am certain to be constantly missing relevant research indirectly related to my own, even if I really commit an effort to the task.

Also, this type of research is young and objectively attracts increasing attention, so it is not easy for incoming authors to find the places to learn and master some basic techniques (lack of specialized texts for graduate students, and so on).

Moreover, although a vast effort has been devoted by some to dispelling a number of recurring misunderstandings and controversies with respected members of the Statistics community, the difficulty of scanning the literature makes some critics be less well-informed than I would wish them to be. Discussions in the scientific tradition of paper-response-rejoinder are slow and uneffective according to today's standards, and tend to bring ill-informed offspring for virtually unlimited time. Therefore it is only in our best interest to help critics to be as well informed as possible.

Finally, there is a foundational side to this research which naturally welcomes discussion. Interesting foundational papers are bound to appear at random and unpredictable places and are very easy to miss.

With this blog I will try to make a humble and personal but cost-effective contribution to mitigating the worse of that situation. I don't know whether any success will be achieved; maybe the blog will turn out to be not useful at all to my colleagues. We'll just see, but in that case the task will have been so inexpensive that the venture seems worth all the same.

Reading some entries should be self-explanatory about what I have in mind, but you are also invited to go on reading the FAQ or contact me in case of doubt.

Frequently Asked Questions

A more complete FAQ will appear here as soon as time allows.

What is the difference between your blog and a preprint server?
The blog does not host any files. It only contains links to preexisting web or ftp addresses.

I have written a very interesting preprint, will you write an entry about it?
Send me a link, I will check that the paper's topic is suitable and I will write the entry. If you send me also a short summary, I may use it or write my own.

Does that mean that only people with a website can contribute links to their work?
Not at all! Nowadays there are plenty of websites that will provide you with free file storage. It will only take you a couple of minutes to open an account and upload your file (PDF preferred). Do read the terms of service though, as some websites do not allow you to upload copyrighted material, or will claim copyright on whatever you upload, or will delete your file if it's not accessed for a long time. I personally use, but I am not endorsing in any way. Please feel free to write a comment suggesting better options.

What is the difference between your blog and a newsletter?
My idea is to be rather specific about information. If you are organizing a special session relevant to this blog I will inform about it, but don't expect me to inform about every single conference where one could potentially submit a SPFS.

Would you post a list of my papers?
Don't ask for it until you see here a list of my papers. But I would certainly post a list of links to your papers if they are available for free in the web (alternatively, a link to your website if that's more handy).

Will you be posting links to already published papers that are nowhere available for free?
Only very exceptionally, to say the least.

Are comments moderated?
Comments are not moderated and you can use the comments in imaginative ways (e.g. give news), but posterior deletion is technically feasible for the blog editor.

Will you remove upon request a comment that has outraged me?
Sigh, I hope this sort of situation will just not happen.

Are very long and technical comments, with parts in TeX, allowed?
It's better to build a PDF file, put it somewhere in the web and just link to it.

How can I contact you?
Follow the `View my complete profile' link in the right column, then in the left there is a link labelled `Send me an email' or something of that sort.

I have found a broken link. What should I do?
Just leave a comment stating the fact (with the entry number). I receive all comments in my email address.


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