math in 2010 and beyond

If we want to fuel future growth and innovation in mathematics, three worlds must meet in the middle.

In 2009, we see three distinctly developed worlds:
  • The Communities: Math + People = Associations, Publications, Journals, Groups, Departments (ASA, IMS, WFU Math, etc.)
  • The Connectors: People + Technology = Social Media & Social Networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, iPhone Apps, etc.)
  • The Foundations: Math + Technology = Software/Web Applications (Wolfram|Alpha, SAS, R, Matlab, Mathematica, Statistica, etc.)

In 2010, we need these three worlds to mold into one, unified experience. With whom does the responsibility lie and when does it start? You and now.

how i get my news

Everyone is unique with regards to his/her fingerprints, aspirations, and the news he/she reads. Regardless of the topical interests, it’s still very easy to get overwhelmed with managing bookmarks, feeds, readers, interfaces, and social networks.

I’m sure at some point you’ve felt at least the feeling that you are behind in the latest technologies, the feeling that you are missing some major news of interest to you, or the feeling that you haven’t updated your account often enough. With that in mind, I’m going to list some subscriptions I have and technologies I use with the hope that it might help you become more efficient and comfortable with accessing news. If not, maybe you can offer up some advice to me as you’ll see I’m still hitting a hodgepodge of sites/links.

Note: Obviously this doesn’t include everything but tries to show main sites, sources, and technologies I hit on independently. For my categorized blog rolls check out the widget on the right side of my blog (directly from Google Reader). And although I don’t use them very often, everyone should know about Technorati for blogs, Delicious for bookmarks, and Digg for all content.

Major News Sites, Aggregators, and Readers

  • BBC News – Quick glance gives quick review across all regions of the world.
  • CNN – Top news on homepage gives quick review across all topical categories. Top of the page is good for breaking news.
  • ESPN – Best (and most timely) source for sports news.
  • Twitter – Most customizable feed of informal news links, blog posts, and sentiments. Best for breaking news.
  • Google Alerts – Very targeted news (search results) in an easy-to-use format. Helpful for breaking news.
  • Google Fast Flip – Newest, most-efficient and well-categorized interface for paging through news.
  • Google Reader – My favorite. Best aggregation and categorization of RSS feeds with email-like features.
  • My Alltop – Good way to find new things to read by category and/or search term. See my previous post on some feature enhancements that would make it a primary news hub.
  • NYTimes – Today’s headlines email comes in around 7am ET every day.
  • SmartBrief – I get the daily SmartBrief on Social Media. That’s just 1 of 120+ briefs they have.
  • Stratfor – I get weekly geopolitical intelligence reports by email. They’re easy to read and they hit on global topics of current interest. This week: “Misreading the Iran Situation”.
  • USA Today – iPhone app is nice interface and lets you interact with the news (polls, comments, link sharing/posting, etc)
  • Washington Post – You can customize daily email newsletters by topic, columnist, etc. Good to check out your local paper to make sure you hit on news relevant to your hometown.
  • Yahoo! – The OLD homepage. I like to see what’s the most popular news of the day/hour.



Events

  • Eventful – This weekly email is specific to my location and points me to all types of events by topic, location, venue, genre, etc.
  • Ticketmaster – This weekly email points me to all events in and around my area, and particularly shows newly posted events or those with tickets going on sale in the coming days.

Friends & Family

  • Facebook – Kevin Berardinelli likes this.
  • LinkedIn – Best for professional updates and networking for business/employment/research opportunities.
  • TwitterTweetDeck is best on desktop. With a categorization of actual close friends you follow, it’s helpful for staying up-to-date with friends and colleagues. Twitterfon (now called Echofon) or Twitterrific are good on iPhone.

Magazine Subscriptions

  • Amstat News – The magazine of the American Statistical Association. I’m sure some associations or groups related to your topical interests have free or cheap newsletters and publications… so be sure to look around!
  • National Geographic – Best photography ever. And simple stories on basic science that should be of interest to readers aged 6 to 106.
  • Washingtonian – Good local magazine (and it’s cheap). Look around for a hard-copy publication specific to your hometown. It’ll make you feel good.
  • Wired – The best, although I hear FastCompany is on its heels as being coolest?

And Some Rules To Live By…

1. Stay calm. News and technology will always find a way to come to you. You’re the consumer.
2. Stay sane. Take vacations from technology and the internet. Read the paper version of the paper.
3. Stay human. Get news through conversation. Hear what others read. See what others use.

And so I ask you… how do you get your news?

My Alltop – overview and feedback

My Alltop is a simple, intuitive way to manage lots of news headlines from a broad range of topics and sources. It reduces my clicks and browser windows and drives me to read more diversely. However, I am already beginning to feel overwhelmed as I’m up to about 30+ feeds in 5+ major categories. Although I’m happy with its current state, My Alltop needs a couple new features and functionality enhancements if it hopes to be one of my primary click recipients…

Click Here to Visit My Personal Alltop Page


About Alltop (from their site)

“The purpose of Alltop is to help you answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest you. You may wonder how Alltop is different from a search engine. A search engine is good to answer a question like, “How many people live in China?” However, it has a much harder time answering the question, “What’s happening in China?” That’s the kind of question that we answer.

We do this by collecting the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a topic. We group these collections — “aggregations” — into individual web pages. Then we display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. Our topics run from adoption to zoology with photography, food, science, religion, celebrities, fashion, gaming, sports, politics, automobiles, Macintosh, and hundreds of other subjects along the way.

You can think of Alltop as the “online magazine rack” of the web. We’ve subscribed to thousands of sources to provide “aggregation without aggravation.” To be clear, Alltop pages are starting points—they are not destinations per se. Ultimately, our goal is to enhance your online reading by displaying stories from sources that you’re already visiting plus helping you discover sources that you didn’t know existed.”

Some Initial Feedback

1. Feed Management/Layout – The “Manage” window where you can drag and drop your feeds does not match up with My Alltop’s actual layout, due to a big advertisement in the top right of the My Alltop page. It’s not the easiest thing to order feeds how I would like them either. When I drag and drop a feed to a new position, it auto-shifts feeds that I had already positioned in proximal locations. It should be much simpler. How about a “My Feeds” list/column from which you can drag and drop or remove feeds from real estate boxes? Then over time I can always activate or deactivate my feeds, but still have the full set of feeds I am or have been interested in from which I can choose.

2. Feed Categorization – Let users categorize their feeds on the page. Then I can open/close categories to make the best use of my screen real estate at any time. This could then allow me to have a master feed for each category, sorted by date and listing the authoring site. I’m not saying to reproduce Google Reader, but I think there is some simple similar functionality that could and should be employed to make it easier to organize incoming information.

3. New/Old Links – Another similarity to Google Reader would be a functionality that shows new links versus those that have already been seen by the user. Google Reader marks a post or article as read as the reader scrolls past it. In My Alltop, it’d be simply useful to see which links are new on the page, whether or not they have been scrolled over for a preview or clicked on and opened in a new page. The easiest implementation would be something in conjunction with comment #2 above, where in a master feed the latest links are always at the top of the list, similar to Twitter’s homepage (but now for news articles from multiple sources).

Summary

–Google Reader certainly fits a different use case but provides a nice functional model for accessing and organizing lots of news information. So does Google Fast Flip, which was just released and allows for “fast-flipping” of articles from major news publishers, organized by topic, section, and source.

–Incremental developments are helpful for user retention and sustained engagement. With that, there are some simple features that, if implemented, would greatly improve usability and comfort for the My Alltop user.

–My Alltop should continue to become a nice complement to Google Reader and Twitter as primary, personal hubs of near real-time information. Check it out!

start using twitter

Overview What is it?
It’s an easy-to-use application that provides a unique method of networking, news gathering, and friend updates – all in an environment void of censorship or maybe professional restrictions (although there are some general guidelines to follow). Start by setting up your free account, editing settings, personalizing your page, and then researching the use a bit. TubbyBundle has a blog post that is a good resource for beginners, and hopefully the below info can help as well. As of the end of March 2009 there were over 9 million site visitors, a number more than twice that of Feb 09. It will grow more as an acquisition is close to integrating it with everyday Google products…

Definitions & Meanings What do I need to know?

Tweet – A single post of 140 characters or less using Twitter
Followers – People who follow your updates (depending on your settings, you can be open to the public, or require approval before someone becomes a follower)
Following – People whose updates you follow (depending on their setting, you may need to be approved before you can follow)

Mentions – Formerly known as “@Replies”, you can use the “@” symbol before a username to mention another twitter user in your tweet. Instead of mentioning that person by name, mention them by username using the “@” symbol before their username.
Re-Tweets – You can re-tweet something someone else posted. This is useful to spread a post to your network in cases where it may bring good value (and it properly cites the original user who posted it)
Direct Messages – You can write directly to another user that you follow (so nobody else can see that tweet but that user).
Hashtags – Unique way to follow certain topics. Follow the user “hashtags” and they will immediately request to follow you. Then the system can automatically index tags you apply to your tweets and you can follow other topics of your choosing. 
StrategyWhy am I using it and how will I use it?
Is this for business use or for personal use? Will I post news articles I find interesting? What topics would I consider interesting? Is there a niche to fill in my area of interest? Who do I want to be my audience i.e. who will I seek to follow? (news, NGOs, celebs, friends, strangers, experts, academics, etc). Consistencies are nice, but not absolutely necessary (punctuation, humor, cursing, tone, frequency, etc). In my opinion, the best strategy involves being multi-dimensional with some structure to your posts. Maintaining some level of frequency is important while using similar language/structure also helps portray your personality through each tweet, which is important to your followers. I like to post on math, science, me, hot topics, numbers, technology, blog posts, humor, sports, food, education, history. Wide range of stuff, but all within the realm of who I am. I like to post a few in the morning, few in the afternoon, and maybe in the evening on some sports or food or something of that sorts to bring the day to a close – an interesting way to decompress the day is to summarize in 140 characters – weird, right?
Additionally, link your Twitter account up with other social networking or personal applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn, personal blog, etc. Keep in mind the different audiences and who may have access to what you’re posting. If you’re Tommy Lee on Facebook but Martha Stewart on Twitter, either don’t link them or go see a psychiatrist.

Applications – What’s out there for me to use?
There are plenty of web applications, desktop applications, and phone applications to choose from. Check out the Twitter PBwiki page for a comprehensive listing. Some I’d recommend:

  • Web – Use the Twitter homepage or use Twitpic to post images.
  • Desktop – Spaz is a simple app to start if you don’t follow many people. TweetDeck is nice because you can categorize who you follow. I’d go with TweetDeck.
  • Phone – I use Twitterific on the iPhone. I’d change a lot of things on it but it works for now.


Other Resources

Spend some time on the Twitter PBwiki page listing additional resources. Click around on some as they are quite fun. Some good ways to find similar users in your location, follow topic trends, and find out how valuable your page really is. I won’t go through them all but I’ll list a few:
  • TweetValue – get a monetary value of your twitter page
  • Twitterank – see how your user rank gets better over time
  • TinyURL – shorten URLs to put in your tweets
  • Twitter Search – search the public timeline of tweets
  • TweetWheel – see connections b/n you and your friends
  • Twitter-Stats – see stats about you with a visual or two
  • WeFollow – user-generated Twitter directory
Visualization of those I follow and our shared connectivity (from TweetWheel)…
Lastly, have some fun finding value in Twitter. Go to the pages of your close friends and see who they follow, and follow them. Search on some topics and find people who post regularly on topics of interest. Find the news organizations you watch on TV. Find similar users in your area. Don’t follow everyone, but you’ll have the ability to build a network of direct contacts and a feed of real-time info that should be engaging and interesting to you as a daily web user.