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Clarifying WOF Vision Exercise

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Clarifying WOF Vision Exercise

Thanks for your feedback. We'd like to clarify the process and purpose of the visioning exercise.

Your vision for PM is the ultimate destination you collectively wish the organization to reach. Once those visions have been agreed upon ("aligned") by those within your community who choose to participate, our next steps will be determining as a group the preliminary strategy and tactics to get the organization to what you want to create.

For example, if you are seeking to be an elite math community that uses its platform only for advanced math projects, the types of communication strategies and tactics that emerge will be very different than if you are seeking to be a community that welcomes middle-schoolers and has strategic alliances to develop "PlanetScience" and "PlanetPsychology" as additional revenue streams.

The strategy and tactics derived from your group vision are very specific who-what-where-when-why's of what PM will do over the next three years, including specific commitments by specific individuals to undertake specific actions on behalf of the organization.

But it all starts with the vision of what you wish to create/become. We use a method of aligning visions that has proven highly effective in wildly different types of groups. The first step is for each participant to come up with his/her own vision; then two people work together (online or by telephone or even face-to-face if possible) to come up with a common vision that both endorse. Then we'll have groups of four do the same thing.

It doesn't take all that long to do, and the end result will be a vision that all participants support.

Additionally, this is about resource identification. In order to be a well-rounded non-profit corporation, you do need additional skill sets at the table. Words on Fire is seeking to help link the PlanetMath community to additional beneficial communities, including key media (both consumer and trade), individual and institutional funders, and potentional strategic partners.

Let us know what you think, and we're looking forward to moving forward. (As before, hang on to your completed vision assignment for the moment and we'll arrange partners for you to work with on the next step.)

Carl & Marnita


Another thing that might be worth pointing out is that this is a
living, evolving situation so we can expect things that our answer
to questions like this will grow and change with time. For instance,
right now only we have TeX input, but there is no reason to expect
that, in the future others won't as well --- as a matter of fact,
the media wiki program does accept a fair amount of TeX! Likewise,
I expect that, if PM sticks around, we will develop strengths in other areas. I also think that other communities would be able to reproduce
anything we have to offer but that doesn't bother me; after all, we
could also replicate wht others have but, more to the point, by the
time someone gets around to replicating what we are doing now, I
expect we might well have moved on to doing other things which noone
else will be doing.

Continuing the biological conceit, I would hope that our relation
with Wikipedia, Google, and others to be one of sybiosis rather
than parasitism. So what if Wikipedia winds up rehashing the
standard treatments of mathematical textbooks in the form of free
encyclopaedia atricles? So what if Google scans in all the math
books in the public domain as well as all those available under
free terms and maybe a few more? There still will be a lot of other
work to do tht is worth doing. In fact, I would likely be glad if
this happenned because, insofar as I find things like rehashing
well-worn material and scanning in books to be uninspiring
drudgework, I would be able to do move on to what I consider to
be more interesting and chalenging creative activities like writing
exposition of newer and more advanced results or making novel
pedagogical expositions of already known material because the
groundwork would already have been laid.

As for the issue of others eventually incorporating our content into
their offerrings, that doensn't bother me --- I consider this to be
an essential feature of a free information economy. Whilst in a
bound information economy, the way one profits is by holding on to
hoarded information and using copyrights and patents to keep others
from profiting from the same intellectual content, in a free
information economy, one instead profits from creating content,
adding value to existing content, and offerring services centred
about that content. To be sure, it is not easy offerring free
content in a predominantly bound information economy, but it is not
impossible either. Perhaps the most developed sector of the free
information economy is in software, where there are such concerns
as Red Hat, Debian, and Ubuntu which are able to pay for themselves
even though their operations are centred about free software. As
for us, free math is a lot newer affair, we are likely in a similar
position to free software around 1990 and are immersed in an
environment of publishers and math societites which are heavily
invested in the bound information economy, so it is going to be
rough going, but the fact that others such as the free software
people and Wiipedia are succeeding suggetst that this should be
possible even though it will likely take some cleverness.

Here's the math rmilson was after:

"two people work together...Then ... four do the same thing...It doesn't take all that long to do"

By my calculation, it will only take 32 iterations of this sort to reach 4 billion people working together this way! Lets get started.

:)

Just a Joke, I support helping PlanetMath grow its "vision" but I'm really not interested in considering "additional revenue streams."

Ultimately, the Wikipedia folks will absorb every entry we add, google will finish scanning in all the textbooks in the world (not that far in the future either, maybe within the 3 year mark) and these sites will improve the content by linking to to all the various historical and other entries and PlanetMath will become less relevent.

After all, even if we make ourselves a "reach middle schoolers" website -- well there is only so much math that you teach to a middle schooler so eventually we'll have completed that aspect and then whats the point?

Right now what do we have on these sites? Well, a much better input method for math content: latex.

There was a project to exchange content from and to wikipedia, until a vocal voice said Wikipedia wasn't GFDL complaint and that we shouldn't be taking its content.
f
G -----> H G
p \ /_ ----- ~ f(G)
\ / f ker f
G/ker f

Funny!

Maybe that's what I should get printed on my business cards...

Wow! I would never take content from wikipedia, I don't trust its content with a ten foot pole. My comment is about them pouching our content.

I'd forgotten to tell y'all, in one of Ellen's monologues (I'm not sure if it was a rerun, I don't often get to watch her show) she implied some simple arithmetic computation and disclaimed "Now, I'm no mathematologist..."

My sense is that PlanetMath will actually increase
in relevance. To say why... it is the typical thing:
not by trying to compete with other venues on their terms,
but by figuring out what we do well here and then doing
it even better.

Just don't come down with a case of mathematosis!

> Just a Joke, I support helping PlanetMath grow its "vision"
> but I'm really not interested in considering "additional
> revenue streams."

Without the revenue streams, there isn't going to be a PlanetMath,
so the issue of vision would become moot. As it stands now, the
financial situation of PlanetMath is not sustainable. All we have
now in the way of revenue streams are advertising and personal donations. The former is a drop in the bucket and the latter isn't
all that much either, especially when one takes into account that a
sizable portion of the budget comes from large donations by a handful
of members (and mathching donations from their employers).

Also, the present costs of running PlanetMath look artificially
low for two reasons. Firstly, the site is being hosted for free
on a computer at Aaron's alma mater. Secondly, during the last
few years, most of the labor on the administrative and organizational
end has been provided on a volunteer basis by three individuals
who are not able of keeping on contributing effort at such a level
on an ongoing basis much longer.

As for how much income PlanetMath would need on an ongoing basis,
let us consider a minimal vision of keeping the PlanetMath website
working smoothly. That would entail something like at least the
following:

* A system administrator to take care of the website on a
day-to-day basis.

* Money to hire people to implement features and fix bugs.

* Somebody to find programmers, to administer the bounties and
to take care of other organizational matters.

Underwriting this would require something like $20000 annual income
to pay the system administrator's salary and fund enough bounties
to keep up with the bug reports and the feature requests. This is
already something like twice the amount of money PlanetMath is
raking in now, even worse if one does not assume that long-time
members will continue giving several thousand dollars a year.

However, this is not really enough. Remember that we are running
exactly the same version of the Noosphere program as in 2001 with
only a few tweaks here and there. Now, in the world of informatics,
five years is a long time --- ordinarily, one would release a new
version of a program every year or so to keep up with technological
progress. Therefore, we need to rewrite Noosphere in a year or two
if it is to be more than another curiosity in the retrocomputing
museum. Now, rewriting a program of this size is not a weekend job.
Based on our estimates from writing our grant proposal a few months
ago, I would say that this is going to cost AT LEAST $50000.

Therefore, if we are simply want to have PlanetMath exist in the
future, let alone pursue any vision to expand its scope, we are
going to have to find new revenue streams which will bring in an
income significantly larger than what we currently recieve.

> Ultimately, the Wikipedia folks will absorb every entry we
> add, google will finish scanning in all the textbooks in the
> world (not that far in the future either, maybe within the 3
> year mark) and these sites will improve the content by
> linking to to all the various historical and other entries
> and PlanetMath will become less relevent.

While I agree with the premise, I do not agree with the conclusion. The only way I can accept this reasoning is if I work with an assumption like "PlanetMath is not going to change significantly in the next few years, but will continue doing what it always has been doing irregardless of what everyone else is doing." However, I do not consider such a statement as evident. Rather, I consider it but one possible course of action, and a rather stupid one at that. As for circumstances under which make the purported conclusion would NOT follow from the premise, here are two suggestions.

At the very least, be aware of who else is out there and take them into account in planning. Whilst, in 2001, PlanetMath was quite differrent from other websites, this is not so anymore now that there have arisen a number of online encyclopedias and the like. Therefore, I think it important to make plans in the context of what otheres are up to. Duplicating something which someone else is not only doing, but is better endowed to do, is silly. Rather, we should consider what are our strenghts and weaknesses and focus effort on things which we do well and which complement, rather than clash with, efforts of others.

Even better, collaborate with Wikipedia and Google. We have already started talking with these organizations and I believe we could form productive partnerships with them. Then, rather than being a source of consternation, things like Wikipedia absorbing PlanetMath content or Google making books available online will be beneficial to us insofar as they would take care of the more mundane ways of adding value, letting us concentrate instead on more sophisticated ways of adding value in ways of adding value, such as writing differrent types of exposition, commenting on texts, answering questions, and coming up with new types of illustrative examples, whilst the general availability of books online would only make our job easier and spare us the drudgework of rehashing what has already been said well by many.

> After all, even if we make ourselves a "reach middle schoolers"
> website -- well there is only so much math that you teach to a
> middle schooler so eventually we'll have completed that aspect and
> then what's the point?

The point is that something worthwhile and useful would have been accomplished and that, once you've achieved a particular goal, then move on to another goal.

> Right now what do we have on these sites? Well, a much
> better input method for math content: latex.

What about the following?

Ownership model

Corrections

Question fora

Discussions attached to entries, corrections, etc.

Automatic linking

> Right now what do we have on these sites? Well, a much better input method for math content: latex.

I think that is vastly understated.

I agree with jac that our relevance will actually increase -- even if we do not "fully realize" it, as would be unfortunate.

The understanding I have emerging is that what we have (and will always have, and can have more of) is a community of *people* that does things in a certain way, that no other community has the ability (or maybe desire) to identically reproduce.

To give a concrete example: proofs. Here we think its great that an entry can have 5 alternative proofs attached, but they might balk at that over at Wikipedia. And of course it makes sense, Wikipedia is a *general* encyclopedia, and there are limits to how far that community feels it is reasonable to delve into math.

Another example is how alternative presentations are typically not done at WP; they prefer a single "neutral" presentation, which is more like a traditional encyclopedia. That is great and fine, but it's not what we do here and I don't think it is what we should do.

Another example would be math books scanned into Google. Ok, sure, that could get "everything" online, but it isn't much of a collaborative platform, so how do people provide pedagogical interpretations and summarizations of all that material, using Google alone?

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