Starting a community blog has been proposed a couple of times, to a fair amount of support, but nothing has ever gotten off the ground. StackExchange already has a platform for site blogs, and a number of our sister sites have successful blogs.

I'm proposing the idea once again, but in light of the previous threads I am going to assume there is some interest and jump right into figuring out the details.

  • Scope:

    • Highlighting and expanding on great posts on the main site.

    • Short exposition pieces on interesting mathematics, primarily at the advanced high school to advanced undergraduate level.

    • Current events of interest to the mathematical community, such as major conferences, outreach efforts like Mathematics Awareness Month, and major awards like the Fields and Abel medals.

    • Very general outlines of the work behind recent major breakthroughs, or concerning the status of potential breakthroughs, such as Mochizuki's claimed proof of the ABC conjecture.

    • Reviews of new math books (or even old ones that contributors have read recently).

  • Non-scope: There are some things which a site blog might well contain which I think we should avoid.

    • Posts about Math.SE itself: I think these should stay on meta.

    • Posts at a very high level: Posts on a site blog should be accessible to a large portion of the community. At a high level, not only does someone need to be very advanced to understand it, but they will probably also have to work in the same field, severely limiting the scope.

  • Frequency: 1 post/week but subject to change. We have a large community of active and involved users, so I think this is quite achievable. For example, this would only require 12 contributors posting every 3 months. The ideal frequency is high enough so that people's posts come out not too long after being submitted, but low enough that we can maintain a small buffer in order to stay on schedule.

  • Management: I think the blog should have 2-3 administrators, who can approve posts for publishing and could maintain a Google spreadsheet with the schedule for upcoming posts. Post ideas could be proposed and discussed through a dedicated chat room. Posts in progress could be shared via Google documents or a similar such service. The process would look roughly like the following:

    1. Post idea is proposed in chat and okay'ed by community and at least one admin.

    2. Contributor writes rough draft of post and shares it with the community. The community offers suggestions to approve the post.

    3. The contributor produces a final draft which is okay'ed by an admin and added to the schedule.

I have two questions for the community:

  • Are you interested?

  • What changes would you like to see in this proposal?

Assuming there's interest, I will incorporate the feedback into a revised outline for the blog and make a new thread soliciting starting administrators and contributors.

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    $\begingroup$ Personally I would love to hear some of these things (which are not a good fit for the QA format) from the very diverse and active MSE community. $\endgroup$ – Juan Sebastian Lozano Apr 17 '14 at 4:06
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    $\begingroup$ Does the Stack Exchange platform for site blogs support LaTeX? $\endgroup$ – Américo Tavares Apr 17 '14 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ @AméricoTavares: This is one thing we'll have to contact the SE folks about. Right now it doesn't appear that any of the SE blogs support MathJax, but I don't believe it would be too difficult to add this (IMHO necessary) feature. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Apr 17 '14 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ @AméricoTavares: I was just in contact with Grace Note who assured me that they have a plugin for MathJax support on the blogs. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Apr 17 '14 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ Where is the boundary between "Short exposition pieces" and a solution to a particular problem? For example, something like "How to solve Problem ___ of the 20XX Putnam Exam" would probably be out of scope for the blog (too narrow). But, if we could generalize a particular approach so it would work to solve many problems, would that be on-topic for the blog? (Or should this be a separate question after the blog "gets going"?) $\endgroup$ – apnorton Apr 18 '14 at 3:38
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton I think a particular problem could very well be a short exposition piece, provided it is reasonably involved. An exposition would problem not only solve the problem, but provide extra context or background for it. $\endgroup$ – Alex Becker Apr 18 '14 at 3:39
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    $\begingroup$ I'm very interested in participating but I won't have time to blag until after finals. I'll put my name down once I decide on what I want to write about. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Apr 18 '14 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ I think that one of the most interesting possibilities would be a style of post similar to the "What is..." series from AMS. Basically, take a concept most people have heard of, but in buzz-word sort of way, and try and explain it to a general mathematical audience. For example, "What is...A Sheaf", "What is...a Manifold", "What is...ZFC", "What is...an Elliptic Curve". $\endgroup$ – Alex Youcis Apr 20 '14 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexYoucis: That's an excellent suggestion! You would be obviously qualified to write about "What is… A Scheme" :) $\endgroup$ – Prism Apr 24 '14 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Prism Thank you for your kind words. I'd be willing to do a post, I just don't know which topic to pick. I don't know if "What is...a Scheme" would be appropriate :) $\endgroup$ – Alex Youcis Apr 25 '14 at 6:51
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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to help out with the blog by editing and such. I run the Programmers.SE blog (which we are trying to get back on its feet), and I may be able to help out in getting this started. $\endgroup$ – Dynamic Apr 26 '14 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ Why not accept high level posts in the blog while MSE accepts all levels of math questions? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato May 23 '14 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ Some members don't like publishing mathematical ideas like this in MSE. Can we do it in the blog? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato May 23 '14 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexBecker I'm waiting for your answers to my questions above to your proposal. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato May 25 '14 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ the devil is in the details isnt it? an editor volunteered whose independent decision for publication of a post seemed to be already overruled/rejected by site mod(s). is this what you had in mind? how independent is the blog supposed to be from mods, who are quite involved in closing low-quality Q/A (based on subjective opinions) and might perceive that same obligation applies to blog reviews/posts? $\endgroup$ – vzn Jun 8 '14 at 15:05

This answer is mainly to gather a list of interested potential contributors.

Edit it to add your display-name, and a very brief description of a topic if you would be willing and prepared to have a suitable blog post ready for submission by 17 May 2014. If your display-name is not unique, also include a link to your user profile, so everyone can identify you.

IMPORTANT! Be honest. It is likely that the undersigned will be called upon to submit the first few blog posts. Don't add someone else's display-name in the hopes of suckering encouraging some other poor sap user into this dirty work endeavour. Also, don't remove other users' proposals.

When your proposal is ready for publication: Please preface your entry with [Ready for posting] so we know who is ready, and who is not.

  1. Alex Becker: The Complex Real Roots of $x^3-3x+1$. (Level: Moderate-Advanced Undergraduate.) Once you know the quadratic formula, $x^3-3x+1$ is about the simplest nontrivial polynomial you can come up with. However, it is also an example of the casus irreducibilis. All $3$ of its roots are real, and can be expressed in terms of square and cube roots, but not without using imaginary numbers!

  2. Blue: The Seven Faces of a Tetrahedron. (Level: Advanced High School.) A Law of Cosines for dihedral angles in a tetrahedron reveals the figure's three "pseudo-faces", which can be used to devise a variety of formulas, such as a Heron-esque formula for volume in terms of the seven total face areas. (Note: The material lays a conceptual foundation for a topic that extends into Hyperbolic Space at a higher academic level and admits numerous open questions.) [May have to drop out of first wave. Sorry!]

  3. Ron Gordon: Uses and misuses of the residue theorem in evaluating real integrals and sums. (Level: Advanced Undergraduate) The residue theorem is a fantastic tool for evaluating some integrals and sums, and there are many examples in Math.SE of its effective use. Unfortunately, there are also a number of examples in which the theorem, or its applicability, is completely misunderstood. The blog posts will address the use of the residue theorem as a practical tool to evaluate integrals and sums, as opposed to its use because the professor demanded it be used to evaluate such-and-such an integral.

  4. [Ready for posting] Michael Greinecker: Matching theory. (Level: Early Undergraduate) Exposition of the Gale-Shapley algorithm and structural properties of stable matchings. Link

  5. Goos: The coin-minting game. (Level: Advanced High School) Explanation and exploration of a game due to Conway. Symmetries related to the Coin problem; non-constructive proof of a winning strategy; proof that the game always ends despite its highly unbounded nature; open questions.

  6. Daniel Rust: Sturmian Sequence. (Level: Moderate Undergraduate) An introduction to a special class of bi-infinite sequences comprised of two letters and the many ways they can be constructed and ultimately classified. Using continued fractions we can devise a 'test' to see whether two Sturmian sequences are 'equivalent' in a very general sense; links between geometry and combinatorics; open problems concerning higher dimensional analogues. <- I would like to do this post in the future, but I cannot have it ready by the deadline.

  7. anorton: Dial Game (Level: Advanced High School.) Consider an arrangement of $5$ dials, each with $13$ possible settings (labled $0$ through $12$, inclusive). Given a set of possible "moves" (e.g. "move 1 rotates dials $1$ and $3$ clockwise, but $5$ counter-clockwise) and a starting configuration of the dials, what sequence of moves will point all dials towards $0$? Brute force is possible, but would take an exorbitant amount of time. Using linear algebra and modular arithmetic, solving the problem takes relatively little time. <- I would like to do this post in the future, but I cannot have it ready by the deadline.

  8. [Ready for posting] anorton: Area of Polygons (Level: Advanced High School or Early Undergraduate.) Given an ordered list of points describing the vertices of a polygon, one can compute the area. This post will derive such a formula using Green's Theorem. [Side note: I don't really want to do two posts back-to-back, but I would do so if need be.] Link to current version.

  9. Sanath Devalapurkar: Puzzles in the Foundation of Mathematics - Russell's paradox (Level: Advanced High School.) Naive set theory is usually what is (falsely) thought of, by people introduced to set theory, as set theory itself. This post will show one example of a paradox that arises from naive set theory, and lists and provides a basic explanation to a few alternatives to naive set theory, such as $\mathsf{ZFC}$ and topos theory.

  10. [Ready for posting] Mark Dominus (MJD): When do the numbers $A$ and $2A$ have exactly the same (base-10) digits? (Level: advanced high school upwards) I will show how to prove that there are no such $A$ with fewer than 6 digits, and how to find examples with 6 or more digits without resorting to a brute-force computer search. The method I show will explain why all examples of 9 or fewer digits share a certain curious property. NOTICE My article needs editing. Email me if you are willing to read it over.

  11. [ready] vzn. informally/briefly highlight/"gloss over" some advanced/challenging/research math already profiled in personal blog but from an undergrad pov, something like a brief TOC/overview/grab bag of some neat/deep subjects worthy of further study, some tend to cross with CS, some recent breakthroughs in field. namely: Collatz conjecture, Zhang twin prime proof, automated thm proving, Erdos discrepancy problem/Polymath, Erdos 100, P vs NP problem (Claymath prize etc), maybe others.

  12. [First Draft] Jyrki Lahtonen. Two points determine a line, three a quadratic - what has that got to do with CDs? (Level: Advanced High School - Intermediate Undergraduate) An introduction to the algebra of error detection/correction on CDs driven by toy examples. Expected to be ready by the end of May.

  13. [Ready for posting] Paramanand Singh. Playing with Partitions: Euler's Pentagonal Theorem (Level: Advanced High School - Early Undergraduate) Although this proof of Pentagonal theorem by Franklin is well known, I believe I already have my handwritten notes which are elaborate/simple enough to make sense to a high school student. I should be able to put it in blog format by next weekend (17th May 2014). See "Text version on dropbox" and "on stackedit.io"

  14. [Ready for posting] Will Jagy As requested by Jyrki here Binary quadratic forms over Z and class numbers of quadratic fields. About ten pages in Latex, 12 point. No idea what happens next, don't know blogs or mathjax. Also never had any luck with dropbox or similar. Have files BLOG.pdf and BLOG.tex for anyone who does know what happens next and is willing to read the thing. My gmail address is most suitable. Today is 14th July, 2014. Would I lie? Tuesday, 15 July: no further changes came to mind, so I placed the final version, both pdf and .tex, at MMMEEEEEE just under my picture. Meanwhile, mixedmath seems to be at CONFERENCE. Alright, was able to post a draft and edit to some degree. Remaining big problem: I put lengthy computer outputs, I need them to to format the way my C++ program printed them. There does not seem to be a satisfactory blog edit command for a block of multi-line code, although there is a "code" button that does something or other.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe 6 is enough to give it a try now ... ? $\endgroup$ – Sawarnik Apr 22 '14 at 9:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Sawarnik: I don't think the goal is "to give it a try", but rather to establish a big enough repository so it doesn't start with a bang, and some short time after it dies out. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 25 '14 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ So, can anyone write about anything, or do we expect the people that write about a certain topic will have some "cred" as knowledgeable about it? (E.g. either it's someone with real world reputation, or someone with sufficient reputation in the relevant tags on the site, or something like that.) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 3 '14 at 5:47
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    $\begingroup$ Or in other words. Being a graduate student does IMHO give real world cred. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 3 '14 at 8:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Jyrki: I'm just messing with you. I agree that being a grad student in the field should be a sufficient real world credibility for talking about it. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 3 '14 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Sanath: Surely as an ignoramus of set-theory I am the wrong person to judge that. I wasn't targeting anyone particularly. I just had some vivid flashbacks about the first Wikipedia math articles in my native language. It was clear that to the early authors being a Wikipedia enthusiast was more important than actually knowing any math. Here we have better crowdsourced quality control at hand, so my worries are not justified. Looking forward to reading your bit. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen May 3 '14 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ @SanathDevalapurkar Because you are young, there is the danger that you will try to pack too much information into a single blog post. Why talk about ZFC and topos theory in the same post? Do you want to talk about topos theory without first introducing category theory? Do you want to talk about ZFC without first introducing first order logic? Did you ever get an "accepted for publication after major revision" editor decision, with less than a month time for resubmission? Why not try to aim for "less", and turning it into "more" by putting the saved effort into a beautiful presentation? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Klimpel May 4 '14 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ Who will be contacting the contributors, and by what channel? $\endgroup$ – MJD May 6 '14 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ re TKs comment, thats one of the numerous beauties of blogs, they can be used to cover diverse topics in brief or a personal way if thats what inspires the author & they have some way of tying it together, or even if its just their own idiosyncratic interests. hope that wide variety of personal styles will be tolerated and/or even encouraged. $\endgroup$ – vzn May 7 '14 at 0:13
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    $\begingroup$ To all: When your blog entry is ready for publication, please prefix your proposal with [Ready for posting]. This will give us an idea of who we can call on, and who we can't, for publication. $\endgroup$ – apnorton May 7 '14 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ I was not expecting to be the first person ready with an article. It seems that fewer people than expected are prepared to deliver articles, so I am concerned that the blog might sputter out after a few weeks. If that seems likely, I think I would prefer to post my article on my own blog instead of on a non-starting math.se blog. $\endgroup$ – MJD May 12 '14 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ @GrigoryM: I have put the text of my post at dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/143641614/… and you can just copy paste this stuff into any MSE question/answer window and get a preview. Any kind of feedback would be greatly appreciated. $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh May 13 '14 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ Seeing as it's past the May 17 deadline, and only 4 entries have claimed "ready" (although, I think that all of us could probably use some revision), I'm a little concerned about the prospects of the blog... $\endgroup$ – apnorton May 19 '14 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton: My contribution is nearly ready. I got side-lined by considering an open question I was raising. :) Plus, I'm editing in TeXShop and need to re-format a bit for MathJax. I hope to be done "soon". $\endgroup$ – Blue May 19 '14 at 23:39
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    $\begingroup$ @ParamanandSingh (and to others interested in the blog): In light of the much-lower-than-promised delivery so far, Grace Note would like to see what kind of progress is happening from the other users who said they would commit by the 17th. $\endgroup$ – davidlowryduda May 22 '14 at 0:18

I’m Grace Note, a Community Manager at Stack Exchange. I’m also the one in charge of maintaining our community-run blogs.

We’ve learned a lot by creating these per-site blogs for, essentially, anyone who asked for them. But in honesty, we have not been doing enough to make blogs work, not for the contributors nor for the communities that are associated with them. As such, going forward we at Stack Exchange are suspending the creation of new blogs until we make some changes. However, I see here 11 potential articles from 11 potential authors, and what appears to be a fairly large amount of push to try and make this not just a reality, but a spirited one at that. So we're going to make an exception here to consider setting up the Mathematics blog sooner. Two points here.

  1. A major fallout in a lot of community-run blogs is that the project starts with a good number of enthusiastic writers all providing something to start it off. But then the steam is lost shortly afterwards and the system goes from a handful of writers to zero writers. Basically the blog is the sort of thing that they can submit if they have an idea but in lacking any sort of obligation or pull, they won't attempt to necessarily find ideas.

    To this point, it is recommended that there should probably be 1-2 people who want to take charge and "own" the blog, so to speak. This "owner" would be responsible for setting up schedules and for getting the writers to abide the schedule. You want someone who will keep the wheels in motion so that there's always fresh content coming out. We're not going to require this but it would be helpful if the community tries to organize someone for this role.

  2. I know y'all have set this May 17th deadline you're using for the blog posts. What I'd like to see is the actual contents of, let's say 2 or 3 of the posts, when that May 17th deadline rolls around. Post them here, or host them someone online and link it from here - main thing is to get it past my eyes. I'd like to review and see what exactly this community is hoping to write about, by seeing what they do write about. Shortly after I review the stuff, a final decision will be made on whether or not we do make a full exception here and create the Mathematics Blog.

I look forward to seeing what people are planning to write!

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    $\begingroup$ you describe lack of continued blog content as "fallout" but it seems not a major reason to hold off on new blogs. there seems zero negative consequence of blogs that start but then dont continue to publish. as for "obligation or pull" lets remember that everything on se is voluntary and blogs, which require significantly more work than answers, are not even incentivized with the rep point system. so therefore to add momentum, se could consider providing some degree of additional incentives besides mere exposure on the blogs. (and the exposure element of se blogs itself is unknown) $\endgroup$ – vzn May 11 '14 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn I covered a good deal of this in chat, but to summarize. The reasons blogs aren't active are primarily derivative of shortcomings in our implementation. I brought up the first numbered point as something that the blog folks would want to be on top of not for our sake as the hosts, but for the blog itself and your community. The community's concern should be in the upkeep of a successful blog, not on the attributes of an unsuccessful blog. As for incentives, we're still formulating about how to properly implement it all. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note May 14 '14 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ "The reasons blogs aren't active are primarily derivative of shortcomings in our implementation." the se blogs seem to have all the basic features of blogs, dont know what shortcomings you are referring to, think cooling enthusiasm/contributions is more likely a basic property of "the psychology/motivations of blogging" eg as in this NYT link shared in chat, "when the thrill of blogging is gone" $\endgroup$ – vzn May 14 '14 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think accepting that blogs tend to be inactive is healthy. It still is inactive. Active is healthier than inactive, and we are a group who prefer to strive for excelling, not for what is merely acceptable or expected. And in wanting to do so, it's in not just our interest, but again, the interest of those blogging, that we provide tools that make things better for everyone. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note May 14 '14 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ Even if what you're thinking isn't final (in fact, especially so), I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts you have regarding our attempts thus far, if that's not too presumptuous on my part. :) $\endgroup$ – apnorton May 20 '14 at 2:41
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    $\begingroup$ @anorton I've been reading yours, Paramanand, and vzn's articles (as MJD has been requesting editing help I figured I'd let that run through before I gander). I've been pretty happy with what I read, though I share your concern about the fact that so many folks stepped up but only 4 delivered. I might want to know what exactly the progress from the rest of the writers on their articles in order to make a final decision. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note May 20 '14 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ @GraceNote: For the articles which are ready, do we have any review process (not necessarily a formal process, but some feedback from anyone here?) $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh May 22 '14 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ @GraceNote: The chat doesn't seem to want to let me log in (which is fine, I'm not really a chatter), so I'll report here: I'm 80-90% done with my post, and trying to come up with a decent ending. :) $\endgroup$ – Blue May 22 '14 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ thx much for reading/reviewing the articles incl mine, glad to hear you are "mostly happy" so far. huh, wonder if any of the flagging cross-site enthusiasm by writer volunteers you cite is ever due to perception or encountering of administrative hoops/obstacles etc :( ... as you write, it seems you mostly pin the lack of engagement or disengagement on the writing volunteers, but could there be other reasons that can be addressed by mgrs? $\endgroup$ – vzn Jun 8 '14 at 14:50

Okay, so I think we have a pretty good stable of interested early contributors. I still think there are some things that need to be fleshed out before we formally inform the SE folks about our desire for a community blog.

  1. First of all, we should figure out the "administration" of the blog: people willing to take on the task of trying to keep everything on schedule, and approving posts for "publication".

  2. Think of some "recurring features" we might want to have. These should enable us to add new posts on a fairly regular basis (though the features themselves do not have to appear regularly).

    • Some other community blogs have "Question of the Week" posts, which in some manner highlight a question or answer voted on by the community. I think something like this could be useful in bringing more attention to some of our best content, but the "of the Week" portion is certainly mutable.

    • As mentioned in Alex Becker's original post, posts giving some information about recent major math award winners (Fields' Medal, Abel Prize, etc).

    • When major math competitions end (and problems are available to the public), it might be nice to have posts that outline their solutions.

    • Reviews of new or old math books.

    • [insert an idea here]

  3. [Anything I've missed?]

To perhaps speed things along, I have created a new chat room devoted to discussions about this project. Stop by and share your ideas, thoughts and concerns. (I'm also taking suggestions for a witty yet descriptive name for the room.)

Without the involvement of the community, the blog will not happen.

I don't think we can rely on only a small number of people to help out and keep the blog going. Our community blog should be a community effort. We've got a start, but I'm afraid that the steam has already run out. Prove me wrong!

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    $\begingroup$ volunteered, got involved, thought there would be a largely community driven aspect, & perceive some unilaterial editorial decision by single or few mods that apparently overruled an editorial decision to publish :( ... prove me wrong ... kinda makes me "lose my steam" :( ... think mgt has zero justification to complain about involvement if any reasonable contributions are being turned away $\endgroup$ – vzn Jun 8 '14 at 14:55

Once a week as posting frequency is too ambitious. I would recommend once per month as a start, with a goal of every other week. That way, you won't, well, let's say likelihood of perceived failure is lessened.

* Possibly silly suggestion: Every other week publishing frequency would be good for distinctive branding, using fortnightly in the blog header or meta-description.

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    $\begingroup$ At this older question, $13$ people voted to indicate they would post at least once a month, and $23$ people voted to indicate they could post at least once every three months. Therefore, in order to meet the goal of once a week, we only need people to post $52 / (23 \cdot 4 + 13 \cdot 12) \approx 20 \%$ of the time they said they would. Once a month is certainly too low. $\endgroup$ – 6005 Apr 25 '14 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Goos Okay. I have seen what happened on other SE's, but perhaps it will be different here. $\endgroup$ – Ellie Kesselman Apr 25 '14 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ I looked up the other SEs and it is somewhat worrying. I guess we will see. $\endgroup$ – 6005 Apr 27 '14 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for fortnightly, but not for once per month. $\endgroup$ – apnorton May 1 '14 at 16:35

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