This is a post with ideas I’ve considered over time regarding a comment system for the stacks project. The most important thing is that I don’t know what will work. I think initially we want something where it is relatively easy to leave comments, where comments can be tracked (maybe by an rss feed), and where it isn’t too hard to work the comments back into the stacks project.
Structure that exists now:
- lots of tex files coded in a neurotic way so it is (relatively) easy to parse them
- the tags system (Cathy came up with this) which tracks mathematical results as they move around the tex files
- a query page for tags where looking up a tag 0123 returns the results page
- the results page contains links to the mathematical result in the corresponding pdf and moreover (a more recent feature) the latex code of the environment.
Cathy made some suggestions for what a comment system could look like: Besides the “results page” for each tag have a “comments page” where
- the address of the comments page is something like
http://commentson0123for direct access,
- on the query page you can choose to end up on the comments page or the results page for the tag,
- links between comments page and results page,
- Cathy’s ideas about the comments page are:
- at the top of the page a link to the result in one of the pdfs
- have the statement of the lemma/proposition/theorem/remark/exercise there
- under this a small strip where if you click it expands to show you the proof
- under this comments by visitors
- to the right of the statement a small column with two lists:
- the results that rely on this tag and
- the results that are used in the proof of this tag.
I have the following thoughts on this:
- Go for functionality over looks,
- statements of theorems, etc are updated over time and the comments page should always have the current version.
- It may seem that we don’t really need both the results page and the comments page. But I think we do. I want the web addresses of the “results pages” to remain the same forever. These addresses are supposed to be used if you want to give a direct url to a result in the stacks project, and they should not be used for more than a link to the result in the pdf and the statement. I think that in the future all of the stacks project will be directly online (i.e., not in pdf form anymore) and then the “results page” may become a redirect (?) to the result in the project — so we will need another page with the comments.
- I would like there to be a way for the maintainer of the project to check (or be notified) if there is a comment.
- I want there to be a very low threshold for leaving comments, so have minimal protection to comment spam
- Math rendering issues: This is a real problem and I don’t think it has been solved by mathjax. But eventually some software package will take care of this. We can in any case generate png from latex code and put that up on the “comments page”.
Different ideas I have toyed and experimented with in the past
- Have a bug tracking system. What is good about this is that there is standard system that works. My feeling is that it won’t work because the average mathematician has never used or even looked at a bug tracking system.
- Sign off system: Try to get people like Brian Conrad to sign off on tags: “I, Brian Conrad, declare this theorem is correct”. Again I think that this won’t work, yet, but I think it would be a really cool thing to have in the future.
- Layers: Have different “layers” of comments, some historical, some references, some sign-off, some bug, etc. This could probably be managed simply by having different types of comments.
- Mailing list. I actually think this isn’t needed until I convince more people to be active on the stacks project
- Use blogging software with one page for each tag. I actually kind of like this idea, but I do not see how to make it work.
- Use wiki software with one page for each tag. I think this could actually work and be easier to implement then Cathy’s above suggestion provided somebody knows how to set-up wikis. My preference would be a wiki which is file based, or a wiki which uses git to keep track of files, etc.
- Online latex editor for the stacks project
Common feature of all of these ideas: Use already existing, open source, software and just write scripts to interface the stacks project with this. One of my problems with this is that most of the wiki and blog software I looked at will not allow automatic page generation/updating as far as I could tell.
If you have any ideas about this, please leave a comment or email me.