Over the last month or so I’ve sent repeated requests to the arXiv to have trackbacks posted for several of my weblog postings. The first of these requests, back in early November, was answered positively by “mjf”, and the trackback (to a paper by Nekrasov) soon appeared. Since then I have sent repeated requests to the arXiv that they list trackbacks to my postings about papers by Weinberg, Baez, Freed-Hopkins-Teleman, and Tegmark et. al.. I’ve received no response whatsover to these requests, including to requests that they inform me of what the arXiv policy on trackbacks is and why my postings don’t seem to qualify.
Of the four postings involved, two of them (about the papers of Baez and Tegmark et. al.) led to discussions here involving some of the authors of the papers themselves, and I think seeing this discussion could be valuable to people interested in those two papers. I can think of no legitimate reason why trackbacks to those postings should not be allowed. The posting about Freed-Hopkins-Teleman was intended to point physicists to some very interesting new work in mathematics; I also believe some people might find that valuable. Finally, the posting about Weinberg’s article was perhaps more controversial, but I believe it raises legitimate issues that the particle theory community needs to allow public discussion of, and censorship of this is inappropriate.
I’ve looked a few times at the list of recent trackbacks to see if I can figure out from that what the arXiv policy about this is. Today’s list of trackbacks from the period December 20-23 has 6 listings, one from cs.unm.edu and five from golem.ph.utexas.edu. As far as I can tell, at least as far as particle theory is concerned, the arXiv trackback system is being run mainly for the benefit of the owner of golem.ph.utexas.edu, who sits on the arXiv advisory board, and may or may not have something to do with the censoring of trackbacks to my postings. Of course I have no way of actually knowing what is going on here or who is responsible. This situation seems to me to raise questions which the arXiv advisory board needs to address, and I am simultaneously contacting them about this.
Update: I still don’t know exactly what is going on at the arXiv, but from what I’ve heard so far, it is clear that the problem is not a technical or administrative one, so I’m removing the question mark that used to be there in the title of this posting.
Time now to ignore this for a while and start celebrating the holiday with family and friends. Happy holidays to all!
Update: Still no word from the arXiv. Commenter Jose notes that trackbacks to comments at physcomments.org do generally appear on the arXiv. There are instructions at physcomments.org that say:
If and only if a blog annotation starts with an identification paragraph “A Comment by …”, and its subject line starts with the preprint it is commenting about, then it is submited to the ArXiV for consideration. Note that currently the ArXiV reserves its right to reject the trackback ping.
Evidently Alejandro, who runs physcomments.org, has been successful in not only communicating with the arXiv, but getting them to post his trackbacks. He comments here that “It is only via Distler that it has been finally incorporated, and it is partial, experimental etc.” From this I take it that the key to getting arXiv trackbacks posted is, as commenter Chris Oakley suggests, to not have pissed off Jacques Distler, something I seem to have done long ago with my criticisms of string theory.
I’m more and more convinced that what is going on here is all due to the simple fact that Distler doesn’t like me. I was surprised and saddened to note that in his recent posting about Raoul Bott, he links to other postings about Bott by Sean Carroll (who credits my blog as where he learned of Bott’s death) and Lubos Motl, but not mine. I also didn’t realize that Distler was a couple years behind me at Dunster House, an experience that perhaps he has yet to get over.
Update: While I was writing the above, Alejandro submitted a comment noting that, after initial problems getting his trackbacks accepted “now it seems I am allowed to send trackbacks. Of course, one never knows when this permission can change again.”
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