Welcome to the new mathblogging.org!

January 31, 2013 § 3 Comments

It’s been almost exactly a year since we presented a demo of how we envisioned the next stage of mathblogging.org at ScienceOnline 2012.

After many ups and downs in 2012, we decided to stop re-writing our old engine. It wasn’t easy to leave our own creation behind but we realized that we couldn’t bring you the quality we wanted to achieve. Instead, we were very lucky to find the folks over at ScienceSeeker.org. They provide their (amazing!) underlying software open source and help us on many other levels.  (But don’t worry, our old software will remain online at old.mathblogging.org and its code is on github.)

To celebrate ScienceOnline 2013, we’re very happy to announce the launch of the new and improved mathblogging.org!

Among our new features are:

  • Our editors! A group of dedicated bloggers who regularly share their favorite pieces, right on the front page — it’s like our Weekly Picks, only better!
  • A user system — register an account & claim your blog today, add comments to posts just like our editors do and have them tweeted right away.  And you can look forward to more features in the near future!
  • An easy way to add sites: just paste the link and we’ll do the rest.
  • A better search — easy to get to, easy to work with, easy to find stuff.
  • A robust API — to build personalized searches, feeds and whatever you can think of (with more in the making).
  • Moar social media!!11!eleventy!! — three new twitter accounts will give you the Editor Picks, the Notes and the firehose feed, with more to come in the future. Google+ and other platforms soon to follow.

Have fun with it and let us know how it goes. And above all:


A small update

December 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

We just pushed a small update to the server.

As usual, most changes are under the hood. There is now a basic filter option for the stats-view. Also, we have started to include snippets in the combined feeds we provide. As usual, there are many easter eggs of upcoming features, so check out our code on github.

This will be the last small update for a while — there’s a big one coming! We’re redesigning the page completely, hoping to both simplify and enhance the visits to mathblogging.org.

Finally, we changed the contact page here on the blog — you can now submit new blogs in an easy web form helping us to get those database updates out faster!

Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments.

Update on the Delft Innovation Award

December 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

As promised two weeks ago, here’s a short update on our preparations for the final next week:

  • You can have a look at the clip made for us here.
  • On the same page you can vote for us in the Public’s Choice Award (but only if you are an employee of the TU Delft).
  • Here’s the poster we will use at the final on December 6:

Poster for the Delft Innovation Award

If you live in the Delft-area, this will be a perfect opportunity to come by and have a chat!

Mid-week update

October 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

We just pushed a second small update within a week. This fixes a second bug that has crept up after our last increase in the database.

Both bugs were due to our code not being efficient enough to handle the amount of feeds we’re aggregating now. The first one occurred on mathblogging.org/bytype . Our code took too long to generate the page (collecting up the recent posts of each feed we aggregate). Since it took too long, the webserver side of the app engine simply aborted the attempt to delive the page.  Although a simple refresh after such a time out gave you the (then cached) page, this was obviously a rather severe bug. We tried to reduce the chance of anyone encountering this problem, but since the app engine does not allow a very good control over caching we couldn’t guarantee anytying.  We’re sorry that it took us so long to fix but the caching is now much more reliable with additional caching redundancies.

The other bug was similar in nature though different in appearance: the great tag cloud at mathblogging.org/planettag had simply disappeared! As before, creating a tag cloud of all posts in all feeds was taking too long. Again, a simple caching was the solution, but we had to re-write a bit more than we’d expected.

In any case, we hope we’re back on track and haven’t caused too much of an inconvenience.

Mid-week non-update

July 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

As you may have noticed, we haven’t updated the code and the database of mathblogging.org in a while. We thought you might be interested in what’s going on.

A big update in the working

We’re currently rewriting the core of our code. As you may have noticed, our code has come to its limits. Since the last database update (to now 370 sources!) the infamous “white boxes” have appeared much more frequently on mathblogging.org/bytype. These “white boxes” usually appear when the fetching process times out. More annoyingly, this means that the feeds are not collected which affects our other pages. Especially our own feeds (which a lot of people are using regularly) are sometimes swamped with entries when the fetching of a single blog suddenly works after timing out for a couple of days.

The recent increase of these timeouts told us that our implementation has really come to a limit. It was time to rewrite it and finally start storing everything properly for more reliable access by the dynamically generated pages.

Not only will this rewrite make mathblogging.org more reliable. It will also improve our pages in general; especially mathblogging.org/bystats and PlanetTAG  will offer better results.

Well, at least that’s what we hope. Yesterday, we finished the basic re-write and started debugging… So gives us a few more days months years 😉

The database update delayed

As we tweeted yesterday, we have collected ~100 new entries for mathblogging.org. But we have decided not to update the database before the code has been improved. As explained above, the problems on mathblogging.org are due to the increased size of the database. If we added  a hundred blogs now, things would most likely get much worse.

So if you want us to add your blog, do let us know! We will let you know that we’ve seen it, but please: be patient! Our reply means that we added your blog to our upcoming database update and so your blog will appear on mathblogging.org as soon as the update goes live.

But please don’t make us feel worse than we already do for such a backlog. We are, after all, working on mathblogging.org in our spare time and sometimes we actually do need to work for a living on our research.

Big update — part 3

June 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

We just pushed part 3 of our big update — the final part which introduces:

New Categories

The changes are rather unspectacular and yet quite large. We have changed the “categories” almost completely. If you remember, mathblogging.org/bytype used to be split into ‘researchers’, ‘groups’, ‘educators’, ‘journalism’, ‘institutions’ and ‘communities’.

This had always been a crude categorization of the blogs in our database. Now that we have introduced PlanetTAG this categorization has become less important. If you’re looking for specific type of content, it’s better to do this by looking for tags and across all blogs; after all, many bloggers are much more versatile than categories could hope to capture.

Nevertheless, we didn’t want to abandon the idea of basic categories. We find (and are found by) more and more bloggers and their takes on mathematical blogging are more diverse than we imagined.

So now we have 13 categories which represent our educated guess on what the primary focus of each blog is.

  • Pure mathematics
  • Applied mathematics
  • Teachers  and educators
  • Visualizations
  • History
  • Art
  • Comics, recreational mathematics and other fun
  • General scientific interest
  • Journalistic writers
  • Journals, Publishers etc.
  • Commercial blogs
  • Communities
  • Institutions

Of course, this change led to a lot of derived changes. There are new feeds for the new categories, there are new ‘by date’ views etc.

We hope you find this useful, especially in combination with PlanetTAG. Please let us know if you find something where we missed to change to the new categories — or if you have a great idea for a missing feature!

Big update — part 2

June 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

We just updated the server with the second part of our three part update.

Introducing PlanetTAG

This part of the update consists of only one part: PlanetTAG! If you follow us on twitter, you might already have found this Easter egg (and noticed it was a little slow). After some more tweaking we’re ready to release a tag cloud. Now you can view the tags most popular across all blogs.

But, you say, a tag cloud has to be more than just pretty! We got you covered: we combined the tag cloud with the idea of PlanetMO to create PlanetTAG. Click on a tag in the cloud and you get the 50 most recent posts with that tag in any blog in our database.

There’s one caveat though. We cannot give you more than we get — the tag cloud will only be useful if bloggers use tags well. In fact, we had to manually removed the tag “Uncategorized” since it would be dominant otherwise.

In any case, we hope this will be a useful tool for you while exploring the richness of mathematical blogs!

Big update — part 1

May 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

A couple of minutes ago we’ve updated the server with the first of a three part update that we’ve been working on for some time now.

Posts By Date and Weekly Picks

There are two visible new features. Fred made some specialized versions of the “posts by date”-view so that you can view the latest posts in each category; these views can be found in the menu. We also decided to replace the “Favorites” with our weekly picks. The main reason for the latter was that that view had virtually no hits while the weekly picks had a few.

Bug fixes

On the less visible side, our feeds should behave better now thanks to both published and updated timestamps; in other words, updated posts will not appear on the top of our lists anymore and you can let your  feed reader decide whether you care for updated posts. For our views we switched to the published timestamp as in our experience blog posts with significant updates are rare in the blogs that we display. Also, the feeds should now be w3c-compliant — well, as far as it’s in our control since we generate automatically out of the accumulated feeds and sometimes those are not compliant.

As you may have noticed, the “Stats”-view has been partially broken for a while now. This bug was due to inefficient code and Felix had written an update 2 weeks ago. But the bug was not too severe, more an inconvenience really; because we were working on a couple of new features, we decided to wait with our update.

Easter Egg

There’s also a new Easter egg. For now, this isn’t visible but feel free to find it in our code and let us know what you think. We’ll test it over the next few days to see how it behaves in terms of bandwidth etc. If all goes well, we’ll make it public in part 2 of the big update.

Stay tuned.

Mathblogging.org downtime

April 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

As you might have noticed, we are experiencing some downtime on mathblogging.org — once again we’ve hit the limits of our bandwidth.

We’re looking into the causes and we’ll be back with an update as soon as possible.

Sorry for the inconvenience.


Update: We’re still not absolutely sure what happened.

The cause of our outage is simple: we had depleted our daily quota for both CPU hours and incoming bandwidth. That’s different from our previous downtime where the sudden popularity via yCombinator led to the depletion of our outgoing bandwidth.

From what we can see right now, two reasons come to mind. The plausible one is that our update last week came with a bug; we probably did not estimate the effect of the new functionality correctly. This thought is supported by the steady increase in bandwidth use since our update. In fact, we only now noticed two shorter outages that we missed both yesterday night and the night before that. Ironically, it might be that the bug came with our efforts to reduce bandwidth (via more efficient caching etc). But such is life.

The much less plausible scenario would involve blaming somebody else, i.e., somebody else’s misdirected script activated our (unprotected) update mechanism for the feeds; given what we can see so far, this scenario does not seem likely but who knows.

Right now we’ve just spend some time to write fixes for both scenarios. Local testing looked good, but we’ll have to wait until the daily quota resets in a couple of hours to see what the reality of things looks like.

We’re sorry if this caused anybody any inconvenience. We’ll keep you updated here and on twitter.

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