Open Math Notes: the Road in Between

What process of writing works for you?   There are two opposite approaches to writing, which I associate with Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen, and the AMS is now providing a third with the help of its new website Open Math Notes.

The first traditional method is to wait until the entirety of what you want to write fills you, and then to write it in one fell swoop (I have heard that Jane Eyre was written in one night in final form).  This goes along with the beautiful idea (due, I believe, to Jean-Pierre Serre) that it is best to write an article fresh from start to finish enough times so that version n equals version n+1, that being the sign that the paper is ready to submit.   For some people, it seems, it is possible, after some preliminary unseen process, to hold a large and complex idea in the mind and set it down in words in one go.

The second traditional approach is to whittle.  Somewhere I read that Jane Austen explained her writing in this way, though I cannot find the reference:  first write a draft and then carefully rework it detail by detail until it takes a perfect shape.  Perhaps this is like sculpting wood as opposed to painting with ink on rice paper.  Karen Vogtmann has made the lovely quote: first you write it down, then you write it up.

AMS is now in the process of launching a new website called Open Math Notes which facilitates a third way to write a book, appropriate in this age of sharing and collaboration. Authors are invited to submit their lecture notes and other mathematical works in progress to make them available for free download.   The author is still in charge, but readers can weigh in and make suggestions, from general comments on content and structure to specific comments on arguments and exposition.   The website provides a browseable and searchable collection of Notes, which are all freely downloadable for use in teaching and research.

Open Math Notes was officially launched in the beginning of January at the Joint Math Meetings in Atlanta.

Our featured book of the day is inspired more by the recent season of family and giving than by the topic of this blog post.   Enjoy!

Featured Book of the Day

51dclvuqskl-_sx356_bo1204203200_ I Have a Photographic Memory, by Paul R. Halmos

A great book for this time of year.  Reading the book is like looking at a family photo album from the 60s through 80s (if your relatives and close friends happened to include 600 mathematicians!)  The photographs exude warm friendships and collegiality, and the captions are both informative and wonderfully witty.

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