The preface to Michael Dummett’s Frege’s Philosophy of Mathematics is an apology why his book was thirty years late. Following his example, this is an apology why this blog is ten years late!
Setting up a personal blog is something I’ve been meaning to do for, well a long time, probably as long as the early 2000s. As a techie, the first obstacle was the technology. I can’t recall how many different blog platforms I’ve installed only to become side-tracked in playing with the configuration or comparing features between different blogging software.
The other distraction is that sitting in front of a computer is not conducive (for me at least) to thinking – not only are there distractions such as the inrush of incoming e-mails (somewhat belatedly I’ve learnt to switch off the new e-mail notification), but when your day job involves starring at a computer, starring at a computer in my spare time does not necessarily appeal. Most of my best thinking is done whilst walking down the street, or waiting at a bus stop, in the bath etc. – locations where it is not so easy to type up ideas: I don’t find keyboards on mobile phones good for typing more than a few words of text (and typing whilst walking down the street is not a great idea); speech recognition works better for searching (where fuzziness of search can counteract errors in transcription) than dictating (last time I tried speech recognition software it made some interesting sentences out of bath water splashes); and direct mind interfaces are a long way off (and I’m not sure I’d trust it either).
However, the real excuse is that I’m not a natural writer, and tend to regard it as a chore than a delight, so we’ll see how long this blog will last!
As an aside, I was finally jogged into actually creating this blog by the need to help liveblog a workshop at the Royal Society on the Future of Scholarly Communcation. What I hadn’t recalled is that in the preface (from 1991) mentioned above, Dummett on commenting on his disgraceful “completion rate”, he then launches into an attack on how “British universities are in the course of being tranformed by ideologies who misunderstand everything about academic work … [as] part of a transformation of society as a whole … The plan of the ideologies is to increase academic productivity by creating conditions of intense competition … output is monitored by the use of performance indicators … universities have no option but to co-operate in organising the squalid scramble that graduate study has become, in introducing the new ‘incentives’ for their professors and lecturers and in supplying the data for the evaluation process. The question is to what extent they will absorb the values of their overlord and jettison those they used to have .. it is catastrophic when thse politicians display total ignorance of the need to juedge academic productivity on principles quite different from those applicable to industry .. overproduction defeats the very purpose of academic publication.” Much of the discussion at the workshop kept coming back to how broken the current incentive schemes are!