Tag Archives: Meta

Farewell Scientopia, Welcome to Goodmath.org!

Welcome to the new home of Good Math/Bad Math!

Sorry about the change. I know that it’s a pain for readers to switch to following the site at a new location. But it was, honestly, necessary.

Scientopia was originally set up to be a community. I know this, because I was the founder. Back before ScienceBlogs pulled its PepsiBlog stunt, I’d been considering leaving and setting up an alternative, non-profit community. When PepsiGate happened, and my friend Scicurious volunteered to help, I flipped the switch, and turned on what became scientopia.

Since then, I’ve been footing the bills – around $250/month. And I’ve been doing all of the systems administration – every backup, every upgrade, every cache tweek, every DDOS attack – I’ve taken care of them all on my own time. Even after we started showing ads, I’ve never gotten back a single cent. Just that endless drain of time and money.

And that was OK. Really. I’ve been doing it for 3 1/2 years, and while it was a lot of work, I kept at it. I genuinely believed in the ideals that we wrote into the scientopia charter. I really believed that the community we’d built was a good thing, a thing worth supporting.

Scientopia was supposed to be a community. A community where we made decisions, as a group. Where we interacted with each other as peers. Where, as our code said, “It is a community, held together by mutual respect and operated by consensus, in which people can write, educate, discuss, and learn about science and the process of doing science”.

But people are people. If you’ve got more than two people in a group, you’ll wind up getting some politics. And Scientopia, as a community, is no different.

As you may have noticed, Scientopia was down, for about 36 hours. Why?

Because our DNS record got messed up. DNS is the system on the internet that’s used to map from hostnames to numbers. It’s the thing that your web-browser uses to get from “scientopia.org” to the numeric, which tells it where scientopia.org can be found on the network. The DNS registration was expiring, and the person who controlled the DNS decided to move to a different registrar, and they created an invalid DNS record with the new registrar. As a result, no one could get to scientopia. This was completely beyond my control: this person had sole control of the DNS record, and refused to allow anyone else access.

(For the tech-heads out there, after switching DNS providers, this person only created a CNAME record for the site. CNAME records are aliases/redirects from one resolvable hostname to another resolvable hostname. Since our IP address isn’t a resolvable hostname, DNS servers rejected the record as invalid, and thus Scientopia was not resolved.)

Fine. Screwups happen, right?

Except for the part where the guilty party decided to blame me. To cover up for their screwup, by lying about what was wrong, and blame it on me. To scapegoat me – not just about this, but to accuse me of general incompetence, and to blame me for the repeated DNS screwups.

The DNS record continues to be the one piece of infrastructure of scientopia that remains in the hands of one person. Despite repeated promises to turn them over to the community, it hasn’t happened. There’s been one condition, one excuse after another. When the community elects a governing board. When the community incorporates. When the community formally registers members as owners. For three and a half years, it’s always been a unkept promise. The community was never allowed to have any access to managing the DNS record.

Even when the site was down, allowing anyone else to have any access to the password needed to fix it was simply out of the question. I was expected to – and did, years ago – turn over the passwords to the site hosting account, which was secured with my personal credit card. But getting the site back up? Too much to ask for. And then they didn’t even have the decency to admit that they made a mistake, but instead tried to blame it on me. (And, I’ll add, has still refused to admit that registering the CNAME was an error, at all.)

This wasn’t the first time something like this happened. This has been a repeated pattern. Not the first, but I decided that it had to be the last.

Running a blog site like Scientopia is a lot of work. Keeping it up, monitoring it, keeping it up to date, dealing with every problem that any of the bloggers have – it’s a lot of work. At times, it’s a lot of aggravation. When you add malicious behavior and abuse on top of that? It’s just too much to put up with.

I’ve still got a lot of people at Scientopia that I consider my friends. I wish them well. But I’m done with it.

The Best Dog in the World is Gone


Things on the blog are probably going to be quiet for a while. My beloved pup, Nutmeg, died last night. He had pancreatic cancer, which had spread to his lungs, liver, and bones. He finally reached the point where even potent medication wasn’t enough to relieve his pain enough, so we had to euthanize him. He died with the entire family
there holding him. I’ve never known another dog like him; he had the most
amazing, wonderful temperament. He was one of the sweetest, gentlest, most loving creatures I’ve ever known. I miss him terribly.

Comments Should be Working

Seed’s tech guy did a reset and restart of the server, and it appears that now I’m able to turn off registration without completely disabling comments. So everyone who’s been having trouble commenting, please give it a try again, and let me know if you have any trouble.

Commenting Problems

Just a quick status notice: a bunch of commenters have been having problems with the system demanding authetication to be able to comment. I’m trying to fix it with the help of the SB tech folks. My first attempt made things worse, and made it impossible for anyone to comment. I’m trying to re-enable comments now, but since I’m not sure what disabled them, I’m not sure of what will work. Commenting ability using typekey authentication will be re-enabled ASAP; and commenting without authentication will be re-enabled as soon as the SB techs can figure out what’s causing the authentication requirement.

Framing and Expelled: Why the Framers are Mis-Framing

I’m going to jump into the framing wars again. As I mentioned last time,
I think that most folks who are “opposed” to framing really don’t understand what they’re talking about – and I’ll once again explain why. But on the other hand,
I think that our most prominent framing advocates here at SB are absolutely
terrible at it – and by their ineptitude, are largely responsible for
the opposition to the whole thing.

Continue reading


As you’ve probably noticed, things have been rather slow around here lately. I’ve got more posts in the works on group theory and abstract algebra – but they take a lot of time to research and write, so they’ll be coming out slowly – one a week or so.

In the meantime, I’m looking for other topics to write about, and I’d like to know what you, my faithful readers, are interested in hearing about.

Some things I’ve considered:

  • Cellular automata: CA are very cool. I’ve been wanting an excuse to read my copy of Wolfram’s text.
  • Data structures: my programming-related posts have always been very popular; and there’s a collection of unusual data structures that have interesting mathematical properties.
  • Game theory: a pretty cool area of math.
  • Conway’s games: basically the second half of Conway’s ONAG.

Or any other mathematical subject that you’re interested in learning about. Suggest away in the comments.

And keep those bad-math links coming!

Science Diversity Meme: The CS Mutant

At Science, Education, and Society, the Urban Scientist
posts a meme to name five women scientists from each of a list of fields. Sadly, my fields are left off the list. So I’ll respond in my own way
by adding computer science. This is a very idiosyncratic list – it’s women
who are particularly important to my own experience as a student and later
practitioner of computer science.

It’s worth noting that I’ve got a very atypical experience as a computer
scientist, in that many of the most influential people in my
career have been women. That’s very unusual, given the incredibly skewed
ratio of men to women in computer science. But as an undergraduate student,
a graduate student, and a professional researcher, the majority of people who had a great influence on my education and career have been women.

  1. Fran Allen. In a list of women in computer science, Fran has to
    be at the top. (I’ve met Fran Allen personally, and she told me
    to call her Fran.) Fran was the first woman to earn the Turing award – and
    the only real question concerning her getting it is why the hell it took
    so long. I used to work at IBM Research, where Fran also works, but I knew
    about her long before I went there. Fran is one of the people who
    created the field of compilers. I had the amazing good
    fortune to meet Fran on several occasions, and she’s one of the
    most pleasant, interesting people that I’ve ever spoken to. She’s also
    an incredibly active advocate for women in math and science, and her
    tireless effort has probably brought more women into the field than
    anyone else. (Yes, when it comes to Fran, I am pretty much a drooling
    fanboy. Fran is my idol :-). If in my career, I can accomplish 1/50th
    of what Fran did, I’ll be a very proud and happy person.)
  2. Grace Murray Hopper. Admiral Grace Murray Hopper was one of the designers of the
    Cobol programming language. You could make an argument about whether
    Adm. Hopper or Fran Allen really deserved to be the first woman to earn
    the Turing award. Personally, having heard her talk a few times, I don’t
    think she held a candle to Fran. But it’s undeniable that she played
    a crucial, formative role in the creation of what become computer
    science and software engineering.
  3. Ada Lovelace. You can’t fairly talk about women in computer science
    without mentioning Lady Ada Lovelace. She was, arguably, the first
    programmer ever.
  4. Jeanne Ferrante. Professor Ferrante once worked at IBM, but left before I
    got there. I’ve never gotten to meet her. But she wrote one of the first
    static analysis papers that I ever read, which had a whole lot to do with what
    I’ve ended up doing with my life.
  5. Barbara Ryder. Barbara is a professor at my undergraduate alma mater.
    I never had the good fortune to take a class taught by her, but I got
    to know her anyway. She’s one of the leading researchers in static analysis,
    and her students are some of the leading lights in compilers, programming
    languages, static analysis, and compiler optimization. She’s also one
    hell of a tough person, who’s done an amazing amount to fight to get
    women involved in computer science.

This list leaves off some women who’ve played major roles in my life and career. Like, for instance, my wife, who is a brilliant computational linguist (smarter and a better researcher than I am); my PhD advisor, Lori Pollock, who is an amazing researcher and
the best advisor a student could ask for; my academic grandmother,
Mary Lou Soffa; and one of my favorite current researchers in
software engineering, Gail Murphy.

Ethics Questions, dealing with senior researchers

Over at Adventures in Ethics and Science, Janet
Stemwedel, our resident ethicist, has been writing about academic
dishonesty and how professional researchers should respond to it.

I’ve been on the receiving end of dishonesty on three occasions –
ranging from a trivial case (arguably not dishonest at all) to the profound.
I’ll describe my three experiences, along with how I did respond to them, and how I could have responded to them. Unfortunately, my experience isn’t very
encouraging, and most of my advice comes down to: always, always keep a paper trail: it can’t hurt, but don’t count on it being useful.

I don’t want to be too discouraging here. I don’t think that there
are many dishonest researchers out there. The overwhelming majority of professional
researchers are scrupulously honest people who give credit where it’s due, and who would never do anything to
take credit for anyone else’s work, who would never steal an idea, and who would
never do anything even remotely questionable when it comes to
intellectual honesty. The problem is, it doesn’t take much to poison
the well – one person out of a hundred is easily enough to create a
huge problem. And the nature of power and politics in research makes it
possible for that dishonest one to get themselves into a position where
people are scared to come forward about it.

Continue reading

Wow. Just wow.

I was just perusing my stats on sitemeter – and to my amazement, I discovered that Good Math/Bad Math had its 2 millionth view this weekend. 2 million pageviews! I never dreamt that this little blog would ever see a number like that. Astonishing! Over 1.3 million visits to the blog so far!
Thank you all!