nLab meta
about the nForum

Out and About in the nForum

What the nForum is for

With the nLab, we are trying to create an environment on the internet where we can work. By putting this on the internet, we hope to exploit the various ways of communication to help us work more productively with more people from more areas of the world than was possible before. By making our enclave open, we hope to gain from interactions with people and on levels that also were not possible before.

When using the nForum it is important to understand its purpose. That can be summed up as follows:

The purpose of the nForum is to support the work on the nLab.

How to Behave

Following on from the basic purpose of the nForum, the basic guidelines for participation in the nForum are:

  1. If it helps the work on the nLab, it is welcome.
  2. If it hinders the work on the nLab, it is not welcome.

In addition, the nForum is hosted at NTNU and therefore their guidelines and regulations for what is posted on the nForum apply (this is a special case of Rule 2 since losing the nForum would hinder the work on the nLab!).

How to Think of the nForum

Imagine an academic library. It is nice to work in a library: there are lots of resources and there are relatively few distractions. As you work, you should take notes of what you do: what you read, what you think about, things that occur to you. A lab book is useful for recording these notes. In this particular library, there is a communal lab book, the nLab. If there were only one person working in this library, a lab book would be all that was needed. But a thriving library has many workers, and where there are many workers, there are conversations. The nForum is where those conversations can take place.

As the nLab is a communal lab book, it’s useful to have somewhere to tell others what you’ve added to it - they might not notice what you’ve done as it’s quite a big book and not everyone reads every page. So there’s a place to leave notes for others. Sometimes you read something someone else has done and you want to ask them about it, so you can leave a note about that too. Occasionally, these notes get passed back and forth and a little conversation can result.

As this is an academic library, a little note-passing and conversation is acceptable, even welcomed. However, in common with all libraries, everywhere, the golden rule is that these should not disturb the other people working. So although the librarians don’t insist on complete silence, they do ask that discussions in the library be focussed and not distracting to the other researchers.

But not even the most dedicated researcher can spend their whole day in the library. And sometimes a conversation may start out quietly and grow into something a little too loud for the main library. For those situations, the library has an atrium. Here, discussions can be a little louder and a little less focussed. If a discussion gets too raucous even for the atrium, there’s a soundproofed room (called “The Cave”), were people can shout without disturbing those working in the library.

With all these discussions going on, it can be difficult to draw attention to something particularly interesting. So in addition the library has a notice board. Here, one can draw people’s attention to discussions that they might otherwise have missed.

So the nForum has three main areas:

  1. The part devoted to the nLab.

    Discussions in this section should be focussed on the nLab. The desired result of a conversation here is an improvement in the nLab (this can include technical matters).

  2. The atrium.

    Discussions in this section can be more general. It is, however, important to remember the reason why the nForum exists: to support the nLab. If a discussion has no link to the nLab, or to someone actively working on it, then it is unlikely to gain much favour here. Our purposes in having this area are as follows:

    1. Sometimes we like to discuss things that aren’t particularly focussed on a specific nLab page.
    2. Sometimes discussions that start out focussed on an nLab page don’t stay that way, but are still useful discussions to have so it’s useful to be able to move them somewhere nearby.
    3. By having high-quality discussions, we hope to attract others to our library and show them how wonderful it is to work here, thereby getting more people involved in our project.
  3. The notice board.

    The notice board is where to put short notes for general attention. The point of putting something on the notice board is to bring something to the attention of others that they might otherwise have overlooked. Although technically, any comment can be stuck on the board, this works best when the comments are short and to the point and designed to draw attention to something in another part of the library.

In addition, there is the aforementioned Cave, a place to discuss the nForum itself, and a heap of scrap paper.

The last thing to mention is the librarians. It’s not always obvious to those involved in a discussion that it has gotten too noisy, so the librarians have the ability to move a discussion from one area of the nForum to another. If your discussion gets moved, think of it as someone gently whispering in your ear: “You’re being too loud.”. They are also allowed to add or remove other people’s comments from the notice board. Again, think of it either as: “That’s fantastic, I just know that others would like to know about that.” or “That may be interesting, but here it’s just cluttering up the board.”.

Revised on August 20, 2010 04:47:16 by Toby Bartels (