It’s been a long time coming, but the Tricki is now on the point of going fully live. If you need convincing that this is a stronger statement than earlier and almost identical statements I have made on this blog, then click here to be taken to the site.
At the moment the site is read-only. This is for two reasons. First, we would like to give people a chance to spot flaws with the site as it now is, while it is still relatively easy to correct them. These can be anything from technical bugs to the content and organization of the articles. Any suggestions for improvement will be greatly welcomed: the best way of making them is to click on “Forums” at the top of any page on the site and to start or continue a forum topic. Of course, you are also welcome to make comments on this blog post.
The second reason is that I will be on holiday for the next week or so, and I want to be on hand when articles start coming in, in case work needs to be done in fitting them into the organizational hierarchy of the Tricki, or making sure that they are consistent with the Tricki house style.
An advantage of this final delay is that if you will have a chance to browse the site and get an idea of what it is like before contributing an article, if you have a topic that might be appropriate. If you click on “Help” and then on “Formatting on the Tricki”, you will discover that writing an article is extremely easy (at least if you know what you want to say). In particular, if you want to type in mathematical symbols, you just have to write them in TeX or LaTeX and enclose them in dollars. I hope you will agree with me that Alex Frolkin and Olof Sisask have done an amazing job and will enjoy using and contributing to the site as much as I have.
For now I am thinking of the Tricki as a place where I can “download myself”. In other words, I am trying to think of all the tools that I am familiar with and like to use, and to explain them all. It would take a long time to do that, but not as long as I would like, so to speak. I hope that many people from widely differing mathematical backgrounds will do the same, so that we end up with a site that crosses over from being one that is interesting to browse but clearly incomplete to one where you actually expect to find the answer to certain kinds of question. (At some point in the last two or three years, Wikipedia made that transition: if I want to find out the basics of a definition or theorem and Google it, I am now surprised if a Wikipedia article doesn’t show up, whereas I can remember when that wasn’t the case.)
If you are writing an article, please remember to think hard about how to categorize it. Also, it is worth checking to see whether a similar article exists already — if you click on “Navigate”, you will discover that there are many ways to find out what is on the site. There are of course a large number of dead links. These are there to try to map out a structure for the site, but the process of doing so is in its infancy: it is easy to find topics that are not included and clearly should be. If you haven’t got time to write an article, you can still help by thinking about the structure and adding to the dead links. If you have ideas about how to organize a corner of the Tricki but are not sure that they will be appropriate, then consider starting a Forum topic.
One final thing to remember: the Tricki is supposed to be about how to do mathematics. As a rule of thumb, definitions, statements of theorems, and even some proofs belong on Wikipedia, but ”techniques” and proofs that carry some kind of general moral belong on the Tricki. There are already many links from the Tricki to Wikipedia. I hope there will be many more (another way of helping is to add such links to existing articles), and that eventually the two sites will have a symbiotic relationship.
I hope it won’t seem too fanciful if I suggest that Polymath and the Tricki are two different manifestations of the same basic idea: that if we are prepared to cooperate more, then in theory it should be possible for research in mathematics to be carried out more efficiently. The form of cooperation that the Tricki is trying to promote is one where we all share our mathematical toolkits, presenting them in a way that is easy for other mathematicians to find and use. I hope also that it will make it easier to discover what is known and what is not known.
That’s it for this post — I hope you enjoy the site. It should go fully live early in the week beginning April 13th.