It is now August, and the silly season is open for business. Add that to the fact that after the very divisive debate in the LMS, people are probably inclined to drop the discussion of the merger for a while. However, there is one development that worries me a bit. Perhaps now while the level of debate is fairly slow would be a good time to consider this.
While the debate within the LMS was at its most intense, the forum “Save the LMS” on the WordPress blog was the venue of choice for those opposed to the merger. If you try to find out what all those people were objecting to, you get the message
The authors have deleted this blog. The content is no longer available.
Surely this is counterproductive for anyone involved in the debate: if you support the merger, you might want to know what would have to be done to produce an acceptable proposal; if you oppose it, you now have to re-invent all the arguments and recruit supporters for your case anew.
Maybe those who deleted the blog have a copy which they would be prepared to archive somewhere, or at least to post a digested version summarising the views expressed there.
What if you want to discuss it now? What are the options?
You might go first to the LMS website. This has a front page item Discussions between the LMS and the IMA, which takes you to a page giving the history in brief and links to some of the documents in the case, including the scrutineers’ report on the referendum (which makes sobering evidence of the breakdown of trust that occurred).
This page also has a link to a page entitled A New Unified Mathematical Society. This gives the results of the voting in the two societies, and also has a link to a discussion group on Google Groups. This discussion group has not been posted to since May, with the exception of one item of spam which slipped in yesterday (and will presumably be removed soon).
What about the successor to “Save the LMS”? This is a site on WordPress called “The Future of the LMS”, which is not mentioned on the LMS website. This is a little more lively, with several posts in the last week. The administrators make a statement that they encourage open discussion:
Please use this blog to express your opinion; every post is open to comments. If you would like to make a primary posting, just email the text to futurelms [at] googlemail.com. Our mediation is a technical requirement (only administrators can post or register people as blog’s contributors); we don’t aim to censor contributions.
This seems to be happening to some extent: one of the recent posts is from Ian Roulstone (who happens to be very supportive of the LMS).
Near the bottom is a statement about a discussion group “Future of the London Mathematical Society” on Facebook.
Now I am an old codger, and the atmosphere of Facebook seems about as congenial to me as clubbing in the early hours of Saturday morning. It seems from the level of traffic there that many potential contributors agree with me. But the LMS council have visited, and are worried about the administrator, who goes by the name of “Augustus De Morgan”, and is trying to drum up interest by copying posts from the WordPress site.
Anyway, in the interests of research, I will try to post this on all three of these sites, and will hopefully report my experiences. The master copy will be kept on my own WordPress blog. (In the interests of transparency, I should say that I started this blog as a trial run after I was invited to be an administrator of “Save the LMS”. I am currently an administrator of “Future of the LMS”, but in the interests of a fair trial I will email my contribution to them rather than posting it myself.)
Now, finally, to my main point. With three discussion groups running, there is a serious risk that three groups will define themselves; they will talk to one another, in most cases preaching to the converted, and not interact with the others. There is no way we can restrict debate, but would it be worthwhile if at intervals a summary of the discussion in each group was cross-posted to the others?