The future of “The future of the LMS”

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] 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?

Peter Cameron

About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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3 Responses to The future of “The future of the LMS”

  1. cameroncounts says:

    Here are the results of my attempt to post this elsewhere (to date).
    The New Mathematical Society group gave me an email address to send my post. I did so, and await results.
    The Future of the LMS also gave me an address, which I used. (I had to work a bit harder to find it, under “About”.) Again I await results.
    FaceBook defeated me utterly (proving my claim in the post that I am an old codger). No possible mechanism for posting was given on the page, and no address for the mysterious Augustus. I was invited to join the group; this required signing up to FaceBook first, an immensely complicated business which I probably got wrong. Even once I was on FaceBook and a member of the group, there was still no indication of how to make a posting. So I eventually abandoned the attempt.

  2. I’ve been away for three weeks. What has happened to the posts in this time?

    Not much.

    The New Mathematical Society discussion group published my post on 5 August. There have been no replies, and no other postings since the last one in May. Unfortunately, reading the post is a bit tricky. You cannot read it directly, you have to download it; and since they have called it future.txt, even though it is an HTML file, you have to read naked HTML with a text editor, unless you do something clever.

    The Future of the LMS have not published my posting.

    Since this week’s LMS council meeting there has been a sudden rush of people reading it on my blog, though nobody has submitted any views. Nothing else seems to have appeared either; either this is the silly season effect, or people are having the same difficulty as I am.

    I have not been back to Facebook to make another attempt to post it there.

    How do you get people to discuss things? I really don’t know.

    An unexpected side-effect of my foray into Facebook is the number of people I know who noticed very quickly that I was there and wanted me to be their friend. To all of you, sorry for the delay, but I have been away…

  3. Yesterday, the newmathsoc discussion group was closed down. Maybe my post was the last straw for them?

    The issue is not dead, but historians of the future would no doubt appreciate having the comments of the various discussion groups available to them. So I think my plea for at least a digested version of the various discussions is still valid.

    But now, with term about to start, I doubt that anyone will want to do that.

    So maybe it is the end of the story for the time being…

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