Another thought about scientific blogs

On 2011-Mar-30, in LaTeX, by paul

The author of the LaTeX plugin that I am using in this blog is thinking about scientific blogging and how to improve it. And a point he made to me in a recent email has stuck with me:  Scientific blogs need to be able to be more interactive than standard blogs which can rely almost entirely on text and occasional images. It should be EASY for the author of a scientific blog to include content about their current research—this includes data, plots, and analysis. Ideally, such a blog could serve as a laboratory notebook as well as a blog.

Here’s a wish list of what I’d like to be able to do in a blog:

  • Good typographical quality for text and mathematics— i.e.  LaTeX output quality.
  • The ability to export a blog entry automatically to a .tex file (or perhaps a pdf)
  • The ability to do calculations and link to data files and plots
  • The ability to do live animations
  • Ideally open-source

I’m sure you can think of some more features that would be desirable, but the above five would be a good start. Several things strike me when I think about this list:

  1. Although it goes against my wish for an open source solution, I think Apple could really relatively easily satisfy my blogging needs with an update to iWeb. iWeb is very easy to use, and makes it trivial to include text, images, and movies, as well as making linking to files rather trivial. However, it needs better web standards compliance, the ability to incorporate mathematics, and to be able to do calculations. Does anyone at Apple think about incorporating these things? Maybe as a new application: iWebScience?
  2. Here’s another thought: the application SAGE (google it!) is a python-based mathematics program that aims to include Mathematica-like capability and python programmability (including Matplotlib graphics) all in one unified notebook interface that runs in a browser. All we need is someone to write a beautiful plugin for either WordPress (to use SAGE) or a plugin for SAGE to allow blogging.

Do you have other ideas? I don’t see any science blogs that satisfy all my criteria yet; it’s an area of web publishing that I’d like to see expanded. And if you haven’t seen or used SAGE yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out.


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