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# An email

I received the following email from someone:

Dear John,

I found your web site and discussed your Wedges and the Ideology of your Seven Rules with a couple of friends, who then unfortunately lost interest "too esoteric" :( So I write you and what I have to say is not meant as offense.

Some of us had the impression that your Azimuth Project is from and for the Esoteric, and support that by looking at the background of your members (math with esoteric assertions and outcome which cannot be applied physical in nature, by no means), also pointed to your Forum registration process (sort of, an authoritarian club with membership by (self-)invitation, which in academic circles is the typical replacement for peer-review process and/or avoidance of physical fact-checking).

One question from our debate might be of concern for you and the Azimuth Project: why is carbon dioxin not converted, by paradigm shift and economically, into a scarce commodity?

After all, no one can run around and catch carbon dioxin with his/her fly net, and then sell it, no?

Carbon dioxin is a centerpiece in your Wedges yet virtually associated exclusively with avoidance and burial in the ground or our precious oceans, and this also shaped the Ideology of your Seven Rules.

What is proposed for carbon dioxin, by the Azimuth Project, is on the orthodox/mainstream agenda already, and this has 1 inevitable side effect: less carbon dioxin is equated with more luxury (e.g. luxury hybrid fancy cars, luxury of trading "emission" certificates, luxury of "green" political agenda for re-election, luxury of reforesting only when you buy their beer cans, you name it), many items in your Forum point to this.

As an analogy: before we started with the Internet (before ~1994) it was our hobby outside of universities, nowadays the 'net is a scarce commodity for disseminating every possible and impossible piece of information (see e.g. the dictatorship who cut it off the recent days in Egypt).

Since no one wants to pay for avoidance and burial of carbon dioxin, why not create a market (with a startup and capital ventures) for those who physically need it, need it so much that they want to pay for it, and take it out, for you, of your production chain?

I think this obvious Wedge is missing on every esoteric Save the World agenda, no?

With kind regards,

I replied:

I'm sorry that you and your friends consider the Azimuth Project "esoteric". However, it's not too surprising: we're trying to get scientists interested in environmental issues, and scientists tend to be interested in different things than "normal people".

There's nothing authoritarian about the Azimuth Project: anyone can join.

Since no one wants to pay for avoidance and burial of carbon dioxide, why not create a market (with a startup and capital ventures) for those who physically need it, need it so much that they want to pay for it, and take it out, for you, of your production chain?

People have thought about this. Unfortunately, the amount of carbon dioxide that people need for various purposes is much, much smaller than the amount we are dumping into the air by burning fossil fuels. Also, people who want carbon dioxide have cheaper ways to make it than by taking it out of smokestacks.

Best,

jb

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1.
edited February 2011

One thing I really don't like, because it does seem esoteric, is the procedure for joining the Azimuth Forum.

Perhaps it would be better not to say it's "designed to weed out all but the smartest people on the planet". I felt the need to include that joke because the procedure is embarrassingly complicated, but some people may take this remark seriously.

In fact, I'll get rid of this joke now. But the problem remains.

Comment Source:One thing I really _don't_ like, because it _does_ seem esoteric, is [the procedure for joining the Azimuth Forum](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Forum+help). Perhaps it would be better not to say it's "designed to weed out all but the smartest people on the planet". I felt the need to include that joke because the procedure is embarrassingly complicated, but some people may take this remark seriously. In fact, I'll get rid of this joke now. But the problem remains.
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2.

I think that you make it seem more complicated than it is by your instructions. It's no different to, say, getting an OpenID and then using that to register for, say, MathOverflow.

I suppose I could see if I could add a checkbox on the initial registration form saying, "Automatically associate my account with the following forums ...". Would that really be simpler, or wouldn't it complicate things since people would be tempted to click on all of them? Or there could be a check to see if the person is following a link from a particular forum and then try to associate the account with that forum.

Comment Source:I think that you make it seem more complicated than it is by your instructions. It's no different to, say, getting an OpenID and then using that to register for, say, MathOverflow. I suppose I could see if I could add a checkbox on the initial registration form saying, "Automatically associate my account with the following forums ...". Would that _really_ be simpler, or wouldn't it complicate things since people would be tempted to click on all of them? Or there could be a check to see if the person is following a link from a particular forum and then try to associate the account with that forum.
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3.

Perhaps this is not the place to joke, but the typo

carbon dioxin

is quite amusing, because Wikipedia says

Dioxin is commonly used to refer to a diverse range of chemical compounds which are known to exhibit “dioxin-like” toxicity

I guess that's not what the email author meant...

Comment Source:Perhaps this is not the place to joke, but the typo > carbon dioxin is quite amusing, because Wikipedia says > Dioxin is commonly used to refer to a diverse range of chemical compounds which are known to exhibit “dioxin-like” toxicity I guess that's not what the email author meant...
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4.

I think that you make it seem more complicated than it is by your instructions. It's no different to, say, getting an OpenID and then using that to register for, say, MathOverflow.

I strongly agree. Compare that to the steps that are necessary to become a member of a research group in theoretical/mathematical physics!

From the anonymous email:

Some of us had the impression that your Azimuth Project is from and for the Esoteric, and support that by looking at the background of your members (math with esoteric assertions and outcome which cannot be applied physical in nature, by no means)

See, I warned you about the danger of being classified as an esoteric from the ivory tower! Tell them about me, I'm not esoteric! There isn't anything esoteric about making cars work. Unless, of course, you think all mathematics is esoteric, then using computational fluid dynamics for the design of cars is esoteric. Using a computer would be esoteric, too (I mean, computing is mathematics, right?)

You know, the difference of CFD in car design and in climate models is that in car design the geometry of the grid is far more complex and important, while in climate models you need to include much more effects and length scales. Too bad: car companies buy complex software of the shelf for their CFD simulations. I'd love to do a project developing some state of the art CFD software for BMW and then use the know-how for climate models, but that ain't gonne happen.

Comment Source:Adrew said: <blockquote> <p> I think that you make it seem more complicated than it is by your instructions. It's no different to, say, getting an OpenID and then using that to register for, say, MathOverflow. </p> </blockquote> I strongly agree. Compare that to the steps that are necessary to become a member of a research group in theoretical/mathematical physics! From the anonymous email: <blockquote> <p> Some of us had the impression that your Azimuth Project is from and for the Esoteric, and support that by looking at the background of your members (math with esoteric assertions and outcome which cannot be applied physical in nature, by no means) </p> </blockquote> See, I warned you about the danger of being classified as an esoteric from the ivory tower! Tell them about me, I'm not esoteric! There isn't anything esoteric about making cars work. Unless, of course, you think all mathematics is esoteric, then using computational fluid dynamics for the design of cars is esoteric. Using a computer would be esoteric, too (I mean, computing is mathematics, right?) You know, the difference of CFD in car design and in climate models is that in car design the geometry of the grid is far more complex and important, while in climate models you need to include much more effects and length scales. Too bad: car companies buy complex software of the shelf for their CFD simulations. I'd love to do a project developing some state of the art CFD software for BMW and then use the know-how for climate models, but that ain't gonne happen.
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5.
edited February 2011

I think that you make it seem more complicated than it is by your instructions. It's no different to, say, getting an OpenID and then using that to register for, say, MathOverflow.

Ugh, I remember how much trouble I had doing that, in part because the sketchy explanation didn't correspond to the actual reality. I forget exactly what step just didn't work, and I forget how I finally got it to work. All I remember is that I only kept at it and succeeded one day when I was absolutely desperate to get a question answered.

So yes, I could make the procedure seem simpler by not listing all the steps. Then people who have the knack for guessing what to do will succeed, while people who don't may get stuck and give up. And the second group includes people like me.

I think you computer experts underestimate how many people dislike messing around with sort of crud. For example, I never bothered figuring out how to the nLab until Andrew helped me out by emailing me a password! At any moment I have lots of things I could be doing. If something seems like an annoying computer chore I'll usually do something else. And I think there are lots of people like me.

So here's a better option: we could start out with some easier instructions, but still make the more detailed instructions available.

But what I'd really like is if we could cut down the two-stage "register for this Mathforge thing you've never heard of, then register for the Azimuth Forum" procedure down to a one-stage procedure. Or at least a procedure that would look like a one-stage procedure from the front end.

Comment Source:> I think that you make it seem more complicated than it is by your instructions. It's no different to, say, getting an OpenID and then using that to register for, say, MathOverflow. Ugh, I remember how much trouble I had doing that, in part because the sketchy explanation didn't correspond to the actual reality. I forget exactly what step just didn't work, and I forget how I finally got it to work. All I remember is that I only kept at it and succeeded one day when I was absolutely desperate to get a question answered. So yes, I could make the procedure seem simpler by not listing all the steps. Then people who have the knack for guessing what to do will succeed, while people who don't may get stuck and give up. And the second group includes people like me. I think you computer experts underestimate how many people dislike messing around with sort of crud. For example, I never bothered figuring out how to the nLab until Andrew helped me out by emailing me a password! At any moment I have lots of things I could be doing. If something seems like an annoying computer chore I'll usually do something else. And I think there are lots of people like me. So here's a better option: we could start out with some easier instructions, but still make the more detailed instructions available. But what I'd really like is if we could cut down the two-stage "register for this Mathforge thing you've never heard of, then register for the Azimuth Forum" procedure down to a one-stage procedure. Or at least a procedure that would _look_ like a one-stage procedure from the front end.
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6.
edited February 2011

No, we computer experts dislike messing around with this sort of crud as well, except for the one specific speciality of crud we work on where we expect everyone to see how really cool and logical it is :-) (To be fair, we've probably built up a tolerance to experimenting with stuff until it works becuse that's the only way to get so many things working unfortunately.)

Comment Source:No, we computer experts dislike messing around with this sort of crud as well, except for the one specific speciality of crud we work on where we expect everyone to see how really cool and logical it is :-) (To be fair, we've probably built up a tolerance to experimenting with stuff until it works becuse that's the only way to get so many things working unfortunately.)
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7.

I'm not a computer expert, but I didn't have any trouble with the procedure.

I think, when they wrote "authoritarian club with self-invitation" (or sth similar) they were referring to

Next your application needs to be confirmed by John Baez

and not to the fact that the procedure looks complicated.

But I think it's good there is membership for the Forum. At least discussions are kept polite.

Comment Source:I'm not a computer expert, but I didn't have any trouble with the procedure. I think, when they wrote "authoritarian club with self-invitation" (or sth similar) they were referring to > Next your application needs to be confirmed by John Baez and not to the fact that the procedure looks complicated. But I think it's good there is membership for the Forum. At least discussions are kept polite.
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8.

I agree with David, except about the tolerance.

Here's computer expert Les Hatton not enjoying crud.

Comment Source:I agree with David, except about the tolerance. Here's computer expert Les Hatton [not enjoying crud](http://www.leshatton.org/Documents/wobbles_of_windowdom_2004.pdf).
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9.

John, you misunderstand me slightly. I don't mean that we should miss out any steps in the instructions. It's just that I think that your tone in the instructions builds it up as being overly complicated when it's not. I know that it's more than just "click here", but the actual steps aren't that complicated and I think that you overcompensate.

I will have a look at how to simplify it a little, but the stages are important. We do need to ensure that everyone who registers has a valid email - it's a necessary anti-spambot step. Ditto the reCaptcha. Then as you want to check everyone registering for Azimuth then there has to be that step as well (which is extremely reasonable, by the way). So the only extra bit is the part where you have to click on the "Associate my account". I know that the primary beneficiary of that is me (as it's so that I only have to maintain one user-base for all these fora), but it doesn't seem like a huge ask, does it?

Comment Source:John, you misunderstand me slightly. I don't mean that we should miss out any steps in the instructions. It's just that I think that your tone in the instructions builds it up as being overly complicated when it's not. I know that it's more than just "click here", but the actual steps aren't that complicated and I think that you overcompensate. I _will_ have a look at how to simplify it a little, but the stages are important. We _do_ need to ensure that everyone who registers has a valid email - it's a necessary anti-spambot step. Ditto the reCaptcha. Then as you want to check everyone registering for Azimuth then there has to be that step as well (which is extremely reasonable, by the way). So the only extra bit is the part where you have to click on the "Associate my account". I know that the primary beneficiary of that is me (as it's so that I only have to maintain one user-base for all these fora), but it doesn't seem like a huge ask, does it?