FYI from O'Reilly Radar.

And does this suggest possibility of something like “distributed data analysis” whereby a number of widely scattered watchdogs could be poking into the same data set? If so, raises interesting questions for journalism educators: who is developing the tools to manage such investigations?

Enabling Massively Parallel Mathematics Collaboration — Jon Udell writes about Mike Adams whose WordPress plugin to grok LaTeX formatting of math has enabled a new scale of mathematics collaboration.

http://blog.jonudell.net/2009/07/31/polymath-equals-user-innovatio/

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Polymath = user innovation

Posted by Jon Udell under Uncategorized

[9] Comments

In February 2007, Mike Adams, who had recently joined Automattic, the company that makes WordPress, decided on a lark to endow all blogs running on WordPress.com with the ability to use LaTeX, the venerable mathematical typesetting language. So I can write this:$latex \pi r^2$

And produce this:

When he introduced the feature, Mike wrote:

Odd as it may sound, I miss all the equations from my days in grad school, so I decided that what WordPress.com needed most was a hot, niche feature that maybe 17 people would use regularly.

A whole lot more than 17 people cared. And some of them, it turns out, are Fields medalists. Back in January, one member of that elite group — Tim Gowers — asked: Is massively collaborative mathematics possible? Since then, as reported by observer/participant Michael Nielsen (1, 2), Tim Gowers, Terence Tao, and a bunch of their peers have been pioneering a massively collaborative approach to solving hard mathematical problems.

Reflecting on the outcome of the first polymath experiment, Michael Nielsen wrote:

The scope of participation in the project is remarkable. More than 1000 mathematical comments have been written on Gowers’ blog, and the blog of Terry Tao, another mathematician who has taken a leading role in the project. The Polymath wiki has approximately 59 content pages, with 11 registered contributors, and more anonymous contributors. It’s already a remarkable resource on the density Hales-Jewett theorem and related topics. The project timeline shows notable mathematical contributions being made by 23 contributors to date. This was accomplished in seven weeks.

Just this week, a polymath blog has emerged to serve as an online home for the further evolution of this approach.