Context : AcademiaVsNewMedia

The Homotopy Type Theory Book, an advanced mathematics book which is famous for having been written by a large group of mathematicians in an open and distributed way.

Closer to FreeSoftware / OpenSource methodologies.

Using GitHub!

Here's a post about it :

We are a group of two dozen mathematicians who wrote a 600 page book in less than half a year. This is quite amazing, since mathematicians do not normally work together in large groups. In a small group they can get away with using obsolete technology, such as sending each other source LaTeX files by email, but with two dozen people even DropBox or any other file synchronization system would have failed miserably. Luckily, many of us are computer scientists disguised as mathematicians, so we knew how to tackle the logistics. We used git and [ GitHub ]. In the beginning it took some convincing and getting used to, although it was not too bad. In the end the repository served not only as an archive for our files, but also as a central hub for planning and discussions. For several months I checked github more often than email and Facbook. Github was my Facebook (without the cute kittens). If you do not know about tools like git but you write scientific papers (or you create any kind of digital content) you really, really should learn about revision control systems. Even as a sole author of a paper you will profit from learning how to use one, not to mention that you can make pretty videos of how you wrote your paper.

But more importantly, the spirit of collaboration that pervaded our group at the Institute for Advanced Study was truly amazing. We did not fragment. We talked, shared ideas, explained things to each other, and completely forgot who did what (so much in fact that we had to put some effort into reconstruction of history lest it be forgotten forever). The result was a substantial increase in productivity. There is a lesson to be learned here (other than the fact that the Institute for Advanced Study is the worldâ€™s premier research institution), namely that mathematicians benefit from being a little less possessive about their ideas and results. I know, I know, academic careers depend on proper credit being given and so on, but really those are just the idiosyncrasies of our time. If we can get mathematicians to share half-baked ideas, not to worry who contributed what to a paper, or even who the authors are, then we will reach a new and unimagined level of productivity. Progress is made by those who dear the break rules.

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