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February 21, 2004

[Admin.] How to participate in the String Coffee Table dicussion

Posted by Urs Schreiber

The String Coffee Table is a group weblog that is supposed to be a forum for researchers and graduate students in string theory that allows informal but possibly technical discussion of whatever string theory topics they are concerned with, including in particular the discussion of papers that have appeared on the hep-th, gr-qc, hep-ph and related preprint archives.

Everybody can (and is invited to) comment on posts to the Coffee Table by following the links Reply to this or Post a New Comment below each message. The so called hosts of the Coffee Table can furthermore start new discussion threads by writing entries on the Coffee Table’s main page. There are currently five hosts only, but it is planned to invite others as hosts of the Coffee Table in the future.

Participating in and following the discussions at the Coffee Table does not require anything else than an ordinary internet browser, but is most conveniently done using in addition a software tool called an RSS News Aggregator. which handles the RSS (Rich Site Summary) of weblogs. Such RSS readers are freely available, very simple to install and extremely expedient for weblog discussion. They allow to read the weblog in a way similar to newgroups and other online discussion forums. They automatically provide a list of the latest contributions anywhere at the Coffee Table. This way one does not need to search the entire site by hand for unread messages.

There are many RSS readers freely available, for instance SharpReader and NewsWatcherfor MS-Windows, and RSS Reader Panel, Agregg8, NewsMonster as extensions for Mozilla.

After installing the RSS reader it has to be informed about the location of the RSS feed of the String Coffee Table. This is done by entering the URL of the Content Feed and of the Comments Feed. For most RSS readers this can conveniently be done by just dragging and dropping the boxes found under the headline Syndicate in the right column on the main page of the String Coffee Table into the RRS Reader window.

One of the main advantages of the String Coffee Table over other forms of online discussion is its support for properly typeset mathematical formulas using MathML. In order that these formulas are properly displayed in one’s browser it may be necessary to download a (freely available) plugin and/or font. See here for more information.

The inclusion of mathematical symbols and formulas in one’s comment requires choosing the option itex to MathML with parbreaks from the Text Filter menu which sits right above the comment editor pane. Ordinary LaTeX code can then be included inside of $…$ (for inline formulas) or inside of \[…\] (for displayed math). More details can be found in the WebTeX manual.

There are several HTML-tags that can be used inside a comment, the details of which are given right above the comment editor pane.

In particular, hyperlinks are entered as usual by typing

<a href=”url goes here”>link name goes here</a>.

Special characters are entered by typing &cid;, where cid is one of the usual character codes (named entities). A list of named character entities that can be used in the body of a comment is here. A list of named entities that are allowed in MathML is here.
(Also see Jacques Distler’s comment.)

For instance ‘Poincaré & Schrödinger’ is obtained by typing

Poincar&eacute; &amp; Schr&ouml;dinger.

Note that using the blockquote tag, which should be used to quote the material that one is replying to, requires to enclose the quoted text in an extra paragraph. This can be done either by using the paragraph tag or by choosing convert line breaks or itex to MathML with parbreaks from the Text Filter menu and including a blank line below and above the blockquote tags.

More details can be found in the comments.

I wish everybody an enjoyable and fruitful discussion at the String Coffee Table!

The String Coffee Table has been set up and is maintained by Jacques Distler. Many thanks to Jacques for his efforts!

Posted at February 21, 2004 4:21 PM UTC

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Let me add a few points to Urs’s summary.

  • There’s an online manual for WebTex. The itex implementation here is an extension of WebTeX, with more LaTeX symbols defined. The net result is “LaTeX-like”, but not exactly LaTeX. The biggest difference is in the way arrays (matrices) are handled in itex. Doubtless, there are still many bugs in the implementation, so if you encounter something that doesn’t work right, let me know. The source code is available, so if you have suggestions for improvements, let’s talk.
  • There are five different text filters which can be applied to your comments, depending on how you feel about typing your own HTML tags, versus having the comment system add the tags for you. Three of the five allow you to embed itex in your comments.
  • With any of the filters, you are always free to include HTML tags from the list provided (other tags will be stripped-out automatically). As Urs noted, the <blockquote> tag in XHTML is a little tricky. The material inside it should be “block-level” material So I recommend typing

    Some text

    <blockquote><p>Some quoted text</p><blockquote>

    Some more text

    to quote some material.
  • Quotation marks are automatically converted to “smart quotes”. This makes copying and pasting quoted material a little tricky. To avoid problems, be sure to change the smart quotes back to ordinary ones in anything you copy and paste into your comment.
  • We haven’t heretofore had problems with spam or abusive comments. Nevertheless, the authors reserve the right to delete or edit comments which fail to meet basic standards of relevance or decorum. This is a blog, not USENET, or some similar public forum. While we hope for lively and interesting discussions, the authors of this blog are ultimately responsible for what appears on these pages. Please act accordingly.
Posted by: Jacques Distler on February 21, 2004 7:31 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

PGP-Signed Comments

In yet another to improve the quality of the user-experience, I’ve enabled PGP-signed comments.

Unsigned comments are allowed (as before), but it is to everyone’s advantage for people to sign their comments.

Automatic comment-verification is not implemented yet, but this is a start.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on February 28, 2004 9:07 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: PGP-Signed Comments

Automatic comment-verification is now implemented. I’ve posted some more thoughts on why PGP-signed comments are useful in the context of online physics discussions, like the ones held here.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on March 4, 2004 5:12 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Named Character Entities

Special characters are entered by typing &cid;, where cid is one of the usual character codes that can be found in this list.

Careful! That’s a list of named-entities which are allowed in MathML. Most of the common ones have itex equivalents, so you can type the more familiar $\oint$ instead of $&conint;$. For a list of named entities that you can use in the body of your comment, as opposed to in the equations, see here instead.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on March 6, 2004 3:10 AM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Named Character Entities

Thanks. I have corrected the respective paragraph.

Posted by: Urs Schreiber on March 7, 2004 12:38 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this


I would like to thank Jacques Distler for his efforts in improving the design of this website, which has been nice already from the very beginning, but is currently being still improved almost every day! :-)

Posted by: Urs Schreiber on May 14, 2004 12:26 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

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