Notes on SIAM Annual Meeting Minisymposium on Professional Use of Social Media

In my recent post I publicized the upcoming minisymposium Establishing a Professional Presence in the Online World: Unraveling the Mysteries of Social Media and More organized by Tammy Kolda and I at the 2013 SIAM Annual Meeting in San Diego.

We had an enjoyable session. Despite being in the most far flung and hard to find room on the site, we had a good-sized audience who contributed useful questions and thoughts.

The slides for the four talks are downloadable from the previous post. Here, I summarize a few key points from each talk.

Tammy Kolda (Sandia National Labs) described how to export BibTeX entries for journal articles to html via the JabRef reference manager. The resulting html includes an abstract, keywords, and hyperlinks to the DOI, a PDF file, an expurgated BibTeX entry and a preprint version (assuming all this information is present in the entry). The idea is that the html can be used for lists of publications on a web page. I haven’t used Jabref for a while, but intend to try this export filter out. Tammy also gave a flowchart answering the question of how and where to post a publication list.

David Gleich

David Gleich (Purdue University) gave his presentation using Prezi, a cloud-based presentation tool that produces “multiscale” slides that zoom in and out. He surveyed the main social media tools and classified them into categories 1-1, 1-many and many-many. He then explained how he keeps on top of information using Flipboard, Feedly and Instapaper daily.

I described reasons for mathematicians to blog or tweet and the features that characterize a good blog. I also gave tips for using WordPress and Twitter and described SIAM’s plans for a SIAM blog.

Nick Higham

Finally, Karthika Muthukumaraswamy (SIAM Public Awareness Officer) gave a compelling explanation of why mathematicians and scientists should blog and how the web is changing science communication. She also explained the benefits of blog networks, in which several people contribute to a blog, and the motivation for the planned SIAM blog.

Karthika Muthukumaraswamy


More photos are available in my photo gallery.

Finally, I note that David Bindel has written some notes on the SIAM Annual meeting.

Emacs Org Mode Version 8: Upgrading and Some Tips

As I mentioned in my post Emacs: The Ultimate Editor?, one of the things I love about Emacs is Org mode, which provides excellent facilities for working with plain text and exporting it to a variety of other formats. Recently I’ve used Org mode to prepare a number of tables within documents that I then export to \LaTeX and compile to PDF. Key here is Org’s ability to easily add or remove rows and columns, sort rows, and even transpose a table (see below). This blog is written in Org mode and exported to WordPress using org2blog.

A couple of months ago, version 8 of Org was released. It has many improvements over earlier versions but also some changes in syntax. In particular, the export engine has been rewritten. These changes are quite likely to break older Org files. Indeed the release notes say Org 8.0 is the most disruptive major version of Org.

Here is a list of problems I’ve experienced and the fixes. I’m currently using Org 8.0.3.

  • Export to Beamer didn’t work until I added
    (require 'ox-beamer)

    to my .emacs.

  • org2blog was broken in Org 8. A new branch for Org 8 was released at In my tests org2blog/wp-post-subtree did not work properly: the title was being copied as a section heading. This was quickly fixed by author Peter Vasil earlier this week and org2blog is now working fine for me with Org 8.
  • The syntax for \LaTeX table alignments has changed. In Org <8:
    #+ATTR_LaTeX: align = |l|...

    In Org 8:

    #+ATTR_LaTeX: :align |l|...

Finally, here are a couple of useful, but easy to miss, features of Org.

Table Transpose

A new command org-table-transpose-table-at-point in Org 8 provides the array transpose function. With the cursor in the table

a11 a12 a13 a14
a21 a22 a23 a24
a31 a32 a33 a34

M-x org-table-transpose-table-at-point produces

a11 a21 a31
a12 a22 a32
a13 a23 a33
a14 a24 a34

This could be particularly useful in a \LaTeX file, provided orgtbl-mode is being used, as there is no easy way to transpose a \LaTeX table.


I’m not sure if this is new to ORG 8, but in any case it’s new to me. Type <s followed by tab and an empty source block magically appears:


Very useful! The following table shows all the available expansions:

| Sequence | Expands to       |
| <s       | #+BEGIN_SRC      |
| <e       | #+BEGIN_EXAMPLE  |
| <q       | #+BEGIN_QUOTE    |
| <v       | #+BEGIN_VERSE    |
| <V       | #+BEGIN_VERBATIM |
| <c       | #+BEGIN_CENTER   |
| <l       | #+BEGIN_LaTeX    |
| <L       | #+LaTeX          |
| <h       | #+BEGIN_HTML     |
| <H       | #+HTML           |
| <a       | #+BEGIN_ASCII    |
| <A       | #+ASCII:         |
| <i       | #+INDEX:         |
| <I       | #+INCLUDE:       |