My Blog Workflow

This blog, which I started in 2013, is hosted on WordPress sites are both websites and blogs, and in late 2020 I translated my website over to this same domain name (


The whole site is maintained as Emacs Org mode files that I export to WordPress using the Emacs org2blog package. I do not use the WordPress editor, except occasionally to copy the html for a figure back into an Org file for tweaking and re-exporting as html (usually in order to have text next to an image, as here).

WordPress supports \LaTeX math mode, which must be typed within single dollar signs with the word “latex” right after the first dollar sign. Emacs Org mode supports \LaTeX equations and Org2blog does an excellent job of exporting to WordPress with the necessary conversions. For example, to produce the displayed equation

\notag  X =  \begin{bmatrix}        a_{11} & a_{12} \\        a_{12} & a_{22}       \end{bmatrix}^{-1}

I type

 X =  \begin{bmatrix}
       a_{11} & a_{12} \\ 
       a_{12} & a_{22} 

in my source and this is converted into


in WordPress. (This fragment is included as an image because if I include the text directly I cannot stop WordPress interpreting it as \LaTeX!)

The beauty of this workflow is that I can export this same source to html, \LaTeX (then PDF), or even a Word file using Org mode’s export dispatcher. This is how I produce the PDF versions of the posts in the What Is series.

Advantages of this workflow are

  • I can work almost entirely in Emacs and avoid using the WordPress editor.
  • Org mode files are very readable and easy to edit.
  • Org2blog automatically uploads images into the WordPress media library and links to them.
  • Raw html can be included.

Drawbacks of the workflow are

  • \LaTeX macros cannot be defined, so \LaTeX commands must always be typed in full.
  • Displayed equations must be typed in an equation environment for reliable results.
  • All math is formatted in text style, so \displaystyle must be put in front of every \frac, \sum, etc. to obtain display style (so that formulas in fractions are not set in a smaller font, for example).
  • Inline math has awkward vertical spacing.
  • In the current version of org2blog, equation* (for an unnumbered equation) is not supported.

The latter three disadvantages would be avoided if the \LaTeX was interpreted by MathJax, but this requires a MathJax plugin, and the Business Plan is needed to be able to install plugins (I have the Premium plan).

Here is what the Emacs Org mode source code looks like for the post What Is the Sylvester Equation? After the properties drawer, which contains information about the post on WordPress, the text looks like standard \LaTeX, with the exception that a comment line begins with the # symbol rather than %.


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.

SIAM Annual Meeting Minisymposium on Professional Use of Social Media

Tammy Kolda and I are organizing a minisymposium Establishing a Professional Presence in the Online World: Unraveling the Mysteries of Social Media and More at the 2013 SIAM Annual Meeting in San Diego.

This page will act as a repository for the slides of the talks, related information, and a place for discussion. It will be updated as necessary from the date of first post. (Edit: the titles now link to the final versions of the talks in PDF form.)

MS89: Thursday, July 11, 10:30 AM-12:30 PM in Garden Salon I

Abstract: I will discuss the importance of making your publications easily
available online and various ways to maintain such a list. We’ll discuss
important information to include (like DOIs), various websites that
maintain the lists for you, and tools for tracking and exporting your own

Abstract: I’ll describe my experiences using social media from the past
few years and some lessons. This will include a brief survey of the tools
out there my reasons for using Twitter and WordPress.

Abstract. I will discuss how and why social media can be useful for a
researcher, both as a consumer and a contributor, drawing on my own
experiences of using Twitter and blogging with WordPress. I will also
discuss how SIAM is using social media.

Abstract. I will discuss the importance of blogging for scientific
communication in general, and more specifically, why SIAM may be ready
for a community blog. Based on surveys SIAM has conducted, I will
discuss how a shared blog space can help address the many needs of the
SIAM community in terms of networking, collaboration, scientific
discussion, funding and outreach. More broadly, I will discuss the
importance of direct communication between scientists and the general
public, and how blogs can help achieve this.