From the post:
Discrete Analysis, a new open-access journal for articles which are “analytical in flavour but that also have an impact on the study of discrete structures”, launched this week. What’s interesting about it is that it’s an arXiv overlay journal founded by, among others, Timothy Gowers.
What that means is that you don’t get articles from Discrete Analysis – it just arranges peer review of papers held on the arXiv, cutting out almost all of the expensive parts of traditional journal publishing. I wasn’t really prepared for how shallow that makes the journal’s website – there’s a front page, and when you click on an article you’re shown a brief editorial comment with a link to the corresponding arXiv page, and that’s it.
But that’s all it needs to do – the opinion of Gowers and co. is that the only real value that journals add to the papers they publish is the seal of approval gained by peer review, so that’s the only thing they’re doing. Maths papers tend not to benefit from the typesetting services traditional publishers provide (or, more often than you’d like, are actively hampered by it).
One way the journal is adding value beyond a “yes, this is worth adding to the list of papers we approve of” is by providing an “editorial introduction” to accompany each article. These are brief notes, written by members of the editorial board, which introduce the topics discussed in the paper and provide some context, to help you decide if you want to read the paper. That’s a good idea, and it makes browsing through the articles – and this is something unheard of on the internet – quite pleasurable.
It’s not difficult to imagine “editorial introductions” with underlying mini-topic maps that could be explored on their own or that as you reach the “edge” of a particular topic map, it “unfolds” to reveal more associations/topics.
Not unlike a traditional street map for New York which you can unfold to find general areas but can then fold it up to focus more tightly on a particular area.
I hesitate to say “zoom” because in the application I have seen (important qualification), “zoom” uniformly reduces your field of view.
A more nuanced notion of “zoom,” for a topic map and perhaps for other maps as well, would be to hold portions of the current view stationary, say a starting point on an interstate highway and to “zoom” only a portion of the current view to show a detailed street map. That would enable the user to see a particular location while maintaining its larger context.
Pointers to applications that “zoom” but also maintain different levels of “zoom” in the same view? Given the fascination with “hairy” presentations of graphs that would have to be real winner.