In mathematics, sometimes you can spend hours, days, even years working on a problem - only to realize that you've been going down the wrong path the entire time. This is not bad, in and of itself. Mistakes themselves are often enlightening. But it can be disheartening.
This is how I feel about my mathematical web serial lately.
And this is your soundtrack for this post. Seriously.
|This post blends writing with mathematics|
IN THE BEGINNING
I began "Taylor's Polynomials" on July 3, 2011, over two years ago.
That's before Math Munch (Oct 2011), a weekly roundup of the mathematical internet. Before Ontario Math Links (Dec 2012), a weekly roundup connected to Ontario Curriculum. Before Infinite Tangents (Sep 2012), a podcast for teachers with insightful commentary. Before Daily Desmos (Mar 2013), a daily graphing challenge. Before ALL THAT, there was me. Twice every week.
If you're involved in math education, you've likely heard of them. Before this post, had you heard of my serial?
|Who the hell are you and how did|
you get into my Twitter feed?!
That said, me and all those sites, we have something in common. We're publishing on a schedule. As I said, I publish twice a week, every week, and have not missed an update ALL YEAR.
First Big Question: Does the schedule matter? Do you even care? Outside of my core readership (and here I'm gonna be generous and say of 3 people), DOES IT MATTER that I update like clockwork?
HOW I SEE THINGS
Assuming you know "Taylor's Polynomials", it's a curiosity to you. Something you drop by to have a look at if either:
a) I happen to tweet out an update that looks interesting. Whereby that post is read, you nod, and move on without looking at anything else.
b) You happen to remember I exist, and go back to catch up on the last month or so.
|Something about crescent shapes and parabolas, was it?|
Neither of these items requires me having a schedule. Seriously, is anyone thinking "It's Sunday! I wonder what personified math is doing?" Because if not, maybe I should shift to a more flexible schedule of two random posts per week. But if my schedule is something you look forward to, please, for the love of God, say something. Which brings me to point two.
Second Big Question: What am I doing wrong?
The feedback I get can also be dropped into two categories:
a) What is this? I don't get it. I don't have time for this.
b) Oh, that's clever. Followed by "I don't have time for this."
Because if you DID have the time, I wouldn't constantly have to call attention to myself! In over TWO YEARS, I can count the number of times I've had an unsolicited comment (ie- where I didn't bring my serial up first) on both hands, and I've had maybe one referral. (Ok, not counting #FFs in that, because my Twitter feed goes beyond my serial.) My family doesn't read. My colleagues don't read. My MTBoS friends don't read?
|Look! Math+SciFi! ...where are you going?|
Them: "Is your twitter avatar a ten sided Dr Who parody?"
Me: "Yes, here's why."
Them: "Oh, that's clever."
DEAR GOD, WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!
Now, I know this is on me. Like any good teacher, I know it's up to me to make my, well, writing engaging. I also know I'm stuck behind the 8-ball, because:
a) My topic is math. This does not have a wide audience.
b) People in education do not have a lot of free time.
c) I pun a lot.
Up to this point, I thought the trouble was publicity. Except I tweet every update twice. I have a Facebook page (13 likes), and even post to Google+. In September, I took the time to break down exactly what was going on in a series of posts, and I got triple the hits there as compared to any of my regular updates. I toss out my serial characters in conversations about once a week, which already feels like too much.
So the message is getting out there. I'm just not interesting.
But unless you tell me WHY I'm not compelling, and suggest how I can IMPROVE on that, all I can do is GUESS. I've spent over 185 entries guessing. (Yes, I now have an entry for every day of the school year.) I'm getting sick of guessing. Particularly when I see what other serials have going for them.
HOW I WANT THINGS
|Sorry, meant to say a tweet|
that I can decipher.
I want someone to see themselves in my serial, and tell me so, without prompting. Be it the link to their website (I've pointed at blogs, and sites like Estimation180) or a plot point they suggested or saw coming (I had some colleagues give me ideas in Series 4, which I included) or in something a character does (I've got two female characters sleeping together now, and I don't know if they're acting realistically). I say "without prompting" because otherwise I'm just going to get more of "Oh, that's clever. I don't have time for this."
I want people to say "wow, didn't see that coming", implying some previous interest. I follow other writers, and I always find myself sighing when they say something like 'Didn't expect that reaction to my post!'. Because the reaction I get is... no reaction. Note I'm not asking for a ReTweet here, or a recommendation, all I want is a response that signifies interest beyond a single post. Because again, serial.
Now, we don't always get what we want. In fact, I'm certain that someone out there reading this is saying 'You got a comment on your facebook wall? You're already ahead of me!' Again, I get it. There's a guy out there who had to publish every day for several years before he garnered any attention. In a lot of senses, I'm still young at this.
But the fact of the matter is, I AM older than a LOT of other initiatives. My content, it trends to humour and relaxation, more than pedagogy and curriculum. Is that wrong? Is FUN not a thing we want in math? Because I'm feeling invisible. Should I include blog search terms? Of what type? More special episodes? On what topics? Should I throw an entire Series into a single post for reading, rather than use the index page? Update the character page? Spin three times in a circle chanting the Tau of Pi before every update??
I grant that perhaps you'll tell me, "this is what you need to do", and I'll realize I cannot do that. I also know I have no chance of being everything to everyone. But at least I'll know. Or I'll know more than I do now. Because what is a writer without an audience?
I am nothing without you. Just a shadow passing through.