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Ask Dr. Math: The Math Doctors' Newsletter

by Ian Underwood

February, 2001


To: All Dr. Math Doctors
From: Ian Underwood 
Subject: Ask Dr. Math in February


Hi Math Doctors,

Due to some changes in the way we're handling archiving, I haven't
been able to complile accurate statistics for the entire month of
February.  Through the 25th of the month, however, things looked like
this:

                        Feb*  Jan   Dec   Nov   Oct   Sep   
                        ----  ----  ----  ----  ----  ----
  Questions asked:      6751  8352  5874  8253  9023  8330  
  Questions answered:   2632  3643  2750  3082  2447  1821  
  Percent answered:     39.0  43.6  46.8  37.3  27.1  21.0  


Drs. Peterson, Rob, Robert, Roy, Douglas, Schwa, Mitteldorf, Anthony,
Jerry, Greenie, and Achilles all answered at least 100 questions
during that period. 

We're still flirting with the 50% mark, so I'd like to ask a favor of
those math doctors who have signed up but have never used their
accounts: Would you get in touch with me to let me know what I can do
to make it easier or more attractive for you to get started?



Kudos and new arrivals
----------------------

Congratulations to newly tenured Dr. Achilles. 

Welcome to new intern Dr. Patti. 


More on quick memos
----------------------

The quick memos in the scrub room have been changed again.  Now there
is just one free-form memo, which you can use for any purpose.
Underneath, there is a pull-down menu that you can use to 

  * identify a thread as something that should be removed

  * mark a thread as being suitable for an intern

  * propose that the thread be considered for archiving

This last one is a quick-and-dirty way to implement a feature that
several doctors have asked for.  When you've put a lot of work into
writing a particular answer and think that it would be a good
candidate for inclusion in the archives, you can use a quick memo to
let the archivists know about it.

The easiest way to use it is this:  After you've sent the answer off,
hit the Back button on your browser a couple of times to get back to
the scrub room.  Then select '[] Consider for archiving' from the
menu, and hit the 'Post Memo' button.


The Clinic
----------

The big news for the month is that we have an experimental 'clinic' page,

  http://mathforum.org/dr.office/clinic.pl

which can serve as an alternative to the triage/post-op/holding-tank
pages.  

The page is divided into two parts:  a form, and a listing. 

The listing is similar to the listing you'd see in triage, etc., with
a few interesting differences.  It's a table now, so the names and
subject lines are aligned vertically, which should make it easier to
skim through the threads.  Clicking on a subject line displays the
corresponding message in the scrub room, which is opened in a browser
window called 'thread', so you can examine questions without having to
regenerate your current listing.

The form is the interesting part:

  *  It begins with a pull-down menu that you can use to focus on
     messages from triage, post-op, or the holding-tank. 

  *  That is followed by a pair of fields that let you skip past
     any number of threads, and see any number of threads.  For 
     example, if you want to see threads 201 through 250 from 
     triage, you would enter

         Skip: 200  Show: 50
       
  *  That is followed by a pair of buttons that you can use to
     move forward or backward through the source you've selected. 
     If you've selected

         Skip: 200  Show: 50

     hitting the 'Next' button would generate the listing for

         Skip: 250  Show: 50

     Hitting the 'Prev' button would generate the listing for

         Skip: 150  Show: 50

  *  You can elect to search for threads that include answers or
     memos written by a particular doctor.  

     For example, to see the answers that you've written lately:
     Choose 'Post-Op' from the source menu, set Skip to 0, check the
     box marked 'For Doctor', and enter your name in the text field.
     If you want to see threads in which you contributed answers,
     check the box marked 'Answers'.  If you want to see threads in
     which you contributed memos, check the box marked 'Memos'.  If
     you want to see both, you can check both boxes, or leave both
     boxes unchecked.

  *  You can elect to search for strings that appear in the name/email
     address of the patient who initiated a thread, or in the subject
     line of any message in the thread.  

     For example, if you know that you recently answered a question
     from babygirl@barbie.com, or from someone named Jason, you can
     select yourself as the relevant doctor (as described above),
     enter 'babygirl@barbie.com' (or any part of that address) or
     'jason' in the text field, and check the box marked 'Name/Email'.

     (The search fields are _not_ case-sensitive, so you don't have to
     worry about getting the capitalization right.) 
     
     If you know that you recently answered a question with the word
     'calculator' in the subject line, you can enter that in the text
     field, and check the box marked 'Subject'. 

     If you just want to see if anyone has answered a question
     about factoring recently, you can search on that subject while
     leaving the 'For Doctor' box unchecked.  

     Or if you'd just like to see what questions in triage have the
     word 'probability' in the subject line, you can get a listing of
     those.  

Once you're happy with the parameters in the form, you can click the
'Go!' button to generate a new listing. 

In between the form and the listing, you'll find a collection of links
back to the regular office pages.  These links are configured to open
in a browser window called 'office', again so that you don't have to
regenerate your current listing. 

The clinic will be in a somewhat fluid state, as we figure out ways to
make it more useful.  (For example, we'll almost certainly add the
ability to specify a range of dates.)  I would encourage all of you to
at least give it a once-over and send me whatever comments, questions,
or suggestions occur to you.


That's all the news for February.  Go forth, be fruitful, and teach
kids to multiply...

Dr. Ian
Attending Physician
Ask Dr. Math
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