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Announcing The Finite Group

“Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place where maths people could hang out and create cool maths things?” This idea was put to me a couple of years ago, and has stuck with me. It does sound nice.

Fast forward to 2023, and social media is collapsing. Some people have chosen a direction and are marching off towards Mastodon, Bluesky, Threads, or a number of other platforms. Some people are trying to keep up with multiple of these, but feeling spread too thin and wondering if it’s worth the effort (ask me how I know!). But many people are taking the opportunity to step back and think again. People are rethinking whether they want to conduct their online social lives in public. There is a surge in private communities, things like WhatsApp groups, Slack channels and Discord rooms. These have the advantage that you aren’t part of the ‘engagement’-driven content push, but they have disadvantages too – you have to know the right people to get into the group.

Meanwhile, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place where maths people could hang out and create cool maths things?

So we’re creating it. We’re calling it The Finite Group (who doesn’t love a punny maths name?). “We” is Katie Steckles, Sophie Maclean, Matthew Scroggs and me. It’s going to be a maths community that gets together to share and create cool maths things, that supports creators to do their work within the group and on the wider internet.

Finite Group. Live chats with cool maths people. Join us on Patreon/Discord:

It’s semi-public, in that anyone can find it and join, but there’s a barrier to entry which will hopefully mean it collects people who are on board with the ethos of the group. We hope to create a friendly and supportive community of people who are interested in maths and want to play and explore together.

At the start, there will be two main activities.

  • A supportive online chat community focused on maths and related topics. We’re running this on Discord, a chat platform designed for small communities to get together and hang out. People can chat and post things they find interesting – puzzles, jokes and memes, links to maths papers, written content or videos, or anything else they think people may find interesting – as well as reply and react to what others have shared. You can edit typos in your posts. If there is interest in a particular topic, we can create a side channel to discuss it. Discord seems to have a lot of potential as a tool to support a friendly community getting together. We hope this will be a place to build a community and make friends.

    It looks basically like this, where I’ve shared a link, edited a typo (flags, not flag, Peter!), and two people have reacted using a Rubik’s cube custom emoji. Like you do.
Peter Rowlett posted “Mimi is creating all the flags of the world using Rubik's cubes. Here it is on Newsround!” with the link which displays as a picture of a teenager arranging Rubik’s cubes on a table top into a flag pattern with text “Meet the girl mapping the world in puzzle cubes. A teenager from London is creating the flags of the world using Rubik’s Cubes to raise money for charity.” After the post is the note “(edited)”. Under the post is a small Rubik’s cube and the number 2.
  • One of the ways that our friendly community will get together is through online events. Roughly monthly, we’ll get together live. These will be collaborative and exploratory, your opportunity to watch the hosts chew over mathematical ideas and pitch in with your own. Our idea is that we could have one of us ‘explaining’ something, with others joining in the conversation. It won’t be a formal lecture – it’ll be chatty, with plenty of opportunity for you to pitch in with questions and ideas about the topic.

    Perhaps it’ll be Katie helping me get my head around the maths behind a card trick, Sophie explaining the maths she used as a trader, or Scroggs talking through the maths behind his latest puzzle. We’ll expect a level of maths knowledge equivalent to about high school/college level, and if anything is under-explained there’ll be the opportunity to ask questions. We will attempt to record the video so community members who miss it live can watch back for a short time afterwards.

Depending on your tastes, you can emphasise one or the other, whether it’s a friendly online chat community that gets together for video chats, or a series of online events supported by a chat group. The precise scale and scope are to be determined. It’ll depend who joins and what they want – it’s a community, after all. And how many people join will determine the resource we have available to play with. We’d love to increase the number of activities and broaden the range of creators we can support, but it depends how many people are willing to chip in to be part of it.

So join The Finite Group via Patreon from £4/month to be a part of our friendly mathematical community and support mathematical creators in our live monthly-ish video chats, as well as mathematical projects, events and content we’ve created elsewhere on the internet.

If you’re already interested, that’s great – you can sign up straight away. Regardless, we’d like to invite you to join us for our (free) first livestream, which will be on Tuesday 17th October from 6-7pm BST, and will be free to access for anyone, in the hope that people will enjoy it and want to join our community.

Finite Group Livestream: 17th October, 6-7pm BST. ‘Defining the Axioms’ - Meet the Hosts. Sophie Maclean, Peter Rowlett, Matt Scroggs and Katie Steckles.

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