Friday 1 January 2016

Jan 01/16

Hello Tandems. It’s January 1st, 2016. So I figure, let’s look back over the last 4+ years together. Why?
-To provide my psyche with some much needed perspective.
-To show what personified math means to me, again.
-To encourage anyone else out there involved in a creative undertaking.

This venture started in 2011 with an idea. Something I thought people (like you?) might be interested in reading. Math equations as people. I devoted pages and PAGES of background to it the latter part of the 2010-11 school year, mostly in drawings, but with enough story in mind to carry me through a full year, twice weekly. It launched in July, which was also when I acquired “mathtans” at gmail.

To this day, so many people believe “tans” has something to do with “tangent”. It doesn’t. (Do you know/recall what it means?)

The Tease: ParaB (2) had not yet appeared.

January 2012 was the first banner I made, at the six month mark, after 49 serial entries. We’d seen the polynomials and the conics, and were at the climax of Series 2. Back then, I said I was lucky to get 5 hits on a publishing day, ergo 10 for the week. Yet I never missed a publishing deadline, despite house hunting, and moving in with my in-laws for the holidays in 2011.

2012 was the year I solicited ideas from colleagues, and ventured into social media. When Trigonometry got introduced in February, I set up the Facebook page. On the one year anniversary mark (July 2012) I joined Twitter, and migrated from Google Sites to Blogger (this site), double posting each place until Series 4 began.

August 2012 saw Episode 100, a “Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000” link with my first attempt at a video (including a theme song). It got 100+ hits in a week, and it's been ALL downhill since.

In October 2012, my wife was in the hospital for a day, my buffer was gone, and despite buying “”, creating business cards, and doing my damn best to draw attention to my 16 month old creation... I was only getting about ten views per update. Granted, this was double what I had a year earlier, but given a huge cut in page views from August to September - it seemed no one was in any way engaged.

Twice weekly, for more than a year, and I set it aside.

The Tease: No tease this year, but Trig comes in 3's

January 2013 marked the return - unless you include the holiday special, which ran for it’s second year. I concluded Series 4, which had been a bit of a train wreck as it had been constructed to take advantage of feedback or suggestions of creative/math links... that never came. Series 5 was planned out differently.

Incidentally, I had a clever trick whereby “” would go to the blog pages, whereas “” would take me to the Google index page. But at some point after this, the internet dispensed with “www” - so much for that cunning plan!

Summer of 2013, I gave it my all. I had already made a couple more videos, one of them a compilation of "greatest hits" (which I blogged about here), and had more professional artwork commissioned. Now I handed out cards at “Twitter Math Camp”, including references for it in the storyline. I put together new videos to recap prior arcs. I shouted into the abyss “I HAD VERSINE TOO, LAST YEAR!” when it got big. I made and wore a shirt with Para on it. I had Scott write a blog post for me about the serial, and I had a series of posts explaining the mathematics I was using.

Series 6 launched. A silent few stuck around. So, you know when you’re talking to someone (or teaching!), and it’s something you’re really excited about, and all you get are blank stares and a few murmured, “That’s nice, I guess”? Yeah, like that.

To be fair, I reached about 1240 views in November - but most weren’t for the current arc. I suspect the surge was because (x, why?) gave me a shout-out by using my “Tangent” character and linking to my site then, because he’s awesome. Then, with the big Episode 200 (introducing racial diversity into the cast) and the 3rd annual Christmas special in December, views went DOWN. So in 2014, I cut back to weekly, instead of twice per week. Because sigh.

The Tease: Jump Gate and unknown "quartic" (4)

In April 2014, Audrey McLaren started archive diving and commenting, bless her heart. But I’d already made my decision. I closed the computer files on my birthday. The last queued posts went out in May. Series 6 was over. I wanted to write something people would actually read, and it wasn’t this.

It had been three years and over 220 episodes later, and the 40 hits on a new post wasn’t enough for me. Should it have been?

In March of 2014, I’d begun a monthly education column (on MuseHack, “There Are No Dumb Questions”), so that’s where I put my efforts. But I HAVE to write fiction too, it’s a compulsion. So in September 2014, I started a THIRD blog, where I now write serials. I also ended up spiralling down into a deep depression, and sought professional help.

Still, old habits die hard, so I put together a 4th annual Christmas (Christmath?) special. Interestingly, the songs were going over well at school assemblies, so I made not one, but TWO accompanying videos. And if you knew about that, you are among the elite few.

The Tease: Time Travel? Also, IIII shoutout.

I created that 2015 banner last February. Why? Because of an unexpected mention in the “Web Fiction Forums”, and a comment made on “Wattpad” (where I’d started posting Series 1), and my Facebook page crept up to 20 likes, and personification was in the media again due to “Inside Out” personifying emotions - plus I still had SO MANY IDEAS. Also, the serial site wasn’t doing great.

The clinching moment was panels I went to at “ConBravo” in July 2015... people doing creative things with reviews, and in fiction, over the long term. Longer than a mere three years. Perseverance.

This site resumed last August - AS A WEBCOMIC. I felt that format was more mainstream, faster to read, more of a creative stretch for me, and would allow new people to join without needing any of the prior backstory. I also joined tumblr, to try posting there. How is THAT going?

At first I was getting over 100 hits per post, and I was happy. But it soon became 2012 all over again - no engagement past September. I’m now getting maybe 70 hits, on average. Which is better than four years ago, but wow, drumming up interest in personified math is HARD. Maybe it’s not the idea, maybe it’s me??

This year, 2015, no one spoke to me about a 5th year anniversary Christmas special. Not here, not in person, nothing. (Insert sigh over how other people seem to run annual events that people notice.) I nearly didn’t write one... it's not depression per se, but I’m going through some other personal issues in my life too. But there had been an idea tooling around in my head since late November.

The last weekend before the Holiday Break, I put something together, along with a fairly simple video. When I suggested it, others at school thought the traditional assembly performance could be a thing. It happened. YouTube has it at 15 views.

The Tease: Forward the Future

Welcome to 2016. Monday’s Comic revealed that Trigonometry is black. The Conics (ellipse, hyperbola) had an asian heritage, though that may not have come through, given how no one’s remarked on it. Why do this? In part, it’s an attempt to up the diversity - even more so than my fractal efforts in Episode 200. In part because race is a current issue, and like the lesbian affair between QT and ParaB, or the recent "Star Wars" reference, I try to keep current.

Have you noticed any other differences between the Old ‘Tans and the New ‘Tans? (Aside from those racial issues, and hairstyles.) I hesitate to clarify, maybe it was too subtle - perhaps comment below, if you think you’ve spotted something.

Except you probably won’t, because you don’t read this blog for math fiction... only non-fiction posts like this. In that case, comment if you can think of ANY WAY TO GET THE WORD OUT other than social media. Cuz that seems to do nothing for me now. Word of mouth doesn’t work either - here's why.

I can’t ask my students to publicize it, that’s weird and wrong given my position of authority. This is not something that can directly inform teaching, so colleagues are out. Family and friends don't even talk to me about it (aside from my brother-in-law), so suggesting it to others is not a thing. (Though my parents did watch the Christmas video on their own time, which was nice of them, and I’ve had some encouraging remarks over the holidays.)

I kind of wish I was 20 years younger, or had thought of this 20 years earlier - if a student had come up with this idea, would it be more interesting to you? (Colouring books, damn it, I should have gone with colouring books...)


At any rate, given the 2016 Banner, you might sense where the plot is going. Heck, look at 2014’s banner: I was telegraphing it even then. Two sets of personifications will be coming together - because hey, there’s nothing stopping anyone ELSE from making their own personified group too! That was part of the POINT, really.

PARA (aka Quadratic)
Commission, by Oceantann
Now, there was another way I could have gone with this, namely to have the New Characters randomly change race, because as I claimed back in 2011, mathematics is universal, outside race, religion and the like. But being caucasian today, black tomorrow, felt like a bit of a cheat. Also, it might confuse continuity. Also, I felt like this might make for better storytelling: a group of math refugees who will be trying to settle in an established colony.

Did I mention I try to keep current? For all I know, I’m offending the hell out of everybody, in which case, maybe it’s good so few are reading.

This is still the biggest thing I put effort into though. It’s my “brand”. Heck, I asked for a new scanner for Christmas SOLELY FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS COMIC.

Okay, okay, sorry, I’ll stop making dramatic statements that probably seem whiny. A few final notes:
-For anyone curious about how I put the panels together, check out this post (on my other blog, where I try to drum up interest without disrupting the story here). Note I’ll be switching away from Seashore (which has no recent support) along with my new scanner, and trying GIMP instead. If you have tips.
-For anyone wanting a closer breakdown of stats for the year 2015, I have this post on the MathieX blog. It's not actually as bad as I feared, particularly in comparison with my other blogs.

Welcome to 2016. How long will I keep this up? Perhaps only as long as I can keep my depression at bay. Perhaps longer, if it appears to be worth it. Thanks for joining me in this post, at least! Keep on being creative out there.


  1. It's a weird thing. My odd little math art projects are done out of some kind of compulsion, so doing them is enough. But at the same time, it's so nice when they get noticed by anybody...

    It seems like your biggest bumps are from mentions by places with higher traffic. Is there a way to connect with NCTM? SMBC or XKCD? (Maybe the issue is that you have no 4 letter abbreviation.) Given the consistently mathier jokes, maybe Abstruse Goose? What are there numbers like? Whom do you consider your peers? (x,why?) seems like a good comparison. Do you know his numbers?

    1. Some things I do primarily for me... actually most of the stuff at the MathieX blog is that. Recaps of PD. Reviews of shows. Role-play. It's nice when that's noticed, but if not, I don't care that much. This is different.

      To build on my analogy within the post, it's like performing at a recital, where you'll be playing a piece you've been rehearsing for MONTHS, and you walk out... and only a few people are in the audience, all of whom you already know. Yes, you put the effort in to better yourself, but the end result of all that effort was a PERFORMANCE, one meant to be shared with others. It's not like I want to be at Carnegie Hall either, I was happy to have over 100 views on a comic, and a comment every month or two. I'm back down to 60 views and silence, and it's the death of a thousand paper cuts.

      That said, you're absolutely right. The next step, past social media, is to actually approach people higher up on the totem. My main sticking point is I want to do it right, otherwise I might burn the very bridges I'm trying to build. And given so much of my non-teaching time is taken up creating this content itself, I have very little left to devote to that sort of research (figuring out who, then how to approach or advertise with them)... plus, gods, my introverted nature shudders at the whole idea. But yes. That should be next. Thank you.

      I'd never even heard of Abstruse Goose. (x, why?) is definitely along similar lines - I don't know his numbers precisely, but I know they're in the hundreds or thousands... but then, he's been going for twice as long. And most of his views don't come from social media either. It stands to reason that actually knowing my peers (or my audience) would help... so far I've been figuring it out through process of elimination. I'm glad you're not eliminated yet!