As an example of how a cooperative works, suggestions in the OpenETC Mattermost channels is leading to adding support (soon) for LaTeX Math Display in WordPress and (now) in Mattermost itself.

Excuse the not so subtle reference to really old British rockers but we hope this gets to both what you want and what you need.

I might be among the few that has fond memories of learning math in school. I loved it (thank you Mr Fike, Ms Swanson, Mr Witz) and at one time put my calculus to use in grad school.

If you think complex mathematical expressions are head spinning, being able to display them in digital format is a deep rabbit hole that leads one to The LaTeX Project or see the references to it from WikiPedia.

LaTeX is a markup language but quite a few tags above and beyond HTML– and using it on web sites and other applications requires some addition bit of code under the hood. But, it allows you to publish equations like:

i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}\left|\Psi(t)\right>=H\left|\Psi(t)\right>

Getting this in WordPress means putting something like this into a code block- look at the LaTeX, lovely?

LaTeX entered in format for the JetPack plugin to display, wrapped in ‘$latex….$` tags

I will admit I have no idea what that means (yes, I googled for an example). And this display is not quite the optimal way. But let’s backtrack.

It Started in Mattermost

You do know we offer Mattermost communities here at the OpenETC, not only for our community, but is also available as a hosted service for BC educators? It’s an open source alternative to commercial Slack, MS Teams, et al.

Jason Diemer asked in the OpenETC Mattermost channel

Hi folks. Is there a LaTeX plugin for WordPress?

I know little of LaTeX to be sure, but as I have access I could see no plugins we have available. The only option we have available (and used for my example above) is “support” for LaTeX via the JetPack plugin. You can activate this plugin in your OpenETC WordPress site, but it does require authenticating via a WordPress.com account (this does not seem to be a requirement for using the LaTeX option).

Plus, as Jason pointed out, this renders the LaTeX as an image that lacks good accessibility features (the raw LaTeX code is shoved in the image’s alt tag, I would guess that is of little use).

We are at present researching other plugins that provide better support, these are ones that use a library called MathJax that appear to require a server to run it from. This is currently being researched, but we expect to have support for better Math display soon. We always have to also explore the impact of more plugins on a shared service that powers some 3000+ sites.

Stay posted.

What About LaTeX in Mattermost?

Jason stepped up again to the mic in Mattermost, with a related question

Hi all. I’m new here. Recently I asked in the WordPress channel about getting a MathJax/LaTeX (preferably MathJax) plugin for WordPress. I did a little snooping around and it appears that Mattermost has LaTeX capability, but it needs to be “activated in the system console.” (As per https://github.com/kosgrz/mattermost-plugin-latex/issues/3#issuecomment-619567195)

If MathJax or LaTeX is something that can be used in Mattermost, then I can see this becoming a very effective tool for course discussions in STEM courses. I’d been contemplating using CampusWire for its LaTeX-ability, but if Mattermost can handle it, then there’s no need to look elsewhere.

Actually we were able to do this, and LaTeX is now available in Mattermost!

Screenshot of Mattermost chat where a formatted LaTex formula is displayed along with the reference link on how to format.
Proof of LaTeX is in the Open ETC Mattermost channel!

Using LaTeX here means putting math markup inside a code block (see the documentation for more details)

Entering LaTeX in a Mattermost message- use the Option/Alt Return key to use multiple lines

Writing LaTeX is not quite most people’s cups of tea! But to experiment with it, I discovered MathLex (nicely shared service under Creative Commons license) that as a visual interface for piecing together math expressions, and it reveals the LaTeX needed below.

That was how I made the utterly meaningless:

\sum_{service = 1}^{mattermost} \frac{f \left( ETC + troy^{2} \right)}{\exp{\left( service + \ln{\left( day \right)} \right)}}

Jason did inform us that the Matterost mobile client does not yet render LaTeX.

You can pipe in to these discussions in the OpenETC Mattermost Channel about Mattermost.

Ahem, Co-Op

This little exchange should demonstrate how the co-op works. We cannot meet everyone’s needs like an IT department, but we will try to provide support to technologies like LaTeX that have potential for broad use (and send some love to Troy Welch, our tireless admin who actually does the work to make this stuff happens.

We are still looking at getting a WordPress plugin available that can handle LaTeX better than JetPack. And we also are looking at recent requests for plugins to handle multilingual content.

As the old boys never quite sang:

No, you can't always get the plugin you want
You can't always get the plugin you want
You can't always get the plugin you want
But if you ask in Matternost you might find
You get what you need

Image Credit: Lorraine Turnbull Foster, first woman to earn Ph.D. in math at Caltech, 1964.jpg Wikimedia Commons image licensed CC BY-SA, modified by Alan Levine to add a bit more scribble on the board and the OpenETC logo.