Matt in Salvador, Brazil, March 2014.Hello, I’m Matt. I live and work in West Sussex, England. I’m interested in science, health, programming, maths and statistics. Also, modern art, novels and science fiction movies. I travel and take photos.

I have an MSc in data analysis, an MSc in Health Economics, and a PhD in applied mathematics. I worked for five years as a modeller for Public Health England. I currently work at West Sussex County Council.

Why do I blog?

To share my expertise.

I’m interested in mathematical models for the transmission of infectious diseases, particularly in cases where the force of infection is nonlinear. I also dabble in data science and machine learning, usually with a perspective gained from my disease modelling and health economics work.

To meet fellow specialists.

I’d like to expand my circle of friends and colleagues working on the subjects mentioned above. This is my trail of breadcrumbs, so to speak, leading you to my door. If you like my posts, please get in touch via twitter or email. My handle and my address should be easy enough for humans to guess.

Because writing is thinking.

We live in times of rushed social media statuses and ill-considered leaps to judgement. I think it is better to reflect on things and think them through. While some social networks provide opportunities to do this, there’s something nicer about creating a little homespun website.

To remember things.

The act of putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, is to commit thoughts to later recall. As the saying goes: “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”1

What is this blog about? What can you expect to read?

Stories.

How things work interests me. By ‘things’ you can assume I’m talking about how mathematics models reality, how computer programming models either mathematics or reality, and so on. I mostly work on economic problems, so stories about those will also appear now and then.

And what is a story? We tell stories about X because X teaches us something and/or leads us to Y and Z. This allows readers to make the connections between X, Y and Z (and allows me to remember that such connections exist).

Opinions.

When stories are not so clear cut, and there’s less direct causation between those Xs and Ys, opinions form instead. As a scientist I’m given to making hypotheses, presenting evidence to support them and anticipating any objections. But when those hypotheses are on my blog and not a peer-reviewed journal, you can be sure that I’ll be thinking of them not as proved facts, but opinions.

Or at least, I will try. The world would be much a better place to live in if everybody tried to do that2.

How-tos and Recipes.

I will sometimes write posts about how to do things. Sure there might be five (hundred/thousand) other places you can look up how to do things on the internet but I enjoy writing posts that are practical. That way I can remember it - or at least remember that I wrote a blog post and teach my future self as well.

Under this heading you can also put recipes. There are one or two that survived the recent cull3. I imagine more will appear in the future.

Reviews.

I like writing reviews. Be warned, I usually write about something only if I can say at least one nice thing about it. This policy makes writing reviews more fun. I see no reason to change this.

Some of my previous reviews are a bit saggy. There are naïve ones and ones that cause me to cringe on re-reading. Writing a review is an art honed by repetition and practice. For that reason, I want to write more of them, while using the pro-forma suggested by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis4: “I read, saw, played, or used something. This is what it is. This is what my experience was like. The thing has these strengths and weaknesses. In conclusion, it’s best when evaluated by these criteria.”

Who am I writing for?

You.

I used to write for SEO5. It was like a game. Can I write posts to match these arbitrary rules? And then one day my WordPress site got hacked by spammers because it had good SEO. So forget that.

Specialists.

They will find me, even without SEO. You did, after all.

The Blog-o-sphere™.

Is it even still a thing? It’s not 2003 after all. However, I hope that as I become more specific in my topics, I will find aggregators and kindred bloggers to share with. I might even start to use Twitter more regularly. Or even enable comments :scream:.

Me.

I need the practice. I probably also need an editor. Also anything that forces me to read and engage with the ideas of other people has to be a good thing. Regular practice at writing has to be a good thing.

How am I going to do this?

The great thing about Jekyll is that it’s really easy to just get some typing done. Just random typing that maybe becomes a blog post. Or perhaps it just stays a set of notes about something or other. Or possibly it remains as the idea for a set of slides. Or it might languish as not quite enough of a fresh take on existing material.

My greatest problem is finding the time to write. I am good at carving out time for myself. My wife is happy for us to do separate things while we are together6. But do I actually write? Not all the time. I pledge to try more often.

Allow me to be honest. Posts will be infrequent. I write when the mood strikes me, because that helps me to produce better writing. Good writing requires editing, and it’s the editing that takes time.

There have been times when I tried to write short pieces often, rather than longer posts intermittently. I don’t think it worked (for me), but with a clearer idea of what to write (see above) this approach might work in the future. You may see shorter pieces appearing more often.

If I can generate more social connections with my writing, I might be able to collaborate with aforementioned specialists. Stranger things have happened. If you want to write with me, please get in touch.

  1. This blog does not have a sponsor, but if it were to have one Field Notes would probably be it. 

  2. In the absence of such a world, this is also an opinion. 

  3. An example is the amazing recipe for chocolate cake

  4. Parts of this post are inspired by Jesse’s PyCon talk.

  5. Search Engine Optimisation. 

  6. She writes a blog too. It’s excellent.