Just two days ago the UK TeX Users Group survived its greatest
threat. It was a threat to its very existence. At the AGM there was a
motion to dissolve the organisation. And if passed, it would have sent
all of UK TUG's funds (£13,000) to the German and US TeX User Groups.
This motion was defeated 9 votes to 20, with 7 abstentions. (Most of
the votes were emailed in.) UK-TUG might not survive the next threat,
which is likely to be in February or March 2020 (see below).
UK-TUG has serious problems. It's largely disconnected from the UK TeX
users. Here's my evidence.
The AGM was in Oxford. There were 12 people present. Two weeks
earlier, also in Oxford, 28 people signed up to
hear a talk on writing a PhD thesis using LaTeX and Markdown, given by
It's very likely that neither meeting knew about the other. I only
discovered the first meeting, while preparing for the AGM.
TeX first appeared 41 years ago. UK-TUG has an aging
membership. A rough poll, and visual estimates, tells me that of the
12 people at the AGM
- 1 was under 30.
- 1 was over 30 and under 50.
- Of the remaining 10, the majority were over 60.
UK-TUG, for many years, has organised only one event per year, the
The R language first appeared 26 years ago. Oxford R User
Group organised the LaTeX and Markdown meeting. They have
560 members on Meetup, and have organised 21 events in 2 years. This
was their first LaTeX event, it seems.
The speaker, and most of their members, seem to be much younger that
the UK-TUG members.
The package R Markdown describes itself as
Analyze. Share. Reproduce. Your data tells a story. Tell it with
R Markdown. Turn your analyses into high quality documents, reports,
presentations and dashboards
R Markdown documents are fully reproducible. Use a productive
notebook interface to weave together narrative text and code to
produce elegantly formatted output.
R Markdown supports dozens of static and dynamic output formats
including HTML … PDF … Beamer … scientific
articles … websites, and more.
The LaTeX project describes itself as
a high-quality typesetting system; it includes features
designed for the production of technical and scientific
documentation. LaTeX is the de facto standard for the communication
and publication of scientific documents.
It's home page emphasises
The volunteer efforts that provide you with LaTeX need financial
support, so thanks for any contribution you are willing to make.
It's clear that LaTeX is one of the many back-ends supported by R
The future – software
There's no talk of the R user groups disbanding. The TeX user groups
are in decline. The R users work and perhaps live in R notebooks. They
see LaTeX as a back-end tool for typesetting, and the mathematical
markup language used by MathJax.
There's no doubt that TeX (and hence LaTeX) has a long future ahead of
it as a back end typesetting system. But Markdown is now surely by far
more popular as a document markup language.
It's interesting the Ulrik Lyngs has a blog post on Pandoc
filters, where he uses Lua to create a middleware
filter, between the Markdown front-end and the LaTeX back-end, to
solve a text processing problem.
It's interesting the LuaTeX provides a similar middleware use of
Lua. But in LuaTeX the middleware is a layer in a monilith, that
produces only PDF. But R Markdown uses Pandoc, which has a layered
(The problem was the visual indication of changes to a PhD thesis.)
The future – UK-TUG
The AGM passed a motion requiring the new committee to report
progress, within 3 months, in reviving the organisation. And if
insufficient progress, organise as Special General Meeting, with a
motion to dissolve UK-TUG.
So the next threat to the survival of UK-TUG will probably come in
February or March 2020. And much depends on the new committee. I'll
post further news, from time to time.
These three months at least gives members the chance to keep some of
the funds in the UK. And to get funding for UK based projects.
To discuss this, visit this forum thread.
I've decided to spend 2–4 hours a week, for the next 12 weeks,
on promoting and supporting the use of TeX in the UK. And so I'm open
to requests. I'll give priority to requests, where the person asking
is also giving time. I'll match that time, hour for hour (up the my
And I'll exert what little influence I have, to obtain funding from
UK-TUG for worthwhile projects. So please contact me.
The medium is the message
The UK-TUG AGM minutes have been produced, as ever, in PDF. That's
fine. PDF is good for printing. But it's not a web page. It's not easy
to link to a section in a PDF. They don't work well on mobile devices.
Here are the minutes. They've not yet been published as HTML. There's
still no easy way to do that sort of thing.