Not signed in (Sign In)

Vanilla 1.1.9 is a product of Lussumo. More Information: Documentation, Community Support.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011

    Meta thread for

    What everybody must/should know achievements in 2010 and around

    Quick facts: Closed yesterday without much discussion. Now 3 votes to reopen.

    Personal opinion: On the minus side it is really subjective and possibly argumentative. IMO, in case it is reopened people should at least please refrain from expressing their disagreement with nominations verbally. On the plus side it could be interesting.

    Such question obviously interesting for many. You can see that view number is big now.

    So I guess one should have serios reason preventing so many people to discuss what they want.
    I do not see any reason like this.

    There are many threads like this in MO so closing that particular one does not seem to me fair.

    I did not put community wiki flag initially since I simply did not know what is it. Now I put the flag.
    • CommentAuthorRyan Budney
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011 edited

    I suppose I find these kinds of questions just part of the hype echo-chamber. If you're interested in a subject you have other avenues to find out about recent developments. So it's not clear what kind of special role this thread plays, aside from reinforcing already-existing mechanisms for getting news out.

    I didn't vote on this thread as I have "soft question" and "big list" blocked. I suppose that's a pretty clear indication of what I think of these types of threads.

    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011
    I voted to reopen: I find it very interesting what people from different fields of math consider significant recent achievements. Besides obvious (I think) theoretical interest, for me the answers would be interesting, since I am on the hiring committee in my department.
    • CommentAuthorbsteinberg
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011
    If it had been CW to start with I think the question would have been fine. I would reopen if the existing answers became CW.
    @bsteinberg, I think that if the question is CW then the answers are automatically CW. I don't think there is any mechanism for making the CW status of the answers retroactive, if that's what you were asking for.

    @Gerry: answers are not turned into CW if the thread was converted to CW after the answers were posted. I think maybe Anton can convert everything to CW but otherwise it has to be done by the authors of the answers.

    • CommentAuthorbsteinberg
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011
    I suppose the authors are unlikely to do so. I guess it is then important to CW soft questions from the get go.
    I think the topic is very, very interesting and I would like to read what the big shots at MO have to say. But on grounds of principle: I don't know any topic where the "This really belongs on a blog."-argument has more bite.
    • CommentAuthorGjergji
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011
    I believe if the author converts the main post to CW, it does not affect the answers, but if a moderator uses the "wiki hammer" it converts everything to CW.

    As for the specific question, I agree with Micheal above. I am very curious to read the answers but I am afraid it might quickly degenerate into a discussion, and therefore find a better home in a blog. On the other hand, I would only vote to close after it starts attracting spam or subjective answers. Perhaps it is a good idea to let the question open for some time.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011

    I agree with Gjergji on everything.

    Just to summarize the CW issue, which confused me myself for a while (I only recently learned this thanks to David White).

    1. As soon as the question is CW all new answers will be automatically CW (in particular if it is so from the start all answers are CW).

    2. An OP turning a question into CW does not affect existing answers (as can be seen from the one answer to said question); of course each answerer can individually from the start or also afterwards turn the answer into CW (so one could leave a comment on the answer to request this, this happens sometimes).

    3. A moderator turning a question into CW can make it so that the existing answers are also turned into CW, I believe they can do this more efficiently than turning each answer individually into CW (which I think they also could).

    For the existing question I already flagged for moderator attention with the request of turning into CW some time ago (when I wrote my comment). As commented on the question in particular due to this answer issue it seems to me that the 'flagging for moderator' is the way to go for CW (if it is not 'on' right away); I already did this succesfully a couple fo times, yet some moderator please correct me if this is not a good practise. [When we switch to SE 2.0 this will always be like this as there only mods can turn questions into CW or the softaware after many edits or answers I beleive but in any case not OPs right away; to some extent this this also explains that some people do not turn there questions into CW themselves, they are not used to having this abilty].

    I am willing to make my answer to the question CW. Please advice.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011

    @Zeeshan Mahmud: below your answer you have a small button 'edit' (assuming you are logged in, else log in). Click on it. Then you get a window just like the one you had when answering orginally (where you could also chnage the answer if you wanted to). Below this window, there is a small box and to its right it says 'community wiki'. You just need to tick this box and then press the large button 'save your edits' at the very end.


    Now that we have solid evidence that answers to this question are likely to influence hiring decisions, we might ask: is this an outcome we want? It seems that such a situation will create unfortunate incentives.

    • CommentAuthorHailong Dao
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011 edited

    I think this question sets a dangerous precedent. Questions like this are always very popular (see, for example this one) but they are not quite appropriate for MO.

    In addition, the MO population is quite skewed towards certain subfields, so I am not sure the answers (and their ranking by votes) will paint a very accurate picture.

    Also, +1 to what Scott Carnahan just wrote.

    • CommentAuthorRyan Budney
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011 edited

    I agree with Scott and Hailong, this is starting to sound too political.

    • CommentAuthorKConrad
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011
    For those who like this question (personally I have no enthusiasm for it) could one of you please rewrite the question? The incorrect English makes me cringe, esp. in the title and introductory paragraph.
    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011
    @Scott: lots of different things influence hiring decisions.Do not worry: a single MO post (and even many MO posts) would not be a deciding issue.
    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2011
    @Keith: Am I right and there were no major achievements in number theory/algebraic geometry in 2010-2011?
    I think that it's hard to imagine something more subjective and argumentative than the question being discussed. It's good that it got closed again.
    What harm this question makes ?

    1) "Influence of hiring decisions" - see Mark's comment above

    Nothing except this sounded.

    What is use of this question ?
    Obviously we get more educated. The answers seems to be quite interesting - since people upvoted them.

    "the MO population is quite skewed towards certain subfields" - I think people know it and correct it in their mind, but I do not see any harm from this.

    "If you're interested in a subject you have other avenues to find out about recent developments" - I think it is NOT true for many people,
    1) people working for industry, but willing to keep some relation with "previous life" - like me (I cannot go for conference, seminars and etc and not much time for digesting the journals - it is much more easy to look at MO ...)
    2) Students - they just do NOT know the "other avenues" ...
    3) people from "not rich" countries are also restricted in rolling the conferences which is obviously one these "other avenues"

    I'm not a fan of the question either. One thing I find irritating and which could easily be fixed are the normative words "must" and "should". What everybody must know? Gimme a break. What everybody should know? Says you. If this question must stay open ;-), then why not change the title to "Noteworthy achievements in and around 2010" or something similar?

    "Noteworthy achievements in and around 2010" - good idea you are welcome to change. As for me - gist the same - words are not important, but I admit other people may "cringe" ...
    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011
    I do not really object to closing the question since there are 10 people who do not like it, but I think we are loosing a good opportunity. It is not true that one has other venues to find an answer. Everybody has different answers to that question (which is quite normal), and even two people in my field will have different answers, all answers being equally correct. So if you want to find my opinion about the top recent achievements in my area of research, you have no other way than reading it on MO (I would not answer personal emails like that and I do not have a blog for this). Similarly, I can find out opinions of some number theorists about their field. But I am not sure their opinion will coincide with the opinion of KConrad (in fact I am quite sure that the people I would ask have quite different opinion than he). So there is no other way for me to find out what he thinks. The same thing about algebraic geometry, functional analysis, etc.
    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011
    About the language of the question: English does not seem to be the native language of the OP. So all these "should" and "must" are just literate translations of Russian words which do not have as much "force" as their English analogs. As a result what a native English speaker would consider rude is actually a not quite adequate translation of a benign Russian text. Asking everybody on MO to use proper English is in fact quite (and intentionally) rude, IMHO.
    @Mark, thanks again. PS. What is "OP" ?
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011

    @Alexander Cherov: OP means Original Poster, that is in this case you.


    @Alexander Chervov: thanks for your gracious response. You seem to have seen that I simply wanted to help avoid any misunderstandings, but I'm sorry if I seemed to express myself too strongly. (By the way, I didn't know you were the OP; I saw Benjamin Steinberg's name.)

    • CommentAuthorbsteinberg
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011
    Todd, I just retagged it to include big-list.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011

    I tried to rewrite the question in the spirit of this discussion. Also voted to reopen. Just think about it, we cannot give the impression everything only happened in Group Theory, Combinatorics, and Computer Science ;D Kidding aside, I can also understand if it stays close but I also think it could be an interesting list if all goes well.


    Thanks, Benjamin. It's all clear now.

    • CommentAuthorKConrad
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011
    @Mark, @Alexander: Я не имел в виду, что обязательно писать очень хорошо по-английски, но тем не менее выбор и порядок слов в названии и начальной части вопроса мне казались неуклюжие (в смысле песенки крокодила гены :)).

    I like this question, but I also see the force of the argument that it is subjective and argumentative and that we do not want to influence hiring decisions.

    I would like to echo the comment of markvs that this information is not easy to come by otherwise. Math Reviews once experimented with "Featured Reviews," which were longer reviews of certain papers that were considered by the editors to be interesting enough to highlight. The editors knew that they were being subjective (e.g., the subject matter of Featured Reviews was skewed towards the areas of interest of the most prolific and articulate reviewers), but did not see this as a deal-breaker at first. However, MR soon discontinued Featured Reviews, and I heard through the grapevine that it was precisely for the same reasons that are being articulated here; they were being unwittingly thrust into the role of adjudicating which publications were "the best," and thereby influencing decisions about hiring and promotion.

    It seems to me that the mathematical research community could benefit from more knowledge of what is going on in areas other than one's own narrow research area. Admittedly, MO may not be the right venue, but I'm at a loss to suggest a better one. The Cipra/Mackenzie series of What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences is excellent, but there's only so much one writer can cover, no matter how talented and energetic. The only other alternative at present is to look at winners of various prizes. This again is a very short list, and will miss a lot of very interesting stuff that doesn't necessarily have the flashiness to win a prize.

    Some of you may remember that I once asked an MO question, "How do you find out the latest news in fields other than your own?" At the risk of sounding overly cynical, my summary of the answers would be, "You can't." This is a shame.


    Dear Alexander,

    You made many good points, as did Mark and Timothy. I just want to say that our votes to close did not imply that your question is bad. They didn't even imply that there is any better venue for such question. In fact, as Timothy pointed out, there is none. MO is by far the biggest congregation of mathematicians I know of, and I can see the tremendous temptation to tap in such energy for essentially a good cause. Personally, I would be curious to see the answers too.

    Our votes simply indicate some MO members' belief that MO is not yet suitable for such purpose. In fact, recently Tim Gowers has proposed a new MO-like system, where papers can be voted on (the follow-up discussion and post are very interesting too). So things are changing fast, and may be the day your question would be the norm is not too far away.



    • CommentAuthorAlex Bartel
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011 edited

    Dear Keith: wow! A minor correction: "мне казались (или лучше показались) неуклюжими".

    • CommentAuthorlouigi
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011
    This is one of the most interesting community wiki questions I can remember seeing in months. It seems a perfect way to learn about interesting current research directions in different subfields. I for one will be sorry if it stays closed.
    While I understand why some users are critical of this type of questions (especially as the original question had a somewhat sensational tone), I wholeheartedly agree with Timothy Chow and the sentiment expressed in his comment:

    "Some of you may remember that I once asked an MO question, "How do you find out the latest news in fields other than your own?" At the risk of sounding overly cynical, my summary of the answers would be, "You can't." This is a shame."

    As similar "very soft" questions, concerning career advice and other rather subjective meta-mathematical topics, pop up regularly on MO and invariably result in arguments, this IMHO clearly shows that some forum for general discussion about scientific system and similar topics is badly needed. Maybe MO is not the best place for this, but currently there is no prospect of any such venue appearing any time soon. Regarding another comment:

    "In fact, recently Tim Gowers has proposed a new MO-like system, where papers can be voted on (the follow-up discussion and post are very interesting too). So things are changing fast, and may be the day your question would be the norm is not too far away."

    Unfortunately, many people positive about Gowers' (or similar) ideas limit their commitment to lip service only. This kind of support is of course important, but such a system will never appear out of the blue - there has to be an active, committed group of users willing to actually implement this idea, otherwise for the next few years everybody will say that "This is a good idea" or "the day your question would be the norm is not too far away" and questions like this will still get rejected from MO.

    @michalkotowski: so what are you proposing people do? MO meta isn't intended to be the universal repository of all mathematical activism.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011

    My reading of michalkotowski's comment is that using/allowing to use MO for such things (at least temporarily) would help get the ball rolling. And thus there seems to be an implict suggestion of allowing more on MO. Not to take this thread too much off-topic, at least I will mention something specific to the question too:

    While I am in favor of this particular question, I am in general against opening up MO too much. The software is really designed for a highly specific purpose, (ab)using it for other things is just not a good idea.

    Yet there are some other activities complementing MO, for example besides other things makes it easier to follow discussion happening on different blogs. And, they also have a feature to make what Gil Kalai just did for that question (opening a blog post) more efficient by aggregating all such posts on PlanetMO.

    Also there is/was (?) an offer by Andrew Stacey to set up a discussion board if and only if somebody volunteers to moderate it. It seems noone ever followed up on this offer.

    @Ryan Budney: all I'm saying is that it makes no sense to oppose allowing such questions on MO and at the same do nothing to establish an alternative forum for such discussions.

    @michalkotowski, A rather extreme way of putting what you're saying into words would be: there's a group of people unwilling to put the effort into creating the forum they want, so we should allow them to do whatever they like with MO, regardless of how far off MO's mandate that would take the forum.

    The reason MO is a success is in part because it has a narrow mission. It isn't plugged-up with opinion pieces, pleas for funding, conference announcements, award announcements, sob stories, CV polishing and such. Because people don't want to read that stuff when they come here. They want actual mathematics.

    • CommentAuthorYemon Choi
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2011

    @Ryan: +Skewes number.


    @Yemon +Graham's number (to the power of A(G,G)) :P

    @Ryan: I could not agree more with "The reason MO is a success is in part because it has a narrow mission." I do believe that endorsing questions like this one, even in the form it's been edited into now will inevitably make MO into a rather annoying discussion forum. (Which for me, for instance, will remove any further motivation to contribute.)

    Michal Kotowski: Quite the opposite! It makes perfect sense. If this type of question were common on MO, then those who wanted to set up an alternative forum would have a struggle because everyone would say, "Oh, but we can post those on MO". By closing them and saying "Take them elsewhere" we're helping build up the momentum for the "elsewhere" to exist.

    Quid's quite right. I've said many times, and so has Scott Morrison, that I'd be happy to set up such a forum - it would take me about 5 minutes to do - I just don't want to moderate it. So far, no-one has even shown the slightest bit of interest in the idea so my conclusion is that all the people who shout loudly for such a place don't really want it.

    The link to Gowers' posts is apt. It's very easy to have ideas, and very good ideas, but not so easy to put them into place. MO is a realisation of a good idea, I think that the nLab/nForum is as well. But I spent a fair amount of time and effort with others thinking about a review site before concluding that it was beyond me (and them) so talk is cheap, as you say.

    This particular question matches just about every single one of my "Bad MO Question" signs. What is the point of it? What are people going to do with this information? Are people really going to read those articles (or whatevers) and conclude "This is what 2010 will be remembered for" (why 2010, by the way?). Or is it just a nice warm fuzzy list that's a bit different from the usual lists one gets at this time of year?

    The link to Gowers' post is doubly apt because this sort of information is really what journals should be providing. The Journal of K-Theory really should list those articles that the editorial board feels that everyone worker in K-Theory should read, regardless of whether they've been published elsewhere.

    So I'm voting to close. I agree with Vladimir that as this type of question becomes more prevalent then my motivation for participating in MO lessens.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 15th 2011

    @Vladimir Dotsenko: since you seem to have so strong feelings about this, may I ask you when you arrived at this insight. I assume after answering: A single paper everyone should read, How have mathematicians been raised, Cocktail party math, What are qualities of a good math taecher, Choosing postdocs


    @quid: I object to this sort of attack, especially from anonymous contributors.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeDec 15th 2011 edited

    @Scott Carnahan: I do not see why this is an attack, it was a perhaps provocative question, as a response to a particularly strong claim. Basically Vladimir Dotsenko asserts that for example I, but a couple of other people too, are doing something (endorsing this question) that will inevitably turn MO into something annoying.

    In addition in this case I really cannot see what anonymity has to do with this. Everybody can check what I say here against what I do on MO too.

    Also, I am really curious whether he at some point in time changed his mind regarding what is and is not good content on MO (I changed my mind on some MO related things over time, too), or somehow wanted to make an abstract point that inadvertently got phrased a bit too strongly (IMO) and was rather meant in the way what eg Andrew said (and btw me too on other occassions) or sees a difference between the current question and those other questions or still something else.

    So, could you please explain me at what type of 'attack' you see this.

    ADDED: Since I just refound it, let me add that nobody objected to the following sentence "I note that your expressed view is not entirely consistent with your own questions and answers." (in a similar discussion and context, which expresses exactly the same thing.)

    • CommentAuthormarkvs
    • CommentTimeDec 15th 2011
    I see that there have not been any recent achievements in any area outside group theory, combinatorics and theoretical computer science. I guess if everybody agrees with that statement, the question can indeed be closed and we can return to the productive discussions about raising mathematician and cocktail parties.
    @quid: first of all, I hope I don't need to say that the category "annoying" is as subjective as possible. (In other words, for a claim containing these words an 'IMO' prefix is assumed.)

    Second, in a forum discussion (or any discussion, to that matter), there are two common strategies, - to try and understand the opponent's viewpoint, and to convince "the audience" that the opponent is wrong. I believe that you can see how the two last comments you made easily seem to belong to the two different categories (which might have been Scott's concern - for which I express my deep gratitude).

    Finally, the answer to your question is that, most importantly, my opinion of what is suitable for MO evolved with time, and while during my first few months on MO I would not feel strongly about the question we are discussing, I do feel strongly about it now. However, it is also true that among the questions I answered that you chose to express your concern about my viewpoint, my current standing is that three out of five are fine, one sort of silly and borderline unsuitable, and one, indeed, completely not suitable for MO. Elaborating on that properly would take more time that I have at the moment, I am sorry about that.