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    • CommentAuthorAnixx
    • CommentTimeMar 9th 2012
    > If you do not explain, stop wondering why your questions remain unanswered, downvoted and closed

    Should I similarly downvote all questions which I do not understand?
    • CommentAuthorfedja
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2012
    > Every mathematician should know what polygamma function is. In fact somebody who does not know what it is, and is not professional enough to at least look up the definition in google, cannot be called a mathematician.

    That is a nice addition to my (vast and versatile) collection of reasons why I cannot be called a mathematician. I have no idea what the polygamma function is and certainly have no desire to investigate it using google or Wikipedia. In general, the question boils down to "Whom are you writing your question/answer for: the few experts or the wide MO audience?" Both points of view have their merits. On one hand, why should one bother to explain things to people who have never been interested in the problem before it appeared on MO and will forget the whole thing as soon as they take their eyes from the screen? On the other hand, why should you give a public presentation when 90% of the public you address do not understand the language you speak? I guess, it is OK for you to make your choice of how to write, provided that you allow the public to make its choice of how to up/downvote afterwards and have no grudge if your post is rated not as high as you hoped for. If you care about your ratings, you have to adjust to the (different and contradictory) tastes of the surrounding people, not to try to change them. If you don't, you just do what you find most appropriate and ignore the feedback, whether positive or negative. If you are in between, do something in between. Trying to set up a general rule here is rather pointless and even if you do, most people (including myself) will just ignore it.

    >Should I similarly downvote all questions which I do not understand?

    Yes, if it is your firm opinion that the posts on public fora (math. or otherwise) should be made in the language understandable to most readers. No, if you don't hold such opinion. Up and downvoting is there merely to enforce the "consensus culture" of the forum. That culture is the combination of the viewpoints of different people that do not agree with each other. It would be useless to try to make me and you to agree on what is a good writing style in general (or to make any two other people agree on any universal rule) but if we both honestly provide our feedback using the voting system, and a third person cares about his ratings, in finite time he'll find a writing style that we both will approve of (though for completely different reasons) and that's all that is needed or that one can hope for.
    • CommentAuthordeane.yang
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2012
    I think fedja said it all very nicely. Now's a good time to close this thread.
    • CommentAuthorAnixx
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2012 edited
    > I guess, it is OK for you to make your choice of how to write, provided that you allow the public to make its choice of how to up/downvote afterwards and have no grudge if your post is rated not as high as you hoped for.

    In that case we will end up in that questions about the field that are represented by the minority of audience harshly downvoted. This will become a war between branches of mathematics which will end in a victory of the side which has the majority.

    To avoid this I suggest people just do not downvote what they do not understand, as I do.
    • CommentAuthordeane.yang
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2012

    Here are my views on this:

    a) It is reasonable to post a question, where you assume that everyone knows what the polygamma function is. There is no reason why you should know in advance that some people don't know.

    b) It is reasonable, if you see a question referring to the polygamma function, to not know what a polygamma function is. And it is reasonable to post a comment asking for the definition.

    c) If you post a question and someone asks for a definition, it is reasonable to be helpful and respond with the definition and any further clarifications requested. Even world class mathematicians have gaps in their knowledge. Even in their own field.

    d) If you have posted more than one question and have noticed that people are asking for definitions and explanations about the notation, it is reasonable, when you post a new question, to try to anticipate these questions and try to provide more definitions and explanations of notation right away.

    @Anixx: I am pretty sure that fedja is a world class classical analyst. If he has never heard of the polygamma function, perhaps you should rethink your position and be willing to define terms that are unfamiliar to people who might give answers to your questions.

    • CommentAuthordeane.yang
    • CommentTimeMar 11th 2012
    I agree with Bill that fedja is a world class research mathematician (as is Bill as well), whose work lies in what is known today as "classical analysis" but is really modern 21st century mathematics. On the other hand, Anixx seems to be working on stuff that to me really does look like classical 19th century analysis and which very few current mathematicians working in real and complex analysis work on or think about. It is my impression that today the polygamma function is more familiar to some mathematicians working in number theory, combinatorics, and special functions than most working in real and complex analysis.

    The polygamma function is found neither in the index of Special Functions by Andrews, Askey and Roy, nor in Whittaker and Watson, although the digamma function is in both (as "logarithmic derivate of Gamma function" in the latter).

    I strongly believe that all this talk of the polygamma function is a red herring. But for what it's worth, Google returns 25700 hits for "polygamma function". In comparison, "compact closed category" returns 25300 results (and I don't think anyone would object to a question talking about compact closed categories without explaining what they are). Both are treated in some detail on wikipedia.

    Dan, not that I consider it important, but I was interested in seeing whether I would get the same results you got. If I enter "polygamma function" with quotes into Google, I get a little over 11000 hits; if I enter "compact closed category" with quotes, I get more than 25000. If I enter polygamma function without quotes, I get between 27000 and 28000 hits; if I try the same for compact closed category, I get over 43000000 hits.

    • CommentAuthorroberto
    • CommentTimeMar 11th 2012 edited
    Those Google estimates never make sense. There are only 24 pages(10 results each) for "compact closed category" and 64 pages for "Polygamma function". (And not much more if you "repeat the search with the omitted results included").

    Edit: Couldn't resist pointing this out(given the recent bump), but I agree with the 2 comments below.
    How many Google hits are there for "threads that have outlived their usefulness on"?

    I agree with your point, Gerry. I cast a vote to close.


    @dan: In order to understand a question about "compact closed categories" I would have to ask what they are. So, yes, the definition (or link to it) should be included in that question as well.