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    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeJun 8th 2012 edited
    There are two votes to reopen and five votes for the comment "It's closed because there seem to be too many trigger-happy people on the local `closing committee'. This is a bit worrying"

    For me, it was mostly the hit-and-run approach of the OP. There is a fine comment somewhere on Meta by Bill Johnson, I do not know how to find it, something about "It is inconceivable to people of my generation that someone write a question and then just go away for hours. If you don't have the time, don't ask the question."

    edit: three votes to reopen as of 1:51 pm Pacific.



    One of the comments suggests that this is a well-known open question. That would be a good reason to close it. Otherwise I don't see why we should close. (Unless people have some reason to think that this particular poster was asking this question back in 1994, in which case I'm happy to defer my opinion to people who have interacted with this person on usenet.)

    This question was asked in rec.puzzles in 1994, but I believe it was not answered there. (Someone said, "I have convinced myself it isn't possible... but I have been unable to come up with a compelling proof.")

    Someone mentioned Conway's angel problem but that was open in 1994, and was settled in the wrong direction to be conclusive in about 2004. I wouldn't be surprised if the 3-D rooks problem were open, but perhaps it was settled by the techniques which solved Conway's angel problem for 2-angels.

    While many research mathematicians are interested in puzzles, I think puzzles should be presented to expose their mathematical sides to be suitable for MO. Otherwise we could be swamped by puzzles whose connections to mathematics are tenuous or obscure.

    I don't think we're yet far enough down that slippery slope to worry about it.


    Turns out this is a duplicate of a question asked on math.SE. I do think we're more than far enough down that slope, so I'm voting to close on that basis.


    Will, while I tend to agree with your initial post, I do have something to say about your quotation of Bill.

    These forums are not completely interactive. I am lucky enough to be completely internet addicted and when I ask a question I tend to follow it from any computer and cellphone I can lay my hands on. I do this with extreme prejudice and it will often cause me to wake up just to see if new information was added. Most people, I suspect, do not have this sort of zeal towards the internet or their questions. Many will ask a question and get lost within the interface after a short bit. The result is that people become unresponsive.

    It is also not unreasonable for someone to post a question just as they are about to leave for some while, and thus become "unresponsive".

    That being said, I have to complement that, by adding that I believe that questions should be as self-contained as possible in terms of motivation and such. If I will ever post such a question, I will not at all be surprised or even offended to see it closed after a while.

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeJun 8th 2012
    Hi, Asaf.

    You are right, these online fora are not real-time. On the other hand, if I see something by you, your questions and answers roughly match on MO and you've answered a pantload on MSE. So if you asked a question (that attracted my attention) and, say, immediately went to bed, I would know that you would participate when you returned.


    You probably had in mind this quote:

    The lack of courtesy of some posters who are asking for assistance is beyond belief to people of my generation. Another of my pet peeves is that some posters do not follow up on their post for several days. If you don't have time to check and respond to replies, DON'T ASK A QUESTION!

    from this thread. Note that Bill said "several days", not "hours".

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeJun 8th 2012
    Mark, thanks. Some guy posted another comment at the question giving me grief on this point, but after I put this meta thread in place. It did occur to me that Asaf is probably in Israel and so there are automatic time zone delays built in. However, I think this particular OP just walked away. You see that a lot on MSE.

    Will, I hope that my disappearance for six or-so hours was fine. I had to sleep. :-)

    I am far from a typical case here. I have a severe Internet addiction and since I loathe Facebook and such I spend a vast portion of my online time on MO and MSE. However many other users have a balanced life in this aspect, and will not wake up just to see if something interesting was posted (in my defense, my sleep is not great for the past few years).

    With Bill's quote I agree. Disappearing for a few days does seem a bit rude to me.

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeJun 9th 2012
    Hi, Asaf. I'm awake. I got some enjoyment out of Facebook for quite a while. This 18-year-old in India saw me on MO and asked to be friends on FB. I was able to mock his posts, beginning with a faux Tennyson verision of his sentiment "Such slimy gits these people are," giving a pretended extra verse to The Eagle. However, after the third or fourth time I had to apologize I realized it wasn't working.

    As to the timing business, this fellow James Cranch may have a point, it might be natural to post a question at the end of the work day and look for replies the next morning. Well, as long as it isn't Friday. And there is enough detail and motivation for the question. And the question does not simply suck.
    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeJun 9th 2012
    Noah Snyder pointed out in comment that this was also posted at with the options of rooks or queens or bishops. So, interesting, I am curious myself, but not a research question for this OP. And Noam E. is satisfied to update in comments.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeJun 9th 2012

    Making another exception to my meta-absence not to further enlarge the comment thread of the question:

    I just cast the first vote to re-re-close. IMO no reason whatsoever to have this open on MO and MSE; and while being curious it does not seem to be a reasearch math question (it seems a given OP is asking this out of general/idle interest and not as part of some research related activity).



    "it seems a given OP is asking this out of general/idle interest and not as part of some research related activity"

    Whether or not a question is research-level should, it seems to me, be independent of the OP's motivation or intent. If an idle question interests Douglas Zare and Noam Elkies and puzzles everyone else, then it is research-level. (I am not addressing quid's main point re open in two forums simultaneously).

    • CommentAuthorgrp
    • CommentTimeJun 9th 2012
    I agree with Joseph O'Rourke that the level of a question is largely independent of the questioner's motivation or intent. I would add that level of the question has little correlation with the level of the questioner. However, I emphasize that a good or even acceptable MathOverflow question is not determined by level alone.

    In order to maintain a high quality forum, the content and participation should be of high quality. The post as originally submitted was not, and was closed accordingly. The edits and some of the comments have added to the question, and brought it closer to acceptability in my view. I think improving a question (adding motivation, enhancing clarity, providing references, as a starting point) should be among the considerations of those who are about to cast closing votes, as well as of the community at large.

    Gerhard "Ask Me About System Design" Paseman, 2012.06.09
    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeJun 9th 2012
    What's the record on closing - reopening cycles?

    You can see those in the revisions page of the question. So far we are entering the third closure.


    It was I who cast the very first vote to close. I did so because there was no background, no indication of work done, nor of any connection to research. I think those were valid reasons. However, now that the question has been improved upon, and given all this discussion, I see no point in the continuing open and close wars. At this point, just leave the question alone, OK? (Currently open, with two or three votes to close.) It's not the end of the world.

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeJun 10th 2012
    George Lowther has posted a promising answer at MSE and put a link to that in an answer here, anyway