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    [EDIT2] I do not intend to convince someone, just curious about reasons of those who are closing questions, which are rather obviously would be interesting for many [EDIT2]

    What is the reason to close questions which are not obvious junk ? [EDIT] obviously not relevant for the site [end EDIT].
    I can imagine only one reason - fear that it will provoke more questions like this...
    But is it really dangerous trend ? Or just unnecessary fear of something which will never happen ?
    Or happens so rarely that is negligble ?

    Drawback of closing is obvious - some people are unhappy...
    • CommentAuthorgrp
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2012
    Drawback of not closing is not obvious: Everybody gets unhappy, goes away, and MathOverflow as an active community becomes dead.

    There is the position that the previous sentence is reactionary, fear-based, extreme, and unlikely to happen. I will offer no argument against the first three adjectives: in evaluating a change to a system I believe adopting such a perspective on occasion is helpful and indeed necessary for the health of the system. For the fourth, I point to the USENET newsgroup sci.math, which in my view no longer serves the mathematically minded community, except perhaps as a place for the hardy who are willing to dicuss such distinctions as 1 versus 0.999999... and correcting the flaws in Cantor's argument about nonenumerability of the real numbers.

    Only with ceaseless vigilance and unwavering demands about the quality of content posted to MathOverflow will we be able to maintain and improve the quality of content that is posted to MathOverflow. If you disagree, you are welcome to start and maintain a community for the kind of questions you value.

    Gerhard "Ask Me About System Design" Paseman, 2012.09.09

    Let me hypothesize a "broken windows" theory of bad questions. If we don't close questions that are somewhat bad, it makes it more acceptable to ask more questions that are worse. At the very least, it may be perceived by valuable MO users that this is occurring, and they may leave as a result. This is very bad. Our most valuable users are extremely valuable relative to the rest of the users and losing even one of them, in my opinion, greatly outweighs possibly offending the typical user who asks a question that gets closed.

    If you disagree with this philosophy, which I think is more or less the philosophy of the moderators etc. (although please correct me if I'm mistaken), then as Gerhard says, you are free to set up your own system somewhere else.

    @GRP I edited the text, I agree that sci.math is bad example, and moreover actually even math.SE has too much elementary questions, which makes it difficult to use at least for me.

    However, my concerns not about this - let me try to clarify - I think there are two kinds
    of questions are being closed 1) "obviously not appropriate " 2) "some people think not appropriate".

    It is difficult to give a formal boundary between the two but I hope you would agree there is sense in my words - e.g. if question has large amount of upvotes - but nevertheless being closed ...
    If you want I can give examples (one very recent example is very obvious), but probably almost all questions which have been reopened fits into this category, the problem there are some questions which in my humble,
    opinion are appropriate for the site, but have not been reopened since they just do not attract too much attention.

    Overall I think MO works very good, and I do not think my concerns are of big importance,
    just I was curious can someone explain me the logic of "vote to close party".
    "there are some questions which in my humble opinion are appropriate for the site, but have not been reopened since they just do not attract too much attention."

    You can, of course, focus attention on these questions by opening meta threads in which you argue the case for re-opening.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2012

    Since I happen to be around here on meta these days and before I leave again:

    My opinion is this:

    MathOverflow is a resource that is (necessarily) shared by a quite large community with various different interest and ideas.

    If in a large math department or just whatever large building there is a common room to be shared by everybody then the more viable strategy to avoid problems and conflicts is that those activities are allowed that do not disturb or alienate too many people. As opposed to a strategy, the analog of which OP suggests as far as I understand, where everything that some people find a cool idea is allowed and then needs to be tolerated by the rest (and this remains true if 'some' is a considerable number). Even more so if the intended activity of these some is outside the purpose for which the room exists in the first place. (This 'outside' does not apply to the recent example, which is ABC I guess, for this there were other reasons, which I won't reexplain here since I did so at (un)reasonable length already. But it does apply to a whole lot of question I think OP has in mind.)

    To formulate it slightly more strongly than I mean it and considerably more strongly than I vote:

    A question that is not a focused research level mathmatical question is theoretically off-topic on MO; however, it can happen, as any exception to the general rule, that such a question is still tolerate despite it being theoretically off-topic. But, as soon as somebody complains about it, it should be closed.

    To get the idea better across why leaving everything open that some might like could be a problem, let me recall from memory, it is meanwhile deleted in case doubts arise to the veracity of my claim please some 10k+ person help me although I cannot be sure the comments to which I refer are still there, that we recently had a question on "Mathematics and marijuana" which was closed quickly (by some including me), which resulted in somebody belitteling or insulting me (depending on how one takes this, and not me personally but those that closed) by saying something to the extent that either we smoke a lot and do not want to get this to be known or are conservative small-minded people (this is not the exact formulation but the meaning was this and the choice of words was at least not friendlier). This comment came though not from a very frequent user of MO still from an occassional one that would be in the standard audience of MO (by academic background), as opposed to some random troll. And then some high rep MO user joined in saying that all this closing is really a big problem.

    So, we ought to allow "Mathematics and marijuana" so that some are not unhappy.

    Now, in the very end I would have less problem with this question, then with some others we actually have. But, still, if the criterion would be 'some find it interesting' a lot of things would happen, and I have no reason to assume that things like "Mathematics and marijuana" would be the strangest we would see.

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2012 edited

    I was considering typing

    ^tl; dr

    but the actual post itself caught my eye, so I'll change my response from a simple tl;dr to a much more appropriate


    (really disagree?)

    @quid Thanks for yours answer. I respect yours opinion although not quite agree, any way I have never thought you are being the "stonghold of vote to close party" :):):)
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 11th 2012

    @Alexander Chervov: Well, in theory, I might be strict. But, in practise, I am quite willing to agree to exceptions or at least to a compromise solution; you could see I even participated in various questions that I consider off-topic in theory. In general, I think Gerry Myerson's advice is good. If you really want a certain question reopened, create a meta-thread and present an argument why you think it is a good idea. To continue a bit with my analogy (and use party in a different way). I think it can be a good idea to use a seminar room on occassion for a birthday party, sometimes. But, it should be clear to everybody that this is not the actual purpose of the room. And, as a consequence if on some other occassion somebody objects to the room being used for a party, then those that would like to organize it, should not be overly up-set and insistant, and invoke earlier cases as an argument. Because the effect of this could be just that those sceptical towards too much parties will be more and more hesitant to sometimes agree to them

    @quid very fun analogy of using seminar room for birthday parties :)

    I am afraid to go into debates here, so just let me mention that I have written on similar topic


    "and invoke earlier cases as an argument" just one remark on this - you assume that number of bad questions
    will grow if they not be closed - what is an argument for this ? I do think it will grow much, may be have small number of "bad or debatable" questions is independent of on closing .....

    PS PS
    @Harry Gindy what you mean ?
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 11th 2012

    @Alexander Chervov: it is difficult to discuss this in abstract as "bad question" means different things to different people.

    Just briefly, anything that I perceive as an honest mathemcatical question of an at least somewhat advanced nature ('graduate level') is fine with me.

    Whether a certain type of question attracts similar ones. Yes, certainly. Based on observation and common sense. One can observe this on small time scales even.

    1. Somebody asks on marijuana, and hours later, somebody else asks referencing this question on some less (potentially) controversial aspect of math and psycholgy.

    2. Some said here they do not ask certain questions as they know they will be closed, so if they'd observe some similar ones that would not be closed, I assume they would then ask them.

    3. Some people arrive here searching on the internet. We had some time ago a (controversial) question on name changes; it turned out OP found the site via searching, due to a somewhat similar question, so thought this was certainly on-topic here.

    4. Somebody else explained here on meta that the first impression of MO was that it was mainly for soft-questions; this was the time of 'department closure', which by the way created in an immediate way a follow-up question ("laid off faculty" or soemthing like this).

    Just a small selection.


    @quid Well, I see your points...

    Still I am not convinced in the "sizes" of effects you mention, yes sometimes something bad happens,
    but it might be quite seldom...
    And not the reason to close the questions which are clearly not so irrelevant...
    But it pretty much contradict the tons of some participants of close-open discussions,
    it seems some (not you) think that if some questions will not be closed mathoverlow will die...
    I am exeggerating a little...
    But I hope you see my point - some people exeggerating the potential harm...


    By the way - what do you think about MSE ? There are pretty much high level questions and moreover research people who are active on MSE , but not on MO ? Why ?
    May be because people feel themselves more free and more easy there than here ?
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeSep 13th 2012

    @Alexander Chervov: I think each individual question will not have a dramatic effect; and individually most likely one heated discussion is considerably more likely to make somebody leave than one 'bad' question. But, the worry is that things start going in the wrong direction and then become 'unstoppable'. Perhaps some (possibly including me) are too worried regarding some questions, but then some others in my opinion exagerate greatly the value of a certain type of question. For example, I liked the 'urban legends' questions since I like such stories, but if it never existed would it have changed much anything for anybody?

    However, what I think is really the wrong place to worry is mathematical questions that are just a bit too simple, as I can see little harm coming from them; but I can see why others see this differently and also for me this was a bit of a learning process/developpment.

    For math.SE I do not know much. But different people have different motivations. I think you give one reason that likely applies to some, but I am quite sute this not all; I think some people just really enjoy this kind of teaching happening there and not here, or just learned about it first and see no reason to particpate in two sites. In any case, conversely, I for example do not forsee participating in a site like math.SE except on rare occassion. (This is not meant against the site; but I know my limitations.)

    @quid " start going in the wrong direction" - main thing I am trying to point out, that I do not see arguments for this. Mechanical analogy - if the ball is in stable equilibrium it will return back after small pertrubation.

    It seems to me the same happens on MO, consider any "big attention" question - it is on the top of the front page may be for 1-2 weeks, but later it is much less active, practically inactive ( may be returns for 1 day on front page when one answers it, but go out of it in 1 day or so)...