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    I am aware of the fact that most of my questions are too amateurish for MO (and maybe not "categorical" enough), but on the other side they aren't really homework questions and I have the feeling that Dr. Math isn't the right place for me.

    Google and Wikipedia would be OK, if one always knew the terms to search for. Often I don't. (Example: What's the common name of graphs with each node contained in a cycle? )

    I really like MO and am really grateful for lots of valuable (and prompt!) answers and comments, even to amateurish questions. But I don't want to bother you, the professionals and "true" mathematicians, with questions like the one just mentioned. (Or am I explicitely invited to do?) So I want to make two suggestions to handle this situation:

    1. You could provide a tag for questions of the form "What' the common name of..?" (I assume that even among professional mathematicians this kind of question will arise once in a while.) Or is there already one? In this case you should have an FAQ-section explaining the usage of such special tags.

    2. You could provide a list of other (general or specialized) math forums in the FAQ section (with information about the level: Highschool, College, Professional) to redirect potential questioners like me.

    I would especially be thankful for such a list (for not to be forced to bother you anymore) but also for the tag.
      CommentAuthorJon Awbrey
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2010 edited

    The discussion boards at PlanetMath and PlanetPhysics can be very useful for this purpose.

    • CommentAuthorCSiegel
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2010
    While adding to the FAQ is always a good idea (we've got a thread going ( ) for suggestions like that, I'll point out that as far as I can tell, your questions aren't inappropriate. Graph theory things are certainly welcome here (I may not be able to answer them, but that's my problem) and there's a skew towards categorical stuff because the site was founded and popularized first among algebraic geometers. Don't feel chased away simply because you're not a geometer!
    Just because a question isn't "categorical" doesn't mean it's bad. I'm sure that you can find a sizeable number of mathematicians here who don't use category theory at all. One of the reasons you see so much category theory and algebraic geometry here is because those two subjects already had fairly strong online communities, and they are also very popular among graduate students at the moment. Many (you might even say most) of the very hardest problems in math have no real use for category theory (analysis and analytic number theory are two subjects to which (to my knowledge) category theory hasn't really been applied in a very useful way (that's not to say that it can't happen, just that to my knowledge, nobody has done it).

    Never feel intimidated by the lack of questions in your specific subject. If there are very few of them, you should invite your colleagues in that subject to join MO. Remember, it's mathoverflow, not algebraicgeometryandcategorytheory overflow.

    That said, for questions about definitions, if you're going to post them here, please (please!) make sure you've done your homework. It should be very embarrassing when somebody searches with your exact wording and pastes a google search with your result in the top 10.
    I promise I will try to do my homework!

    Maybe one could gather some heuristics how to get appropriate google results?

    Consider the question "What's the common name of graphs with each node contained in a cycle?" In this form - quoted or not - Google will help you nothing. How would you formulate this question (just to let me know how I could do better)? Assume that I do not know that the property I am looking for has to do with biconnectivity.
    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeJan 10th 2010 edited
    "graph theory" "every node contained in a cycle". Remember your exact wording for the question probably will not work, so try to remove all extraneous information. I'd say that the right amount of time to search for a definition before asking here is something like 20-30 minutes of actual searching.

    I don't know any graph theory really, so I couldn't really tell you how to improve your searches (mine still turns up nothing), but you might know the name for a vertex contained in a cycle, so you could say something like "graph theory" "every node is ___________". If after the 20 minutes of being diligent, you haven't found an answer, then you've done your homework, and the question is fine.
    @Harry: Be assured, I started exactly this way, but it was in vain. Personally, I appreciate your rule of thumb (and others akin). But 20-30 minutes is quite a lot, while fighting with Google.
    Well, just use your discretion.
    @Harry. For this special case: If I had known the name for "a vertex contained in a cycle" (which seems to be a notion as rarely used as the one I am looking for) I ALMOST SURELY would have known the name for the property I was looking for.
    I agree that this question was fine for here, but you can see other cases of things like this where the author wasn't as diligent if you just look. There was a question about preschemes yesterday which is a good example of what not to do.
    Before we get too deep into details, let me summarize:

    Some suggestions for the FAQ section:

    - Give explicit hints how to use some special (meta-)tags like "what's a common name for..."

    - Give explicit hints/heuristics - if possible - how to formulate "good" Google questions and how long to spend time with (before posting to MO).

    - Give a list of other forum sites.
    There's a thread on meta where you should post your suggestions. I don't remember the name, but it's in the top 20.

    From a comment above: