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    • CommentAuthorAndrea
    • CommentTimeFeb 26th 2010 edited

    I think StackExchange is a very good software, and a proof is the creation of this wonderful community. Still I have the feeling that it tends to give advantage to "discussions" rather than precise questions with precise answers, which is what MO is for. Some points

    1) big-lists, soft-questions and community wikis are often at the top of the main page. This is due to the fact that every time there is an answer, the question jumps on top. So discussion-like questions, which naturally get more answer, are always bumped and so get even more attention

    2) My top 3 questions are tagged intuition. Now, I think they are rather good questions, meaning that they are not idle speculation. Still is a bit sad that this question, which I thought was more mathematical, has only 5 points, and this question, which actually came up in my research only has 2 and got unanswered (maybe nothing is known). So I feel like I'm getting reputation from the wrong questions.

    Is there something which can be done within StackExchange to shift the attention on the more mathematical questions? The main problem I see is that questions without answers, which should be on top of the list, are the first to disappear because they do not get bumped.

    This is more a feature of the human condition and it can't be ironed-out by a system, at least, not entirely. Things that are lighter and more accessible are going to get more attention because there's more people willing to give it attention.

    The questions that I ask here tend to be more of the sort that I think a broad mathematical audience would be interested in.

    A similar question was raised here.


    There is a fairly simple fix: have the default view be Unanswered instead of Active or Recent. I'm not sure how much people would like this, though.


    I think this is a sign of a more general issue. Mathoverflow is two very different things at once:

    • A place for one to get answers to questions that come up in their research.

    • A place for people to browse through interesting mathematics, a lot like a magazine.

    Most people seem to ignore and try to dissuade the second one of these. The FAQ seems to indicate that Mathoverflow is specifically NOT the second.

    While I think it's clear that the first purpose is far more important, in my opinion the second is also vital. To get more activity and answers to questions, we need as many people as possible browsing through the website. (This might not seem necessary to the algebraic geometry people, but I think there's still a shortage of people in other areas). For that, there should be some "lighter reading" on the site. After all, most magazines have sections that exist purely for entertainment value.

    So, I think that it is normal that the lighter, but less mathematically interesting, questions get voted up. They provide value to more people. Hopefully, some of those people will stick around and get into reading the other questions and thinking about them. At least, this is how I got to be active here.

    It worries me a little bit that the current popular consensus seems to be to strive towards making the site more and more serious. I'm afraid that we'll lose many people this way, especially people who have not stumbled on this website when the policies were more lax.

    (Just to be clear, my feeling is that the right balance is about where this site was a couple of months ago. I don't think this is such a terrible problem now, but I think it's not good that nobody seems to opine on this side of the issue, so here I go. And yes, going to far in the permissive direction would of course also be bad.)