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    • CommentAuthortheojf
    • CommentTimeApr 17th 2010 edited

    MathOverflow gets the occasional post that is not a mathematical question, but something more akin to what's at Craigslist or Facebook. For example, today we have:

    I'm not worried that MO will become overloaded with this type of question, and so I don't think it's too problematic. On the other hand, we're not at present particularly well set up to handle that type of question.



    I thought that was a very appropriate use of MO and actually voted it up. Instead of having to e-mail a bunch of people who may or may not know the answer, he was able to ask on MO and get in contact with a bunch of people who knew the answer. It's obviously of interest to mathematicians, mathematics-related, and much better than the majority of community-wiki/big-list questions that we have here.


    I am happy that MO can be used to help Javier, who seems like a supercool guy. However I am a little worried about letting these questions become more frequent, especially since they will be popular (judging from views count and upvotes to javier's question). Hopefully it won't become a trend.

    • CommentAuthorRegenbogen
    • CommentTimeApr 17th 2010

    At the moment meta has a very 'vanilla' interface. With a cooler meta, then meta would be the ideal backroom lounge for everything and sundry. That said, even now meta is good enough for these purposes.


    While I don't have a problem with the question per se, I have real doubts about its efficacy (and indeed, the answers only contain very general stuff that is quite easy to find elsewhere). MO is good for questions where the set of useful people is hard to identify; "seminar organizers in New York" is a small and easily ascertained set of people, and certainly it would be more effective to email them than post on MO.


    True, but Javier is from a different country and is probably not in contact with anyone in NY. That's probably why he posted here.


    Ben, "Seminar organizers at University X" might be easy to identify. I'm not totally sure if this is true -- for example I think it would be difficult to tell from Penn's web page who organizes each seminar -- but at least it would be feasible for Javier or someone like him to identify the person whose research interests are most in line with his, who will surely know who organizes the seminar.

    The difficulty, for the outsider, is determining which universities X are geographically reasonable to consider (say, easily day-trippable by train that runs frequently, in case a flight suddenly opens up). How many people not familiar with the area would instantly realize that Penn and Yale are in that set, but Cornell is not (after all, it's in New York State!)? Of course this is all research that can easily be done from the calm of one's office, but that's not the situation in which the question was asked, and this is basically a way to quickly get in touch with mathematicians based in or near New York City.

    Also, Deane Yang quickly gave a list of appropriate universities -- but he is not in Javier's research area, and therefore probably not someone that Javier would have thought to ask.

    I say don't worry. If the community has a problem with these sorts of questions that will become obvious. And in that case that would probably be because they are sufficiently common that it would make sense to set up another site for them.


    @Michael: That was exactly the point I was trying to make but made better.


    @Harry: glad I could help!

    Incidentally, linguistics blogger Geoffrey Pullum (of <a href="">Language Log</a>) lives in Edinburgh but has been stuck in the Boston area due to the volcano and apparently has been giving impromptu talks at various Boston-area institutions over the last few days. So it's not just mathematicians.


    @Michael- I'll just note; at this point I'm not complaining about the question, just having a purely moot discussion about how easy this information is to find. Google "train new york cornell" and without even clicking through the link, you see "The nearest train stop is Syracuse, NY, located approximately 80 minutes from Ithaca..." Incidentally, it's easier to get to Ithaca from NYC than you might think; there is a very convenient bus, but it does take longer than getting to Philly or New Haven, which you can also find out from the first google hit. Google "train yale new york" or "train university of pennsylvania new york" (of course "penn" doesn't work so well in this situation) and you find exactly the information you need.

    @Michael: +1 for that link to the Language Log. Now I know how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull (more or less: the last sound is quite difficult for me).
    • CommentAuthorCSiegel
    • CommentTimeApr 19th 2010
    @Ben: To do so, however, requires that you know what to look for. You would need to know to even try new york and yale, for instance.

    See, now you're just being silly. He knows he's in New York.

    • CommentAuthorCSiegel
    • CommentTimeApr 21st 2010
    But why would he think to try looking at Yale?