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    I've started this thread as the comments on threaten to degenerate into a fight between me and VA.

    Several points:

    1) I said that referring to a previous question (c.f. as "closed by the MO thought police" was rude. I stand by this. Calling someone "thought police" clearly denigrates them. Obviously, one is allowed to identify real "thought police" when they appear, but I think you're clearly against the consensus here: the people who closed the previous question left well thought out explanations of why they closed the question.

    2) Closing a question is not rude, and I think it's important for everyone to internalise this. It is not an insult, it is not a personal rejection. It's a community process that decides that a question is not appropriate on MathOverflow. (In this particular case, commenters made it clear that it would be much more appropriate on StackOverflow.) We're trying very hard to keep MathOverflow focused and on topic. There is easily sufficient community support for the current approach that we're taking to keeping MathOverflow on topic --- this isn't something to argue about at this point (or at least, not in the context of any specific question or vote to close), just something to accept about what MathOverflow is.

    3) The MathOverflow community has a quite strong objection to duplicate questions. Your question is clearly a duplicate! I'm actually a little surprised people didn't step in more quickly with votes to close on this basis. Allowing duplicate questions is a real pain --- if a question gets closed, the appropriate thing to do is either revise the question and hope that it is reopened (this has happened many times), and to come over the meta.MO and discuss the reasons for closure. We've had several instances in the past where someone has felt strongly about a closed question, and after some discussion here and some revisions, the question has been reopened. I think anyone with a closed question may find themselves suprised by how willing people are to reopen, once some regard is given to the original complaints against the question. It is inappropriate to ignore the existing consensus on a question, and repost it --- it's immensely frustrating to anyone who went to the effort of explaining why the original question should be closed.

    Now -- VA, if you're reading this: these points all apply in particular to your recent questions! I understand that you vigorously disagree with the closure of your original question. Nevertheless, simply reposting the question is not the right way to proceed. You have to show some willingness to engage with the objections to your previous question!

    I'm sorry if I upset you, because I don't intend to. Hopefully you can see that I think it's an interesting question (indeed, from my answer you can see that I spent some time trying to work at an answer to it)! Nevertheless, the community process is important here, and it's important to both respect that, and not insult people who were acting in good faith.


    I'm not sure if it's appropriate to continue the whole comment thread here or not, but in case it is, I'd like to reply to the response to my comment about shifting such questions to StackOverflow.

    Actually, there are plenty of LaTeX questions on stackoverflow. But this wasn't a LaTeX question, it was a javascript question and stackoverflow is by far the best place to find experts in that. Even so, I'd quite like to see lots of mathematicians heading over to stackoverflow to ask and answer LaTeX-related questions. There are more people than just mathematicians who use LaTeX in exactly the same way as we do and so we would get better answers by bringing in outside help. But there aren't others who use mathematics in exactly the same way that we do so mathematics questions stay on MO.

    That said, I fully support Scott's view as expressed above.


    I edited the first paragraph which was subjective and argumentative. However, I thought the core question was fine. It is precisely along the lines of what I suggested when I voted to close the original. It may have been more appropriate to reopen a modified version of the original, but I don't think it's a duplicate at all.


    Thanks, Francois, for the edit: I was too timid to do it, for fear of being labelled "the thought police".

    As the question stands, I think I'm happy with it. There are currently quite a few votes to close pending, presumably on the basis of "being a duplicate". As it seems that it is not in fact a duplicate, but actually an appropriate revision, hopefully there won't be any further. I suspect that some of the votes to close resulted from the provocative preamble!


    If I were feeling mendacious, I would say that my vote to close still stands because of the phrase (emphasis mine):

    I wish that I could see nicely formatted math formulas instead, just like on MO

    But instead I stick by my vote to close because I think that this kind of question should be asked on stackoverflow not mathoverflow as it is a programming question, not a mathematical question, and - most importantly - the best answer is going to come from a programmer rather than a mathematician.

    Having now started hanging around stackoverflow, I think that there is plenty of room there for LaTeX and mathematical-related programming questions like this one. Maybe having been converted to the "One Thing for One Task" ideal then I'm taking it too far, but keep MO for mathematics and SO for programming.

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2010 edited

    I voted to close because I thought it was off-topic, but I used the exact duplicate one because it wouldn't have mattered since 3 people already voted to close using the exact duplicate reason.

    • CommentAuthorsigfpe
    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2010
    I modded that question down because I also found it rude. I fully appreciate the work of people who close questions because I benefit from seeing trivial and uninteresting questions disappear, even if the occasional question I think is interesting gets closed too. To label people providing such a service "thought police" is simply obnoxious.
    • CommentAuthorHailong Dao
    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2010 edited

    I agree with the spirit of the points made by Scott, but I do hope that we do not overreact here. Please keep in mind that what we write online often sound quite different from what we intended them to be, and it is possible that VA was only trying to make some light joke about his closed question. His/her other answers and comments do not seem to be rude.

    I wish to point out that VA is one of the leading experts on algebraic geometry to regularly answer questions on our site. (I have reason to believe that he is a specific world-class algebraic geometer, but even without knowing his true identity, his expertise speaks for itself.) The point that he brings up that he has answered many algebraic geometry questions (which is by far the most common class of questions asked on MO) and is now asking a question about a topic outside of his considerable talent and expertise rings true to me, and I ask that the community treat him with respect and try to give helpful answers: MO does not list people's karma, but his is most definitely positive.
    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2010 edited

    Dear Pete,

    I agree that it is important to treat the experts here with respect and try to be as helpful as possible, but I find your support for explicit double standards rather alarming. I see no reason why asking VA to post his question on meta.MO or SO, where I'm sure his question would be welcomed "with open arms", as it were, could be considered disrespectful, and I don't understand why this situation necessitates relaxing the rules. Shouldn't we avoid adopting a double standard if at all possible? I'm interested to hear your response.




    I just voted to reopen the question.

    I don't think this was a duplicate. The original question was targeted specifically at I deemed that question off-topic since it is not MO business to discuss how other math sites should run (and discussion of MO should be here on meta). I suggested to VA to ask another question on user-side solutions for rendering latex on any site. This is indeed a topic of interest to mathematicians, so not off-topic for MO.

    @Harry: I don't know what the reaction would be on Stack Overflow. Maybe someone should post it there and see what happens.

    I don't think I am advocating a double standard. Rather, I am saying that someone's past behavior and contributions should be taken into account when reacting to the present. The net value added to MO (not to mention the larger mathematical community) by VA is extremely positive. It is worth it to be extra respectful even to the point of being slightly indulgent in order to encourage these contributions to continue. This cuts the other way as well...
    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2010 edited

    Dear Pete,

    Thanks for the response. I actually agree that it's not so terrible to leave it open (I've voted to reopen based on your argument), but I feel like we should try to figure out some way to deal with this sort of thing in the future (when high-value users post things that would usually be closed). I don't have any ideas, but I think that allowing it unconditionally or without explicit reservations could be used as justification for less valuable users to abuse the precedent.


    The question is now reopened (I was going to vote to reopen but someone beat me to it). I just notice that VA has deleted some of his answers (including one of my recent question). I sure hope he did not decide to do something drastic like leaving the site or deleting all answers, since that would definitely be a loss.

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2010 edited

    VA has deleted all of his posts that were not accepted =/.

    • CommentAuthorHailong Dao
    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2010 edited

    Interesting! Actually, I am curious, how do you delete your own question and answers (the delete button says "vote to remove")? Does that mean some administrator has to agree with you to delete it?


    No, it just deletes it. This is possible as long as the answer is not accepted or the question does not have an accepted answer or an answer with at least one vote.

    • CommentAuthorNoah Snyder
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited
    So certainly the end result of this (a highly valued user leaving and deleting a bunch of their posts) is a terrible outcome. If people have some suggestions of how we as a community should have better handled it I'd really like to hear them. (And if people do come by with such suggestions could people not disagree with them immediately but instead just think about what people have to say before responding.)

    I think the heart of the problem here is that VA *hadn't asked many questions before*, which meant that for VA this was the first time he'd tried to actually get anything out of MO, whereas for everyone else this was just one out of a bunch questions they read today. Unfortunately it's going to be hard for people to notice this (MO has a lot of users, a 3K+ user who hasn't asked any questions isn't a category that's readily apparent), and I don't think the response to these questions was really that unusual or inappropriate. Which is to say although I think I understand why VA was very frustrated, it's not clear to me whether there's a good mechanism for avoiding this in the future. But maybe someone else cleverer than I will have an idea?
    I hope that VA will read this and undelete his self-answer (or answers).
    • CommentAuthorrwbarton
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010

    While I have some sympathy for getting frustrated and leaving the site, I have none for removing as many posts as possible at the same time. That's just willfully antisocial. I do not think anything can or should be done about this kind of irrational behavior.

    • CommentAuthorShevek
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010
    This whole story has helped make it clear to me that there are some things about MathOverflow that really rub some people the wrong way and turn them off of it. Although I'm sure VA could have acted better, I hope people appreciate that not everyone agrees with the so-called "consensus view" (constructed by a dozen or so people in meta) about how MathOverflow should operate/what MathOverflow should be. That being said, MathOverflow is still pretty cool and I'm thankful for all the work people have put in to running it.
    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited

    The consensus is more like thirty or forty people on meta. Certainly more than twelve anyhow.

    So although in theory I agree with the idea that "closing questions shouldn't be insulting" I wonder whether that's just an impossible pipe dream. I wonder whether there's a technically better way of dealing with questions we don't like other than "closing" them. For example, instead of voting to close you add a "weight" which makes the question "drop" at an increased rate on the front page. It wouldn't say "[closed]" on the question and thus would be less insulting, but it would have the important affect of getting the question out of the way.
    • CommentAuthorEmerton
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited

    I sympathize with VA. He is a highly regarded mathematician, lending his expertise to answer a large number of technical algebraic geometry questions, many of which require a detailed level of knowledge only someone like he would have.

    As some people who have read my comments on these kinds of issues before might remember, I am not someone who agrees with the consensus view on what make good or bad questions on MO. From VA's point of view, why would he want to go and ask strangers on SO about LaTeXing web-page displays, when he knows that there are many people on MO who could answer his question, and these (mathematicians) are the people that he enjoys talking with? I don't understand why his question couldn't have been left open. (I know the arguments, but I don't agree with them. As far as I can tell, people are concerned about clutter on the front-page, and about opening flood-gates, and I've seen no evidence that either of these is something to be genuinely concerned about.)

    In another thread, there was an argument made that on-site reputation was valuable, because it gave an indication of who had earned the right to be treated with respect on the site. If people really feel this way, I don't understand why they felt obliged to close a question raised by an almost 4000 rep user.
    My feeling is that if a high-rep user expresses frustation at having a question closed (as VA did), people could give that user the benefit of the doubt, rather than lecturing them.

    • CommentAuthorHailong Dao
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited

    I hope people don't mind me making some comments as someone who follows this from the beginning. I feel that it might have been a better idea to privately contact VA about the differences instead of making the whole thing public. I remember on meta a while ago there were a lot of complaints from people's perception of MO admins tolerance for fpqc, and the responses were that a lot of things were done privately. In this situation with a sensitive issue involving a valuable user with little experience on asking questions, may be we can afford him the same treatment (I have no idea who VA is in real life, but my previous experience on MO leaves the impression that he is polite and patient, for example see this answer).

    My second comment is about the language of the debate. Throughout the thread words like "rude" or "obnoxious" were used. While VA use of the word "thought police" is unfortunate and insensitive, I am not sure such responses are helpful, considering the diverse background of MO users. For example, in the culture I grew up with, "losing face" publicly is taken very seriously.

    I agree with rwbarton that removing one's post is not a good course of action. I was fairly disappointed, since me and Karl Swchede were having some comments on an issue we both interested in below one of his answer, which is now gone. I realize that the administrators are doing a very hard and largely thankless job, but I hope we can all try to reduce the chance of repeating this situation.

    • CommentAuthorEmerton
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited

    Maybe I could add one more thing: I would imagine that for a given question on SO, there are in most cases many, many people who could answer it. (Maybe this is wrong?) And certainly the community to which SO caters is much larger and more mutually anonymous than the mathematical community.

    But on this site, people expect to ask questions about the diffeomorphism classes of K3 surfaces, about the construction of 3-folds with certain technical properties, about embedded deformations of subvarieties, about Hilbert schemes, and all kinds of other similarly technical things. How many people do you honestly imagine there are in the world who can competently answer any such question? And then how many of them are likely to spend time on MO? It's almost a given that the people who are providing fluent answers to such questions are going to be strong mathematicians who are well-known in their field, and well-known to some (if not all) contributors on MO.

    It was obvious from VA's answers that he was a singularly competent algebraic geometer. It was also obvious that he was annoyed about the way his question was being treated. I don't know that one needs detailed policy or additional software to handle this situation; respect and an effort to be accommodating to a valuable member of the community is all that should really be required.

    Here's another idea. I think that instead of complaing in comments about how the question should be X instead of Y, we should just use our editing powers to change the question to X. Not to pick on Francois (who I think behaved reasonably and was not the cause of the problems here), but I think this whole situation would have played out rather differently if instead of leaving a comment and voting to close, Francois had just *changed the question.*

    I don't think it's a good idea to do change the question rather than close for lazy questions from users who don't contribute to the site, but when there's someone who does contribute strongly to the site then it's worth us putting in a little effort to fix the question rather than closing it.

    So I don't think just "being polite" works without some ideas of how better to deal with problematic questions.

    Here's the way this question "should have" played out according to the "way SE sites are supposed to work."
    1) People notice that this question isn't a good question because as stated only people at the arXiv could answer the question.
    2) People vote to close the question, but explain why and leave an explanation of what similar question would be better.
    3) The original poster rewrites the question following said explanations.
    4) The question is then *re-opened* and answered.
    5) Everyone's happy.

    In theory this process could be done in a way that was polite and respectful. In practice, I don't think that's what happens. As a result I think we need to change this procedure because it's not seen as polite and respectful (even though the people implementing it aren't conscious of being impolite or disrespectful).

    In this particular case here are some of the things that went wrong in the above process. After 2) the OP was insulted and annoyed that their question was "closed", although in theory this is an "unreasonable" response as closing isn't supposed to be insulting, in practice it's entirely reasonable as most closed questions on MO are bad questions. Then rather than changing the original question (which is in theory the correct behavior, but since there are so few closed questions on MO that don't suck is not widely known to be the right behavior) the OP opened a *new question*. Also feeling annoyed (for the above) reasons the OP lashed somewhat rudely in the phrasing of the question. Now the second question was totally reasonable and should not have been closed. However, the combination of having a new question similar to one that was just closed and which was phrased rudely/argumentatively resulted in a bad impolite (though again understandable) response to the second question. However, eventually, the second question was answered and re-opened.
    Here's a more concise version of the above. In my reading of the events the first case of someone doing something they consciously knew to be impolite was the "thought police" remark. Although people's behavior from that point on definitely leaves something to be desired, I think that the main problem had *already occurred* before this remark was made, which is that VA felt disrespected and insulted. And the cause of that feeling of disrespect was not people being unaware of their actions being impolite, it was a confusion about which actions on the site (e.g. voting to close) *mean* what.

    @Noah, actually, the historical order was slightly different. As far as I can tell, it was:

    1. Various comments before mine.
    2. I leave the first answer, about the appropriate jsMath function call.
    3. I leave my first comment, which is somewhat inflammatory (complaining about the phrase "thought police") -- I was feeling somewhat defensive.
    4. VA responds to that, and I open this thread on meta.
    5. I leave my second answer, about the existing Greasemonkey script (which, I should have pointed out, Anton told me about in my office yesterday).
    6. VA responds to that, saying it works.
    7. Francois edits the question.
    8. The question is closed.
    9. The question is reopened.

    In between 7) and 8), I'd seen that the question had 4 votes to close. At that point, I think everything was okay -- no one was offended by the phrasing of the question anymore, and there was a decent answer there. There are two things that I could have done at that point that might have helped:

    • Deleted my comment complaining about the "thought police" comment. It was no longer relevant, but still likely a source of annoyance. (On the other hand, VA had already replied so I would have orphaned his response.)
    • Cleared the votes to close. (Moderators can do this by casting the final vote to close, then reopening. As far as I can tell, this leaves no trace.)

    I really wish I'd cleared the votes, as this might have avoided the eventual problem.


    It looks like VA is undeleting some of his answers. So may be there will be a happy ending to this.

    • CommentAuthorEmerton
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010

    Dear Noah,

    While I will probably always find people too trigger happy to close questions, your analysis makes a strong case that it would be worthwhile to think about this as a policy failure, rather than just a politeness failure. On the other hand, I do think that my point about the number of high-level contributors being small is a valid one, and that the MO ecosystem is perhaps more delicate than that of other SE sites. It would be good if people took this into account in their interactions on the site, and did their best to be tolerant. (This might be a better word then politeness.)

    Yeah, it's a very good point. I can definitely see the advantages of a norm of "If a serious mathematician/frequent and strong contributor thinks something is a good use of a mathoverflow question and I disagree, then I should respect their difference of opinion and ignore the question rather than closing it."
    Why does he have to be "serious" or "frequent and strong contributor"? Where is the line between a serious mathematician and an amateur one - is it 1k points, or maybe 2k, I hope it's below my current rating. Probably not.

    All users should enjoy the luxury of people trying to help answer their question.

    As Emerton said, the question was asked here because the users of such a tool would be mathematicians.
    There are so many questions like VA's one. It is sometimes perplexing how MO users choose the questions to close for being inappropriate. The quotes thread, the jokes thread, the mathematician stuck in NY, Cassels-Frohlich errata, etc. - all these are valid for MO because of context.

    MO is not strictly for research questions (seriously, was it ever?). It is becoming the main worldwide math community website. Even if you consider this a change, you need to adapt.
    Are picket lines also "willfully antisocial" and "irrational?" How about the resignation of an editorial board of a prestigious academic journal?

    In a past situation, I disagreed with a moderator in a meta discussion about comments. Instead of responding to me, he deleted one of my MO comments which contained some mathematics (in fact, a nonrigorous answer to the question) which others had found helpful enough to vote up. This was not a proper use of moderator powers. He could have mitigated this by explaining what he had done, but he didn't. I responded in meta by pointing out this deletion and stating that I would delete my other contributions to MO. (My plan was to e-mail copies of the few answers really worth saving to the questions' authors.) One person who has been posting represents many who might post in the future, and if your actions drive away one current contributor, you lose the contributions of many whether or not you lose the contributions of that one. He admitted what he had done, stated that the deletion was an accident, and apologized. I'm glad I didn't have to carry out my threatened protest, but I don't regret it.

    I have been a moderator/administrator in several discussion forums, and I understand it is a difficult and complicated task. Consistency is not enough. The system must respect the interests of the content producers and potential contributors, or it will fall far short of its potential.

    Whether or not this particular incident is an example, it is possible for a protest which appears antisocial in the short run to some to be good for the community in the long run.

    Dror,what you're talking about is exactly the sort of slippery slope that some of us are afraid of...

    In this respect I agree with Emerton, "I've seen no evidence" for "clutter on the front page".
    The questions/answers flavor of the site is not threatened by the change. The questions are still serious, and mostly, the answers as well. Undeniably most questions are of an intuition/meaning nature anyway, which is not the initial set out purpose of the site.
    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited

    What you're proposing will turn something that is a rare exception to the rules into a norm for MO. I don't agree that all MO users should enjoy the luxury of people trying to answer their questions, specifically because those questions are often off topic, homework problems, or worse!

    Part of the reason you see no evidence of the clutter on the front page is that many people here actively moderate questions by closing those questions that are against the rules.

    What Emerton actually said was:

    As far as I can tell, people are concerned about clutter on the front-page, and about opening flood-gates, and I've seen no evidence that either of these is something to be genuinely concerned about.

    Notice that you are proposing precisely that we open the flood-gates!

    Homework problems are constantly being closed, usually after a hint is sent in the comments. This practice has being going on at least since I joined the site. Personally, I think it's great.
    I don't see how questions of a mathematical community context, such as VA's one, will have the effect of more homework problems. If you do, can you explain how so? (for one, I doubt that Google will make the connection)

    Edit (after edit): I see what you mean, but I think the waters of your flood contain questions that are relevant to the community - like VA's, quotes, errata, etc.

    @Dror, @Harry, @Douglas,

    I think this thread is threatening to veer off-topic. Perhaps you could start a new thread if you'd like to again discuss the scope of MathOverflow? Let's keep this thread focused on this particular episode, especially appropriate remedies and lessons to be learned.

    • CommentAuthorHarry Gindi
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited

    @Dror: I agree that it is fine to make exceptions once in a while, (in fact, I was one of the people who voted to reopen VA's question). However, I don't agree that any new person on MO should have that privilege.

    Here is what you said:

    All users should enjoy the luxury of people trying to help answer their question.

    This is the statement with which I took issue. Perhaps you meant something more specific, but this is what you wrote.

    Edit: Just saw Scott's post.


    Since I played some key roles in all of this. I'll share my opinion.

    The closing of the original question started "by the book" but it did not finish that way. I cast the first vote and gave a very clear explanation, including a suggestion for a better formulation of the question. VA had actually edited the question in the time it took to cast my vote and type my comment, partly directing it in the way I suggested. However, the comment chain quickly degenerated and stopped being constructive. I understand how VA could be upset by that.

    I only caught the end of the closing of the second question as I only saw the question after Scott posted on meta. Part of it was "by the book" and part was not. I don't agree, but I see how someone could think the question duplicated the original. However, it is clear that much of the closing votes were motivated by the rant in the first paragraph. There is no place on MO for such rants. I edited out the rants, which I thought was the appropriate action in this case.

    It is clear to me that both VA and the community acted "inappropriately" in both cases. Ideally, community actions ought to be constructive and users ought to respond by negotiating a compromise. That said, everyone has their failures, and we should be understanding and tolerant of that. Recently, I basically insulted another user in a comment. Of course, I didn't really mean it and I promptly apologized once I realized what I had said. People who saw that incident understood what happened and continued to discuss constructively. That was probably ideal MO behavior in such circumstances.

    As far as giving special considerations to some users, I very very very strongly disagree. Everybody on MO deserves equal consideration. Had VA been given due consideration and had VA given due considerations to community objections, things would be a lot better now.

    It is problematic to give benefit of doubt only to users who higher-reps think are productive.

    Many agree that more tolerance should have been exercised.
    Do you guys think this can be more inherit in the voting-to-close ui?
    Not having enough rep, I don't know how the ui looks. Can someone post?

    I mean this in response to fgdorias post. The claim is that the comments degenerated. Then, are comments the right place to hold discussions on closing?
    Maybe the policy should be having discussions in meta or something. But, of course, that too is problematic.

    Edit: changed moderatos to high-rep users

    @Dror- Just keep in mind: the moderators are doing relatively little closing of questions at this point. Almost all borderline cases are being decided by other higher-rep users.

    • CommentAuthorRegenbogen
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited

    2) Closing a question is not rude, and I think it's important for everyone to internalise this. It is not an insult, it is not a personal rejection.

    I remember the same from the film "The Godfather": It's not personal. It's strictly business. "You're taking this very personal. Tom, this is business and this man is taking it very personal.".

    Of course, then, when normal procedures give unsatisfactory outcome, "for justice, we must go to Don Corleone".

    Pardon me for the off-topic cheeky references.


    @Regenbogen: "Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgement." (Michael Corleone)

    • CommentAuthorRegenbogen
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010

    @fgdorais: How about making the moderators an offer they can't refuse?

    @Regenbogen I have to object to that quote out of context. A key lesson Michael Corleone learned from his father was that *everything* was personal, the opposite of what you might suppose from the line. Michael was pulled into his family's dark struggle for personal reasons, not for business reasons.
    • CommentAuthorRegenbogen
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited

    @Douglas Zare. I was aware that the conclusion is that everything is personal. Indeed, that what I was hoping to convey here also, on the matter of closing questions -- but merely as an unsaid implication, without expressing it explicitly in so many words.


    I don't think we'll ever eliminate the problem that people take it a bit personally when their question is closed, voted down, or maybe even edited. However, I don't think that mathematicians are so emotionally unstable or that the MO ecosystem is so frail that we should be walking on eggshells lest somebody pick up her toys an go home. Instead of pushing people to hold their opinions to themselves, I think we should strive to maintain a culture where people give reasons for doing things. Reasons are wonderful brain viruses. If I give you a good enough reason for closing one of your questions, even if you resent it a bit, you will eventually helplessly agree with me. Even better, you will likely eventually use the same reason to vote to close somebody else's question. Rather than "policing" high rep users less, I think we should police high rep users (the ones voting to close) more by insisting that they leave good reasons. It's hard to take things personally when everybody is making an honest effort to communicate.

    I think I disagree with Pete Clark and Emerton, but I'm not completely sure. I certainly pay extra attention when I see a high rep user doing something borderline. That's because it's more likely that they know what they're doing. But if that action ultimately doesn't make sense to me, it seems crazy not to say, "I disagree with this; why are you doing it?" I find it hard to believe that somebody could be a valuable contributor to MO, but find it unreasonable for somebody else to politely voice such an opinion. In this specific case, I admit I was a bit blinded by my annoyance at the unabashed duplicate and "meta storm", but I actually couldn't come up with a good reason for the original question to be closed, even though at a gut level it felt off topic. I think the question would likely get a better answer on Stack Overflow or Super User, but I don't really see why it shouldn't be on MO. The thing I wish I'd done differently: I wish I'd left a comment on the first question (before the second question existed) to the effect of

    This feels off topic to me, but I can't really justify closing it. I've started a discussion at

    I feel like the problem was that the first question was closed and VA didn't see why (thought police, I guess).

    +1 to fgdorais, both for his comment above and for the one he left on the original question:

    This is a very borderline case in my opinion, but I'm voting to close as 'off topic' on the basis that this question should be addressed to the arXiv directly. (Addressing it here will serve no purpose as far as I can tell.) I would be fine with a variation on the following instead. Is there a user-side method to render latex formulas on arbitrary websites?