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    • CommentAuthorRegenbogen
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2010 edited

    @Anton. You will be able to clear up a supposition of VA, since you have server logs and all:

    This may be a meta question, but who reads meta threads, right?

    So, is it true that not many people read meta(as opposed to the number who follow MO main screen)?

    Also, I wonder, what invited such a strong reaction to this question, while the question about what to do while stuck at NY airport got through with much less fanfare?


    I don't know how to check activity on meta. Scott can probably do it.

    "what invited such a strong reaction to this question" -- it was all the reasons Scott listed so clearly in his first post: the "thought police" comment, the fact that it was a duplicate, and the "closing a question is a personal attack" issue.


    For future reference, both moderators and anyone with 10k+ reputation can see deleted answers, so if there's information you actually need from them, just ask any one of us.


    Can you also see deleted questions?


    "Can you also see deleted questions?"

    Yes, though you don't just stumble upon deleted questions. You have to find them somehow (like the deleted tab under the tools menu).

    Here's the summary from the monthly statistic summary for meta:

    Figures in parentheses refer to the 7-day period ending Apr 25 2010 at 3:16 AM.

    Successful requests: 155,951 (45,164)
    Average successful requests per day: 6,502 (6,451)
    Successful requests for pages: 88,903 (27,997)
    Average successful requests for pages per day: 3,707 (3,999)
    Failed requests: 1,035 (57)
    Distinct files requested: 7,138 (735)
    Distinct hosts served: 3,327 (236)
    Data transferred: 1.11 gigabytes (346.25 megabytes)
    Average data transferred per day: 47.45 megabytes (49.46 megabytes)

    I can dig deeper if anyone has specific requests. The actual access logs are rolled over every 3 days, however, so only summary information may be available. I can lengthen the rollover period if anyone has a good reason.

    So all interested parties on meta are aware, I'm copying a comment from VA explaining what he found most frustrating about the situation:

    Noah: I was most upset by the fact that one participant took the challenge and volunteered to write an addon in a few days. But with the question closed and the incentives, such as they are here (the "points") gone, and no way to communicate the results (one can not add answers to a closed question), he apparently abandoned it. So that's anti-progress. Mine was the only voice to reopen for a month. So I had to post a new question.

    (In my opinion, VA has a very valid complaint here.)


    Right. On meta we like to talk about all questions having the possibility of being reopened, but in practice this almost never occurs; it's hard to get the users who have that power to repeatedly view a closed question to check it for progress and possibly cast reopen votes. (I say this without knowing whether editing a closed question bumps it, but either way my initial reaction to a closed question is always never to look at it again, and my guess is I'm not alone in this tendency.) It's unclear to me whether the solution to this is through a change in policy, a change in attitude, or a change to the software.


    I posted a comment asking VA to remove his last 2 sentences in the answer fgdorais refer to two posts above, which I found unnecessary. Which makes me wonder: if there had been no votes to close and the drama that follows, would the question be answered so effectively and quickly?

    So may be this is how democracy works. There are often passionate debates, and progress is painful, but if everyone acts in good faith, some good product would eventually come out? Anyway, may be this is just my attempt to put a positive spin on things...

    So I must have missed something somewhere, but I couldn't find the person VA is referring to "taking the challenge" on either thread. Does anyone know what he's referring to?

    Noah, I think he's thinking of Dror's message on the first question.

    • CommentAuthorYemon Choi
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010

    Just to address Qiaochu's point/question: I think editing a closed question does bump it up.


    Mine was the only voice to reopen for a month. So I had to post a new question.

    (In my opinion, VA has a very valid complaint here.)

    I agree. I think people were justified in closing the first question, and by the time the second question was asked, things had already gone wrong. The problem is that there should never be an isolated person on a quest to reopen (or close) a question. It's frustrating, and there's no reason such a person shouldn't have people agreeing with her (or actively disagreeing with her).

    Unfortunately, voting to reopen isn't the same as voicing for reopening. This is a shame, because I think if the first question had gotten some attention it would have been edited to look like the newer form of the question and reopened. As far as I can tell, there weren't any voices for reopening the question: there weren't any comments calling for the question not to be closed or for it to be reopened. François left a comment about how the question should be changed, but there wasn't any actual reaction to that comment until a month later. VA didn't give any indication that he disagreed with the question being closed, and his edit came of as suggesting that he may have actually agreed with people's cries that the question was off topic. It was almost impossible to know that VA was stewing in frustration for a month. If some people did know, they were quiet about it: I didn't even know the first question existed until the fiasco with the second question started.

    Is there something we could have done to effectively get VA (or at least his first question) onto meta earlier? I deeply believe it would have solved the problem, and that it would have been the right solution. However, for all I know, my attempts to contact him by email have failed, he hasn't looked at meta at all, and believes that there are many high rep users on MO who are unreasonable and who disagree with him in some fundamental way. Needless to say, I'm not very happy with this being a possibility.

    > So I must have missed something somewhere, but I couldn't find the person VA is referring to "taking the challenge" on either thread. Does anyone know what he's referring to?

    I also didn't see that comment until just now.

    Editing a closed question (or one of its answers) bumps it. There is also [a tool]( available to 10k+ rep users which allows them to see recently closed or reopened questions and to see questions with votes to close/reopen. I try to keep an eye on that list for anything that looks funny, but I clearly sometimes miss something important. I guess there isn't much incentive for 10k+ rep users to watch this list and report anomalies on meta.

    > On meta we like to talk about all questions having the possibility of being reopened, but in practice this almost never occurs

    Here's a list of questions that have been reopened. I haven't looked at any of them yet, I just produced the list from the database. Perhaps we can look for patterns which suggest how we might change things to make it easier for people to get questions reopened.

    If you're interested in some *numerical* patterns in reopened questions (e.g. average number of comments, or what fraction of them have a link to meta in the comments), post the things you'd like to know here rather than trying to count by hand. I can probably figure out how to query the database to get those numbers. Obviously, I can't write a script to check things like whether people made comments suggesting how to change the question.
    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
    Noah Snyder seems to have some rapport with VA. If you can agree on just exactly what you want of such a communication and Noah agrees, he can put another comment under the same answer by VA. Noah's first comment would appear to have had magical effect. So what do you want? VA to figure out how to register for META (it took me a few tries), post on this thread for example? I suggest that you not focus on how you were just doing your jobs, that he shouldn't take it personally. VA to email Pete L. Clark or Noah Snyder? Permission for Pete to email the person he thinks is VA? Above all you want to widen communication somehow.
    The fact of the matter is that the utility of meta for discussing borderline questions (let alone getting a good answer) is not obvious, and it is even less so for newcomers who (are probably only dimly aware of meta and) will tend to have questions that might be considered more off-topic by some or most.

    When I asked a question about the preponderance of algebraic geometry questions fairly early on in my MO experience, it was closed. The comments said why and I read the FAQ (I had skimmed it only briefly before and don't recall internalizing anything about meta) and got a better sense of this meta thingy. Fair enough, right? It stuck in my craw for a few seconds, and then I got over it.

    But I am still convinced that my question got a better answer than it would have on meta precisely because meta has a narrower audience.

    I haven't checked them all, but I don't fully understand what happened with the following:

    I'll update if I find more oddities or explanations.

    Thanks for the help Jonas.


    Of course, Anton knows this, but I thought I might add: if you think a question should be reopened, you can flag it for moderator attention, and explain that you think it should be reopened. I think reopening a question after changes to address earlier complaints is something moderators feel comfortable doing on their own.

    I will comment on my attempt to make the extension myself - so far I have failed...
    Worked on it for quite a few hours during holiday, but lost my nerve at the whole business.
    In the end, such an extension has to be like grease monkey - injecting scripts. Yesterday I tried to use this grease monkey compiler thing that someone named gina wrote.
    Almost got it running, might actually get a working extension sometime soon. It will use jsMath instead of MathML, which from what I understand, is still desirable.
    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeApr 28th 2010
    Check VA's recent activity!
    Whenever you need to make a reasoned argument that an action is not rude, that's a clear indication that it is rude. I am a mathematician myself, but I choose not to have anything to do with MathOverflow because of the pervasive, institutionalized rudeness. Your "community" might have a lot more mathematical talent enriching if not for this. Most of my mathematical colleagues who I have spoken with on this topic agree with me; they find MathOverflow unpleasant. I just wanted to pop in to say that. I won't be back.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeMay 4th 2013

    @chrisnormandy755887: I agree with me (and I think some other mathematicians actually using the site) that many of these off-topic question make MO unpleasant. In addition asking them is rude in the first please, and getting uneasy if they are closed is again rude. Too bad you won't be back. Also somewhat rude, in my opinion. But oh well, it is the internet and we have to live with a certain level of rudeness I guess.


    I sympathize with some of the views expressed by chrisnormandy755887, but I don't really see how bumping up this 3-year-old thread with such a comment is constructive. If we were to engage in a discussion about being nice to each other (which I am usually happy to do), I think it would be better if it were in the context of more recent events.