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I'm starting a new thread about this since the discussion has been hopping between threads, which makes the tracking of "this" & "that" very difficult.
The topic is Andrew Stacey's Standard Objection that good answers do not make good questions. This has been objected to by Gil Kalai (also here)
Of course, a principal merit of a question is the ability to lead to very good answers.
and Pete Clark
A bad question could lead to good answers, but a question that has led to multiple good answers seems to have a reasonable expectation of leading to more good answers, or so says Bayesian probability.
among others. (Please see the actual posts for additional context.)
This seems related to a related question of whether MathOverflow should be a microcosm of the mathematical community. (This has come up in the 'closing questions is rude' threads too.) Gil is of course completely correct about mathematical questions in general, but is the extension to MathOverflow justified?
I can't claim to have a precise and consistent philosophy on this. My primary concern/irritation is with questions which seem either thoughtless or ill-focused. That said, I was to some extent brought up in a problem-solving tradition of mathematics, which may mean that I don't always appreciate the difficulties some people have in finding a precise question. But "help I don't understand any of X", while a natural impulse that surely strikes all of us, is not really what I want to see when I visit MO.
Also: apologies if this has been raised already, but from time to time I see a question which strikes me as really well thought out as a question, regardless of the content it's asking about, and I wonder if we could or should collate these as informal "examples of good practice".
(The only example that comes to mind immediately is that one from a combinatorist asking in good faith for examples where the categorical POV on combinatorial species has proved fruitful; I really felt after reading that question that its author had given good indication of what he'd find a helpful answer, and an explanation of where he was coming from.)
This is perhaps tangential, but Yemon has a point that we need good examples too.
Yemon's example is Pietro KC's What are some examples of interesting uses of the theory of combinatorial species?
I also liked Andrea Ferretti's Can we prove set theory is consistent? Most questions on this subtle topic are ill formulated and get picked apart in the answers, which often have no other content. This one was exceptionally well formulated and, as a result, the answers were equally good.
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