(This may be considered a reprise of this 2010 thread.)

Just now, there is/was a surge of closings of questions. Old ones, with accepted answers.

While some of them were definitely good fits for the now-gone close reason "too localised", it seems that there is a fraction of users that consider all questions (purely) about MATLAB to be off-topic for MSE.

I don't have any practical experience with MATLAB, but definitely these questions are a bit of an odd bunch among the MSE question populace.

On the other hand, our FAQ states that MSE is a place for questions about "software that mathematicians use".

It seems that we should do one of the following:

  • Close questions about MATLAB as off-topic and remove the statement that MSE is for questions about "mathematicians' software". Options:
    • Migrate them to StackOverflow;
    • Just close them and let askers figure out themselves where to ask MATLAB questions.
  • Retain the "mathematicians' software" claim, and don't close questions purely about MATLAB (even if they aren't directly mathematical in nature).
  • Some "middle road", where generic programming language questions are closed, while questions geared to the features of MATLAB as a CAS are retained and answered.


  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Something we should consider is the volume of questions this would generate. I don't see anything wrong with MATLAB questions in theory, as long as they're about mathematics (and not, say, graphics rendering / basic syntax). On the other hand, I would not like to see it become a top 10 tag. A whole new SE had to be opened for Mathematica- do we think there will be fewer MATLAB questions? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander Gruber Mod
    Oct 29, 2013 at 23:33
  • $\begingroup$ scicomp.stackexchange.com looks like an excellent fit. $\endgroup$
    – dfeuer
    Oct 30, 2013 at 8:22
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @dfeuer For many Matlab questions, it's not. SciComp is for "scientists using computers to solve scientific problems", not for students who got stuck on their Matlab-based homework, or for noviced confused by "mismatched dimensions" error. $\endgroup$
    – user103402
    Oct 30, 2013 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ If questions about Matlab are closed, I think they should be migrated to StackOverflow or the questioner should at least be given the suggestion to post there. I don't think posters should be expected to "figure out for themselves" to post to StackOverflow. They may know little about the site, including its very existence. I posted such a question on MSE, and someone was kind enough to post a good answer that s/he found on StackOverflow, before my question got closed or put on hold (I forgot which happened). $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2013 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @feuer : Please see user103402 's comment. I have spent a fair amount of time on SciComp and I have seen almost no basic Matlab questions posted there, so I suspect they are considered off-topic there. I'm not as familiar with StackOverflow, but from what I've seen, I suspect it's a better fit. $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2013 at 13:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I like Matlab questions. I think learning Matlab is one of the skills associated with becoming an applied mathematician and applied mathematicians may often be the ones who have the most Matlab expertise. I'm not sure people with questions about implementing numerical analysis algorithms in Matlab will have as much luck finding answers elsewhere. $\endgroup$
    – littleO
    Nov 1, 2013 at 5:49

1 Answer 1

  1. I think "software that mathematicians use" is misleading. A number of mathematicians use Chrome (including in their professional capacity, e.g., submitting referee's reports online); this should not make questions about Chrome on-topic for MSE. I suggest rewording the item as "mathematical usage of software", or maybe "using software to solve mathematical problems".
  2. I don't see anything wrong with Matlab questions being here. Most of Matlab questions I've seen involve some mathematical problem being solved. Some of them would be more likely to be answered at another Q&A, but this does not make them off-topic here. Some are sloppy enough to be unanswerable and can be closed and/or downvoted as a question on any other topic.
  • $\begingroup$ One could use Firefox to access Wolfram Alpha and solve mathematical problems, but I would exclude questions regarding browsers. TeX questions are on topic, and some questions are better suited to this site than TeX.SE, but that is not "software used to solve mathematical problems". I think we may just have to use discretion when applying this condition. I think Matlab questions are fine, and we should close them as off-topic (in the true sense) only if we have an SE site for their migration. $\endgroup$
    – robjohn Mod
    Oct 29, 2013 at 20:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @robjohn The help center has "typesetting equations" among off-topic categories. $\endgroup$
    – user103254
    Oct 29, 2013 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ Referring to the source you want to change, as a reference? :-) I think that the TeX questions here would be a poor choice for migration to TeX.SE. Arrgh, those be more like guidelines... $\endgroup$
    – robjohn Mod
    Oct 29, 2013 at 22:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @robjohn You linked to TeX questions on Meta, which is a rather different thing. Of course, meta is full of questions about the typesetting on the main site. This thread is about what's on topic on the main site. $\endgroup$
    – user103254
    Oct 29, 2013 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I guess I was mainly thinking of the meta questions when talking about TeX questions, so strike that sentence. However, my point was that it is very hard to make a set of unbreakable rules to govern every instance. There is no other place for the MatLab questions, and they are ostensibly on-topic, so I think they are fine. Perhaps changing to "software used to solve mathematical problems" would be good, even though I think that can be reasonably inferred from the current wording. $\endgroup$
    – robjohn Mod
    Oct 29, 2013 at 23:09

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