I often refer to Wikipedia for math questions, and in my opinion most or their articles are excellent. But I really disliked this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_space If you read the first one or two sentences, you can probably guess a few reasons why (I can edit this question to include my beefs, if anyone wants). I think it is crying out for improvement. I guess I could become a Wikipedia editor and complain about it or maybe edit it, but I would guess that a lot of MSE and MathOverflow participants are Wikipedia editors, know more about topology than me, and could do a better job of improving the article. My question is, is MSE an appropriate place to post such a plea? I'd bet it would get a lot more viewership on MSE than on the Wikipedia Talk page.

EDIT: The beginning of the article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_space was improved greatly around the end of October 2013.

This question is pretty much the same as this one: Questions concerning editing of wikipedia articles . There was one answer, not accepted, that seemed to say that such a post on MSE would be appropriate. I did not read the comments. I've never seen anyone post a question on MSE asking for improvement for a Wikipedia article before, so I want to make sure there's not some guideline against it that I'm unaware of.

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    $\begingroup$ The first paragraph of that article really is a trainwreck. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2013 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ I would think the best thing to do would be to ask for help here on specific problems you see in the article, then change it yourself once you get an answer. I don't know much about policies on Wikipedia's side, but I imagine a link to the MSE thread would qualify as a citation. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander Gruber Mod
    Oct 29, 2013 at 23:39
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    $\begingroup$ Conversely, I don't think a question whose content amounts to "The Wikipedia article about (xxx) sucks. Somebody please edit it." would be fit for MSE. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander Gruber Mod
    Oct 29, 2013 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ The first place to ask is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk%3aWikiProject_Mathematics . See rschwieb's answer and comments below. There are many mathematicians, who also happen to be experienced Wikipedia editors, watching the page from time to time. $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2013 at 17:13

3 Answers 3


I suggest creating a chat room: Editing mathematical articles on Wikipedia. This is a topic of obvious relevance to MSE users, some of whom are Wikipedia editors and many are frequent users. Suggestions for article improvements and discussions of how to go about those improvements could be posted there.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I've never used a chat room before. Once or twice, I "moved a discussion into chat" because MSE was complaining about excessive comments, but it seemed impossible to use $\TeX$, which was a huge drawback, so I never did it again. Do you know if one can use $\TeX$ in chat rooms? $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2013 at 0:50
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanSmith Yes, thanks to robjohn's innovation. math.ucla.edu/~robjohn/math/mathjax.html $\endgroup$
    – user103402
    Oct 30, 2013 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanSmith The post about using MathJax in chat is here. $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2013 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps the chatroom could include other wikis, such as ProofWiki, ExerciseWiki and some other mathematical wikis. But maybe it would be better to keep them separate. (I am mentioning ProofWiki in particular, because we have a user who is active on both MSE and ProofWiki and he might be able to give some good advice to someone starting using ProofWiki.) $\endgroup$ Oct 30, 2013 at 6:32

I often run into claims on Wikipedia that are confusing, dubious, or clearly wrong. I think it's great to ask for clarification here when something seems awry; my last question was of this type, for instance.

But I agree with Alexander Gruber that MSE is better used as a place to ask for clarification about specific points of confusion in Wikipedia articles, and that a general plea of the form, "please come to the article on XXX and help me edit it" would be off-topic.


I think the safest place to discuss improvements to Wikipedia articles is within Wikipedia. Not doing this invites all sorts of risk like stepping on the toes of natives who don't pay attention to math.SE, and running afoul of Wikipedia conventions nobody thought of over here. That's why it makes more sense to localize the discussion there, rather than doing too much here.

(Of course, if the changes you have in mind are probably innocuous, then plan and edit to your heart's desire :) )

Just imagine if a bunch of Wikipedia editors decided on a bunch of changes to solutions here in a Wikipedia chat room and then came over here and tried to enact them. Chaos!

If your main goal is to draw attention to articles that could be improved, I think the chatroom here is an awesome idea. But again, if the changes are extensive, it would be best to quickly move the conversation to the right talkpage and hash everything out at WP itself.

There are definitely several Wikipedians scattered about this site, for sure, but don't forget that there are also very good professional mathematicians at Wikiproject Mathematics who don't follow math.SE.

Discussing details of changes at Wikipedia is not really any harder than in a math.SE chatroom, albeit maybe responses are slower. Whatever ideas you have for improving an article should definitely be brought up on the article's talkpage: e.g. the one for Compact Space. If you feel like you're not getting enough attention there, you can always post directly at Wikiproject Mathematics message board.

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    $\begingroup$ Dear @StefanSmith : If in fact rogue editors try to "own" articles, we at WP:Math will quickly turn that around :) Looking at the history and the talkpage at compact space, I don't really see any evidence of such a person, though. Keep in mind that if you are unfamiliar with WP editing and article conventions, you might not know the rationale behind experienced editors' actions. Anyhow, see you there :) $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Oct 31, 2013 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ @rschweib : to my surprise, the person who seemed to be in charge of that article accepted some improvements that others suggested, and the beginning at least is much better than it was when I posted the question. $\endgroup$ Oct 31, 2013 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @StefanSmith I've found that first impressions on WP are often revised later :) It sounds like you weren't the only one lamenting the lead portion... thanks for helping to fix it. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Nov 1, 2013 at 13:10

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