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I'm aware that there is no official relationship between this site and MathOverflow. However, with the moderator election underway, so far each of the 3 self-nominees has indicated that they are active both here and on MathOverflow, and I'm wondering what this means for the relationship between the communities of the two sites.

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    $\begingroup$ MO is funded independently of math.SE but I was under the impression it is hosted on SE servers (e.g., there are comments by Anton on the meta.stackoverflow about the hosting fee structure). Is that true, or is MO friendly-but-totally-independent, with purchased SE 1.0 software running on machines not owned by SO/SE Inc? $\endgroup$ – T.. Dec 2 '10 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @T.. MO is still running on SE servers on the old "Stack Exchange 1.0" software, but it's separate from the new Stack Exchange network of sites. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Cronin Dec 2 '10 at 22:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyle: "I'm wondering what this means for the relationship between the communities of the two sites." Could you be a bit more specific about what it is you want to discuss? $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Dec 2 '10 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ If MO operators wanted to use the SE 1.0 software to (e.g.) create additional sites, such as an MO-version of math.SE, or in some other way compete with SE or be in conflict with SE's perceived commercial interests, are they free to do that or SE has de facto control over any such developments? $\endgroup$ – T.. Dec 2 '10 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: The questions in your last comment seem like they should be directed at Jeff Atwood and/or Anton Geraschenko. It's not even clear to me that the answers to these should be made publicly available. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Dec 2 '10 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Pete I look at Math.SE and MO and see very similar subjects and questions. I'm just concerned that if the userbase is the same, there won't be much to differentiate the two sites. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Cronin Dec 2 '10 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ @T.. SE 1.0 has been discontinued, but there are some clones out there that can be used to create additional sites. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Cronin Dec 2 '10 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyle Cronin: There are many users here who are not active in MO. Many questions that would be closed down at MO are posted here successfully. Plus there are some questions that are acceptable at MO as well. What is wrong with the latter? Good quality questions are always welcome. We do not want this site to be dump for MO, do we? $\endgroup$ – user1119 Dec 2 '10 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Pete, I don't understand the objection to public discussion. It is of two-community interest to explain the degree to which SE and MO are independent of each other. To take another scenario, involving deletion and not addition of sites, if SE and its investors decide that their commercial interest is to "unsupport" MO (so as to absorb its user base into math.SE or a future version thereof), does the present structure prevent that? Exactly how structurally and operationally related are MO and SE? (All scenarios suggested are hypothetical and not necessarily realistic.) $\endgroup$ – T.. Dec 2 '10 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ @George No, which is why I hope someone that isn't on MO runs for a moderator position $\endgroup$ – Kyle Cronin Dec 2 '10 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: It is a fair question to ask; what I'm saying is that it is arguably fair not to answer it. In any case, this really is a MO-specific question, so why don't you ask it at meta.MO instead? $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Dec 2 '10 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyle: I'm not sure what you mean by "what this means for the relationship." It sounds like you have some concern, and you should make that concern explicit. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Dec 2 '10 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Qiaochu Well it's hard to get explicit because I really don't know the extent of the relationship between the two sites. I'm just concerned that to an outside observer there's a lot of overlap. If it's just two different sides to the same community, that's great. If not, then perhaps Math.SE should look for ways to differentiate itself from MO. That's really all I'm getting at. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Cronin Dec 3 '10 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Qiaochu: Perhaps Kyle is worried that people from MO would try to redirect the "good" questions to MO, and making this site a dump of rejected stuff from MO. $\endgroup$ – user1119 Dec 3 '10 at 10:22
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    $\begingroup$ @George S. Clearly, you don't have to be a moderator to tell somebody "you might receive a better answer over at MO". There is nothing you can do to stop e.g. me from saying that to every poster of a decent question. The only way to stop that from happening is to try to bully active MO-users away from this site, in which case math.SE will lose some of its most helpful contributors. I doubt that that's what Kyle means. At any rate, as Qiaochu said, if Kyle has a specific concern, he should raise it and not let us guess. If not, then this is a pointless thread. $\endgroup$ – Alex B. Dec 4 '10 at 3:42
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I can also provide an explanation from a personal perspective:

as Pete said, 97-99% of questions asked here don't belong on MO. I think that the ratio is actually closer to 100% than to 99%. Still, every now and then, users don't read the faq and post inappropriate questions on MO, which are usually promptly closed and the poster is redirected to math.SE. Mathematicians that are active on MO then face a minor dilemma: on the one hand we want MO to remain as useful a resource for mathematicians as it is now and don't want it to be "polluted" by questions of no interest to professional mathematicians. On the other hand, most of us see our mission in not only increasing knowledge that is available to humanity, but also in disseminating knowledge.

So, we are perfectly sympathetic with the poster who asked the question on MO and in fact glad that somebody who isn't being paid for it is interested in mathematical questions. This is what made me personally contribute to math.SE: I felt bad about telling people to "leave us alone" (which is of course not how we phrase these redirections, but some people may read them this way) and feel much better saying "let's not discuss it here, because we will disturb others, I'll see you in the other room". I imagine that similar considerations account for a large percentage of the overlap in the MO and math.SE userbase.

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Dear Kyle,

The designated purpose of MO is to field questions in mathematics which are of direct interest to research mathematicians (starting, approximately, at the level of an intermediate PhD student). The designated purpose of math.SE is to field questions in mathematics at all levels.

Thus the focus of MO is a subset of that of math.SE. On the other hand, if you look at the subcommunities of PhD-level mathematicians active on the two sites, the community here is close to being a subset of the corresponding community on MO.

Thus, if you have a math question that you think a PhD mathematician (often, a particular kind of PhD mathematician) will be interested in answering and someone of a lower level will probably not understand, you should probably ask it on MO rather than math.SE. Sometimes someone asks a question here on math.SE and doesn't get much of a response, and then the question gets asked again on MO. This happens with something like 1-3% of the questions asked here. Of these, I would say at least half of them are not being answered for some reason other than insufficient expertise of the math.SE readership (e.g. the question is in fact not very clear or well-defined), and then it may get rapidly closed on MO. The process of "site transfer" works best when someone who is active both here and at MO recommends that the question be transferred. This seems like an important advantage of having many dual users.

This leaves about 97-99% of the questions here which would not be asked on MO. In other words, there is actually not very much overlap between the two sites when it comes to actual questions.

What do you find specifically problematic about most or all of the moderators on math.SE being active on MO? (If it matters, none of the people who have so far stood up for the moderator position are also moderators on MO.)

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't necessarily think it's problematic. I was just wondering what the relationship was. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Cronin Dec 2 '10 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ OK. I have struck out the question then, which may have stemmed from a misinterpretation of your comments. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Dec 2 '10 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ @George S.: Just because a question is not on topic for MO doesn't mean it isn't "good"! $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Dec 3 '10 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ I very much agree with Pete. This forum is for math questions at all levels. So if you don't know how your question fits into mathematics, this is probably the right place to start. If you know your question is a research level question and you want it to have the attention of research mathematicians, MO is the right place for it. Basically, MO is just a much more focused, more narrow-interest forum than here, because it's designed for a relatively small community. This forum is meant for anyone with an interest in mathematics. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Budney Dec 3 '10 at 18:32

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