# Regarding editorial policy and attitudes of editors.

I recently posted an attempted proof of Beal's conjecture on the Math stack exchange and someone said I should put it on the Math Overflow site for professionals. The attempted proof I wrote uses Elementary Number Theory and is not hard. I have seen many problems on the Math Stack exchange that seem very difficult and could be 'moved' to the M.O. site. Anyway I responded that I'm just an amateur and User 8spir said 'Surely you are joking'. 8spir then said ..,' more or less out of principle I do not debunk short solutions of famous problems.' ALSO 8spir said 'if this is posted on the M.O. site it should be closed and down voted massively'..So WHAT THEN WOULD BE THE POINT OF PUTTING THIS THEOREM ON THE M.O. SITE?? This kind of attitude of some 'valued' editors is extremely discouraging. Must an amateur have a great reputation before she or he actually proves anything important? If the Stack exchange websites really do welcome amateurs then they should put up with amateur attempts and offer non-patronizing advice..

• Firstly, you're complaining about some random person on the internet who said something you don't like. This isn't going to get you very far - there are many users with varying opinions here. Secondly, your timeline isn't correct. The user quid said Surely you're joking to 8pir, with respect to the (totally misguided) suggestion for you to post this on MO. – davidlowryduda Aug 8 '14 at 7:36
• -1 for the accusal to the wrong person. – achille hui Aug 8 '14 at 7:40
• Sorry for my errors ; my complaint is important if this is close mindedness. Amateurs don't have a hope of proving some important theorem with this kind of reception. A common way to discredit a person is to point out errors that have nothing to do with the main point being suggested. The random comment was from quid or 8spir I'm not sure. And the 'surely you're joking ' comment ; it wasn't clear if it was to me or 8spir. If it was to 8Spir doesn't that imply the quality of what I wrote was rotten? – user128932 Aug 8 '14 at 7:49
• My main point is why was I told to write my attempted theorem in the M.O. site; then 8spir said 'if this is posted on the M.O.site it should be closed and down voted massively'. What is the point of that?? – user128932 Aug 8 '14 at 7:53
• Where did my last comments go? Why are they hidden? – user128932 Aug 8 '14 at 7:58
• – Martin Sleziak Aug 8 '14 at 7:59
• An attempt at a proof of a big result is neither a fit here nor on MO. It should be written up nicely and put on arXiv. Once you have done that, please do not ask about whether it is correct here or on MO. Instead, contact specific people who work in the area, and make sure to explain your methods very precisely in the email and why those methods have succeeded where others have failed. If you do not explain this well enough, your email will probably be ignored. If you are not able to explain it well enough, then you have in all likelyhood not actually proved the result anyway. – Tobias Kildetoft Aug 8 '14 at 8:39
• On "If it was to 8Spir doesn't that imply the quality of what I wrote was rotten?" Not necessarily. It says that it is not a good idea to post it on MO. As can be seen from my later comment there can be also formal arguments for this. See, I do not study such things in any detail out of principle. Possibly this makes me a "bad person" or something like this in your eyes, but form this it should be extremly clear that I make no evaluation of your work. – quid Aug 8 '14 at 9:37
• If you want to know why you were told to post to MO, you have to ask the person who told you to post to MO; there's no point whatsoever of asking here on meta. But I can tell you, DON'T post to MO; your question will be closed so fast, it will make your head spin. – Gerry Myerson Aug 8 '14 at 10:01
• As for Beal's question: my advice is get an introductory Number Theory textbook like Niven-Zuckerman-Montgomery or Rosen, and do every exercise in it. If you can't, then there isn't the slightest chance that you can settle Beal. But you might learn some beautiful mathematics on the way. – Gerry Myerson Aug 8 '14 at 10:04
• @Tobias I disagree. What you wrote might be true for long or deep proofs. But the qestion at hand is a one paragraph elementary attempted proof. Mathematically, the question is no different than many other elementary number theory questions about checking proofs. And attempted proofs like this should not be sent to experts. They can easily be debugged by students. – Bill Dubuque Aug 8 '14 at 13:24
• Attempted elementary proofs of difficult open problems will always be met with skepticism (though the skepticism may be slightly less if one has an established mathematical reputation). Such famous problems often attract amateurs who dream of becoming famous by solving such a problem. But is is extremely rare that such problems can be resolved by elementary means. Some readers may have the patience to help debug such proofs if they are well-presented. Your proof is not, since you do not define $H$ and $K$ in the second line, so it is impossible to make sense of the argument henceforth. – Bill Dubuque Aug 8 '14 at 13:40
• In addition to Gerry's advice, you might enjoy perusing Richard K. Guy's book Unsolved Problems in Number Theory, which constains many interesting unsolved problems, some of which will probably turn out to be much easier to solve than Beal's Conjecture. It is essential to keep in mind that Number Theory is notorious for having many easily comprehended problems whose only (known) solutions involve very deep mathematics (e.g. FLT). – Bill Dubuque Aug 8 '14 at 16:22
• Thank you for the encouraging advice given. This is much preferable and enlightening than some of the disheartening comments I have received. I did not know a short attempted proof of a difficult problem should NOT be posted on these sites , especially by an amateur. Anyway the ENCOURAGING advice is VERY useful.. – user128932 Aug 9 '14 at 3:20

For eveybodies convenience, first, here is the full comment thread (with added emphasis)

1. you should ask this question in MO forum because it is the site for professional mathematicians.... – 8 pi r Aug 5 at 6:33

2. Sorry I'm only an amateur.. – user128932 Aug 5 at 6:41

3. Surely you are joking @8pirquid 2 days ago

4. @quid: do you understand what OP asked? – 8 pi r yesterday

5. @8pir it seems they tried to reduce the Beal conjecture to FLT and want to know if the argument is correct. More or less out of principle I do not debunk short solutions of famous problems. Anyway, if this is posted on MO it should be closed and downvoted massively. – quid yesterday

6. So 8spir ; what is the point of moving this attempted proof to the M.O. site if it would be squashed?? – user128932 57 mins ago

7. @user128932 Could you format it so that it's a bit more readable? – Joachim 17 mins ago

One can see the description of the conversation by OP is completely distorted as they did not realize they were talking to two users 8 pi r and me (ignoring Joachim as this happened later). Also, I feel that it is not only an "accusal to the wrong person" but the entire complaint is based on the massive confusion that 1, 3, 4, 5 were all written by the same user!

The comment 3, my first one, is clearly directed at 8 pi r, as can be seen from the @8pir, see How do comment @replies work?

In my opinion, to suggest to post this on MO is a bad advice. I meant to point this out. The precise formulation was chosen since I honestly was not sure if 1 was intended as honest advice or somehow humorous.

I think 4 and 5 are pretty self-explanatory (if one pays attention to who said what, 4 is 8 pi r talking to me, 5 is me replying to them).

Let us go to 6. It seems based on a misunderstanding. The situation is quite simple: 8 pi r thought (perhaps still thinks) it is a good idea to move it to MO. I think otherwise. I cannot see anything unusual or outrageous here. Possibly my comment 3 should have been clearer. Sorry about that.

• I do not understand why this was downvoted. It is merely collection of data+timeline relevant to the original post. – Martin Sleziak Aug 8 '14 at 12:24
• @Martin Somehow you seem to have missed that only the first half of the answer contains data. The rest contains opinions (e.g. "in my opinion..."), which often attract downvotes, whether or not the opinions are wise. – Bill Dubuque Aug 8 '14 at 13:06
• An important point that is missed is why should an amateur's attempt at a famous problem be automatically closed off and not even looked at. What about the occasional person who may be extremely brilliant? An amateur who might have discovered a short solution? If all amateur's are assumed to be lacking in skill unless they have degrees or 'go through proper channels' then no amateur can do anything extraordinary in math unless they have a 'PROPER' reputation. – user128932 Aug 9 '14 at 3:33
• @user128932 This is not, or at least not mainly, an amateur vs professional issue. Various people apply various "filters" to decide what to study and what not. The prior reputation of the author is one among several factors for most. If you want some accounts of people that have written about this matter let me know and I will try to come up with some links. – quid Aug 9 '14 at 21:22
• I think this is an issue related to the attitude of any field of study towards amateurs. It is like the real world 'almost' paradox;'No un- experienced workers are will be hired (for some job)'. I know there has been people claiming to be brilliant amateurs pushing poor work yet if most amateur work isn't even looked at based on 'principles' like user Quid or 8spir said then actually brilliant amateur work will be ignored. I read somewhere Galois's work on Group Theory might have been thrown out if a sympathetic mathematician hadn't noticed it. – user128932 Aug 10 '14 at 9:22
• How can any amateur complain in a productive and non-abusive way if some editors will say and do exactly what they will with seeming impunity. Has an editor-user ever been docked many reputation points for some kind of misconduct or unfairness. Or are my comments pointless.. – user128932 Aug 11 '14 at 4:25
• @user128932 First, a detail: you using the word "editor" is somewhat unfortunate since it is not quite clear to me what you mean. Also you insisting on being an amateur is somewhat besides the point. Who knows what I am for example? (Okay, I claimed somewhere in passing I am a professional but who knows, who cares?) Second, if a post is delted as "spam" or "offensive" then this cqn incur a point-penalty; for continued abusive behavior one can get suspended. But this is rather for more severe cases. If you find a comment unhelpful or annoying you could flag it as "not constructive." – quid Aug 11 '14 at 11:07
• Any user with a lot of reputation points can comment or criticize any posting hopefully in a constructive way. Also a such a user can vote to shut down a posting , this is editing. Someone like quid can perform the function of an editor whether you call it editing or not. – user128932 Aug 14 '14 at 3:22