Math-SE is (obviously) not the only math-discussion forum out there. A poster that wishes to maximize the speed at which his question is answered may well choose to post the same question on more than one site.

Suppose the first and/or best answer is posted on a site other than Math-Se. What is the proper way to quote/link to it, without undue abuse of the reputation system?

Disclosure: I am new to this (and other) forums, and have committed this "sin" on my very first question.

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    $\begingroup$ Your wish to get an answer quickly is a bad reason for taking up the time of more people than is necessary. Personally, I would feel like I have wasted my time on you if I compiled a long answer simultaneously with someone else on another site, possibly with identical content. $\endgroup$ – Alex B. Mar 3 '11 at 10:08

We discourage asking on multiple sites simultaneously. It's better to

  • pick one site (inside our network or not) that is your best match to the question
  • post the question there, specifically tailored to that site's community
  • if you don't get an answer in a day or so: try reformulating your post for another site and a slightly different community, and delete the orphaned question.

(You can generally delete your questions that have no answers without restriction, but feel free to flag for moderator attention if you cannot.)

I think it's important to be respectful of the community you're asking the question of. That means not asking them to (potentially) duplicate the work of others, and asking in a genuine way that is specifically meant for them.

Asking on meta is a great start, and already sets you apart -- in a good way! -- from most other question askers.

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    $\begingroup$ This approach seems a pity to me. Even if one does follow this one-forum-a-time rule (and I'm not sure I agree that it's disrespectful not to do this), it is quite possible that partial answers, or at least interesting comments, will show up before one decides to ask again at another community. Deleting all this seems a lot more disrespectful than eventually adding a link to a solution elsewhere. On the other hand, I can understand how having to do this may not be compatible with the reputation-for-answers system used here. $\endgroup$ – David Mar 3 '11 at 4:11
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    $\begingroup$ @david it is not a rule, I can't stop you (nor would I want to) from doing whatever you wish to do -- I was just offering a guideline based on my experience. The idea of copying and pasting a question, and "if posting a question on one site is good, posting that question on five sites is five times as good!" isn't conducive to healthy communities in my experience. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Mar 3 '11 at 4:32
  • $\begingroup$ anyhow - since I have asked the same question on Stats.SE, and there are such partial answers there, I've flagged the Math.SE question (currently still orphaned) and asked it to be deleted, as instructed $\endgroup$ – David Mar 3 '11 at 4:52
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    $\begingroup$ @David: In the future, please do follow the rule of not posting simultaneously. This is the most important piece in my opinion. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Vogt Mar 3 '11 at 10:55
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, will do (see however my comments to the answer by @QiaochuYuan). But I still feel that the policy proposed by Mr Atwood (deleting the question altogether before asking it again in another forum) is much too harsh; in particular, it wastes whatever (possibly useful) partial answers may have been contributed. I'd like to hear other users' opinion on this. $\endgroup$ – David Mar 4 '11 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ If there have been useful comments and partial answers, then a better solution is to edit a link to the new question in your orphaned question, and to include a link to your old question in the new one. $\endgroup$ – Dan Petersen Mar 4 '11 at 11:43

To me, asking a question on multiple sites simultaneously is very roughly analogous to proposing to two women (or men!) at the same time. I guess there is no law against this (although in most countries there is probably a law against actually marrying them at the same time), but at the same time it is in somewhat bad taste.

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    $\begingroup$ I was going to make that exact analogy but I thought it was too risky. :) $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Mar 3 '11 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ The analogy is too rough for my taste. While I generally do not approve of multiple simultaneous postings, it is pretty clearly not nearly as irresponsible and selfish as multiple simultaneous proposals. $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Mar 3 '11 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ Well, with all due respect, I don't agree with this analogy at all. Asking a question seems to me very different from making a commitment; I see no moral impediment to asking the same question to more than one person or group of people. Would you say, for instance, that if I post a question at Math-SE, I should avoid also asking it to a friend or colleague? Still, given the uniformly negative reaction, and respecting the 'when in Rome' principle, I will refrain from doing this in the future $\endgroup$ – David Mar 4 '11 at 0:01
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    $\begingroup$ @David Here, you are not posing the question to your friends, you are posing it to people you don't know, most of them busy people (e.g. busy helping others, not just you), and you are expecting them to invest time into helping you, again without knowing you and without feeling any personal attachment to you. If you don't see a difference, then I am afraid you will not understand the reaction you are receiving and will have to blindly follow the policy. If you want a better analogy: you shouldn't send emails with your question to several professors at the same time. $\endgroup$ – Alex B. Mar 4 '11 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Alex: +1, now this is a very good analogy. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Vogt Mar 5 '11 at 7:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Hendrik: sure, but if you're not the kind of person who's regularly in correspondence with professors, it wouldn't necessarily occur to you that what Alex describes is bad. I was going for universality over accuracy. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Mar 5 '11 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Qiaochu: Fair point. And since you wrote "very roughly", I have no problems with your comparison. Still, Alex' comparison is very helpful. $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Vogt Mar 5 '11 at 9:47

Posting a question to a site does not require anybody to answer. We do it voluntarily, each for our own reason. I think it would be considerate to point out the cross-post. One would hope they can all be amalgamated, but it ain't gonna happen. I once saw a great website about "how to ask a question" that I wish was required reading before posting here. I acknowledge it ain't gonna happen, but I can wish. If anybody knows it, you could post it to the FAQ and it might help some.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you perhaps mean ESR's guide? $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Mar 8 '11 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Willie Wong: Exactly $\endgroup$ – Ross Millikan Mar 8 '11 at 17:05

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