# What kinds of soft questions are acceptable at math.stackexchange?

I have asked Is remaining single helpful in mathematical career? today and it was put on hold as off-topic. While How hard should a mathematician work? is acceptable with many positive votes and favourites. I am not complaining about anything but just wondering what kinds of soft questions are considered suitable for math.stackexchange?

• I just closed that other one as primarily opinion-based. I hope this clears things up. – user642796 Nov 29 '14 at 5:40
• @ArthurFischer, but I thought all soft questions are to some extent opinion-based by definition of the tag. But the tag "soft questions" itself is allowed. – Zuriel Nov 29 '14 at 5:42
• "To some extent" opinion-based doesn't include "totally and exclusively" opinion-based. (And using the (soft-question) tag shouldn't be a license to ask crappy questions.) – user642796 Nov 29 '14 at 5:52
• @ArthurFischer, I am still a bit confused... This question math.stackexchange.com/questions/874269/… not only remains open, but with many positive votes. I thought it is also heavily opinion-based. – Zuriel Nov 29 '14 at 6:08
• As I mentioned in my very first comment, I closed that other question as "primarily opinion-base" (actually look at it instead of repeating the link). And question-score often has a very poor correlation to the usefulness of a question to the site because the reputation threshold to upvoting is very low and most users who have attained this threshold have little care about the site itself. – user642796 Nov 29 '14 at 6:24
• Thanks @ArthurFischer, if that question is closed as well, it would clarify my doubt greatly. Your comments and efforts are very helpful. – Zuriel Nov 29 '14 at 6:27
• @Zuriel I wonder if your question would be better at Academia.SE. I am married with 2 kids, and have just finished my PhD (I started early!). This makes looking for Postdocs... interesting. However, this is an academia question - my family does not affect my maths. Much. So if you do ask your question I would be interested to see what others have to say. So maybe post the link here if you asks it elsewhere? – user1729 Nov 29 '14 at 9:06
• I've added (soft-question) since I understand this tag on meta as the tag for discussions about soft questions. Discussing use of this meta-tag is not relevant to the OP, so should there be some discussion about this, it would be better to discuss this in chat. (Or a separate post on meta, but I don't think that this issue is important enough to deserve a question on meta.) – Martin Sleziak Nov 30 '14 at 6:56
• You might be interested in Off-topic tags. – Najib Idrissi Nov 30 '14 at 14:54
• Thanks @NajibIdrissi, it is very useful! – Zuriel Nov 30 '14 at 15:06
• @user1729, I have thought about posting on academia.stackexchange.com but I am not sure if they will welcome this question. They closed two questions from me recently anyway. But you are interested please post there. I do not mind at all if you copy-paste my question. – Zuriel Dec 2 '14 at 8:44

### On-topicness

Whether a question is on topic does not depend on its tags. If it is primarily opinion-based, it should be closed on that basis; tags are irrelevant.

In every tag there are off-topic and on-topic questions: the fact that a question matches a tag description does not qualify it as on-topic.

### Tag soft-question

The tag , as some others, was carried from MathOverflow because the first users of Math.SE came from MO. It predates Academia, Math Educators, and History of Math sites. Many of the good career-related questions within this tag are actually Academia questions (and should be asked there now). Many others are questions about teaching and learning mathematics, and belong on ME.SE. Some are about the history of mathematics. And others don't need this tag at all; adding it was sometimes a gesture on the part of the author similar to "excuse me for asking something so trivial".

What I'm getting at: is a tag that outlived its purpose. It should be removed.

• Thanks for the clarification! Then why this question math.stackexchange.com/questions/874269/… is suitable for Math.SE? Or maybe you do not consider it as proper here but more suitable at Academia? – Zuriel Nov 29 '14 at 6:23
• It is not suitable, in my opinion. I downvoted the question. I would closevote it too, but it's already closed. – user147263 Nov 29 '14 at 6:24
• Sorry but just noticed that that question was put on hold as well, quite recently. – Zuriel Nov 29 '14 at 6:24
• So all those types of questions should be asked at Academia? – Zuriel Nov 29 '14 at 6:25
• Only the questions that are on topic at Academia should be asked at Academia. – user147263 Nov 29 '14 at 6:25
• Thank you very much for your answer! Now it is very clear to me. – Zuriel Nov 29 '14 at 6:30
• Removal of this tag was discussed as early as 2010. If removal of this tag also means that this type of questions what be banned completely, I definitely disagree - there are many questions in this tag that I like a lot. And I think that the tag is useful - it can help when searching, it distinguishes different type of question. – Martin Sleziak Nov 29 '14 at 6:45
• @MartinSleziak I did not propose banning questions formerly asked with the tag. I think there are more targeted tags here (as well as more targeted sites elsewhere), such as (career-development) or (education). I don't like that (soft-question), especially with that vague tag excerpt, appears to be a pass to ask whatever. – user147263 Nov 29 '14 at 7:50
• @Michael: My guess is using [closed] and then tag it with delete votes (I mean, that's what Thursday here would have done). – Asaf Karagila Nov 29 '14 at 17:36
• @MichaelGreinecker Both (education) and (intuition) would fit parts of the question. But yes, Asaf is right: I would vote to close and delete. If that question was asked on MO only today by an anonymous 101 rep user, it would be closed and deleted, too. But people like to bask in reflected glory of a famous mathematician, so it stays open. Luckily, with all the problems that Math.SE has, class-conscious thinking is not one. – user147263 Nov 29 '14 at 18:29
• @Zuriel In this answer another user gives example of what he considers on-topic and off-topic soft question. I would also point you to the most upvoted soft questions, most of them are still open. (If a question has many upvotes, it does not necessarily mean it is on topic, but it shows that it has support from the community.) – Martin Sleziak Nov 30 '14 at 6:27
• @Raff: Not to take anything away from postmodernism, but I doubt that the Fountain would have passed if Duchamp was an anonymous artist. After you've worked hard, your words carry different weight. That is true in art, in mathematics, and in asking soft questions on MO (and probably MSE too). – Asaf Karagila Nov 30 '14 at 7:43
• +1 for on-topic analysis, -1 for the conclusion that soft-question should be removed. (so net $0$) A "soft-question" tag is helpful for looking up things that aren't math problems, but are math-related questions. (Generally speaking.) – apnorton Dec 1 '14 at 23:31
• @anorton Doesn't that sound way too broad? Related to math... by way of educational technology... or study habits... career development... classroom activities... philosophical issues... intuitive explanations... Why should all of this be in one tag? Given this list, I want to put the tag in ignored and favorite at the same time. – user147263 Dec 1 '14 at 23:36
• @Raff I suppose so; I just re-checked the number of questions tagged soft-question, and found it was about 100 times larger than I thought. (I only notice the really awesome soft-questions, so my internal counter was a bit off.) With this in mind, I think that soft-question should be eliminated, but not without replacement by some "smaller" tags. – apnorton Dec 1 '14 at 23:41