Concerning Can I use my powers for good?. This post is about careers/study advice. Why is it on-topic?

To down-voters and voters to close my question, may I point out that the advice on what topics I can ask about on MSE states the following policy:

[Questions] seeking personal advice for choosing a course, academic program, career path, etc. Such questions should be directed to those employed by the institution in question, or other qualified individuals who know your specific circumstances.

My question here was asking for more information about how that policy was being interpreted in a particular case. If my question is considered inappropriate or off-topic here, then I consider this meta forum to be unfit for its intended purpose.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that the question was posted 4 years ago. That's several generations on m.se. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Oct 9 '15 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ I hadn't noted that. It came under my radar when I was looking through some posts marked for review. My question stands. $\endgroup$ – Rob Arthan Oct 9 '15 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ This questions looks, to some extent similar to this one: What kinds of soft questions are acceptable at math.stackexchange? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Oct 10 '15 at 1:33
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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure whether your claim that this posts about careers/study advice is based on the sentence in this help page starting with: "Questing seeking personal advice...", it is worth mentioning that this sentence was added there quite recently, namely this August. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Oct 10 '15 at 1:36
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    $\begingroup$ Interestingly, exactly the question you linked to is mentioned in this post as one of the examples showing that (quote): "there are certainly on-topic advice questions". $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Oct 10 '15 at 2:03
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    $\begingroup$ @RobArthan doesn't the mostly positive reception of the question give you any pause? Why is a justification necessary, especially when the policy and offender are separated by so much time? $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Oct 10 '15 at 2:15
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand why this question has been down voted. But thanks for the information and opinions. From now on, I'll just quietly ignore careers/study advice questions. $\endgroup$ – Rob Arthan Oct 10 '15 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ @rschwieb this is a borderline dangerous argument. While as I explained in my answer that type of question might have some merits, this particular one is also full of fluff and vagueness about "good," which however I suspect is part of its success. $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Oct 10 '15 at 11:47
  • $\begingroup$ @rschwieb Please see Parkinson's law of triviality. A question about solving a difficult problem in, say, analytical number theory, may not interest everyone, or may not even be understood by most people. Here, everyone can understand what is asked and pitch in with their grain of salt, anecdotes, dubious life advice... One of the most upvoted comments on the question is a quote from Batman! $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Oct 10 '15 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ @quid I don't think "consider the context in which the question was born and has existed" is a dangerous argument at all (and that is my argument.) the opposing argument is "judge questions from all times according to the instantaneous standards of now" and that is a dangerous argument which I am highlighting. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Oct 10 '15 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi I don't understand your response, probably because the post that prompted it was misunderstood. I added a comment above which hopefully helps. Regards $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Oct 10 '15 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ @rschwieb Yes, I think I misread your comment at first (especially the first sentence). I thought you were using the question's popularity to justify the fact that it was worth keeping, but reading more closely I don't think this is what you actually meant (please correct me if I'm wrong again...). $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Oct 10 '15 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ @rschwieb I might have misunderstood your argument a bit, however, I do think that this question is not really good by any standard I am willing to consider as reasonable. The ostentatious reference to "good" achieves nothing as concerns eliciting actual information on possible career path; it's pure fluff. It happens to be a type of fluff that annoys me, but even if it were not I would still consider it as fluff. $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Oct 10 '15 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ Another down vote! Would any of you who object to my question care to uncloak and explain what I've done wrong in asking this question. $\endgroup$ – Rob Arthan Oct 11 '15 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ @quid If the question in question (ha) were asked today, I would have no qualms about regarding it as off-topic. I just feel I can't apply the same resolve to something that has been around much longer than my current understanding of what is off-topic. Certainly a 1k votes on an old post don't make something on-topic. On the other hand, it might mean that (regardless of its ability to fit our criteria) it would be a bad idea to obliterate it. Certainly the $n$ items like it are lower priority than the $2^{n}$ worse questions coming in every day that I can condemn with a clear conscience. $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Oct 12 '15 at 14:03

Two points, somewhat opposing:

  • The question is not unanimously considered as on-topic. Note that it was closed at some point in time yet got re-opened.

  • The question does not fully fall under the "Seeking personal advice" off-topic reason. While it is quite personal in context, the actual question asked is general: "what careers which make a positive contribution to society might be open to academic mathematicians who want to change careers?"

Thus, the situation is unclear.

  • $\begingroup$ Regarding the second point, IMO the question is pretty clearly "not about mathematics as defined in the help center". It's the usual difference between "questions about mathematics" and "questions for mathematicians". $\endgroup$ – Najib Idrissi Oct 10 '15 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ To avoid potential misunderstandings, let me stress that I added a vote to close to the question now when it reappeared. However, I still think that somebody might find this question on-topic while still being in favor of having the "Seeking personal advice" close-reason (and if it were not for all the goodness chit-chat I might not have voted to close it, but maybe I would still, not sure). Moreover, it seems to me that the "on-topic" page is not too clear, at least not as clear as it could be. In particular, there is still no mention of Academia for qu. that might be on-topic there. $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Oct 10 '15 at 14:56

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