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Well, the Yearling badge starting to appear, marking the first anniversary of the website on the SE network.

Users that were active throughout the year, feel free to post your impression from the first year of the site.

Moderators, SE executives/developers, feel free to share your impression about the inner working of the site - as this is a relatively unique community (mainly for the TeX needs, but I am also given to understand that this community as a whole is quieter than the average SE community).

And well, many happy returns!

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    $\begingroup$ I wasn't here during private beta. So I suppose it will be a short while yet before I am a bona fide yearling. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Jul 21 '11 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie: 38 days, if you want to be exact. Regardless you have been here from quite early and have been a moderator for the better part of the year. Your opinion is highly valued on the topic :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 21 '11 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ It makes me feel so young. $\endgroup$ – davidlowryduda Jul 21 '11 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ Hi, I am Aryabhata and I am an addict. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Jul 22 '11 at 1:18
  • $\begingroup$ Will you perchance be springing for arak when you obtain your "Yearling" badge? ;) $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Jul 22 '11 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ J.M.: I will be springing for arak. ;-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Jul 22 '11 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ Hi, I'm Andy and I am another addict. $\endgroup$ – Andy Jul 24 '11 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ This has only been around for a year? I had no idea. It seemed well-established when I arrived, and that was just over 7 months ago! $\endgroup$ – Zhen Lin Jul 26 '11 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ "It seemed well-established when I arrived" - chalk that up to this site attracting dedicated and talented contributors. Yay us! $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Jul 27 '11 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie: How 'bout a few words, Mr. Yearling? :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 29 '11 at 6:54
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On the whole, I really enjoy the existence of math.SE. I've learned stuff, refined my understanding of some things, and gotten to put to use a lot of knowledge that would otherwise be growing stale in the back of my head.

That said, below are some things that I say as an honest response to the prompts in the question, and talking about the site, not intending to talk about any specific individuals and not intending to stir up trouble.


I'm rather surprised to see anyone characterize this community as quieter than the average SE community. At least, there was a time when we were quite the opposite.

I (still) don't think we're particularly unique in the SE universe.

I think that we have lost some talented and interesting users along the way (and I do hope that many of them find their way back some day, as I did), but we have also shed some users that were far more interested in creating conflict than in mathematics, and that latter part has made the site far nicer to use.

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    $\begingroup$ For those who don't know, Isaac was one of the original moderators. $\endgroup$ – Mike Spivey Sep 7 '11 at 21:38
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Since Asaf keeps badgering me, I'll say a few words.

Despite having the yearling badge, I only really started participating around mid-October of 2010. And that was because my first few looks at the end of summer last year of the site wasn't really favourable, and some of the comment exchanges between users were out-right mean. When I came back more than a month later, some of the rough spots were ironed out, some were still there (some still are); but despite my initial fears Math.SE did not turn out to be another Yahoo! Answers. And that gave me confidence in the community who will form the backbone of this forum. There is quite a variety of problems posted on this website, and answers given tend to be informed and reasonable. And I feel now that having stuck with the site was the correct decision.

Running for moderator was more of a whim than anything else. When I tossed my hat into the ring I was more trying to stir up "trouble" than anything else: I cannot bear to see an election for three seats held with only three nominees! (And I soon see I probably wasn't the only one.) Actually ending up as a moderator is something of a happy accident, and I am grateful to the community for giving me the chance.

I will not say too much about the general user experience, since everyone has their own, and many are surely more passionate than I about it. Overall, what I like most about this site is the community. The Maths.SE and TeX.SE are the two among the SE communities which I am most comfortable with, and that is what draws me back to the sites and that is also reflected in my rep distribution on the SE sites that I participate.

Anyway, let me say something about the Moderator experience.

Moderating Maths.SE has been both easier and harder than I expected. The easier part largely because of the good infrastructure and software design by the SE team. (There are, of course, many things that could be even more awesome in my opinion; but as a general platform that is adaptable to so many communities, I think that the work put into the sites and the responsiveness of the SE team are generally laudable.) I must, of course, given kudos to all the users who regularly use those infracture and tools by participating in Meta, voting for closure/reopening, flagging items for moderator attention, and welcoming new users; their efforts were invaluable in guiding this site to its current form.

The harder part, on the other hand, comes from the community itself. For starters, mathematicians tend to be stubborn creatures, something that, along with small idiosyncrasies, seems to be even encouraged by the culture of the profession. To put it another way: mathematicians make lousy politicians. It is perhaps not surprising that from a profession that has a pretty-much absolute standard of objective truth would be born individuals who would also refuse to compromise on subjective opinions. Mind you that these I have observed long before starting as a moderator here; I just didn't expect the extent to which one may encounter them as a moderator. To complicate matters is the fact that Maths.SE is not just for mathematicians. With the pseudonymous participation (and not all mathematicians wear a T-shirt with the big letter M on it), differing standards (and the split between mathematicians and non-mathematicians is just one such divide; there are many more) lead unavoidably to friction between the cultures without any one individual being the "trouble maker". With a few regrettable exceptions, the cohesiveness of the community allowed us to work through, and learn from, such incidents. And I think the community is growing nicely.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for sharing. I especially like the second through fourth sentences of the last paragraph, which are very interesting and quotable. $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Aug 29 '11 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean badgering like getting a badge for it, or like a honey badger? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 29 '11 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf: if you really want to know, probably this one. :p $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Aug 30 '11 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Willie: It says that it is no badger, but rather a skunk. What about this? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 30 '11 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: apparently Willie here thinks you were "skunking" him, not "badgering" him... :D $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Aug 31 '11 at 0:53
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    $\begingroup$ I just read this -- it made me chuckle since I've been doing more politics than maths for the last ten years, and I think I can say without being too immodest that I haven't been lousy at it -- I guess that means I'm not a mathematician then :-) $\endgroup$ – joriki Jul 22 '12 at 18:52
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All in all I think this site is fantastic! Even if I rarely answer questions and mainly ask them, I learned as much from here as I have from books. Of course, this kind of learning is different, but the interaction is a great plus!

I also tried to "copy" the style of this site into a website I'm hosting to try and get as many people from my university as I can to enjoy such a community (it relies on third-party software), the reason I had to do such thing was because here in Italy -even if generalizing isn't at all good- people tend not to know english very well...so, I wanted something in italian. But still, the main idea is the same as this site and I hope everything keeps going as it is, or even better.

Thanks to you all for a great almost-year!

Andy

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