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StackOverflow has quite the reputation as a toxic site, mostly for being unwelcoming to new users. But what's MathSE's general reputation? For users who are teachers, have you heard any of your students' opinions of this site? For users who work in a math/tech/science job, how do your colleagues feel about this site? Has anyone heard opinions about this site elsewhere on the internet? I only ever hear meta talk about the site here on MathMeta either from power-users or disgruntled new users, so I'm curious how we're viewed more broadly.

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    $\begingroup$ From an undergraduate student perspective, most of the questions I google render vague answers (that is IF the answer is found). Mostly I end up on MSE with plenty of answers and methods gained. I've asked my classmates and almost all of them resort to MSE to find their answers :) $\endgroup$ – Omar S Jul 5 at 9:12
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    $\begingroup$ Tangentially, re SO, does the linked to data really show that? After some regrouping the "unwelcoming community" comes out barely on top. Does SO also have quite a reputation for having poor design? I mean the difference between 10,6% and 9,8% is not huge. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 5 at 12:40
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    $\begingroup$ My perspective is that of a math enthusiast who is neither a student nor involved in academic profession. MSE gives almost an unlimited supply of food for thought and enjoyment. Before this came into existence, I never knew that there are so many people deeply interested in math (quite contrary to the popular belief that it's a dreaded subject). $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh Jul 5 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ @quid The word "unwelcoming" is what usually get's thrown around. I'd argue the bar for Barrier to participation and Overmoderation share the sentiment for the same toxicity. Honestly I was just going to post a bunch of memes about StackOverflow as "evidence" to the site's toxic reputation, before I found that Meta post. There aren't any such memes for MathSE (yet). $\endgroup$ – Mike Pierce Jul 5 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ I don't want to derail this thread, but to lump "overmoderation" together with "the same toxicity" seems highly questionable to me. It could just as well be users being unhappy that 'critical feedback' in the form of "That answer is crap.", "WTF is that supposed to mean?!", etc comments get deleted because of "overmoderation." Re Barrier to participation can also mean all kinds of thing, like the sign up is clunky and one has to click through 'useless' instructions etc. When I first saw the data back then I was actually surprised that 'unwelcoming' is not that big a concern after all. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 5 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ @quid Oh yeah, they're not the same, but they're not independent. Also a note, the survey was sent to logged-in SO users. So ~10% of folks with SO accounts found it unwelcoming. I wonder more about the reputation among everyone else. $\endgroup$ – Mike Pierce Jul 5 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ Actually 10% of those that replied (all of which had SO accounts). They might not be independent but it is not even clear in which way they are correlated. I mean how do you propose to effectively curb "toxicity", presumably by moderation. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 5 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ @quid Oh goodness no, I think throwing more moderation at the toxicity is a losing battle. The effective solution would be to change the way the site works. Let the design dictate how users can interact with it. But like, … I don't see that happening. $\endgroup$ – Mike Pierce Jul 5 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ I have a bit difficultly to see how that possibly could work. Manifestly users will need to be able to transmit information to persons asking. There must be some way to communicate. As soon as there is a way to communicate somebody can, and some will, communicate in a rude or sarcastic way. The only way to prevent this is to take active action against it, viz moderate. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 5 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ @quid These users are the "lazy" ones, so I'm curious what the effect of requiring more than just an account to post a question would be. To curb the rude comments from established users, making commenting cost reputation that's only earned back if the comment is helpful/well-received? idk? I mean there are countless ideas. Many horrible, maybe some good. Haven't we had a thread on MathMeta before about how would you change the SE infrastructure/rules? $\endgroup$ – Mike Pierce Jul 5 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ Anecdotally, some former peers of mine (undergraduate students) comment on the toxicity of the site upon googling my name and seeing my activity here (but I didn't press for details). I suspect you might get widely varying impressions based on how people use the site, though - people who want to ask a question versus those who want to look up an answer likely have very different experiences (and there's definitely some conflict between how to improve the experience of these two groups) $\endgroup$ – Milo Brandt Jul 5 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ (Rethinking my last comment) This is probably hard to determine. We have a lot of anecdotal evidence that this is a good place, and a lot of complaints, often from the negative sort of user that we don't like to cater to, that things are bad. A poll would be nice, but how to offset all the 1-star reviews for people who don't really care about the site? $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jul 6 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ Feels like the whole problem is that there are rules we'd really like to see enforced but many people can't be bothered to look at them, and so they get a rude awakening if they run afoul of them. Somehow, they form an impression of what the community should be like before they know what the community thinks it should be like. Can a user really feel justified about being angry if they knew rules ahead of time? I don't know how this communication can be improved, though, short of some sort of "mandatory training." $\endgroup$ – rschwieb Jul 6 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ Many of the comments here could easily be turned into answers, and should be. $\endgroup$ – qwr Jul 8 at 4:29
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    $\begingroup$ There is also the feedback that anonymous users leave on posts. I was a bit surprised to see that upvotes and downvotes from anonymous users are roughly the same, see this SEDE query. I have collected a few other queries in chat, in case somebody is interested. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jul 11 at 12:04

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Here are some of my experiences talking about math.se in the real world.

  1. I knew a well-meaning but struggling sophomore math major who felt too afraid to post a question here. She used the site frequently as a resource by finding questions through Google, but viewed the community as standoffish, with opaque expectations that she was bound to mess up in some way. I assured her that the community is welcoming to those who show good faith and learn the rules, and helped her write her first question so that it had good context and everything. It turns out the answer was somewhat obvious, however-- she had miscalculated while checking an early counterexample-- and people jumped all over her for it. She said she told me so, and refused to come back ever since.

  2. As an undergrad a friend of mine signed up after he saw me using it, but didn't think any of his questions were interesting or original enough to post here. He seemed to think of it like math student social media rather than a place to get help or collaborate on research.

  3. I always recommend math.se while teaching in the resources section of my syllabus. I preface it with the "how to ask a good question" link. I've had 10 or so students over the years mention to me that they tried it and got told off. That being said, there are two instances where I've caught groups of students cheating on takehome exams (all work containing the same miscalculation) and traced it back to a PSQ with the exact same wording. I write all my questions from scratch, so I knew it was mine. So, at least some of them did not give up on the site, I guess.

  4. When I first got to grad school, several of my cohort were very put off when I mentioned I mod on math.se, because they believed it was a site intended for cheating at math homework. They had always avoided it in the past due to this impression and did not really believe me when I disputed it. One of them told me that when he really needed math help, he got it on 4chan. (Seriously.)

  5. On the other hand, a few other grad students recognized my name from having previously stumbled across answers I'd written here. Something they had in common was they didn't exactly understand the community aspect of the site. The Q&A format reminded them of somewhere that passers by ask questions and don't stick around, similar to chegg or yahoo answers. The idea of moderators being elected seemed crazy to them. They assumed I was hired by SE and that this was a job, similar to tutoring, or writing online articles.

  6. One professor referred to math.se as "Math Underflow" and wondered (continually, throughout all of grad school) why I waste my time here instead of "the real thing."

  7. I was asked about math.se during every job interview I had after my PhD. (I went into industry, since my research has applications to ML.) One of the interviewers seemed certain that math.se was some type of math business that I ran/owned, but most were familiar enough with StackOverflow to be able to extrapolate an understanding of math.se. Similarly, my current coworkers do not use math.se, but they consider SO a canonical resource (but just for Googling, nobody posts there).

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    $\begingroup$ Re (1): I'm beginning to think that Stack Exchange is developing its own equivalent of Wikipedia's unblockables. But if you look at the comment thread on another answer to this question, it appears that nobody wants to admit that... $\endgroup$ – Kevin Jul 11 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ “MathUnderflow”. Classic... $\endgroup$ – Mnifldz Jul 13 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ Everyone else's personal views of MathSE, but this is the sort of answer about other people's views that I was hoping to read when I posted this question. Thanks. :) $\endgroup$ – Mike Pierce Jul 13 at 14:50
  • $\begingroup$ LOL "Math Underflow." $\endgroup$ – Brian Tung Jul 14 at 6:44
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    $\begingroup$ Getting math help on 4chan may not be such a terrible idea: quantamagazine.org/… $\endgroup$ – Theoretical Economist Jul 14 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @TheoreticalEconomist for the link. It appears meta threads are also a place to learn math (superpermutations was a totally new stuff for me) and not just to understand how the MSE works. $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh Jul 14 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for giving the impression from the other side (ie those not really addicted to MSE). Also do you know what the professor (in your point 6) meant by "real thing"? In particular did he/she refer to MO as compared to MSE? $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh Jul 14 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ @ParamanandSingh Yeah, he meant MO, not SO. He was a math professor and was sporadically active on MO. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Jul 21 at 3:30
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This is THE place. I call this place a "super computer". And it is. It is true that maybe it is a harsh place for newbies, but that is not 100% true. It is harsh only if you ask something that clearly is intended to solve your homework, and your homework is "easy". I think it helps keeping this place orbiting around the genuine, difficult and challenging questions. But even that, some tag like 'elementary', or 'soft question' may help those new users to get their answer. But as I said, this is THE place. If you have a genuinely challenging question, you want to know that there's a place where the best experts in the matter will compete for giving you the most complete and accurate answer. WolframAlpha has nothing to do when it comes to finding solutions to the questions that people post here. Literally: this is the best math supercomputer you can access on the Internet. And this is the reputation that other colleagues have about this site. Just learn how to post, and what kind of questions the community likes.

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    $\begingroup$ "It is harsh only if you ask something that clearly is intended to solve your homework, and your homework is 'easy'." Then this is really a bad sign for the site, which is for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. From high school beginners to professional mathematicians, there is a (very) wide spectrum of users, wider than any other SE sites. The excessive effort of policing the site is one of the unwelcoming factors. $\endgroup$ – T. S Jul 5 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ T.S., would you turn your comment into answer? $\endgroup$ – JonathanZ supports MonicaC Jul 5 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ @T.S as explained already "studying mathematics" is most naturally understood as studying mathematics at an institution of higher education. Moreover what exactly your assertion that the spectrum is wider than for any other SE site is based on? I do not think this is quite tenable even with the spectrum you give which is a bit over-expanded. In both directions. We do not really cater to research questions of professional mathematicians; they are not excluded but they are not really the target audience. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 5 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ @T.S: if one is serious about doing their homework and there is evidence of that seriousness in the question, then the site users do go an extra mile to help out. The site is usually harsh in absence of such an evidence. And there are instances where it does not work in perfect manner, but it works great most of the times. $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh Jul 5 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ I second @ParamanandSingh. Sometimes there are 'easy' questions, but believe me the community will help if the person who asked showed his attempts and proper context. It is so pleasant seeing a professional in his/ her domain who actually finds the time to answer your question, regardless how trivial they view it! $\endgroup$ – Omar S Jul 6 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanZsupportsMonicaC: I have yet to have time to extend my short comment into an answer. You could cite it though if you write an answer. $\endgroup$ – T. S Jul 7 at 21:44
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Stackexchange sites are all different. For me, math.SE is the one SE site that's so frequently hostile that I've essentially stopped asking questions or giving answers.

I don't know if I would fall in the category of "more casual users" that you have in mind. I double-majored in math and physics as an undergrad, but my graduate degree is in physics, and I think of myself as a physicist. I'm not a research-level mathematician by any stretch of the imagination. I lurk on mathoverflow but am almost never qualified to participate meaningfully there. I do occasionally get a chance to teach math at my community college, but not that often.

The problem with math.SE, as far as I can tell, is that it's inundated with do-my-homework questions, and therefore it feels like any question I ask is instantly greeted with anger by people who imagine that that's what I'm doing. Say I ask a question like, "What happens if you make this definition of foo more restrictive, are there nontrivial examples?" I get answers like, "You lazy person. Why don't you just look in your textbook, and it will certainly give a definition of Smith-Jones semi-foos, which is what you're asking about. This is a standard topic in the kind of course you're taking." The assumption is that I must be taking a course on this topic, must own a textbook on it, etc.

The trouble with this sort of nastiness is that even if it's only one interaction out of 20, it's the one I remember.

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    $\begingroup$ If you get such answer it is arguably because you did not explain the context. Then others will default to something, which might not be the correct assumption and is why context should be given. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 5 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ "it feels like any question I ask is instantly greeted with anger by people who imagine that that's what I'm doing." Maybe for some reason it feels this way (perhaps due to negativity bias), but as far as your posts go, this feeling does not seem to be substantiated. Your questions seem to have been overwhelmingly well-received. (I've only checked the last 10~20 or so.) $\endgroup$ – Aloizio Macedo Jul 5 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ Also you have identified a true problem here that the site gets "inundated with do-my-homework questions" and that's where a lot of users have put their efforts to keep such trash out. But by and large they are the ones who have faced criticism in many meta comments for being too harsh. I see this as similar to the issue of computer security where making a more secure system also makes users more uncomfortable to use them. So there has to be some balance. $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh Jul 6 at 2:42
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    $\begingroup$ The gaslighting by established users on math.se is its own problem. You aren't wrong. $\endgroup$ – user762914 Jul 6 at 4:28
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    $\begingroup$ @user762914 could you point to examples where somebody claimed the poster was wrong? In any case it seems Ben identified the root-cause of the problem as the site being inundated by homework problems. This has as a consequence a culture that is not welcoming to more advanced users because they sometimes need to jump through the hoop (or at least it is perceived as such) of giving context or justifying the question. Indeed that is a relevant concern, but it is not clear how to resolve it exactly. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 6 at 9:29
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    $\begingroup$ @quid , “could you point to examples where somebody claimed the poster was wrong?” These comments seem adamant to disagree and diminish. $\endgroup$ – Eric Jul 6 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric I am fundamentally not sure what you want to say. As I see it somebody accused others of "gaslighting" (and I took it to refer to the meta thread here, but maybe that was a misconception even) I asked for clarification what specifically they consider as such. Maybe you agree with this, maybe it is the opposite. I really cannot tell from you comment, more concretely what does "these comments" refer to? In any case it would be helpful if everybody was rather explicit in their references. $\endgroup$ – quid Jul 6 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @user762914 You have accused other users of engaging in gaslighting. Will you either (1) support that claim with evidence or (2) retract that claim? $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Jul 7 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ @user762914 I expressed no opinion here. I asked if you were going to either justify your statement, or if you were planning on retracting it---note that the first question was simply a reiteration of one asked by quid. A simple "no" would suffice. $\endgroup$ – Xander Henderson Jul 7 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ @user762914: apart from opinions there are certain policies/guidelines for running the site. Even these are discussed openly and then followed. I really don't see how the notion of gaslighing arises in a community where there is no personal communication (face to face interaction) and a large number of people from diverse cultures contributing individually. $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh Jul 8 at 6:02
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    $\begingroup$ @ParamanandSingh What I mean is, there are many comments that can be boiled down to: "your experience of reality is wrong because my experience is different and that is the objective reality" or "here are the rules about what can be said and how". These kinds of comments are meant to control other people, their thoughts, and make them question their own experiences or judgments. That's what gaslighting is. It's kind of a silly and trendy word. You seem like a very nice and sincere person and I admire your posts. I hope you enjoy your time on this site for years to come. $\endgroup$ – user762914 Jul 8 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I haven't had any unwelcoming reactions to a question of mine, but I still clearly remember unwelcoming reactions to someone else's (perfectly valid, IMHO) question for which I supplied a partial answer: math.stackexchange.com/questions/2547851/… $\endgroup$ – njuffa Jul 9 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I was online when the question was asked, and my perception of things as they were developing in real-time clearly was very different, that is why I recall this instance so clearly. There was a quick succession of comments dismissive of OP's observation, and a high-rep user posted an (incorrect) answer with a supposed counter-example. I don't recall anybody asking "in the nicest possible way to clarify". $\endgroup$ – njuffa Jul 9 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I don't recall or see that OP "acted like a jerk". I know quite well what OPs acting like jerks look like from Stackoverflow. The question I linked didn't strike me as homework. $\endgroup$ – njuffa Jul 9 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy I have been active on the internet for thirty years (remember the old internet news groups?) and on Stackoverflow for nine. Clearly our respective perceptions differ here, and I'll leave it at that. $\endgroup$ – njuffa Jul 9 at 17:21
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I am a person who was "good" at math in high school, but I would definitely consider myself an "enthusiast" rather than a "mathematician". (Somehow I feel that "mathematician" is a serious title reserved for those who do research, while I am merely a student.)

For me, Math.SE is the only place where I can ask and discuss math topics of any level and actually receive an answer of reasonable expertise. In highschool I also read AoPS forum, but the posts are mainly competition math focused rather than about the "big idea". I am vaguely aware of some usenet groups but that is way before my time and not as accessible to me. Like Carlos Toscano-Ochoa said: I don't know of any other math community as large or active.

The site has exposed me to so many new ways of thinking about problems that would otherwise be confined to asking my professor or a select few math-inclined friends. The site has also exposed me to many more areas of math in general that I otherwise would have no awareness of, save for reading on Wikipedia, which can be daunting or not in-depth enough. I think I can reasonably credit this site for influencing my decision to get a math minor.

I learned early on that as long as you show some kind of effort or attempt in your posts, even homework-like questions are received well. Unfortunately there are many new users who don't understand this. "What do you know? What have you tried?" should be put in giant bold letters for all new askers. I find StackOverflow has a similar culture where many new askers want debugging or code-writing help without showing any effort of their own, or they don't bother to search for duplicates (to be fair, StackExchange's search function isn't that great). I think the reputation of StackOverflow as hostile is overblown and comes more from the misunderstanding that it is a free debugging service or place to go for recommendations. Anyhow, I consider Math.SE to be an incredible community and I have never personally experienced hostility (sometimes terseness that can be misconstrued as rudeness).

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    $\begingroup$ "I learned early on that as long as you show some kind of effort or attempt in your posts, even homework-like questions are received well." Indeed. Moreover, there is an obvious reason why SO has it worse regarding lazy questions than Math SE: Cheating on a mathematics problem allows you to get grades for no own effort, while cheating on a programming issue allows many many people to get paid for little own effort (in many cases just copy-paste)!! Is it overblown? Well no; people have died before due to laziness and sloppiness (e.g. Therac-25. $\endgroup$ – user21820 Jul 22 at 2:44
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    $\begingroup$ @user21820: I can fully attest to this from my experience in this profession. Compared to any other profession, software development is mostly populated by below average candidates. And cheating is one of the key reasons here. Another reason being the large sums of money (available due to the economies of scale) driving everyone to this profession. $\endgroup$ – Paramanand Singh Jul 28 at 12:09
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Of the people I know—and some of them are mathematically inclined—Math SE is not super well known. Most of the people are not surprised it exists, but have not specifically used it.

I don't know that I've ever heard specifically about it being unwelcoming. Of the people who have heard of it, some pages just come up in a search and they get what they want, and leave (without registering, I get the impression).

I think most of the long-time denizens of Math SE actively try to help sincere new users, but there are a few facets of the experience here that may lead to an impression of hostility (or at least coldness).

I seem to recall one of my early questions being underspecified. I was called on it, and I corrected the question (or confirmed their suspicions, or something). There was nothing rude about the way the comment was phrased, and I acknowledged the ambiguity was there. Nonetheless...

To a new user who is furthermore new to the rigor of mathematics, even at its most elementary levels, a well-intentioned question can incur what may seem to be an unreasonable demand for precision. It may seem to them that they asked, "Are there two numbers that when multiplied yield—" and before they could get any further than that, Math SE (at that point an undifferentiated mass of math heads) demanded:

  • Oh, "numbers"? Do you mean reals? Integers? Or just anything in a field?
  • Before you ask what happens when you multiply them, be sure that they can be multiplied. How do you know this?
  • This seems underspecified. Is this a homework question? Or is this just some problem you made up? Please give us some context surrounding the question.

Obviously, I'm exaggerating for effect, but I think it's not inaccurate to say that some new users feel a bit badgered by the comments. It's not really the fault of anyone, and some of this is brought on by bad new users, but it probably could be better. I'm not sure exactly how to bring that about, though.

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    $\begingroup$ Please, folks, if you see this, FLAG THE COMMENT. One of the options under flagging is "It's unfriendly or unkind. - This comment is rude or condescending.". I think there's an instinct among many math people that they should only "mark something as wrong" if it's technically incorrect. But that's not the standard math.se has set for itself. If something strikes you as unkind, it's likely to strike someone else that way too. I've tried to be more proactive about this, and I assume that if I start incorrectly tagging too many comments the mods will (politely) let me know. $\endgroup$ – JonathanZ supports MonicaC Jul 10 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ @JonathanZsupportsMonicaC: That seems like a reasonably suggestion. I do want to emphasize that I think only rarely is the comment actually unkind; more commonly, it's merely blunt, and may give the impression of being unwelcoming, especially to those users for whom rigor is not a familiar notion. This bluntness comes in part from overexposure to a wall of PSQs and the like, I suspect. My answer is a wishy-washy attempt on my part to encourage a kinder tone to comments, while conceding that there is just so much that long-time users can bring themselves to put up with. :-P $\endgroup$ – Brian Tung Jul 12 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, sometimes it is just bluntness. Though sometime I think it's members anxious to show what they know. Although since I've started working the close queues I can start to understand why people get so fed up with PSQs -- and you've been here longer and participated much more than I have! Regardless, I try to go by the saying "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything" when it comes to my participation here. If I'm feeling fed-up, I don't answer iffy questions. $\endgroup$ – JonathanZ supports MonicaC Jul 12 at 22:02
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I would like to share my view on the two Stack Exchange (SE) sites that I — a high school student — use the most: Mathematics SE and Physics SE. I agree that both sites are vast repositories of quality scientific and mathematical knowledge. However, this view is based on how new users are treated.

My personal experience with Mathematics SE was so good compared to that with Physics SE. The latter is very cruel and unwelcoming towards newcomers. Initially, my three questions were heavily downvoted without leaving any comment (when one downvotes, a pop-up appears instructing one to do so) and finally it was deleted. After the deletion, I got an automatically generated message quoting its homework policy. Why didn't they comment on it before deletion so that I would have edited the question? As a newbie, I didn't know about the working culture of the site. I was banned from asking questions.

On the other hand, with Mathematics SE everything went well. Since after being banned from Physics SE, I was more alert in asking questions on MSE, however, I noticed that the other new contributors, too, are well treated (exceptions in few cases where questions were blatantly off-topic without any work). The working culture here is a bit relaxed comparatively (it doesn't mean that the site is uncontrolled).

But, this comment left me thinking: is MSE really loosely held? Also, I found that moderators at MSE are more engaged on Meta than the main site compared to their Physics SE counterparts. There are many questions still on MSE which were posted by users long time ago and not in expected format which should have been edited by the contemporary moderators.

Finally, MSE has been a source of rich context for learners and preventing the brains of users having treasure of mathematics from atrophying. Hence, I feel fortunate being a member of such a community.

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I was introduced to this site in my first year of undergrad by my calculus instructor (who has been a long-time user of this site). My experience has been almost universally positive, right from my very first post — the users have always been friendly and encouraging, and I cannot recall ever receiving any condescending comments from established users on my posts.

Among my colleagues (past and present), several of them swear by this site for its usefulness. One of them has assured me that there was no way he would be where he is now (pursuing a PhD at a top university) were it not for the insightful answers to his questions by the users here.

Another has often spoken to me about how composing questions here so that they are well-received has helped him clarify his own thought processes and, crucially, the presentation of his ideas. Not being a native speaker of the English language, he has had to struggle long and hard to be able to convey his mathematical thoughts clearly in speech and writing. I have no doubt that he credits Mathematics SE no small part in where he stands today (he has recently secured a comfortable academic position).

Most of my colleagues use Mathematics SE to browse for answers to their questions, even though they do not post here, or in many cases don't even have an account. They certainly consider it to be a canonical resource. I have tried encouraging some of them to participate more actively, but they are generally shy. Maybe they think that they cannot ask any useful or interesting question here (since almost any question that they are interested in is already found here by searching), or maybe they are just not that interested in participating in such a community.

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The question seems to be what is the opinion about math.SE of some users who are unlikely to come here to meta. (The OP seems to be asking about unregistered users and users who do have an account, but only use the site occasionally.)

Maybe a reasonable thing to do would be to ask elsewhere - since we're interested in the input from the users who are unlikely to come here.

I am posting this CW answer where we could collect some suggestions where such questions could be posted. (And maybe eventually somebody might volunteer to ask about this on such site.)

  • Reddit - perhaps specifically https://www.reddit.com/r/math/. If you search in this subreddit or reddit in general, you can see that Mathematics Stack Exchange is mentioned there from time to time. So there are certainly some reddit users which are familiar with this site.
  • AoPS - users with sufficient reputation can check in site analytics that this site is among top referring sites for Mathematics Stack Exchange.
  • Math Twitter – There's a pretty impressive community of mathematicians, both research academics and math teachers, on Twitter. Maybe someone with a hook into this community could tweet this question?

And if anyone does post such a question on these sites (rather than just link to this meta post), please edit the question post here on MathSEMeta to include a link to that question :)

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    $\begingroup$ We'll see from the discussion here whether Math.SE users would consider something like this useful. If yes, it might be good if somebody who is already familiar with the given site posts the question. (Similarly as here - an experienced user knows where to ask and how to phrase the question to make it more likely to get some reasonable response. And posts from familiar faces are typically received better than post from newbies.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jul 11 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ I was hesitating whether to add also Quora. I'll leave this up to people who are more familiar with this platform. (My opinion on that site is not too positive, but I'll admit that I have used it only rarely.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jul 11 at 11:56
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    $\begingroup$ I use Quora reasonably frequently, and my opinion is...it's a decidedly mixed bag. There are some really great contributors, there, but whew, there is a lot of chaff to sort through to get to the wheat. $\endgroup$ – Brian Tung Jul 12 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how an average user means one who is unlikely to come to meta. Sorry, @Martin, but that's a stretch of an interpretation of Mike's post. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Jul 13 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy: It's been fairly incontrovertibly established that only a small fraction of all Stack Exchange users visit meta. I don't have any numbers for Math.SE specifically, but those quoted for SO range from "a hair over 2%" down to "0.015%", presumably depending on the survey period and how one defines "users" and "visits". (In particular, the 2% figure only counts "active users", i.e. those who post or vote; it thus excludes all the unregistered users who just arrive from Google to read but never post.) $\endgroup$ – Ilmari Karonen Jul 14 at 9:43
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This is an expansion to the comment I posted on the original post.

Usually when I finish a chapter in a course (ring theory, for instance), I search for the most voted questions on this topic and actually TRY to think of an answer. Then, I would read the answers. No matter how comprehensive your textbook/course is, browsing through questions and answers of different people really widens your horizon and brings up questions you thought were intuitive in the topic in discussion!

Furthermore, I emphasize that some users here are elite educators; let alone their high knowledge and qualification of mathematics. This combo is every enthusiastic learner's dream. If you show high efforts, they will DEFINITELY match you with that effort, if not more.

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A godsend for self learning; I was an economics major but am switching to maths next year. As I am switching into the second year of a course I haven't formally studied, there's been a fair amount of self learning, mostly from online lecture notes and problem sets.

When I get really stuck or confused, this is where I look. For instance, when I started learning real analysis, I spent ages trying to prove incorrect statements which seemed intuitively true, e.g. regarding continuity of derivatives, and when I got in a muddle it was normalyl MSE where I found answers which cleared things up.

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My experience has been very positive. I have found the Math.SE community very welcoming and patient with my beginner questions; certainly much more so than Stackoverflow or Serverfault. Often I also find the solution to my problem while composing a question.

My context for learning maths is to get a solid foundation in understanding CS topics like algorithms, develop a mathematical way of thinking, and find more simple/elegant ways of solving problems. I fit in the enthusiast bracket because I'm not a formal (as in university) maths student, academic, or directly mathematical field. My day job is software development in the context of infra automation.

I am (very slowly) working my way through the book Concrete Mathematics and using that as a jumping off point to learn new topics as I discover shortfalls in my knowledge required to fully understand each page. I'm really enjoying (re)discovering maths and Math.SE has greatly helped in that.

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