This is more of a rant then it is a question.

The website is too strict on what it wants as its topics right now. It is at a very early stage and you want activity on the site. If you close most of the topics, mark them as duplicated, make them community wiki, leave comments instead of answers people are going to turn away. That will just lead them to coming to the website for a question, getting their answer and leaving. It will not encourage participation.

As some of you may know, you guys are competing with another math forum (which is also in its early stages).

Also, its really annoying to see the first comment on a question as "community wiki?" or "this should be community wiki". Right I am aware it should be community wiki. I just posted the question 5 seconds ago, give me time to breath.

I personally think we should be more lenient (at least in this very early stage) to allow for more broader topics. It does not do any harm and just promotes the site. My background in math is not very strong.

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    $\begingroup$ "As some of you may know, you guys are competing with another math forum (which is also in its early stages)." - Which? $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Jul 29, 2010 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ The "community wiki police" is common on many stackoverflow-based sites. It is a bigger phenomenon on new sites because of the lack of high-rep users and moderators. $\endgroup$
    – Larry Wang
    Jul 29, 2010 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ @muad, equalis.com/forums $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2010 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Affan: The two sites serve different purposes. This is primarily meant to be a Q&A site. A forum like the one you linked to is better for discussion. $\endgroup$
    – Larry Wang
    Jul 29, 2010 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ True, maybe then it is required to keep this site clean and only have questions and answers only. For the *List Of * topics, we can refer them to that site to help them out also? $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2010 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ Lists can work better here than on a traditional phpbb/vbulletin style board because of the editing and voting features. What does not work as well is discussion of subjective/open-ended topics, because of things like ordering answers by votes instead of by time, comments being so short, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Larry Wang
    Jul 29, 2010 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ Could you give an example, I looked through the questions that have been closed recently and none of them looked very controversial to me. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2010 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ I lolled at the equalis site so damn hard. It's nothing more than a phpbb wrapped up in javascript. The moderators (from what I've seen thusfar) are not mathematicians, and the marketing-esque nonsense all over the site borders on inanity. $\endgroup$
    – 97832123
    Jul 29, 2010 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sure that we are competing with a number of other math forums. Although not directly of course. If you want discussion, there are plans to build a third place soon $\endgroup$
    – Casebash
    Jul 29, 2010 at 21:27

2 Answers 2


We're not worried about getting people to come. To be honest, that's the easy part. The hard part is making sure the right people come with the right questions. Your proposal runs counter to this idea. You don't need to have a strong background to ask good math questions.

MathOverflow has shown us that we can be pretty selective (although much less so than MO) and still build a thriving community. Many of us have seen what happens when there are no restrictions on topics (cf. Reddit, artofproblemsolving (recently), sci.math (on usenet), etc.), and it's not good.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 on the last bit. The policies here may seem strict (which they don't, to me, but maybe I'm too used to MO), but they're by far the lesser of two evils. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2010 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ If only I had a nickel for all of the votes I've gotten on meta. I'd probably have something like $1.50. $\endgroup$
    – 97832123
    Jul 29, 2010 at 17:58

This topic has come up multiple times on meta.MO threads. The short answer is that this seems to be only way (in the view of many people here, including myself) to keep the forums healthy. There are already many mathematics discussion boards on the web (e.g. Aops, the xkcd forums, reddit, etc.). We're not trying to fill that niche; that's not how StackExchange sites are designed. The very format of the forums discourages extended discussions. Math.SE is intended for asking and answering specific questions about mathematics.

Why, besides the format of the forums, this restriction? Because discussion-y topics have a tendency, otherwise, to take over the website. Parkinson's Law is an example of this phenomenon. The most popular MO topics are the big-list and CW questions, which are generally accepted in moderation, but frowned upon. If we are too permissive of these sorts of things, ultimately the quality of technical math on the website will suffer.

We also encourage people to ask specific questions because vague, general questions (say, "What is analysis?") are best answered with a link to a Wikipedia article. Trying to be helpful by writing an essay on what analysis is may very well be unhelpful for the OP, and consequently the answerer's time is wasted. With specific questions, that problem is generally avoided.

  • $\begingroup$ Thankyou. Makes much more sense now. $\endgroup$ Jul 29, 2010 at 18:20

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