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Added notes (upon request of clarification): No. This is not a direct request for undeletion as clearly indicated in the title of the question. Although it may have the side effect that people who think it should not be deleted eventually vote to undelete it.


Just two days ago a user having difficulty understanding the proof of Cauchy's root test in a book asked a question (see below) on the main site. They pasted the theorem from the book and pointed out exactly which part they don't understand. They also added a relevant definition from the book. It was later closed with the notice that

This question already has an answer here:
A question about limsup and limif (1 answer)
Closed yesterday.

which I do not agree with.

Understanding and asking about a long proof may be difficult for newbies. I think they did a good job in tailoring out an answerable question; the suggested question in the notice, relevant though, is not a duplicate.

One possible downside of the question may be that the user used a black background snapshot from the book. But the provided one is highly readable and can be easily edited by others when necessary. When I go back to the question today, I find that it is deleted.

Why should this question be deleted?


The deleted question:

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I cannot comment on the deletion, but a particular problem with posting images is that people with reading difficulties who rely on screenreaders or other tools generally cannot use them with such images. As such, the site tends to prefer that the question is asked with sufficient information that the image isn't necessary to understand. The particular colours of the screenshot are likely irrelevant. $\endgroup$
    – postmortes
    May 31 at 13:44
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    $\begingroup$ @postmortes: as mentioned, when necessary, the high-quality snapshots can be edited into MathJax format easily with the help of AI tools such as mathpix. That can be done in a second. $\endgroup$ May 31 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Requests for Reopen & Undeletion Votes (volume 01/2022 - today) $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    May 31 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy "Does this answer your question?... " No. This is not a request for undeletion. Although it may have the side effect that people think it should not be deleted eventually vote to undelete it. $\endgroup$ May 31 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ I've stopped contributing to the site after seeing similar questions and reading the responses of "power users". (I know this will elicit a "who cares?"---it's just a data point.) In fact, the top answer to this very question has the quote "The site has matured, and the basics have been covered very adequately" which I think speaks for itself. Perhaps our power users are spending entirely too much time on this site? $\endgroup$ Jun 1 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/34602/… , related $\endgroup$ Jun 6 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ As an undistinguished member of the peanut gallery, (a) I would not have deleted this question, and (b) I find the duplicate rather wanting. I say this because the OP of the deleted question is clearly confused about some basic definitions (the answer is more or less explicitly in the definitions). The putative duplicate employs those same definitions, yes, and the answer is there in some sense—but it has to be extracted with some difficulty. It wouldn't be surprising if the OP's confusion is such that they can't manage it. $\endgroup$
    – Brian Tung
    Jun 9 at 4:07
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    $\begingroup$ (cont'd) Perhaps some of the delete votes come from people who are overestimating how obvious the answer lies in the duplicate for someone like the OP. $\endgroup$
    – Brian Tung
    Jun 9 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ There is far too much deletion going on. I recently asked a question about the best notation for saying $\exp(1/\exp(1/\exp(1))) \approx 2$ as the reverse of $-\log_e\left(-\log_e\left(-\log_e\left(\tfrac12\right)\right)\right) \approx 1$, which I thought was a reasonable request for advice. This received $+3-4$ votes, then was closed as being opinion based (presumably "best" is now a bad word) and has since been deleted. I find it increasingly difficult to understand the behaviour of others on this site. $\endgroup$
    – Henry
    Jun 12 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ I don't really get the point of deleting correct answers, but the question is about $\limsup$, so marking it as a duplicate seems like a reasonable choice. $\endgroup$
    – copper.hat
    Jun 13 at 2:12
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    $\begingroup$ Ah this is an age-old problem on this site: someone asks a question (many examples I have seen were of good quality like this one), it gets closed as a duplicate, but the question-asker doesn't have enough mathematical training to understand how the duplicate could answer their question. $\endgroup$
    – Toby Mak
    Jun 24 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ Frequently, these discussions about how to best moderate this site reach boiling point with personal accusations and the like. I am quite sympathetic to those who contribute as they have sincere motivations, but the problem is that the same people keep on contributing (however, no discussion at all would be far worse). $\endgroup$
    – Toby Mak
    Jun 24 at 2:21
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    $\begingroup$ It is very clear what our site should be: a repository of mathematical information, and that was decided from the very beginning. After stepping away from this site for some time, the eye-opening difference between Reddit, Discord maths servers and other sites is that we are not just any Q&A site. If the same question has been asked at any time before, even if the older question was 10 years old, it must be closed as a duplicate. I do find it quite frustrating when these questions have to be closed, but we do have to stick with the purpose of our site. $\endgroup$
    – Toby Mak
    Jun 24 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ @TobyMak I were to use two words to describe MSE, it would be : organized and reliable. Other sites are nowhere near a organized as MSE, or nowhere near as reliable. Our discussions have to collectively center around how we can provide reliable information to everybody, and organize our website. We will never stop having disagreements on what kind of questions can be reliably answered, to be honest. All we can do is to do our bit in moderation and see how that comes off as a collective. $\endgroup$ Jun 25 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ @TobyMak: "... it gets closed as a duplicate, but the question-asker doesn't have enough mathematical training to understand how the duplicate could answer their question." That makes such a "duplicate" useful for similar readers. I do not see any merit of the aggressive action of deletion in this particular case. $\endgroup$ Jul 26 at 14:53

1 Answer 1

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I cannot creep into the minds of the people who voted to delete this question. But I want to poke at this with the following observations:

  • The on-site search gives 220 hits about Cauchy's root test (and 4200 hits to the buzzword root test). True, some of those are false positives as per the imperfections of search engines, but are you sure your question has not been covered by (a combination of) already existing answers? Did you even check those out? No special skills were needed to generate that list of 220. I just typed "Cauchy's root test" into the search box, and pressed enter.
  • My thesis is that if a question is about material in a relatively elementary book, it defaults to being a duplicate. The site has matured, and the basics have been covered very adequately. Edit: I failed to make it clear that this thesis is on the list, because I am sick of some users essentially posting the same answer over and over again. The newbie asker/answerer can claim ignorance of this statistical fact - the veteran on the other hand...
  • Users often post (in meta) missives with the theme "Look how my very mathematical question was closed/deleted? The way some users vote here sucks, amirite?" It is difficult to shake the feeling that the goal is then to either point fingers and/or to throw a pity-party. Anyway, such posts are common enough to provoke negative reactions. I mean, this got old ages ago. The reason posts like this are always referred to the dedicated thread is to keep similar discussions/requests in on place so that users genuinely interested in re-evaluating the decisions to close/delete/reopen/undelete can find them easily. Threads revolving around a single such decision hardly ever produce answers, only commiseration and such.
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    $\begingroup$ $\large\mathbf{-1}$. With all due respect, I do not think you read the deleted question carefully. OP is not at all asking for the proof of the Cauchy root test; instead, they have a textbook in mathematical analysis, which contains already the whole proof of the mentioned theorem. $\endgroup$ Jun 1 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ As shown in the deleted post, OP is trying to understand a specific piece of the specific proof. A combination of the keywords "Cauchy root test"+"Zorich"+"proof" returns nothing currently in the MSE searching engine, not to say 220. And if one searches the same thing in Google, the first returned result is the deleted question. $\endgroup$ Jun 1 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ For the second bullet point, "My thesis is that if a question is about the material in a relatively elementary book, it defaults to being a duplicate." I seriously doubt that this is the consensus of the whole site and I have to strongly disagree with your thesis since it implies that such questions ("about the material in a relatively elementary book") will all "by default" not welcome, which is the opposite of the spirit of the site. $\endgroup$ Jun 1 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ I do not think the third bullet point is relevant. @Martin Sleziak kindly suggested the specific-question tag and I added it. I am by no means asking anything in general about the site. $\endgroup$ Jun 1 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ Also with due respect, at its heart it wasn't a question about the Cauchy root test, it was a question about lim sup (that arose while reading a proof of Cauchy's root test). I know you are a passionate de-duplicator, which I find admirable, but I personally do not find "your answer may be somewhere in these 220 other questions" to be all that great a piece of evidence for the usefulness of searching the site in this case. $\endgroup$ Jun 1 at 15:56
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    $\begingroup$ @user1046533 Thanks for your feedback. I plead guilty to not reading everything. I think that the main question is why don't these finitely many exceptions ruin the argument? Which is, again, something covered in all the books explaining limits of sequences and series. If I am mistaken I apologize. $\endgroup$ Jun 2 at 20:05
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    $\begingroup$ My main point was to keep pounding on the need to search the site and then search some more. Also, more as a general observation rather than specific to this question. $\endgroup$ Jun 2 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ Voter response to this is dishearteningly mixed. Any way to reconcile the differences? I am actually relatively fine with newbies askiing and answering duplicates. On the other hand, a veteran answerer reposting essentially the same answer dozens of times is something I cannot stomach. I know, it is near impossible to have different rules for different users, but that's how I feel. May be I need a vacation :-( $\endgroup$ Jun 2 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ Reconciliation (1) The Q has nothing to do with the CRT, which is a problem (2) The assertion that such questions default to being duplicates is troublesome[Although there is a fair bit of truth in some cases] (3) The feeling that this is a pity-party (which it may not be) are probably the causes of the downvotes. As for the up votes (1) The question is poor in other aspects, therefore deleted now as a duplicate : some form of evidence that the "meta" effect didn't overturn this question (2) Some semblance of truth is present, but buried underneath the sweeping assertions. $\endgroup$ Jun 7 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ @SarveshRavichandranIyer Too sweeping? Quite likely. But I will continue to fight the defence some high volume answerers have resorted to in the past that it is up to the close-voters to find a good enough duplicate. The burden of maintaining site hygiene belongs to the answerers also (first and foremost even). Calling this a pity-party is obviously not received well, but more often than not the complainer fails to point at a general principle, and they are simply annoyed for their specific question getting negative attention. $\endgroup$ Jun 8 at 6:12
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    $\begingroup$ (cont'd) Is the question not summarized by Why can we ignore finitely many terms when discussing convergence? Again, something covered in all the books on the subject. $\endgroup$ Jun 8 at 6:14
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    $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen This site has three populations of users: (1) people like you who have spent thousands of hours here; (2) people like me who have spent hundreds of hours here; and (3) newbies. The people in group (1) are wildly over-represented in decision-making and are so far beyond the perspective of groups (2) and (3) as to be irreconcilable at times. It biases the rules of the site and makes it frequently unwelcoming to new users. Like Wikipedia, I expect MSE to further ossify as the years tick by and new "top contributors" don't appear. Maybe that's fine. I basically left a while back. $\endgroup$ Jun 10 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ Acing the first course in calculus a hundred times $\neq$ you graduate. $\endgroup$ Jun 10 at 6:46
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    $\begingroup$ Why are you "relatively fine with newbies askiing and answering duplicates", but not with other users? Likely because yet again you concentrate mainly on "rep" and gamification. But that is far from the most serious problem caused by rampant duplication . In fact one could argue that allowing dupes only from newbies is worse than allowing dupes in general because it will mean that the dupes will generally be much lower quality (based on my experience). Dupe assessment should be completely independent of reputation. A vacation (from gamification) sounds like a good idea. $\endgroup$ Jun 10 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ "Look how my very mathematical question was closed/deleted?" is the kind of question that should come to meta. Those who have fixed views on what is or is not acceptable should look at the examples that are the consequences of their views. $\endgroup$
    – Henry
    Jun 12 at 23:09

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