# I haven't been around for a while; what are the new policies I need to know in order to use the site?

I haven't used this site for a while (years); just busy with other things.

A screenshot of my rating chart

I've constantly been on Stack Exchange, but seldom on Math.SE (and virtually never on Math.SE meta). I thought I'd pop over and see if I can answer a few questions. When I answered one question, I received this comment from Bill Dubuque:

Please strive not to post more (dupe) answers to dupes of FAQs, cf. recent site policy announcement here.

pointing to Enforcement of Quality Standards. Okay, fair enough, I could have realized that was a duplicate.

It seems a lot has transpired since the last time I was active, and it's likely I'm not up to date on site policy. However, I don't want to wade through endless meta posts (I want to participate in Q&A, not policy debates), so hopefully I can get a summary...

Question: What are the new policies I need to know in order to use the site?

I'm hoping for just a quick "if you want to ask and answer questions, just be mindful of A, B, C, which is not standard policy across Stack Exchange", not a ultra-detailed survey of everything that's transpired on meta.

Just now I answered this only to find the exact same question and I answered this only to find the (almost) exact same question. (Sorry, I didn't notice.) I'm starting to see why people are less fond of duplicates than they were when I was last active.

• "However, I don't want to wade through endless meta posts (I want to participate in Q&A, not policy debates), so hopefully I can get a summary..." :/
– Pedro Mod
Jun 28 at 23:20
• @Pedro I'm not sure how to interpret that comment, but I'll assume it means something along the lines of "Welcome back!" and/or "I'm keen to help". Jun 28 at 23:28
• These are the major points that come to my mind: (1) When asking a question, be sure to include context; (2) When you come across a contest problem, see if the "contest problem" policy is applicable; (3) Before answering, search for duplicates (using Approach0, say); (4) When editing to improve a question, keep in mind the guidelines for context edits (and rewrites). Jun 29 at 1:05
• " However, I don't want to wade through endless meta posts, ... so hopefully I can get a summary". Sounds like something you should be able to get from the site-specific FAQ. Unfortunately, we do not have a FAQ. And here in Meta you will get people, many high-rep or mods, who won't understand your position, and will be peeved that "search meta" isn't good enough for you. So I've become a sarcastic grump who occasionally wonders if it's worth creating and hosting a math.SE FAQ on some other site. So that's new. Oh, and dupes. We're pretty intolerant of those now. Jun 29 at 1:35
• @JonathanZ Well, there is the faq tag.
– rob
Jun 29 at 3:24
• Hi Rebecca, for perspective : when were you active last? (Roughly). Jun 29 at 7:09
• Last time I was active was maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I sporadically dropped in in the meantime. Jun 29 at 7:10
• Oh, then you've missed A LOT. Perhaps I will write an answer to illustrate this. Jun 29 at 7:12
• One thing to keep in mind is that 7 or 8 years ago the site was still in "population" mode. Now it is much more in "organization" mode. In particular most common exercises have already been asked and answered many times, so we should strive to organize these answers to help questioners easily locate the "best" answers (which - through feedback and iterative refinement - will hopefully evolve to "proofs from the book"). Lacking such the site will devolve into a stream of low quality fgitw answers that so clutter search results that there is little hope of separating the wheat from the chaff. Jun 29 at 7:59
• No. It is a reaction to the fact that 1) The answer is contained in your post: the most recent major policy update is math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/33508/…. 2) You seem to be aware where to look at to find your answer, but would rather someone else do the work of summarising things for you.
– Pedro Mod
Jun 29 at 8:06
• I simply want to know what (else) I should watch out for if I use the site for questions and answers. Is this really a big ask? I'm not looking through thousands of meta posts. Jun 29 at 8:27
• I understand your point, and don't want to come off unnecessarily stiff/mean, but the posts are not endless, and there are not thousands of them. The linked FAQs and the EoQS post seem to contain more or less all that you need! Good luck!
– Pedro Mod
Jun 29 at 8:54
• I don't think it's at all unreasonable for a main site user to expect short and simple guidelines. The body of mathematics repays deep and wide reading, and it's good to encourage that process. The current rules for this website? Not so much, and I want to make sure that we encourage people like @RebeccaJ.Stones, who has the social net smarts to notice the vibe change, and the consideration to ask about it, to participate here more. Jun 29 at 13:51

###### A brief note on two important parts of MSE

While you're attempting to participate on any question in this website in any role (as the OP, the answerer, a visitor, a curator etc.) focus on the organization of the website (around that question) and the reliability with which that question can be addressed. One paragraph on each.

"Organization" refers to the ease with which one can search and find the best possible questions and answerers corresponding to one's true mathematical purpose on this website. Kindly attempt to perform actions that aid the organization of the website. For example, edits improving MathJax, and converting images to readable text are two ways of aiding organization. Answering duplicates, and wrongly tagging questions are two ways in which hindrances may occur.

"Reliability" refers to the addressal of a question "beyond doubt". Kindly attempt to take actions that aid the reliability of yours, or others' content on this website. For example, clarifying definitions and requesting for context in comments are positive actions, as is the action of downvoting mathematically incorrect answers. On the other hand, writing speculative answers and up/downvoting answers based on reasons such as grudges against the user providing the content compromises the same reliability.

MSE stands on the pillars of organization and reliability, and I believe our actions as users here should serve these purposes.

##### If you wish to answer a question,
• This is your general guide to answering a question properly, so that one may call it a product of "quality". It's a short read, do look through it.

• Avoid answering duplicates. See this for how you can search on this website. Approach0, use MSE search properly, use the meta-collection of duplicates , are three of the suggestions there. Duplicates are not merely better for organization : a high quality answer should not appear after a low-quality answer to the same question on a search, and a small number of duplicate answers prevents this from happening. $$94$$% of users come to MSE after a referral (as per the mod tools), so this has to be respected.

• If context is lacking to the extent that it affects your reliability in answering the question impeccably, then request for it. Use this post to help users fulfill these needs so that you can reliably address their concerns. To put these needs in the order I would prioritize them : see if there's a well-defined or accessible source, see if there's background or motivation present in the question, then see if there is an attempt on the question whose answer is requested.

• In conjunction with reliability, note that opinion-based questions are rejected on the basis of them not admitting reliable enough answers. See this if you wish to judge such a question. Basically, if you see a question that you can only address with speculative opinion and not back it up with concrete mathematical facts, kindly refrain from answering it.

• This answer on the general meta explains why it is important for the sake of organization of the website that only one question is typically contained in a post. Kindly refrain from answering questions where you see more than one unrelated question in the post, or request such users to trim their question and reap the mutual benefit. Such questions are referred to as "broad" for the purposes of closure/reopening.

• Avoid off-topic questions. See this for an idea of what is allowed, somewhat okay, and not allowed on this website as a question. While borderline off-topic questions are fine, it is a waste of time for users to ask clearly off-topic questions here if there is another place where their (and visitors') time and effort is invested far better.

##### If you wish to ask a question or help someone improve their question
• Along with How to Ask A Good Question which is a comprehensive guide to improving one's question,

• this and this post are more pointed versions of the above post. They can be used for direct instruction to answerers, especially when one thinks the user needs a short introduction. You can use these to optimally design your questions as well.

• This is the general MathJax guide You can link this to other users in the comments, who may need it sometimes if their post has unreadable mathematics, or use it in your own questions if you need it e.g. for commutative diagrams or matrices. Check out Short and helpful advice on using MathJax for users who are beginners.

• This can be used as a good comment template to assist new users in beginning the improvement of their question. That entire post is full of templates for various purposes, ranging from MathJax editing to titling questions.

###### You should still read these when you can

This is the FAQ. Please go through it completely when you have the time.

• Linked with the "How to ask a Good Question" guidelines is the Enforcement of Quality Standards(EoQS), a move by the moderators to actively enforce the guidelines. While this has some vocal disagreement, it both should be read and acknowledged as something impactful.

This is the guideline for context edits and rewrites If you wish to add context to a question to salvage it and prevent content from getting deleted, then you may use the following guidelines to edit the question appropriately.

These is the reopen request thread If you have concerns regarding the closure or deletion of a particular answer, you may voice your concerns here. Users will respond to the request by taking appropriate action.

Here are the mathematics chatroom guidelines These are for participation in the "Mathematics" chatroom. You can refer users here if their post is off-topic but suitable for discussion in chat.

Here are the guidelines for reviewing questions. As a high-rep user, I would suggest those who can to review questions and use stronger community actions to run this website.

This was the thread for the last election, held in $$2021$$ Here, you will find what questions were deemed important enough to be phrased to moderator candidates. This reflects the "current affairs" of MSE in some sense. You can also check out the comments to see which concerns were raised there and how they were responded to.

This and this are a list of softwares that convert images to LaTeX (the the best of their efforts). These can be used for editing questions.

I'll mark this community-wiki, and others can feel free to edit in some important threads which I may have left out due to my implicit biases.

• Side note : This is community-wiki, not my product. So please edit it as fit, and allow the relatively "new" user here to get the best out of MSE! Jun 29 at 12:26
• I'm not very sure I understand the very first point. By "focus on the organization of the website", do you mean that the site is a mathematical knowledge database where each entry is a question? And by the second emphasized phrase, "reliability with which you can answer the question", do you mean that we maintain the quality of the entries by carefully answering the questions? Jun 29 at 12:37
• If my interpretation is correct, may I suggest putting this summary of (basically) the site's mission-statement at the very beginning of this answer, to serve as motivation for all of the following advice? If not, could you elaborate? Jun 29 at 12:37
• @ElliotYu Sure. The "organization of the website" refers to the ease with which the best questions and answers fulfilling a particular mathematical requirement can be searched on this website. By "reliability", I refer to the ability to address the question "beyond doubt". If I had to put a metric on it : my answer should be citable in a mathematical journal , or in a mathematical textbook for school children (to illustrate the possibility of reliability at different levels of mathematics). Sure, I'll place it first, thanks. Jun 29 at 12:46
• Thank you for the effort in putting together a summary like this, by the way. Perhaps we should FAQ this post. Jun 29 at 12:59
• @ElliotYu Not until enough of the community has looked at it, though. I still see some of my biases, which I cannot root out. I would like this to be enough of a community product before it can be given out to new users, otherwise we're just confusing them more. To save everybody reading this time, I'd rather that it be profiled by the community at large and voted on, edited and perhaps even deleted if necessary until we get a more wholesome picture of the situation. I know I'm wrong on many accounts, but I'm just waiting to see how much. Jun 29 at 13:09
• Agreed. I should amend my recommendation to "FAQ this post eventually". At the very least this is valuable as a collection of links to guides and discussions. Jun 29 at 13:19
• Wow, this is really detailed! Thanks for going to all that effort. Jun 30 at 10:23
• @RebeccaJ.Stones Glad to have been of service. Jul 1 at 8:25