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A few days ago I posted the following question,

What are some conjectures of your own? [closed]

Which you may have seen on the Hot Network Questions. Clearly, people enjoyed it. It's fun, and gathers positive attention to the site, allowing people to share something personal yet novel. I had clearly laid out background, motivation, and that I was looking for problems that

  • Have been found on your own or by someone you know,
  • Not in public knowledge / interest,
  • And that you think are novel (and are comfortable sharing!),

By the 14 answers given, +33 upvote /-6 downvote ratio (at the time of writing), and zero comments, obviously this question wasn't ambiguous, as everyone understood the question precisely. In fact, as a show of good faith that I was truly interested in our community members' personal conjectures, I personally flagged the question for the mods to transfer it to a Community Wiki, so I wasn't just farming reputation points. Despite all this, I am faced with the blunt words

Closed. This question needs to be more focused. It is not currently accepting answers.

Update the question so it focuses on one problem only. This will help others answer the question.

What is the logic?

"focuses on one problem only"? That goes against the entire point of this post, as well as the majority of and questions. In fact, if this was really a problem, take a scroll through this site's most popular posts and see how many would be immediately annihilated by the equal enforcement of this rule as it has been applied to my post.

"This will help others answer the question"? Seems unnecessary considering the 14 answers who understood the question with zero comments, may I remind everyone.


And please, before someone tries to present a formal argument in the form of our community guidelines, just zoom out for a second. What is so terrible about bringing the community together to ask "What are some conjectures of your own?" Are we as a site really that much removed from reality that we strive to be some robotic questions-and-answers site with no personality, no human-touch? What's wrong with the occasional "fun" question? Surely the public support of this question is enough to warrant an exception. This site is for the same people after all.

It feels like a very vocal minority on this site have pledged some allegiance to maintaining the absolute-formality of this site with such fervent-strictness that any recreation is prohibited. I must ask, with over 2000 views, all it took was 5 of those people with the power to close it, to close it. Why should we bend over to the will of this $<1$% minority, who didn't even bother to voice their concerns before closing, as if it were obvious?


Edit 06/09/23: Ultimately what all of this boils down to (especially when it comes to what I have tried to address in the comments) are deeper problems at the root of this site, which would benefit from awareness. I have redirected my efforts into the following post here on meta.

Our Community vs The System

So if any of the general ideas in this discussion resonate with you, I encourage you to have a read of the above and continue it there.

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    $\begingroup$ It's a question that doesn't fit well in this Q&A format. It encourages discussion and noncannonical answers. Sometimes this sort of question lands here, and sometimes this sort of question doesn't. But I would consider when these questions are not closed to be the exception instead of the standard. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @davidlowryduda I would argue that it fits quite well. A list of answers ranked by user appreciation is the perfect system for such a question. Its attention seems to agree. You say "It encourages discussion" as if that's not a good thing? I would understand that if this were Wikipedia, but there are actual human beings interacting with each other here. We are social creatures by nature. Furthermore, I am not looking for canonical answers. There is no such thing in my case. So is this site only interested in questions with canonical answers? $\endgroup$
    – Graviton
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 2:41
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    $\begingroup$ Yes. I suggest that you read the what to and not to ask parts of the help. From that page: You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page. If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. (Discussions are of course welcome in our real time web chat.) $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 2:47
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    $\begingroup$ @davidlowryduda I am very confused; how do you admit that these types of questions being not closed are exceptional to the standard, as if we should close such? If I may inquire as to the reasoning of this disposition, are you an employee to this site or solely a mod? If you are employed, then I definitely understand the adherence to your duty. But, if you are a mod, then I must remind you that what you do here is voluntary, and I beg of you to be in service to the people that use this site, rather than inanimate guidelines which inhabit the text of a website. $\endgroup$
    – Graviton
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ It disappoints rather than surprises me that this excellent and popular question has been closed by whoever. Math.SE would have much higher “quality” if there was more generosity of spirit. Or rather that those who do not possess that generosity were not able to simply slamdunk close as is apparently their desire $\endgroup$
    – Laska
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 3:15
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    $\begingroup$ There are various unsupported statements being made here, like the concept that a lighter question such as this “diminishes the usefulness of our site”. I find the close hammer absolutely repellent and discouraging - and I know that many newcomers receive negative treatment and never return. If we are looking to improve “usefulness” then increasing the kindness and acceptance of various perspectives (still within the rigour of mathematics of course) is absolutely where I would begin. Math, even serious math, can be about play. It is foolish and cruel to try to amputate that. $\endgroup$
    – Laska
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ If this is meant to be mainly about this particular question, the tag (specific-question) would be suitable here. (But it seems that you are interested more generally about this type of questions.) Maybe the tag (allowed-questions) could be a reasonable fit, if the direction of this discussion is whether questions like this should or should not be allowed. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ The above-linked What types of questions should I avoid asking? page is not actually arguing against Graviton's question, which is 'practical' (inasfar as pure mathematics is practical), 'answerable', non-'chatty' (it is not asking for a back-and-forth, but akin to asking for various solution strategies to a given problem) and falling squarely into the category of 'great subjective questions'—as opposed to the argumentative open-ended sort—that invites answers containing $\endgroup$
    – ryang
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ 'expertise' and 'good stuff'. $\quad$ My only quibble with Graviton's question is that—echoing Sarvesh's comment in the related thread—reputation denial should not be a motivation for Community Wiki'ing posts! $\quad$ P.S. Note that all phrases within quotation marks are taken from the linked guidelines. $\endgroup$
    – ryang
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ [repost] @Graviton In case my point got lost: your question (and its ilk) does not really even contravene the spirit, intent or even the text of the official guidelines. There isn't (or at least shouldn't be) a controversy. $\endgroup$
    – ryang
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 4:29
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, visitors are not going to come to this question expecting their "specific question" to be answered. From that point of view, it seems unsuitable to SE because we'd like visitors of that kind precisely to be coming in here. However, it's mostly attracting "objectively correct" answers (and not too many at that), and can serve the purpose of a canonical question about precise formulations of open conjectures in various subjects. In that sense, it's not fun either, and I think visitors have something useful to take away from it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ Something which makes me uncomfortable here is that it isn't about mathematics, but about people. What are some conjectures of your own - so what makes a good answer, the person or the conjecture? Why can't it be about conjectures which excite me, but "not in public knowledge" etc? $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 8:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Graviton My point isn't about objective answers, but rather than people may conflate "answerer" with "answer". And it becomes about showing off - I'm great because I came up with this amazing conjecture! Why can't we just talk about conjectures and how excited we are by them, without stroking egos? $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 8:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Graviton They can share this anyway. For example, you could ask "What conjectures do you find exciting?" and then said that you would be happy to hear of conjectures people had come up with themselves. This also lets people share conjectures they've been trying to prove for years, but didn't come up with so can't answer your question with. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 10:05
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    $\begingroup$ I specifically mentioned as my very first comment to @KReiser that I was not interested in Requests for Reopen & Undeletion Votes (volume 01/2022 - today), but oh well I must step away before I implode from disappointment at this closure. $\endgroup$
    – Graviton
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 10:33

2 Answers 2

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While this kind of question raises a lot of interesting questions, each of the answers is essentially a question that should be asked on the site, not posted as an answer to a question. For this reason, I voted to close in the second closure.

This site is for Q&A, usually about specific questions. However, I understand that some people might come to this site with the question, "What is an interesting unanswered question?" and as such, I can see interest in a question like this.

There have been soft questions in the past, but the community consensus, as expressed in the site (which is usually decided after community ), is that, for the most part, and questions are off-topic.

In any case, as I mentioned earlier, each of the answers to this question should be asked as a question in its own right. If someone came searching for one of the questions mentioned in one of these answers, they would be directed to this question and would see a question without any answers and with no way to answer. At best, it would slow down their search for an actual answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ " If someone came searching for one of the questions mentioned in one of these answers, they would be directed to this question and would see a question without any answers and with no way to answer. At best, it would slow down their search for an actual answer." Perhaps someone who did solve it make a new post asking for solution verification.. so maybe non issue $\endgroup$
    – Babu
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 7:47
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    $\begingroup$ @HopefulWhitepiller: as I said, the question should be posted on its own, not as an answer to this question, and this question still slows down the search for the actual answer. $\endgroup$
    – robjohn Mod
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 8:45
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I see this whole post more as a quibble with the bureaucratic nature of this site. My simple question is, if we are to allow the question such as the one you posted ( I had upvoted it myself), then where would we draw the line on what is off topic and on topic using the rules? Having rules which can be bent just like that is not going to sit well with people.

In a way, this issue already exists. When questions which people don't like now are closed, people quote the rules, but when old questions which don't follow current rules are not closed, then it's said that the culture has changed. Well, if the culture has changed how has the rules not? The impression I get is, no actually cared for the rules from the beginning, and it was simply an excuse to close what they personally don't like, rather due to being a violation in itself.

Maybe if there were actual avenues to discuss the rules, and it felt like community discussions on their dissatisfaction on the current rules are, had any effect on what the rules should be, the issues would be alleviated.

In my opinion, while in Meta, there are such discussions, I find the discussions to be more about individual one of cases, and very very very rarely to almost never having impact of how things should look on the average in this site, or had impact on what the actual "written down" rules are.

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    $\begingroup$ "Maybe if there were actual avenues to discuss the rules, and it felt like community discussions on their dissatisfaction on the currents rules are had any effect on what the rules should be, the issues would be alleviated." - this is what meta is for, and over the years has done. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ You're right this is a quibble with the bureaucratic nature, which I am unsatisfied with. As you have mentioned as well, so often when things like these get brought up, the response is "if we are to allow [X] then where would we draw the line on [Y]". Yet despite this being a math and logic site, it is quite literally a variation of the slippery slope fallacy. Human nature is messy, which is precisely why we need to be more lenient on allowing subjective avenues of discussion here. We're not Vulcans. Well, not all of us at least, haha $\endgroup$
    – Graviton
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 8:29
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    $\begingroup$ @HopefulWhitepiller I'm not really sure what you mean then. Can you elaborate some more? My impression has always been that discussions on meta do influence the rules, although how direct this influence is I don't really know (or if I knew, have forgotten). A concrete example is here. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ There are patterns to what questions are closed which reflect the rules here. This question is an exception because $5$ people voted to close and the question has $14$ answers and $25$+ upvotes. For each such question, open a meta post, have a discussion, come to a consensus or let the moderation mechanisms do their job. What I'm trying to say is that the line is broadly clear, but the fringes are always irregular and individual battles will decide the fate of those questions. If we were to bring everybody together and have a discussion, we'd arrive at these rules more or less... $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ ... but at the same time, general discussion is good. No problem. The only trouble is that people have their set of immovables, from which they will not budge. That includes things such as the purpose of this site and how people on it should behave to fulfill that purpose. When discussion inevitably hits those raw nerves, people either become fractious or flat out derogatory, and it becomes even more difficult to reach a consensus. Experts in argument will (1)detect the flash point (2) format a compromise, and (3) accept that there will be fringes. Every discussion needs to be like that. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 9:02
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    $\begingroup$ Very good observations at the end, I noticed in real life too. I found in real life that often the immovables are much more out there, here it seems there can be more depth in which discussions can be had, but perhaps still, a bit unsatisfactory to me @SarveshRavichandranIyer. In the current model, it seems so unless a person goes and pleads on meta, the bureaucracy will have little regard for them, but keeping it like so, can be somewhat traumatic for a person who can't muster courage to make posts like the OP has on meta. $\endgroup$
    – Babu
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 11:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Graviton The Freakonomics podcast just did an episode on slippery slopes. The TL;DR summary is that the "slippery slope" is only really a fallacy in formal logical discourse. It is not really appropriate to treat slippery slope arguments as invalid outside of that formal context. The reality is that slippery slope arguments are often relevant when setting policy. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ That being said, I think that the more relevant facet of this is that there is a kind of sorites paradox going on: at the edges, it is very easy to distinguish on-topic from off-topic. However, there is no clear, bright demarkation between the two. Hence we have to draw an arbitrary line somewhere. That line is always going to be arbitrary. It is just something that you are going to have to accept if you want to get along on this site. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ Finally, the comment "What is so terrible about bringing the community together to ask 'What are some conjectures of your own?'" seems to betray a misunderstanding of what this site is meant to be. It is not meant to be a social network, or a community. It is primarily a question and answer site. There is some ability to build community here (primarily through chat), but that is not what the site is here to do. There are already lots of social sites out there. Perhaps you can find something which hits that social button on Reddit? $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ ... and therefore, compromise is simply not an option for them, and should not be. That's why I believe that stack exchange isn't "for everyone" : certainly not for those who, for example, would want to answer the questions we "clearly" (I mean those that could be closed for multiple reasons very obviously) deem as unsuitable. The guidelines are a reflection but not the entirety of the values that are held by a sizeable amount of the site, certainly the majority of the curators. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson I would disagre with your points, treating this place not as a community is like saying a duck is a dog. This place has a strong community underneath it, given a user spends enough time here, then they know almost everyother person using this site frequently, and every other person knows them. This leads to community building indirectly. The latent social connections which occur in this site is hidden by the system trying to constantly bud that from growing out $\endgroup$
    – Babu
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ Also, moderation policy, and an agreement that there exists any consesus at all, assumes an existence of some sort of people who think alike, and want to coordinate on their decisions on this site... is that not communitY? $\endgroup$
    – Babu
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ @HopefulWhitepiller You are welcome to disagree. However, I am not expressing an opinion. I am expressing the official policy of StackExchange. I am doing this with my moderator hat off, but this is fairly well documented---SE is not meant to be a social networking site, and attempts to make it more like a social networking site are actively discouraged across the network. There are a lot of relevant links, e.g.: meta.stackexchange.com/q/65261 and blog.codinghorror.com/… ("SO is a wiki first"). $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ Also, just as an FYI, you appear to have placed a bounty on the question in order to prevent it from being closed. Were I not currently participating in a moderation strike, I would remove the bounty (and cast a fifth and final close vote on the question). Placing a bounty on a question in order to prevent closure, or to otherwise protest normal community moderation. As a normal user, foregoing access to moderator tools, I am very disappointed by your behaviour. In so much as there is a "community" here, you are violating the norms of that community. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 1:17
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    $\begingroup$ "...since you said that you're dissapointed in me, it establishes there is some form of knowing each other here". Please reread what I wrote. I am not disappointed with you. I don't know you. I don't particularly care to know you. I am disappointed by your behaviour, which is antithetical to the proper maintenance of this site. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 15:41

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