If this question is a duplicate, I apologize and please close it accordingly.

I saw a question Should I study algebra more? and got answers. Recently, someone asked a question https://math.stackexchange.com/q/117364/17111 and it's being closed because of off topic-ness. There seems to be inconsistent rules on closing questions. IMHO, both titles might be "Not a real question".

My question is,

Should we close this kind of questions? If not, should we put answers in Community Wiki, Soft Question FAQ or somewhere else? So that those who want to know can see FAQ which might be a list of links.

  • $\begingroup$ I actually don't understand what you are asking about. Put answers to what in Community Wiki FAQ? (And what is this Community Wiki Faq you are talking about?) $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2012 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Willie, I guess CW FAQ does not exist yet and this is actually my question, should we have it? An then should we put those Q&A in there? I am a new use on MSE Meta, not a new MSE user. As I said in the first place, I don't know if this question is a dup. $\endgroup$
    – Nobody
    Mar 7, 2012 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ Judgements on question closure are indeed subjective. One can find many similar inconsistencies in the past. There is little one can do about this because the SE software design on closure leaves much to be desired, esp. for a site like this with a very diverse community. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2012 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Bill, I know that this has come up many times before, but I think that the SE closure mechanism is fine. Of course, as long as there is human input in the matter of which questions are closed, there will be inconsistencies; but as you know, if you see what you consider to be an inconsistency, you can address it in the comments, or post on meta about it, and the community can reevaluate its decision. The number of votes it takes to reopen is exactly the same as the number of votes it takes to close, which seems fair to me. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2012 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ Here's a perfect example of the process at work. I think that meta is widely-enough read by the 3k+ users that any complaint about inconsistency will be addressed; and if you want to further increase readership of the relevant meta thread, you can post a link to the meta thread in the comments and bump the closed question to the front page. What aspects of this process do you think need to be improved? $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2012 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Zev The subject has been debated at length in prior posts here (and on MSO). Many readers expressed extreme reservations with the current closure model. While I think things are much better than the early days (when it was difficult if not impossible to reopen closed questions because there were very few 10K+ members), I still think that the SE closure-biased model is a very poor fit for a community like ours with a very diverse membership. In fact even MO tries to work around this problem via its "vote not to close" comments, and they are far less diverse than us. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2012 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


I found this closure rather arbitrary, as well. The question is substantially identical in nature to the other question you site regarding algebra, but was more rambling and lacked the fluency of the algebra question. I don't think that should be the deciding factor on whether a question is closed or not. It was obviously mathematical in nature, and capable of generating specific answers (as it generated 4 of varying degrees of specificity in the less than half hour before it was closed). If the way the question is phrased is wanting, that is generally a point for the community to try to make the question better, not summarily close it.

My bias in this is obviously that I think it is a worthwhile thing to ask, "Why Study X?" Maybe it is too discussion-y, but I think the answers it did generate, and the answers on the similar Algebra question suggest that there are concrete and useful answers to this type of question. It certainly seemed more worthy of being community wiki than being closed, in my opinion. Whether there should be a whole soft question community wiki faq... I don't know.


The first question (the one about algebra) may not be ideal for the site, but what significantly sets it apart from the second question in my mind is that it asks for at least mostly-objective answers: namely, "is at least some amount of graduate-level algebra a basic part of a mathematical education?" and "what are some topics that relate algebra to differential geometry or differential equations?"

Regarding the second question, I agree with Dylan Moreland's comment: "Is it a survey? Is it crowd-sourced soul-searching? Those are both important endeavors but this doesn't seem like the place for them."

I think that the appropriateness of the question "why study X?" depends entirely on the context of the word "why". The first question is clearly asked by someone who is comfortable with the idea that mathematics as a subject is worth studying, and their question is just asking about whether certain topics in algebra are regarded as a basic part of a mathematical education, and how algebra relates to topics they are more interested in. The second question is asked by someone who regards "the professor told you to" or "you have to take something" as possible answers; thus, I take the meaning of "why" in the second question to be the personal / unanswerable kind of "why" - as mixedmath comments, "Why do you do anything?" That's what makes the second question non-constructive, and closure-worthy in my opinion. Dylan is correct that "off-topic" was probably not the best choice of closure reason.


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