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This question falls under the heading of what has come to be known at MO as a 'fishing expedition', that is:

A question whose sole purpose seems to be to collect mathematical ephemera, motivated by nothing more than intrigue as to what the querrant might find.

They are in general poorly motivated, but tend to provide great answers as some of the high rep users pull out exotic and unheard of examples. As such they may indeed be useful for a casual reader, potentially the sort of reader that we might hope to frequent math.se, but perhaps these sorts of questions are simply too messy and unfocussed (and perhaps set dangerous precedents)...

What do we think?

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    $\begingroup$ «Tell me something interesting» and its more verbose versions make bad questions! $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Sep 3 '10 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ The worthiness of "fishing expeditions" has been discussed and debated at length over at MO, and a true consensus has not yet been reached (and may never be reached). I think it is up to the serious users of this site to discuss this and make their feelings clear. My own opinion is that SE is not really designed for such questions, although whether I actually wish to campaign against them depends a lot on the question. (As I wrote recently on meta.MO, the surest way to attract my ire on this seems to be to use the word "favorite" in the statement of the question...) $\endgroup$ – Pete L. Clark Sep 3 '10 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ A moderator on another stackexchange site has written a lot about 'fishing expeditions' in a different context. Some of his points can also apply here. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Sep 10 '10 at 20:10
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In my mind, fishing expeditions clearly belong on a blog and not on a StackExchange site. One reason is that, as was mentioned on an MO discussion on this topic, it is very unclear what voting on CW answers means on a fishing expedition. For a broad question like the average fishing expedition, what does it mean to rank one answer above another? Are we ranking by surprise factor? Relevance to the question? How easy it is to understand? (Voting is especially nonsensical if, as Pete says, the question has the word "favorite" in it. Why ask a question which makes a basic feature of the site irrelevant?)

Questions which ask for a broad range of examples need to have a purpose, and then their answers can be ranked by their suitability to that purpose. For example, the purpose might be examples of some concept to present to an undergraduate class, or a high school class. Those questions are not fishing expeditions and are fine.

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  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, how does this question fit with your criteria? $\endgroup$ – Isaac Sep 3 '10 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Isaac: I don't like it. It's too unfocused. But I haven't voted to close it and similar questions because, as I've explained before, I am trying not to influence the closing policy on math.SE too much until I get a better idea of the community consensus. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Sep 3 '10 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ I had originally asked it in part to feel out how specific a question needed to be to get useful responses and not turn into a favorites-listing kind of thing; I brought it up here for a similar reason--to probe for your idea of specific purpose. Would limiting the question to examples related to continuity and differentiability have been sufficiently focused for your taste? $\endgroup$ – Isaac Sep 3 '10 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Isaac: yes, I think that would've been fine. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Sep 3 '10 at 23:17

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