I am a relatively new user, but still I have been around here enough to see a change in my MS&E experience.

As an "asker", I used to receive a lot of help here for my studies. I had made a habit of receiving an answer in a few minutes and usually a very interesting one. This is not happening any more.

As an "answerer", I used to see a daily amount of well-posed and non-trivial questions and a small amount of "featured" questions, rarely more than 10 and typically very challenging and deep. Today I see a much bigger quantity of questions asking for solutions of this or that exercise. It happens more and more frequently to see ill-posed questions, often by new users who presumably won't be back again. Also, there is an enormous increase in the "featured" questions, to the point that they are not featured any more.

So my questions are:

  1. Is this just me, or is something like this happening for real?
  2. If the answer to 1 is affirmative, how could we draw more attention to our community and raise its level again?

Thank you for your attention.

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    $\begingroup$ Related: Has there recently been statistically less upvoting than usual? $\endgroup$
    – user856
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 0:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I actually feel that I am writing more, and better answers. In fact sometimes I feel shame when coming across my old posts. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 0:56
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think someone who's been here for almost two years can describe himself as a "relatively new" user of a site that is not yet three years old... $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ I've mentioned this elsewhere, but numerically we have more users asking more questions and giving (many) more answers than ever before. Qualitatively, I always think that at the start of every semester, we get a flood of, pardon my phrasing, 'DO-Homework-for-me' (DOH) users who are suddenly overwhelemed. The community here has, in the past, been lenient in the beginning, but tends to get annoyed if users ask too many straight-up exercises. As we get more and more users, it seems there are more and more who tend to be a bit more lenient. But that's all qualitative feel-word, nothing solid. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ "how could we draw more attention to our community and raise its level again?" We may be seeing that drawing more attention to our community has had the effect of lowering its level. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson The fastest way to kill any Q&A site is to flood it with low-quality questions. -- Jeff Atwood $\endgroup$
    – user53153
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ @giuseppe, I have the same feeling you have, for example I posted a question two weeks ago, I put a bounty on it and I did not received a single comment. Maybe my question is too simple, but then, why ignoring an easy low hanging bounty? In the past I posted seven questions and I always got more than one answer or some insightful comment... obviously it is statistical irrelevant and maybe, as you say, "it's just me". $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 20:29

2 Answers 2


To some extent, what you see on Math.SE is under your control. For example, my experience improved when I added the following tags (among others) to ignored and checked "hide ignored tags" in preferences.

homework calculus linear-algebra algebra-precalculus 
sequences-and-series elementary-number-theory 
elementary-set-theory modular-arithmetic arithmetic 
soft-question trigonometry multivariable-calculus 
fractions big-list

This has effect on all views, including featured questions. There are 26 featured questions right now, but only 11 are visible to me (I also hide the tags in which I'm incompetent, which is a shamefully long list).

I obviously contributed to the increase of featured questions, being one of the site's top investors. But this growth is inevitable as the site itself grows. We passed 100,000 questions on January 24; now, less than a month later, we have 107,762. This is about 9,000 questions per month. Compared to this, having 30 or even 100 questions displayed more prominently for a week does not look wrong to me. As of now, StackOverflow has over 400 featured questions, and the additional exposure still works: questions do get more answers this way. The "featured" tab is just a convenient way for someone with limited time to find more difficult questions, as well as the questions that someone really cares about.

I had made a habit of receiving an answer in a few minutes [...] This is not happening any more.

This is a sign that you are asking deeper questions now than you did in the past. Congratulations! Some of your recent questions may have better luck at MathOverflow.

Update: My experience improved even more when I stopped ignoring tags and added the following CSS rules to my browser, matching them to *://math.stackexchange.com/*

.question-summary {
  display: none; 
.tagged-interesting {
  display: block !important; 
  background-color: #fff !important;

Which translates into: I see only questions with favorite tags, and since there is no need to highlight them now, their background is returned to white.

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    $\begingroup$ Good points, +1. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2013 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ I have followed your suggestion and ignored some tags. I don't think that this will be the definitive solution but for sure it will help. Thanks! Regarding MathOverflow, we'll see. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ Follow-up: this and other CSS tricks are discussed in What can users do to improve their Math.SE experience? $\endgroup$
    – user53153
    Commented Mar 3, 2013 at 5:59

Whenever I pose a question, it gets answered almost instantly, and usually one of the first few answers I get satisfies me. I am a professor and I ask nontrivial but doable questions, usually not terribly difficult but not in my area of expertise. I always do a Google search and search previous MSE questions first, so I don't ask questions whose answers are easily available. I like to think that my questions are interesting. I cannot explain your unsatisfactory experience here.

Stefan (STack Exchange FAN)


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