# What can users do to improve their Math.SE experience?

Some of recent discussions on meta revolved around various ways to deal with the growing number of questions posted on the site. For example:

I started this thread to collect some of the ways in which users improve their experience themselves. This is not for feature requests.

• Whisky and beer usually improve my Math.SE experience. – Asaf Karagila Mar 2 '13 at 7:59
• @Asaf: I agree with your sentiment. But I would not try whisky and beer during a single session. It's just not kosher to ruin the taste of a fine single malt by rinsing your mouth with beer. I would rephrase it to read: Whisky or beer. With an exclusive or this time. – Jyrki Lahtonen Mar 3 '13 at 11:13
• @Jyrki: I definitely agree. I meant that "and" in the most natural language possible way of meaning "and". – Asaf Karagila Mar 3 '13 at 11:15
• @Jyrki: Far worse, it’s a waste of good beer. – Brian M. Scott Mar 3 '13 at 14:07
• Whiskey is spelled with an e. – Alexander Gruber Mar 6 '13 at 2:23
• @Alexander: That depends on whether it is Irish or Scottish actually. – Asaf Karagila Mar 6 '13 at 3:11
• @AsafKaragila As a southern Ohioan living only miles from bourbon county, I'm afraid I can't acknowledge that. – Alexander Gruber Mar 16 '13 at 22:24
• @Alexander: That's too bad. Go drink your corn. :-) – Asaf Karagila Mar 16 '13 at 22:36
• @AsafKaragila Re your first comment: it'd be a good idea not to answer calculus questions then, if for no other reason than in many jurisdictions it's illegal to drink and derive. – Rick Decker May 6 '13 at 1:27
• @Rick: I'm sorry, that was a terrible joke! :-) – Asaf Karagila May 6 '13 at 1:31

### 1. Use "Interesting" tab

By opening Math.SE via https://math.stackexchange.com/?tab=interesting, you will get a customized list of recently active questions. This tab brings forward questions which have more of your favorite tags, as well as the tags which you tend to answer. The algorithm is described here.

The "Interesting" tab is seen in the customized interface pictured above. You can also see the "hide the question" button (-) described later in this post. Without modifications, this tab is not visible on SE sites other than StackOverflow. If there is enough interest in making it visible, this could be a feature request (in a separate thread).

For now, I made the tab visible for myself with jQuery:

$(document).ready(function() {$('#tabs').prepend('<a href="?tab=interesting" title="interesting questions">interesting</a>');
});


The above script should be matched to URLs https://math.stackexchange.com/ and https://math.stackexchange.com/?*

### 2. Resolve favorite/ignored conflicts in favor of favorite

The "hide ignored tags" option carries the risk of missing questions which overlap your areas of interest: a question with both ignored and favorite tags gets hidden. This behavior can be changed with the CSS rule

.tagged-interesting {
display: block !important;
}


It ensures that a question with at least one favorite tag will not be hidden from Questions or Unanswered tabs. Unfortunately, the rule does not have effect on the home page of the site, including the Interesting tab. For this reason, the following method may be preferable.

### 3. Show only questions with a favorite tag

Instead of choosing the tags to hide, one can choose the tags to be displayed and marks them as favorites. The following jQuery command hides everything else.

('.question-summary').not('.tagged-interesting').css('display', 'none');  The highlighting of favorite questions can now be turned off everywhere with CSS, since it no longer serves a purpose: div.tagged-interesting { background-color: #fff !important; }  This method works particularly well on the Interesting tab, which is rich in questions with favorite tags. ### 4. Hide specific questions If one primarily uses the same computer/browser combination to access Math.SE, it becomes feasible to hide individual questions from the page. This method was developed by StackOverflow user Kos. Questions are hidden by clicking (-) in the upper right corner of the question summary. The list of hidden questions in kept in your browser's storage (which all modern browsers support). The option to reset all hidden questions (and thus clear the storage) is provided at the bottom of right sidebar. This method uses both CSS and JavaScript (with the jQuery library). .kos-hide-button { color: #666; } .kos-hide-button:hover { color: red; cursor: pointer; } .kos-hide-button-hide { display: block; width: 2em; float: right; text-align: right; } .kos-hide-hidden-question { display: none !important; }  The JavaScript code by Kos is copied below to make this post self-contained. It's a neat example of jQuery use. (document).ready(function() {

var keyPrefix = "mse.hiddenquestion.";

function hideElem(elem) {
}

function clearHidden() {
var toRemove = [];
for (var i=0; i<localStorage.length; ++i) {
var key = localStorage.key(i);
if (key.substr(0, keyPrefix.length) == keyPrefix) {
toRemove.push(key);
}
}
for (var i=0; i<toRemove.length; ++i) {
localStorage.removeItem(toRemove[i]);
}
$('.kos-hide-hidden-question').removeClass('kos-hide-hidden-question'); } if (!('localStorage' in window && window['localStorage'] !== null)) { return; }$('.question-summary').each(function() {

var that = $(this); var id = keyPrefix +$(this).attr('id');

$('<span>(-)</span>') .addClass('kos-hide-button') .addClass('kos-hide-button-hide') .attr('title','Hide this question') .insertBefore($(this).find('h3'))
.click(function() {
hideElem(that);
var tab = $localStorage[id] = 1; }) ; var hidden = localStorage[id]; if (hidden) { hideElem($(this));
}
});

$('<div>Reset hidden questions</div>') .addClass('kos-hide-button') .appendTo($('#sidebar'))
.click(function() {
clearHidden();
})
;
});


### 5. Use the "title" attribute of question titles

The home page tabs, such as interesting, do not display two-line snippets of question body. However, these snippets appear as a "tooltip" text when hovering over the element:

This amount of text is often enough to decide whether to hide the question by clicking (-), eliminating the need to navigate to the question.

### $\infty$. Technical details

The details of using custom CSS and JS vary by browser. Some of the options are listed below. (Feel free to expand the list: the post is a CW.)

• Chrome extensions Stylish (CSS), Tampermonkey (JS), Personalized web (CSS and JS).
• Firefox extensions Stylish (CSS), Greasemonkey (JS).
• Built-in browser support for custom CSS.

The URLs to match are

https://math.stackexchange.com/, https://math.stackexchange.com/?*, https://math.stackexchange.com/questions*, https://math.stackexchange.com/unanswered*


My personal choice was to implement 3 and 4 via an unpacked Chrome extension. The extension consists of JS and CSS described above, matching rules (.json), icon (.png) popup bubble (.html), and a copy of jQuery. Feel free to use or modify.

• (+1): I upvoted this post. What do you think is a resolution for people to make better posts? By better, I don't mean questions that are not beginner level, but I mean that they should have an interesting viewpoint written by the OP. – Parth Kohli Mar 2 '13 at 6:53
• @Ethereal I do agree that the site would work smoother if fewer questions were verbatim copies of assignments. I do not address this difficult issue here, because this thread is about what a user can do to improve his/her own experience. – user53153 Mar 2 '13 at 7:35
• Ah, I see. I didn't know that besides being mathy, you were hacky too! – Parth Kohli Mar 2 '13 at 7:39
• Everyone sees the the problem with quickly increasing amount of questions of small mathematical value. The only thing we can do to prevent this is to bury our heads in sand. We are not trying to increase value of the questions or decrease amount of low level questions - we just hiding from them. – Norbert Mar 3 '13 at 1:17
• @Norbert There is no "we" on Math.SE. Users differ vastly in priorities, interests, and educational level. Some of them like answering routine questions, others do not. This meta had enough arguments over this... The differences between Big-Endians (those who broke their eggs at the larger end) and Little-Endians had given rise to "six rebellions... wherein one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown". -- Jonathan Swift could be writing about Math.SE. // Why not just give everyone more of what they like? – user53153 Mar 3 '13 at 5:42
• If there is no "we" why there are so many upvotes for questions like 'Is the interest in this community falling?'. People agrees that quality is going down? During this half year I ve seen that very good mathematicians leaved MSE: Theo Buehler, Lenoid Kovalev, Yemon Choi, Philip Brooker, Mathew Daws, Arturo Magidin. And this list may be much more wider since I'm talking about only specialists from my range of intersts! This type of problem starts to be discussed in last 3-4 months and my message is the folllowing - MSE is loosing good quality questions and discussions. – Norbert Mar 3 '13 at 5:53
• @Norbert: I like answering both kinds of questions. When I bring up MSE, I routinely page back through the questions that have arrived since the last one that I saw. Admittedly, I’m not exactly a typical user, but since you mention Arturo, I note that he also answered questions at all levels. It’s inevitable: as the site grows, people will have to work a bit harder to find the questions that fit their criteria, and the narrower your criteria, the harder you’ll have to work. – Brian M. Scott Mar 3 '13 at 14:33
• @BrianM.Scott Norbert's comment mentions the quality of the questions as going down. Yours seems to address their mathematical level. These are two different criteria. To be explicit, since the quality of basic math questions can be good, the problem Norbert mentions is not a priori (nor, mainly) related to the level of mathematical sophistication of the questions asked. – Did Mar 4 '13 at 10:38
• @Did: Absent any clarification from him, I still read his comment as being in large part about the level; otherwise the loss of ‘very good mathematicians’ isn’t much to the point. – Brian M. Scott Mar 4 '13 at 10:43
• @BrianM.Scott Sorry but 'very good mathematicians' too can be annoyed by the loss of quality, much more than by the level. (But I agree that Norbert's formulation can be read as mentioning either problem.) – Did Mar 4 '13 at 10:59
• @5pm So you don't mind that there is too much spam now? – Norbert Mar 4 '13 at 16:35
• @Norbert According to the site's policies, "do my homework" posts as not spam; they are on topic but (in my opinion) of low quality and of low interest to me. But I can't go around the planet telling everyone to do their own homework, just as I can't convince every seller of diet pills that I don't need their emails. So what do I do? Fix things on my end, where I have control. – user53153 Mar 4 '13 at 16:40
• Ok we don't understand each other. Both of us agrees that there more low quality questions than before. But you resolve this problem using filters and think that there is nothing wrong with that and I think that this is timeserving which does not sove the origins of the problem. I think the rest of the talk is pointless since neither nor and you have not changed their opinion. – Norbert Mar 4 '13 at 16:45
• @Did That can also be an indication of size. Some Math.SE users are still able to browse the complete list of questions (as Brian does), but this practice is on its way out. The number of questions per day doubled from 01.2012 to 01.2013. The growth is not slowing down. StackOverflow is still growing, and they are over 7000 questions/day by now. Of course nobody can read that many questions, and sophisticated filtering methods become the normal way to use the site. // Sure, most questions in the Universe are uninteresting. In Atwood's words, they are mere sand. – user53153 Mar 4 '13 at 18:37
• @Norbert: Even I agree that there are more low-quality questions than before. But there are also many more questions of all kinds, and it’s not at all clear to me that there is a much higher percentage of low-quality questions over the $20$ months that I’ve been active. – Brian M. Scott Mar 4 '13 at 23:10

I am a current university student and depend heavily on math.SE for answers, especially when my faculty refuses to give solutions to his answers.

Typically, when I have a question, it is the usual routine :

2. Propose my solution
3. Invite debate.

I think this is the best way for math.SE to move forward - good questions and answers. There have been an increase, especially since the new year, of lazy students just posing questions. The indicators of a new user are very obvious - copying the question wholesale, posing the question with little or no $\LaTeX$ formatting, and then expecting some magic to happen.

I am very appreciative for math.SE because it has taught me $\LaTeX$, which is a highly useful Markup Language to represent mathematics, and have been fascinated by it. This, I guess, is one of the bigger takeaways from math.SE.

People should never abuse this system. We need to clamp down on these couch potatoes-lazy people - not answering the questions and locking the question for answers, so the OP needs to put in his own fair share of effort to earn his own answer.

Beyond that, I hope the interest does not close down because my learning depends heavily on this website - all the holes left uncovered in real life are covered here.

Some of the tricks in this thread are much too technical. SE already provides a way to see only questions that carry at least one of your favorite tags: favorite tag filter. Using the filter may be slightly disorienting at first, because it's located on a different site, stackexchange.com. But one does not have to log in there to use the filter; being logged in on Math.SE is good enough.

The filter results can be presented in three ways, including my current favorite no answers. The best part about "no answers" tab on stackexchange.com is that it orders the questions by activity, while a similar tab on Math.SE orders them by votes. One can take the filtering further and bookmark the second page of search results instead of the first; this eliminates "low hanging fruit" questions, including most routine homework questions (if they were not already eliminated by the tag filter). The site looks much better through this filter.

It would be even better if the search on Math.SE supported favorite tags, so that I could search for [favorite-tags] answers:0, order by activity, bookmark the search URL, and be a happier user. Unfortunately, this option does not exist (yet?)