# Should community growth be encouraged?

I'm having a doubt about how should we users encourage the participation of new members. So far I have only presented MSE to three of my fellow colleagues in grad school. In an overall way I feel like if MSE becomes too open and wide known, some of the high-rank researchers and top-class grad and undergrads users will be frustrated. Maybe I get this impression for seeing how some really complicated questions are well-received.

But today I saw someone asking some really simple algebra questions like "solve this equation for x" and started thinking what is the general feel of MSE when this kind of question arises. I'm not judging anything and no one. I just would like to get some opinions on this.

As the faq has,

Mathematics - Stack Exchange is for people studying mathematics at any level and professionals in related fields.

So I would suggest and strongly enourage in spreading the word around (I certainly spread the word among my co-grad students and Profs).

That said, I also strongly believe that the following three questions, which I assume are the ones you are also referring to in your question, should be closed as too localized.

All three have been asked by the same person in a short span of time. It makes sense to answer one of these in a general setting and close the rest as duplicate.

• I'm not sure I agree that the best route is to answer all of those questions in a general setting - at least, not if your intention is to help the original poster. Someone who is having trouble solving linear equations in one variable will probably not be helped by an answer that starts "Consider an equation of the form $ax + b = c$... Apr 23, 2013 at 8:53
• @ChrisTaylor It doesn't make sense to write an answer for each of these. A good answer would solve some examples, preferably what the OP has in his/her three different questions and use this to generalize and solve an equation of the form $ax+b=c$. The OP will learn more out of this, than solving individual cases separately.
– user17762
Apr 23, 2013 at 16:42
• @Chris: If an answer to one of those questions doesn't help the OP solve linear equations, then an answer to all three of those questions won't either! A concrete example is fine for the general setting, of course.
– user14972
May 2, 2013 at 9:09

To answer your main concern, questions of any level are welcome on Math Stack Exchange.

Having said that, try to actively look to see if a question has been answered before, as this is far more likely with lower level questions. Questions about solving basic limits, or testing the convergence of certain series, have been answered many times in the past. The reputation system encourages posting questions without looking for duplicates first, and it encourage answering questions without looking for duplicates - so let me try to discourage doing so. The List of Generalizations of Common Questions was created to help out with exactly this. If you see a duplicate or similar questions, try to find the original, or something from the list of generalized common questions. If that is not possible, depending on the situation, flag for moderator attention.

I've always viewed MSE as an "anything goes" forum, as long as it's about actual mathematics. Grade-school homework problems to research problems. All of it is to be encouraged. I use filters to avoid looking at most of the things I don't want to see.

Community growth in the form of people willing to answer question should be encouraged. If these simple questions give some people the opportunity to write nice and clear answers, great. The answers from 10K+ users to these trivial questions might indeed be something worrying. I think the trivial questions themselves should be neither encouraged nor discouraged, but users well experienced in writing answers should perhaps try to refrain from answering such questions.

• Why should people with higher rep not answer those questions? May 1, 2013 at 22:36
• @TobiasKildetoft The idea of this answer is that there is no problem with healthy community growth. But if the community would grow only in the sense of more people asking boring questions, which are still answered by the same few people answering most questions, this would not be a healthy growth. So people with higher rep not answering such questions might encourage more healthy community growth. May 2, 2013 at 20:58