I'm reading Peter Smith's Teach Yourself Logic. Peter is a MSE user.

I wonder if it's ok to ask a question directed to him - on MSE. I know that the user can be contacted via e-mail, but making the question here could be informative to other users.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Why should it have to be specifically directed to him? Just ask about the stuff on his book as usual. If you're lucky, he just might respond. $\endgroup$ – J. M. isn't a mathematician May 12 '13 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ And if someone else answers, is it that bad? If Peter would like to answer, he will. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 12 '13 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ On more than one occasion I have seen that someone has pinged a user on some post of his with something like: Could you have a look at this; it seems like your are/maybe you can answer? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak May 13 '13 at 9:45

The standard seems to be that you ask what you like, but do not specifically put "this is for Peter Smith" in the title (I have edited out such things by others) and do not put a tag "ask-peter-smith." I did that twice, in one case it was edited out without warning, in the other a few people said "Is this a real tag" and I later cut it out. Note that the first such tag, ask-johnson on MO, was originally a bit of a joke, but requested by the person who asked the question before I did anything, https://mathoverflow.net/questions/69542/uniformly-convex-spaces ; I just edited as he suggested.

For me, if the answers are not quite good enough, after a few days you could well email the guy and say "I really was hoping for your response." Again, my experience is that people would rather put an answer on an existing forum thread than compose an individual email reply. For one thing, this way they get to use Latex, and have many people see their words. Meanwhile, he could easily be grading finals right now, my way he answers when he has some free time.

  • $\begingroup$ Mathoverflow meta has a long thread of links to questions about a paper or book answered by the author (and one reverse case, where a famous mathematician asked a question and was referred to his own book). The same thing happens in MSE and it could be nice to maintain a list. $\endgroup$ – zyx May 15 '13 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ @zyx, right, Vaughan Jones, saying something like "you don't need to be gaga to forget what you wrote in a book twenty years before" $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy May 16 '13 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ tea.mathoverflow.net/discussion/698/molevel and mathoverflow.net/questions/23989/… Wait, did you just tell Vaughan Jones about his own paper? MO has jumped the shark... However I assure you that one does not have to be gaga to have forgotten what was in a book one wrote with 2 coauthors over 20 years ago. $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy May 16 '13 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ That is a pleasant social side effect of mathoverflow. It relieves people of the burden of always being the ones to answer about their own papers, and the embarrassment of not always remembering well enough to be able to do so, while sometimes providing the satisfaction of seeing others explain the work. $\endgroup$ – zyx May 16 '13 at 23:59

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