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I posted a question on MSE for two months and received no helpful answer. So I tried the same question on MO. I got 4 off-topic votes and so the question got migrated back to MSE. I'd like to mention that I actually got some upvotes before others downvoted it. So I'm wondering What on earth is an off-topic on MO? This is vaguely defined in MO's help center, as I quote:

(on-topic) to ask and answer research level math questions, the sorts of questions you come across when you're writing or reading articles or graduate level books.

Although I did not ask a particular question from graduate level books, I certainly have already resorted to several before I asked the question--I didn't find a satisfying answer. Otherwise, why would I ask the question in the first place?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't see what's wrong with this question for MO, although I haven't thought hard about it. Perhaps one or more of the closers could explain. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Oct 30 '14 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble Thank you for your support. $\endgroup$ – Troy Woo Oct 30 '14 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl Thanks for speaking up. My own feeling is that one should only vote to close based on one's personal belief about the question, independently of others (not seeing a reason to disagree being not the same as agreeing). $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Oct 30 '14 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl Thanks for your honesty. If your viewpoint stands for most people here on MO, I am really disappointed. $\endgroup$ – Troy Woo Oct 30 '14 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble: My impression is that only a pretty low percentage of the questions which get closed on MO are closed in error (it takes five votes to close a question, and anybody may post a comment pointing out that the question is suitable for MO, and be it only "why the close votes?") -- and if a question is closed, it may still be reopened. I think if people would cast close votes only when they are absolutely sure that there is nothing good in a question, it would probably be notably more difficult to keep the site on-topic. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Oct 30 '14 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't vote on that question. FWIW, I used to follow roughly the same practice as @StefanKohl, but for about a year now (if not longer) I've followed the practice described in Todd's comment. $\endgroup$ – Yemon Choi Oct 30 '14 at 22:26
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl "My impression is that only a pretty low percentage of the questions which get closed on MO are closed in error" -- I think I agree with that. "I think if people would cast close votes only when they are absolutely sure that there is nothing good in a question, it would probably be notably more difficult to keep the site on-topic." -- I think I (somewhat) disagree with that. But perhaps it would be best if we didn't pursue these generalities here and now, but simply focus on the question at hand, whether it was right to close this particular question. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Oct 30 '14 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ The point is not to be absolutely sure, but to use your own judgement. If people are copying the opinion of other close voters, it effectively lowers the threshold from five votes to one. $\endgroup$ – Emil Jeřábek Oct 31 '14 at 11:05
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    $\begingroup$ I voted to close because I thought MSE is the right forum for the question, and it already exists there. I commented on that thread but I've been distracted by other things the last few days so I haven't returned to it. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Budney Oct 31 '14 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ @RyanBudney I had discussed with you about it and I have removed the post from MSE under your suggestion. And you removed your comments too after that. So I was under the (obviously wrong) impression that the issue you held is solved. At least you should let people know the whole story, not to create misunderstanding again. $\endgroup$ – Troy Woo Oct 31 '14 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ Could you give me a link to your deleted thread? I'm confused as to what happened. I don't remember what you're talking about but the past few weeks have been hectic for me so maybe I've just forgotten. When I look at my history at MSE I can't find that old thread. The address might be in one of my browser histories, but that might take some time to find. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Budney Oct 31 '14 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ Well, the question was sitting at MSE unanswered for two months and the migrated version is just sitting there now. Meanwhile I haven't heard any compelling reason for why the question is wrong for MO. (Troy should have said when he first posted at MO that it was already at MSE but was unanswered for a long time; crossposting is especially frowned upon when it goes unmentioned.) Is there some easy solution to the problem that makes it somehow inappropriate for MO? At this point I have my doubts, and think that Troy might try asking at MO again, pointing to this meta thread. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Nov 1 '14 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ @RyanBudney I'm sorry, but I really fail to see how your last comment is constructive. If it's "pretty basic", then perhaps you could show Troy Woo the light at MSE, perhaps with a few well-chosen hints? On the other hand, just because you yourself can't muster enthusiasm for it doesn't strike me as a good reason for closure at MO. I have to say that I'm a little skeptical that the problem is as easy as you seem to be implying here, but if you can't be bothered to explain, is there some good reason why someone else at MO shouldn't take a crack at it? $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Nov 6 '14 at 2:19
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    $\begingroup$ The question probably attracted downvotes because you didn't elaborate your thinking on the question. $\endgroup$ – user 170039 Nov 6 '14 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ You normally get much more positive feedback when you explain why you are interested in the question, what you have tried, what are the obstacles, etc. as if you are explaining it to a colleague. MOers are typically more sympathetic to questions when authors demonstrate their own effort to find a solution themselves. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Nov 15 '14 at 8:01

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