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I am a bit hesitant to bring up this issue, but since it does bother me a good deal here goes. It has similarities with this other meta question but with a more objective edge maybe.

It is a fact that there is a handful of users on MO which have cumulated lots of questions with negative votes in recent years (some users have dozens each, not counting such questions that have been automatically deleted by the system). It is evident from the wording of those questions that they are not research mathematicians (vague or non-standard terminology, very little preliminary efforts and understanding, and so on...). They are particularly present under the nt.number-theory tag.

Since negative votes are a way of telling the OP that the question is not fit for MO, the least this handful of users could do is take it respectfully, that is learn from it and refrain from posting on MO similar questions (i.e. first post on MSE if unsure about relevance or elementary background).

As seen in recent days, some of these users keep on posting such unsuitable questions, somewhat polluting the nt.number-theory tag.

Is there something the moderators can do about it? Like automatically routing these users' questions on MSE? Or automatically hidding questions that get 2 or 3 downvotes in the space of some short time span?

Indeed, while simply not reading these questions is perhaps the best course of action to take, this can only be done if (a) one has become warry of certain user names, or (b) several downvotes and/or [On Hold] tag serve as a warning. And so I am wondering whether colleagues that are newcomers or non-regular users may get a bad impression of the site after innocently reading a few such questions in situations when neither (a) nor (b) can help them.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd think that (b) would send a clear signal, even to newcomers. Why don't you think so? $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Jan 1 '17 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ I do of course, but the downvotes may not appear soon enough to warn the first 5 or 10 readers, and there may well be newcomers to MO among those. $\endgroup$ – Archie Jan 1 '17 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ If a newcomer happens upon MathOverflow and decides to judge it by only 2 minutes of attention, there isn't much we can do if we do not get to pick the two minutes for the newcomer. I suspect the turnaway rate for your proposed scenario is less than 1% of that for all scenarios combined, and that retention and empowering are larger issues among those who may decide to make MathOverflow part of their routine. I fear trying to tune the system to help those few who have neither your a nor your b available will throw it out of whack. Gerhard "Some Moles Should Be Ignored" Paseman, 2017.01.01. $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Jan 1 '17 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ My own experience with the site (which is plenty) is that crackpot posts are identified and downvoted/closed very, very rapidly. Unless some evidence is presented to the contrary, I just don't see reason to worry about this imagined scenario. (I definitely do not support any measure that treats Math.SE as a dumping ground for low-quality questions.) $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Jan 2 '17 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Todd for clarifying. Should you decide to post this as an answer I'd accept it, if you see it fit. $\endgroup$ – Archie Jan 2 '17 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ I assume that, being now in the Stack Exchange networks, that temporary post bans for users who ask too many badly received (downvoted, closed, deleted) questions are applied also on MO. But I do not know details about how these post bans work. (As far as I can remember, it can influence mostly new users. A user who already gained some non-negligible reputation from their previous posts is very likely "safe" from the post ban.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Jan 2 '17 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ It seems like a good way to promote high quality questions from knowledgeable mathematicians is to encourage users to not just ask questions but to answer (preferrably non-CW) questions as well. After all, if someone is unable to give answers to (non-CW) Mathoverflow level questions, then that person will probably not ask the best questions here on Mathoverflow. If a regular user is encouraged to answer (preferably non-CW) Mathoverflow questions and not just ask them, then such a user will obtain a greater sense of whether a question would be good for MathOverflow or borderline. $\endgroup$ – Joseph Van Name Jan 17 '17 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps users who have asked several borderline questions but who have not answered any (non-CW) questions could receive a message saying something like "You have not answered any questions on this site yet. Would you instead like to give an answer instead of asking another question?" $\endgroup$ – Joseph Van Name Jan 17 '17 at 17:54

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