The subject of this discussion are questions on "open problems" on MO. There is an existing policy on "open problems" reproduced from the (old) FAQs, which involves an tag.

The motivation for starting this discussion are comments on said post, various users have expressed concerns related to the existing policy or at least the way it is described. This description is now also somewhat more visible as it essentially became (and naturally so) the description of the tag.

Answers could take the form of approving what we currently have, basically approving but suggesting minor modifications, suggesting major changes, and so on.

This concerns primarily the description of the policy, but discussion on how things are or should be handled in practise are also welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ If anyone solves the Riemannian hypothess with the help of MO, all proceeds from the CMI go to Anton ;-) $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jul 4 '13 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ I have a somewhat related question about phrasing: why not change the FAQ from "MathOverflow is not the right place to ask open problems." to ""MathOverflow is not the right place to ask well known open problems." I now understand what's meant by this, and the following paragraph clarifies matters somewhat, but when I first joined I was confused whether already formulated conjectures (like mathoverflow.net/questions/84958) were frowned upon. $\endgroup$ – Brad Rodgers Jul 12 '13 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ @BradRodgers: thank you for your input. I intend to reactivate this discussion over the week-end. Either with a specific proposal of a text, or with some follow-up question I might have in the process. I intend to address the point you raised in doing so. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 12 '13 at 9:38
  • $\begingroup$ @BradRodgers: this is just to let you know I posted the announced draft in case you are interested and would like to provide some feedback. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 14 '13 at 22:27

I thought the policy was the following, and I continue to think that it should be the policy:

  1. Questions asking about famous open problems are typically closed
  2. Questions that turn out to be less-famous open problems, but still well-known to experts, are answered by giving a reference to somewhere that the openness of the problem is discussed.
  3. Questions which turn out to be hard but are not previously well-known are on-topic and encouraged.

So basically "I like this problem and no one I've asked can answer it" is great but "Every expert in subfield X has thought about this problem and gotten stuck" is bad.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the contribution. I almost completely agree with this. An small issue I have is the phrasing "about famous open problems" I think we basically mean the same thing, but the formulation could be misinterpreted as saying that every question about a famous problem is not good, which I think is not the intent. Since focused/speciliased questions about famous open problems should be welcome, in my opinion. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 4 '13 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that we mean the same thing, but I wasn't sure how to phrase it so I just weaseled with "typically." Good precise questions related to open questions are rare but welcome. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Jul 4 '13 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ I am not quite sure who is notified by what, so I comment here that I put up a draft for the open problem section of the revised faqs (as an answer here). I would be happy if you would provide some feedback. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 14 '13 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ Edit idea: 1) If you pose a famous open problem as a question, it will be closed. 2) If you pose question which turns out to be equivalent to a less-famous open problem, then a typically answer will discuss the openness of the problem and provide pointers to the literature. 3) Questions which turn out to be hard but are not previously well-known are on-topic and encouraged. 4) Good precise questions <b>about</b> open problems are on-topic. The open-problem tag should be used in this case, alongside with other appropriate tags for the question. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 21 '13 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ And at the end: So basically "I like this problem and no one I've asked can answer it" is great but "Every expert in subfield X has thought about this problem and gotten stuck" is bad. I think that Noah Snyder's answer, with minor edits, is concise, clear, and not unfriendly. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 21 '13 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a bit hesitant to edit an answer this late in after people have voted, but I agree completely with @DanielMoskovich's rewrite. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Jul 21 '13 at 6:02

I think that we should explicitly welcome open questions.

I mean this, first, in a narrow sense. Namely, every mathematician hopes that the questions on which they are currently working---whether for their dissertation or a later project----is an open question. These open questions come in all types, some interesting, some difficult. Let us welcome them here and give them our attention and consideration. I suspect that with the talented people we have here on MO, many of these questions will find an answer. This is a sense in which I think that nearly everyone already agrees on the matter.

But second, in a wider sense, I think that it would actually be good for the site for us to encourage people to ask open questions of all sorts, including very prominent ones. Surely there is a continuum of open questions ranging from very easy ones up to the more normal MO questions and on up to the famous open questions. There already are some very interesting open questions on MO, such as the question on polynomial bijections from $\mathbb{Q}\times\mathbb{Q}\to\mathbb{Q}$ and many others, which I think of as highlights of the site, even though they are open. Let's build a collection of the best questions in mathematics! As answers, we can post information about resources, history, partial solutions, related problems.

I would expect that many of the more famous open questions could become some of the highest-voted questions on the site, a situation that would address the worry some have had about other softer questions currently occupying that role.

Imagine that the top-voted questions on MathOverflow were all the most popular open questions in mathematics! That would be great.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the contribution to the discussion. I agree about the first part. To some extent also with the second part, though I do not like the polynomial question that much myself. However, what I do not quite follow or perhaps understand is your proposal regarding very prominent open problems. So, someone should ask: is every even integer greater 2 the sum of two primes? And, then somebody replies this is known as Golbach's conjecture and then we reproduce first some sort of Wikipedia page of it and then various ancounts on it. Is this the idea or somethig else? $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 4 '13 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see a problem with someone asking Goldbach's conjecture on MO. But they would look very foolish, in my opinion, to ask the question without mentioning that it is Goldbach's conjecture. So probably such questions would be correctly labeled in the question itself (and title). I don't see the need to reproduce a wikipedia page, and for this reason probably wouldn't vote up someone who did, but if someone wanted to do it, what is the harm? If we had GBC on MO, then if there were ever some partial progress on it or related matters, we might get an answer update. Wouldn't this work well? $\endgroup$ – Joel David Hamkins Jul 4 '13 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ We might want to distinguish two things, which in my opinion are quite different: (a) asking an open problem on MO and (b) asking (something) about an open problem. What I write above is what I understand under (a) (in this case done for Goldbach conjecture). Since you consider doing this as making one look very foolish, we might want to consider to disourage doing it (and perhaps also to close it when it happens). In brief I think we should discourage (a) but I have in principle no problem with (b), at least not when done in a reasonable way (I will elaborate on what I mean by this later). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 4 '13 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ I had meant in my "foolish" remark merely that such questions would be edited so that they would be properly described in the question and title, for example, as "Goldbach's conjecture". I don't think we should close such questions down. $\endgroup$ – Joel David Hamkins Jul 4 '13 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the clarification. But does this actually work? If somebody were to ask my question, so then it would be edited to "Is Golbach's conjectured already proved?" This then is first in a formal sense already type (b), so one could infer you agree (a) is not good, after all you suggest to edit it into type (b) and thus to effectively delete this type (a) question. But this particular one does not strike me as a very reasonable question to ask either. If it would be more specific I would have no problem though. This is what I mean roughly speaking with (b) in a reasonable way. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 4 '13 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ I think it would work well. Note that asking Goldbach's conjecture is not the same as asking whether it is already proved. And editing a question is not the same as closing or deleting it; sigh. Meanwhile, I would enjoy seeing more open questions on the main site. I really doubt that I know of them all already... $\endgroup$ – Joel David Hamkins Jul 4 '13 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps could you give the specific edit of my question you have in mind. Say, do you propose to leave the question as-is and just add this is also known as Goldbach's conjecture? Or, to edit it into: Do you know a proof for Goldbach's conjecture? Sorry for the many comments, but it is truly unclear to me how this should work well. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 4 '13 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ On the other matter: yes it is not the same, though in the end there is no effective difference between editing a question a lot and closing the original and reasking a new one. But, my point is, since you seem to agree that the question I mentioned should not be left as is, I do not see why you would be against discouraging, which is what I suggested (the closing was only parenthetical with an added perhaps), it being asked in the first place in this form. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 4 '13 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ I think I would prefer to just stand by answer, which is clear enough: I think we should explicitly welcome open questions. $\endgroup$ – Joel David Hamkins Jul 4 '13 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ I think we can welcome them but at the same time have a higher expected standard for questions asking open problems. I don't think the real issue is being an open problem or a "closed" problem. What is important is that it should be clear what the OP is looking for (what would be an acceptable answer?) and it should be possible to answer it in principle. For example, if someone directly asks for a solution to a "closed" problem like FLT would that be fine? I don't think so. It would probably get closed as too broad or unclear. I think same applies to open problems. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 4 '13 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ I am not quite sure who is notified of what, so I comment here that I put up a draft (as an asnwer here) for the open problem section of the revised faqs. I would be happy if you would provide some feedback. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 14 '13 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ I am quite leary of allowing open problems for two reasons: (1) Goldbach's Conjecture, Twin Prime Conjecture, Riemann Hypothesis would be like opening the floodgates to crank posts, and (2) attributions and credits could get very messy, especially with the damned point system muddying matters. Oh and (3) asking a famous open question is the easiest and laziest thing in the world; do we really want to upvote questions that take no thought up to the skies? Much better would be a kind of polymath divide-and-conquer approach, where big problems are broken down to smaller ones in an organized way. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Jul 15 '13 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ I concur with Todd. Even for something which isn't a crank magnet, like "does ${\rm H}^\infty({\bf D})$ have Grothendieck's approximation property?", I think asking the question without showing any sign of being able to contribute meaningfully is unhealthy. $\endgroup$ – Yemon Choi Jul 15 '13 at 19:52

Second draft (please see my other answer for context):

What about open problems?

It depends on what is meant by an open problem: here, we mean a problem which is well-known to be unsolved and very hard. Questions for which you simply do not know the answer are not the issue, as those are the norm on MathOverflow.

On the one hand, a question which simply states a famous open problem will often not be well received. If you mainly want to record some open problem, this site is not the appropriate place: you may do so at the Open Problem Garden, for example.

On the other hand, questions that touch upon a well-known open problem are certainly welcome, as long as they follow the general guidelines for asking on MathOverflow [[comment: perhaps placing a link here to the guidelines would be a good idea]]. Nevertheless, when asking about an open problem, you should mention that it is known to be unsolved. In this case, please use the tag, in addition to other appropriate tags.

Most importantly, please remember that MathOverflow is a question and answer site: the prototypical question is posed under the assumption that some other user will be able to answer it. This principle also applies to questions about open problems. For example, the community will usually welcome inquiries on partial progress, results in special cases, etc.

What if my question turns out to be a well-known open problem?

If you ask a question which is widely known to be unsolved, someone will typically point that out and provide references to the relevant literature. In most such cases, this is the best answer one can expect. At this time, you can add the tag to your question. If you then have more detailed follow-up questions, feel free to ask them in new posts.

  • $\begingroup$ For extra clarity, I would start the second paragraph by saying "It is welcome that questions <b>that touch on</b> (well-known) open problems are asked..." $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Jul 20 '13 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, Todd Trimble. I changed it in the way you suggested. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 21 '13 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ Is the final text supposed to feature all the italic text as it is now? It seems to me that so many transitions in and out of italic either confuse or desensitize the reader. $\endgroup$ – Ricardo Andrade Jul 21 '13 at 0:10
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    $\begingroup$ With all due respect to quid, and to his/her energy and devotion to the clean running of this site, I might suggest that a native speaker of English have a hand in crafting draft statements. (The English here is actually pretty good; just needs a little tightening here and there IMO.) I would agree with Ricardo that it might be good to use emphases just a little more sparingly. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Jul 21 '13 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ I gave a shot at rewording and reorganizing the draft above. I am not sure if it is actually an improvement over the previous version. Feel free to make use of any part of my modifications or to discard them. Please take into consideration that I am not a native English speaker. I do hope someone whose native language is English will go through it. Finally, I also left some comments between [[...]] where I was unsure what to write. $\endgroup$ – Ricardo Andrade Jul 21 '13 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ @RicardoAndrade: thank you very much for the improvements. Regarding the first comment, personally, I do not think it is too harsh and it also matches reality. Regarding the link, yes, it would be good to have this information available. Depending on how this is integrated in the end in the general documentation the general information might appear just above or around this text. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 21 '13 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: It was my pleasure. I hope my changes are useful. $\endgroup$ – Ricardo Andrade Jul 21 '13 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble: I agree regarding the language problem and the first draft to which I refer for context even made this explicit. The 'problem' is that it seems to me there are not many people willing to write anything general for MO. The feedback to the moderators' 'help improve the documentation' question is almost non-existant, the one to the 'help improve tagging' too (there are still so many unwritten tag-summaries). I would certainly be happy if someone else were to write a final (or new) draft. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 21 '13 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ @RicardoAndrade: in my opinion the text is better readable now. Also the emphasis was in retrospect overused; this was somehow an overcompensation from the first draft and some feedback there. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 21 '13 at 9:20
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: I don't know about other people, but I am personally a bit fearful of messing with the documentation. A few reasons: (1) I don't even know where to start; (2) I am less familiar with things after the move to the stack exchange network. The tag summaries are a task that seems more approachable, and I plan on working on them as soon as I have some time. $\endgroup$ – Ricardo Andrade Jul 21 '13 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble: I am a bit at a loss now what to do. No native speaker of English seems willing to provide any input. (For the first draft I even notified three users that I think are native speakers individually...no visible reaction.) If you have time, could you perhaps have another look at this version improved by Ricardo Andrade and make further changes if you consider it necessary. Otherwise, I think I will submit this draft to the moderators; they could than also further polish it (if they want it at all). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 24 '13 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ @quid: thanks for the heads up. I personally believe the present version reads well (and it also reflects what I personally believe are the 'right' general guidelines). Notes: the sentence that begins "On the one hand..." does not sound too harsh to me; it seems to simply state the fact of the matter (as it was on the old MO, anyway). Also, the link to guidelines at the indicated spot is a good idea. Just consider this one lone native English speaker's opinion: I like it and think go ahead and submit it for the moderators' consideration. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Jul 24 '13 at 23:58
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddTrimble: thank you very much for the quick reaction and the positive feedback! I will post it in the other thread soon. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 25 '13 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: It seems this has not yet been incorporated into the help center. Do you know what the current status is? I am asking because this section of the help center is somewhat out of date, and even has a broken link to meta.mathoverflow. $\endgroup$ – Ricardo Andrade Nov 10 '13 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ @RicardoAndrade I posted this end of July as an answer, in the dedicated thread meta.mathoverflow.net/a/540/9072 I do not know why it was not (yet) incoporated. I think mainly it is lack of time of moderators (various trivial improvements/corrections also did take a long time to happen or did not yet happen, such as the link you mention, which is mentioned in another answer of mine there) as opposed to disagreement about the content. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Nov 10 '13 at 12:59

I have an alternative proposal, which, however, requires software changes.

Maybe we could have a question status "Famous open problem" to parallel Community Wiki. Asking such a question does not give reputation. Maybe instead it gives a silver badge for writing a few of them which have a minimum of 10 upvotes each; but otherwise it doesn't give badges either. This sounds to me like an optimal use for the "badge" system. It can be answered by pointing to references, relevant progress, etc. Perhaps answers DO give reputation.

Other questions (say questions ABOUT open problems) can link to the "famous open problem", and maybe this information can appear alongside their tags.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is very unlikely to be implemented. It seems that SE's view is that if a question deserves to be up-voted then its author deserves reputation. See the future of community wiki and Andrew and my comments there. Restricting CW questions to moderators was partly a result of abusing CW for decoupling giving reputation from votes. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 16 '13 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ You are suggesting a feature to keep questions that would be considered off-topic and closed without the feature and I don't think they are going to like it. They don't want questions which normally would get closed get heavily up-voted because votes are decoupled from reputation. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 16 '13 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ I actually disagree quite strongly with what it says there (but I'll say so here): CW is very important. For example (this happened a few times) there is an answer, and it's correct, but it's horribly phrased. I could edit that person's answer, and annoy them tremendously, or I could paraphrase as my own answer, and click CW. The CW option prevents there from being hard feelings. And there are analogous situations. I actually think CW has done a great job on MO, and I hope SE will reconsider, and will consider options like "Famous open problem" as well. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 16 '13 at 5:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh Thanks for your comment! I'd argue that the questions, which would previously have been off-topic and closed, perhaps provide a good organizing functionality; but with an entirely different status from "regular questions". Namely, linking other questions to them provides information more useful than tagging, and they provide a repository for information on the status of the problems. Perhaps these things are unique to mathematics... Maybe they only make sense for MO, I don't know... $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 16 '13 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ I understand your reasoning, however, remember that in their view, it is completely fine to edit any post by default. In fact, it used to be explicitly stated in the faq that if someone is not comfortable with their posts being edited then SE sites are probably not suitable for them. MO has been following its own rules and I don't think that is going to change unless MO wants it to. However, I think it is going to be very difficult to convince them that a feature like what you suggest is useful. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 16 '13 at 5:49
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    $\begingroup$ ps: IMHO, the root cause of many of these issues is that votes try to represent two different concepts in one: 1. I am interested in this question, 2. I want to award the author for writing it. Same issue with CW: 1. easy edits by low-rep users (which is obsolete because of the new suggested edits functionality), 2. Author of the question doesn't gain reputation, 3. Authors of answers don't gain reputation. It seems to me that from SE's perspective, reputation is not very important, it is there just to make the system work. But many users tend to take it more seriously than that. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 16 '13 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ It is possible for moderators to CW-hammer a question and manually revert the wiki-status on individual questions. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Jul 16 '13 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh That is a very good point. But maybe they can be convinced, if enough people agree. In principle, ignoring practicalities for the moment, does the proposal make sense to people here? $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 16 '13 at 7:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: the MO faqs too said this regarding editing, I would not say that the "MO rules" are that different here. To Daniel Moskovich: please note in your example it was relevant to give an answer in CW; in this or related discussions SE acknowledged the relevance of CW for answers, and it is (thus) still possible for users to make their answers CW. (Though, personally, I do not see the relevance of CW in the specific ex. you give, OP of other answer coudl still (or even only then) be annoyed and if the rewrite is seen as enough of improvement by com. you should get the pts for it). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 16 '13 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ Finally, AFAIK, there are very very few CW questions on MO that are/were maintained by OP or somebody else in any relevant way. The idea of having things on MO that are maintained over a relevant period of time does not seem very feasible too me, for the very simple fact that must do not do it, they ask and pay attention for a while, and that's it. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 16 '13 at 8:52

The following is a draft [Added: please see my other answer for the current version, the draft itself here is obsolete] for a contribution to the 'What about open problems?' of the revised documention of MO. My aim was to interpolate somewhat beteween the two points of view given in the two answers, yet giving somewhat more weight to the one that had more support.

The intent was also to stress more what can be asked or done than what cannot, not only but also as it should be rather on the 'what can is ask' page than on the 'don't ask' one. Not sure how well I suceeded though.

I welcome feedback of all kind. Both regarding content, form, and details like the language (the goal is this will make it into the official documentation in one form or another so thus seems relevant). In particular, for the latter feel free to edit directly. (Also, for the former if you find it more convenient, but perhaps please leave a comment what you changed, so that it is a bit clearer than just from the revision history who thinks what).

To ask questions related to a (well-known) open problem, that is a problem of which you know that it (yet not its solution) is known at least to the experts in the relevant field, can be welcome. However, there are some things to consider, which are mainly consequence of general principles making a good question or a good problem a good fit for this site.

If you know that something is a (well-known) open problem, please, indicate this clearly in the question itself and provide some information or pointers to information on the context and status of the problem. In addition, please, use the open-problem tag (in addition to mathematical tags to indicate the subject). Otherwise, the unfortunate situation can arise that the only reply you get is something along the lines: 'This is a well-known open problem, see the following references.' This could be a valuable answer for you, had you not known it already, but since you know it already, it is likely not what you hoped for. Conversely, it can be frustrating for the person answering to spend time to provide you with information of which it then turns out you had already. Thus, please provide context.

This site is a question and answer site. Thus, the typical question should be of a form where you consider it as reasonably likely that it is answerable by somebody (at the time the question is asked). Therefore, this site is typically not a good fit for asking for solutions of a problem open since some time and known to most people most likely to answer it. Thus, if you know an open problem you consider as particularly interesting and you feel it is not sufficiently present in the literature or on the internet you might consider to contribute it on a site that collects open problems in mathematics such as the Open Problem Garden instead of asking it here. Or, you ask a related question that seems more answerable, such as a question on the current progress towards the problem, a question on known results in special cases, etc. (of course, always assuming that this information is both of interest to you and not readily accessible elsewhere; following the two general principles that you should try to ask only questions whose potential answers are of actual interest and value to you, and that you should try to look-up other sources of information before asking a question here).

A situation where you come across a problem that you, and possibly some colleagues around you, cannot answer but of which it is not known to you that it is also known to many others already is not what is meant by open problem here. A question on it is typically very welcome, provided it is presented in context and it is within the scope of the site (research-level mathematics) from a general point of you.

Added: the intent is to replace this text:

What about open problems?

MathOverflow is not the right place to ask open problems. You should post questions you're actually seriously thinking about. If you're thinking about a well-known open problem, provide some background and ask about something specific related to the problem, like "Such and such is a well-known open problem. So-and-so proposed this and that approach in the 80s. Does anybody know if this aspect of their proposal can be made to work under these circumstances?" If you want to contribute to (or view) a list of open problems, visit the Open Problem Garden.

If it turns out that a problem is equivalent to a known open problem, then the [open-problem] tag is added, and the question is converted to community wiki. After that, the question essentially becomes, "What is known about this problem? What are some possible ways to approach this problem? What are some ways that people have tried to attack it before, and with what results?" That way, the MO thread for the problem becomes a repository of resources related to the problem. Perhaps the answers could be organized by approach, with an outline of the basic approach, followed by a horizontal rule and a summary of what is promising about the approach and why it doesn't give a complete solution.

To join the discussion about how MathOverflow should deal with open problems, go to this meta.MO thread.

This is what the faqs said all the time (or at least since a very long time), and what also now is a part of https://mathoverflow.net/help/on-topic

In particular, this text is not a my opinion on how open problems should be handled but by contrast my attempt to write down how they are/will handled in accordance with the opinions expressed in other answers as well as in continuity with existing practise (as I see it), and also removing mention of procedures related to open problems until now mentioned in the faqs that did IIRC hardly ever happen like this in the recent and not so recent past (for example, I recall numerous questions where it turned out this is a well known open problem, but never was there any CW-ing or any attempt of creating anything like a resource).

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    $\begingroup$ quid, this is hard to read. One possible way to improve readability is to shorten and simplify sentences. Another one is to break it into sections emphasizing important points with bold and italic. E.g. A short introduction to what type of questions are suitable for MO, followed by sections answering the following questions: What is meant by a "well-known open problem" on MO?, Can I ask for a solution to a well-known open problem?, Can I ask about an open problem?, What can I ask about an open problem?, How to ask a good question about an open problem. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 14 '13 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the feedback. Regarding the introduction, I agree. But, the assumption under which this was written was that it would stay where it is, that is as a subsection of mathoverflow.net/help/on-topic so that this introduction would be present. Regarding the structuring: yes this is a good point. I am not sure if the format will allow to have many subpoints but still one could break it up into paragraphs regarding the subject you mention and highlight the key terms. Before I actually revise it I will however wait if there are some concerns voiced regarding the content. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 14 '13 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not clear on what the first two paragraphs are actually saying. But I think, in general, that these sorts of rules should be simple and not taken too seriously. So what Noah Snyder said, and then, if somebody violates them but it's still a good question, don't take the rule too seriously. I think this is actually what we have been doing. Longer-term, I'd advocate migrating or cross-listing certain sorts of open problem questions to more appropriate fora. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 15 '13 at 4:09
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielMoskovich: which "first two paragraphs"? I infer really the first two of the post: There always was a point 'What about open problems?' in the FAQs and this is still there. Please see mathoverflow.net/help/on-topic or follow the link I provided. This is not a new point, but a revision of an existing one. Likely I should have been clearer about that. Also, the above is IMO less strict than what we had, which started "MathOverflow is not the right place to ask open problems." and this caused some confusion, thus this revision. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 15 '13 at 10:05
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry... I meant the first two paragraphs after the horizontal line. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 15 '13 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielMoskovich: sorry for the misunderstanding. But could you say what you do not understand about the first two paragraphs? The first paragraph says, that some questins related to open problems are welcome and others not. The second says taht people should say if they know something is an an open problem (appearing in the literature). Via mentioning iit in the text and using the tag. The rest of it is only some explanation why this is important (which one might also drop). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 15 '13 at 12:08
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    $\begingroup$ @quid First paragraph: How to interpret "can be welcome"? What is actually being said? Welcome or not? Maybe rephrase... E.g. what Noah Snyder said, "1) Questions asking about famous open problem are typically closed. 2)..." is easier to read and to understand. I think the FAQ needs to be short, unambiguous, and clear- each sentence should say something whose interpretation is clear and unequivocal. BTW, thanks for this- this is a great attempt to improve the FAQ! $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 15 '13 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielMoskovich: thank you for the details. Re: 'can be welcome': the text continues with 'However, there are some considerations...' in other words 'they are welcome provided the follwing considerations are taken into account (if not then not)'. Re 'what Noah Snyder said': the "problem" here is that he said "typically" and I thinnk this was perfectly fine for a discussion among people that know the site as it was clear what was meant. However, as documented by my comment and his repsonse as a "standalone text" I would say "typically closed" is not really an unambigous formulation either[con] $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 15 '13 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielMoskovich: However, it is in retrospect true that my text is too long or 'wordy' if this is the right word. There is also the issue that I did not want to be too unwelcoming in the text either. An issue that is I think important is that te text in the FAQs must not be too strict and we just agree, sure we make exceptions. The point here is that this has the effect that some good new users that read the faq and take it as written might be unnecessarily scared to ask something, while those that would actually need to be scared more often than not do not read it anyway. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 15 '13 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ Why did someone downvote this (quid's text)? If you disagree with something written in it, please comment! $\endgroup$ – Daniel Moskovich Jul 16 '13 at 5:35

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