With the move to Stack Exchange 2.0, some people feel that there will be (have been?) many more first time users asking questions on MO which should instead be asked on MSE. Presumably, such a user had to make a choice between MO and MSE (they may crosspost, but I don't think this happens frequently).

Would it be OK to ask such a user why they chose MO over MSE when letting them know that their question isn't appropriate for this site?

Maybe the replies to these enquiries may suggest something we could do to minimise such behaviour.

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    $\begingroup$ This seems fine to me, although I am a little pessimistic about what feedback we would actually get, beyond "ok i just saw this is a math site kthxbai" $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ To be fair, I think that the new help page is still not in a good state and does not make the relationship between MO and MSE very clear; the old faq was much better. I see that the FAQ now exists at meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/203/… but there are no prominent links there. As I understand it, only the moderators are able to edit the main help pages; I hope they will get to that at some point. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ Many times people ask programming questions on Meta Stack Exchange. Sometimes we ask them why they came there. It's OK, IMO, as long s you ask politely. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe we can make the words $$\Huge\sf\text{Research Mathematics}$$ somehow prominent on the top of the site? $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's an interesting point. Almost everyone who is not a research mathematician (or physicist, computer scientist, etc.) hasn't the slightest idea of what research mathematics is! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ "Great, a site where I can research about my homework!" :P $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 5:23

1 Answer 1


I think if done in the right way (friendly and rather not if the OP seems already upset) it should be fine to ask this. How many will reply is a different matter but I think responses to this question could be interesting.

As it could be interesting to know what is more frequent:

  1. I did not see/understand this site, MO, is for research-level questions.

  2. I did see/understand the site is for research-level questions, yet I thought this question is one.

This could inform the choice on what needs to be (better) communicated in the most visible places where there is not much space available to communicate. (The text in the banner and the description in the list of sites, for example.)

OT comment: personally, I think that the current prominent description "for mathematicians" is not telling enough. I do not want to discuss this here, but might restart this discussion here on meta later (there was one on "tea" before the move).

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    $\begingroup$ There is a third, and much more horrible, option: "I did see/understand the site is for research-level questions, and that this one is not such question. But I wanted to ask real mathematicians." $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ Very true. But I consider this as a bit less interesting to know. (Although it could also be of relevance to know about this in order to perhaps advertise the presence of "real mathematicians" on math.SE more.) Now, there is even the still more horrible "I fully understand my question is not appropriate here, but I just do not care, since I thought somebody might still give me an answer." But then this is also still less interesting to know. :-) $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect that the most frequent one would be "I have no idea what 'research-level' means"... which maybe is merely a more blunt way to phrase your OT comment. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 8:06

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