I've learnt that mathematics is largely about people and their experiences. The mathematics and the people are entwined in a way that should be celebrated. So with this in mind, why does Mathoverflow dislike opinions? Opinions are one of the tools and manners in which mathematicians navigate the world (and the mathematical one at that- for example having opinions about the best approach to a problem or theory and so on). So why are opinions not ok here?

Feel free to tell me your opinion on the matter.


2 Answers 2


I'm finding the question a little bit vague. But as I understand it, the general principle, which actually applies to all sites in the StackExchange network, is to have crisp and to-the-point question-answer interchanges based on facts (verifiable if possible). In fact the software is designed to avoid long, rambling discussions or arguments.

How this plays out in practice is site-dependent. We occasionally have for example questions that ask for advice (on co-authoring papers, say, or textbooks for a certain course). Some of those remain open, some are closed. It's hard to say exactly where the dividing line is, but one factor may be asking questions based on personal experiences (hence factual) as versus others which are primarily opinion-based.

Echoing the question of მამუკა ჯიბლაძე (Mamuka Jibladze), it might be easier to address this question with actual examples in mind. I actually disagree with the assumption that MathOverflow "doesn't like" opinions, but how we deal with them... it depends.

(And now I see Martin gave an example in response. I think the community response is consistent with what I explained above. It seems a hard question to answer [define "fruitful" and "how often" -- many people here think about mathematics all day long].)


I concur with Todd in this. You will find an enormous amount of opinions on MO. People that ask and answer questions within the general guidelines of the site are granted enormous leeway to express opinions.

I think problems arise when questions only state or are after opinions. That's not what the site is about. You could ask the question of why the site was designed that way -- quite a lot of effort has been devoted to answering that question already. But in the end, the site was set up to ask questions where answers are either (1) already known or (2) one expects can be readily worked-out by people in the area.


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