I asked the same question at SO meta and I was asked to repost here.

Preamble: I have a feeling that I am disturbing honeycomb by raising this question.

Now that mathoverflow.net is a part of the formal Stack Exchange network, do you think that Theoretical Computer Science SE should be merged into it? TCS, after all, is just another branch of mathematics. And both are targeting professionals and post-graduate level students.

Having a separate TCS SE site independent of mathoverflow is akin to having a Java programming site, when we already have StackOverflow. Not good. What do you think?

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    $\begingroup$ Why not merge all the SE sites to do with computers then? $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Jul 9 '13 at 11:14
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    $\begingroup$ I think the answers given cover the major points, but I do have to ask. "Having a separate TCS SE site independent of mathoverflow is akin to having a Java programming site, when we already have StackOverflow". Really ? $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Jul 10 '13 at 3:21

NO (but not because we don't do TCS here)

By your reasoning you might as well merge a huge subset of the SE network into Philosophy.SE.

Also, I feel that asking here but not over at TCS meta whether their site should be merged into ours is rather rude. This is doubly so in view of a quote from one of the original backers of the TCS site:

I'm one of the TCS folks who's been pushing the TCS proposal. not because I don't like MO (I do !) but because (as I mentioned to Greg Kuperberg on a different blog) it's getting difficult to sift through the flood of MO posts to find things more closely related to TCS, even with very aggressive tag filtering that I have in place.

If you read through the rest of that thread (and this one also), you'd see that it was never the case that pure mathematicians turned their noses up at theoretical computer science. Quite the opposite, some of the TCS folks felt that their community may be better served by having a separate, dedicated Q+A site separate from MathOverflow. While I am no judge for the actual content on TCS, based on traffic statistics alone it is doing quite alright as a graduated site on the SE network. So this will not be an instance like when the lights were turned off on Theoretical Physics.


  • The status quo is not a bad one.
  • MathOverflow will not change much even if we "merge" with TCS (based on traffic statistics the change to MathOverflow will not be so noticeable).
  • MathOverflow has never out-right rejected questions on theoretical computer science.

... there really isn't a reason for us to strongly prefer one or the other. But:

  • TCS will be strongly affected by this proposed merge.
  • And no-one seem to have asked their opinion.

So unless I am told otherwise, I will assume that the TCS people are happy with the status quo and tell you that NO, there is no reason from the point of view of MathOverflow that we should absorb TCS into this site.


First, let me state that I agree with what Willie has written: it is not nice at all to make such a suggestion about cstheory on MSO, neither here. If you want to discuss cstheory you should post on its meta not in other places. Moreover, you are not an active user on either of these sites so I am not sure you are qualified to express opinion on the issue. It is better to leave these issues to people who are actively using these sites.

Second, remember that an SE site is not defined by its topic but by its target community. We have argued about this kind of issues several times with people who are not active participants (e.g. shouldn't we merge MSE and MO?) and I should say I really don't understand why these people who are not actively participating on these sites feel confident and knowledgeable enough to make such major suggestions. It is amazing that almost always these suggestions come from people who are not active on these sites which is kind of annoying, even more so when they know that they shouldn't (as you did).

Now, these said, as a user (not a moderator on cstheory) I think there is a considerable overlap between MO and cstheory, and many theoretical computer scientists definitely feel that they are also mathematicians. But many theoretical computer scientists also definitely feel that they are computer scientists.

There is a considerable number of questions on cstheory that might not be very welcome on MO. Note that we interpret TCS in a broad sense:

TCS covers a wide variety of topics including algorithms, data structures, computational complexity, parallel and distributed computation, probabilistic computation, quantum computation, automata theory, information theory, cryptography, program semantics and verification, machine learning, computational biology, computational economics, computational geometry, and computational number theory and algebra. Work in this field is often distinguished by its emphasis on mathematical technique and rigor.

I personally don't have a strong opinion either way right now, I haven't thought about cons and pros. I also don't know how cstheory community would feel about this. It might be the case that cstheory community would be fine with a merge, so far we haven't felt a need to discuss it and right now I don't see why we need to discuss it other than to make the world fit into someone's mental picture who is not an active user on either site. If a user who is actively using cstheory suggests it and explains why a merge with MO can be beneficial for the cstheory community then we can discuss its cons and pros (on cstheory). Until then I don't see a reason to discuss this further.

  • $\begingroup$ Having many people who enjoy policying and interfering with things that are not their business because they are neither knowledgable enough about the topic nor actively participating in the site belongs to the drawbacks of the merge into the SE network... I wish the MathOverflow community all the best to successfully uphold their own way of doing things and their high quality standards. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jul 9 '13 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton, my answer might have been a bit harsh. I don't think it is a bad thing that people try to help make things better. I probably would have taken it more positively if this was posted on Theoretical Computer Science Meta and was supported with arguments why it would be beneficial to merge cstheory with MO. That would be more respectful towards users on cstheory. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 9 '13 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ If I go on some SE site X that I am not participating and without any good reason suggest that another SE site Y which again I am not participating should be merged with it because "I think so" I don't think it would be taken very positively by users on Y. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Jul 9 '13 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I was probably a bit harsh too, because I have seen certain things happen elsewhere that were not so good. However, it sometimes seems to me that some people are overenhancing what they personally think is good for SE, at the expense of the needs of the communities on the individual sites and the people who actually do the contributions that make each site valuable and this way of thinking I dont appreciate. I guess Graviton thought for some reason it is good for SE to merge the two sites. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jul 9 '13 at 21:56

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