Where in the new help center can I find an explanation that the scope of this site is limited to research-level math questions? There is a close reason (part of "off topic") that mentions the help center, but when I look at the help center I cannot find the explanation that is claimed. The pages https://mathoverflow.net/help/on-topic and https://mathoverflow.net/help/dont-ask are completely generic for an SE site.

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    $\begingroup$ The /help/on-topic page is moderator-editable, the /help/dont-ask page is not. $\endgroup$
    – user35354
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ Huh, whatever happened to our old FAQ page? When MSE converted to the new help center the first section of the FAQ was automatically imported as the "on-topic" page. Perhaps the same can be done here too? (I'm retagging as bug since I consider not having a useful "on-topic" page to be one.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ In comments this was already mentioned in occassion. Relatedly, it might also be good to recosinder the description 'for mathematicians' of the site. However, this might be a different discussion. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ I just did a text dump of the old FAQ into mathoverflow.net/help/on-topic. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ I've also put the three missing pages up at tea.mathoverflow.net/faq.html, tea.mathoverflow.net/howtoask.html, and tea.mathoverflow.net/tips.html, just so everyone can see what we used to have. We're working on ways to incorporate this back into the help center. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ @ScottMorrison Ideally, we disseminate the existing FAQ into the various topics (what to ask, what not to ask, etc), then create special pages for you as needed for the rest of the content that's unique to the site. If you want to work out an outline of how you'd like that set up - we can get it into place $\endgroup$
    – Tim Post
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


The help center is a long term project that came into being because we found that many new users simply weren't finding the information needed to use the Stack Exchange system to their advantage. The FAQ gave good, general guidance but there's a lot of subtle quirks in how the platform works when you compare it to traditional forums, or even other Q&A engines.

The problem is, most of the information that would have been extremely helpful to them was more or less buried somewhere on Meta, where even advanced ninja searches often fail to turn up exactly what you're looking for. We went and collected the answers to the most frequently asked questions which are more or less vital when it comes to learning how the system works and used them to seed the help center.

Ideally, everything unique to the Math Overflow community found in your FAQ should be dispersed into various pages within the help center, and custom pages can be created as needed to fit your needs. We want to make it easy for people to find the stuff you think is vital for them to have a good experience here.

Some editing is currently underway by the moderation team, I'm sure they'll let us know what they need to get it all in order and we'll end up with a very useful resource.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Tim, great, thank you! I have to admit I haven't explored the help centre very much, so at this point I have little idea what is editable and what isn't. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Tim, actually, now I'm confused by your answer again. I just went through the help centre, and found that the only editable page is mathoverflow.net/help/on-topic. Is that correct? How are we meant to disperse the uniquely-MO content from our previous help pages into the help centre? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ @ScottMorrison It's per-site overrides, I'm setting them up now so you can edit the off topic, What I need is a list of them that you need to be editable, and any custom entries you might need created. $\endgroup$
    – Tim Post
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ @ScottMorrison You can now edit what's okay to ask and what's expected of users because we like it when they wear pants. Let me know if you need custom pages (new pages, blank) and in what sections and I'll see about getting them in. $\endgroup$
    – Tim Post
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @TimPost: out of curiosity, is the "per-site override" a privilege for MO or is it also, in theory, available for Math.SE? (No, I don't think we need them just yet; but we may have some pages that we would like to have in the help center in the future (after we hammer them out a bit more), such as one on how to effectively use MathJax, and possibly something about how to ask a good question.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 10:27
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    $\begingroup$ @WillieWong We can enable it where it makes sense, and there's a clear need. MO had a lot of very specialized content in the FAQ that needed to find a place in the various help center pages, and they just went through a major platform change so making sure that stuff can still be found is a pretty big priority. We prefer to not override pages unless there's a very clear need as those pages stop inheriting from the centrally curated collection, thus create more maintenance overhead. $\endgroup$
    – Tim Post
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @TimPost: perhaps one of the things that would make sense is to have a MathJax primers page in the help center that is automatically enabled for all SE sites with MathJax? (At least here, Math.SE, Physics, Cross-Validated, and I think CSTheory...) That page should be fairly static (so centrally curated still makes sense), and can be cobbled together from the existing Math.SE and the Physics.SE pages on the matter. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 10:41

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