A recent popular question asks about the status of a certain list of open problems. The OP answered his own question within 13 hours of asking it, and has now edited his answer 26 times, so that it is always on the front page. The OP discloses that he co-moderates a blog, and is gathering information for the blog. To me, this question/answer combo would be much more appropriate as a blog post or website, than as a mathoverflow post. I feel that mathoverflow is best when questions have an answer that can reasonably be believed to be fixed in time, rather than an answer that must be edited over and over again as problems are checked off the open problem list. There was another example years ago, and I held off on writing a giant CW answer that would be edited as problems were solved, because of this concern. Here is another example, where the question was edited 14 times as the OP learned more and more properties, and no satisfactory answer was possible, because it's impossible to enumerate all nice properties.

My questions are:

(1) Is the current question about Stanley's 1999 list appropriate, given that the answer will need to be edited in perpetuity to remain a correct answer in future years?

(2) In general, should we vote to close when we see questions like the three linked above, which require a zillion edits to create a big list?

Note that, when it was a question about the best LaTeX editor or a question about tools for collaboration, the community decided it would be better to have a new question to get updated answers, rather than constantly reviving the old question.


1 Answer 1


I think the issue is more of edit distribution over time, combined with my interest level in the subject. I think the list of the problems from Stanley is good, but as it does not hold my interest for long, I am more aware of the post "being in my way", and pushing other content to the side. I won't put it on an ignore list, and I will tolerate it more when the updates are less frequent.

I tend to contribute material from a cell phone, so I don't have a convenient preview and thus have to make several successive changes to a post of mine, some of which get collapsed in the edit history to a single edit. So I expect and tolerate in other posts a flurry of initial edits, followed by a near exponential drop off as things stabilize, in post submissions. However, for some things where results of an ongoing computation are reported for something that holds my interest, then I hope for periodic updates.

This might be a feature request in disguise: for each question post, allow an alert factor: if I follow the question or associated answers, set the alert factor high so that I get info on every update, while if I prefer not to see it casually, I set it lower so that I am not informed of edits until a day has passed since I was last informed. There are other settings that may be useful, and it should be like a form of favorites list that could be done with browser side scripting.

Gerhard "Don't Bother Me, I'm Reading" Paseman, 2020.01.08.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ While such feature requests as you suggest would be welcome, it's very clear from past feature requests that the SO designers believe everything about sorting and notification is perfect, and will not consider any modifications. $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 18:00

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