There has been a reduction in "traffic," but not nearly as much as I anticipated. This chart is maybe a few days behind a fast-moving situation, but I find it somehow comforting that math "goes on." We haven't even yet descended to the annual Christmas lull.

Yes, I know, this is not a question, just a comment. To turn it into a question:

Q. Is MathOverflow more resilient than other StackExchange sites, or are they all only seeing a similarly slight reduction in activity?

Added 17Apr2020 at @GeraldEdgar's request, a different and perhaps more relevant chart:

An apparent increase in activity since mid-March.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Some of us are still reeling from the ... uh, drama from last September (and before and after). I would be interested in that effect on participation in MathOverflow. Gerhard "Having Challenges Thinking About Math" Paseman, 2020.03.28. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 0:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @GerhardPaseman: "Having Challenges Thinking About Math"---Amen! Although most of us are still teaching math (but I know you meant math research). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 1:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Looking at the [publicly available] analytics on math.SE, comparing the activity since 1 March, to the same period 6 and 12 months ago, it doesn't look that different. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 9:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What counts as a "new visit"? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 12:37
  • 27
    $\begingroup$ I’m confused. Maybe it’s different in other parts of the world, but where I live, the main practical effects of the pandemic are that people are forced to stay at home, and shops, pubs, etc. are closed. If anything, I’d expect this to increase participation in all kinds of online fora, including MO. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 14:45
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek I have mixed expectations. Yes, more people stay at home, but some of them have to adapt to working from home using online tools. On MO, we can expect many people from academia - for people who do not have experience with that, starting with distance teaching is not easy and they might be putting a lot of time into that. And we should also consider other factors: 1. Some people might not have access to internet at home. 2. Some people might be forced by external factors to do other stuff. (Especially if they volunteer to help with some aspects of crisis. But also ordinary people.) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 5:59
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek: For many the pandemic has resulted in less free time rather than more. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 12:19
  • 15
    $\begingroup$ I echo Martin Sleziak and Joseph O'Rourke, but also add that those of use with caring responsibilities (e.g. I have junior school-age children) suddenly find ourselves doing a job and (in my and my wife's case) being teacher. There is also the stress of worrying about friends and family we cannot visit. This does add up to much less capacity for serious Mathematics, at least in my experience. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 15:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ My own participation was heaviest when I was working from home in the year after MO started. Actually, MO helped make that arrangement work for me! But now I have kids at home and less time. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 17:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I have mixed expectations too. I can imagine that the pandemic lowers people's motivation to do many things they usually do, including MO. And if people use MO to "take a break" maybe there's less they need to take a break from now. I personally am actively limiting my time on things like SE, news sites, etc... so that I can productively work from home, though I have no idea how common this is. $\endgroup$
    – Kimball
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 17:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Matheducators.SE has seen a large number of low-quality questions recently. I think a lot of people are sitting at home trying to learn math, so they hit an SE site on their phone and decide to ask a question, without understanding what's really the purpose of the site. $\endgroup$
    – user21349
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 14:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BenCrowell: That is my impression too for mathoverflow. $\endgroup$
    – user6976
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 15:55
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think many points above are well made. Without wishing to sound like I am gloating, in my case there is a certain element of in the past using MathOverflow as providing moments of respite from the day job, as a substitute for sitting and thinking properly about research since the day job wasn't giving me enough peace to do this. The pandemic means I am actually left alone to think about research, hence less MO from me. (Yes, my day job does officially claim I get 35%-40% of my time to do research. Those of you not in the UK should think of this as that famous "British humour") $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 14:03
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Maybe get a new graph, showing activity up to now. Has "diminished activity" continued? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 12:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A recent blog posts (on The Overflow Blog) related to this topic: How the pandemic changed traffic trends from 400M visitors across 172 Stack Exchange sites $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 7:06


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .