In its relatively early days, MO was an organic and dynamic website ā€” it encouraged active discussion among its members, that in almost all cases was extremely fruitful.

But now, even if a similar question was asked over 10 years ago on another forum (typically MSE), a MO question is closed by the MO rules police.

This turns MO into a cemetery of mummified answers instead of an organic place to interchange ideas.

There is no basis for presuming that a similar question asked 10 years ago on another site is not worth re-asking on MO.

I strongly feel that the MO rules police have way too much sway and need to be declawed.

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    $\begingroup$ Is this purely hypothetical, or do you have an example of a post being closed here because of a similar question on mathstack ten years ago? $\endgroup$ Mar 31, 2023 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ "There is no basis for presuming that a similar question asked 10 years ago on another site is not worth re-asking on MO." Are you referring to questions about, say, high-school algebra? While these may be on-topic at Mathematics Stack Exchange, these would be off-topic at MathOverflow. $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Apr 1, 2023 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ Declawing is a cruel mutilation of innocent animals and should not be suggested even in a jest. $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2023 at 6:33
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    $\begingroup$ Such a hypothetical question might be worth re-asking, if it is on-topic, and there's reason to think the situation has changed and new answers are now possible (for instance radical new discoveries/developments since). $\endgroup$
    – David Roberts Mod
    Apr 1, 2023 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't seem to be a question, nor even opening a discussion, as OP hasn't addressed the comments or answer. For this reason, I'm voting to close. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Apr 13, 2023 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ Iā€™m voting to close this because it is not a question. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Apr 13, 2023 at 23:18

1 Answer 1


"it encouraged active discussion among its members"

"an organic place to interchange ideas"

I believe that in these two phrases lies the answer to your question (and your mistake): MO (and the whole of StackExchange, for that matter) is a community for precise answers, which in turn requires precise questions. In particular, it is not a place for discussions (for which it might be more useful to turn to http://reddit.com/r/math, or other on-line communities). Remember that questions are usually closed if they are not precise, and that extended discussions in comments are discouraged. This tells you something about the intended purpose of SE.

It is true that at times I myself have felt the need to engage in free extended discussions; we have the chat functionality for this. Not the best solution, I agree. In this context, you have only three possibilities:

  • sigh and abide by the rules;
  • disobey the rules and face the consequences;
  • create a new on-line community for extended discussions on mathematical topics.

Since I am lazy, I have chosen the first. If you choose the third (and succeed in your attempt), you will be hailed as a hero by the whole mathematics community.

  • $\begingroup$ Each person defends their point of view as they consider (the owner of the post is a professor who is member of the site for 13 years, and he edits this post as New contributor on Meta of MathOverflow). Look at your last post on Meta (in my view as soon you explicited that your words were "to be taken as a joke" the storm of downvotes on your post seem stopped). $\endgroup$
    – user142929
    Apr 2, 2023 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ To me there is no clear-cut boundary between "precise answer" and "discussion". To me the answers provided for this questions mathoverflow.net/questions/442891/… for instance, seem like a discussion. There is no "precise answer" in this question. There are many answers, hence, a discussion. Yet, the question is allowed. $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2023 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ @MahdiMajidi-Zolbanin: The enforcement of rules on MO is less strict than on other Stack Exchange sites. Most of MO's users are researchers or advanced students, therefore mature individuals, and it is reasonable to expect that they have the wisdom to navigate among the rules intelligently and not push the boundaries too much. In other words, MO is not a kindergarten, and its moderators are not a police force. So far this arrangement has worked quite well. $\endgroup$
    – Alex M.
    Apr 9, 2023 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ Alex M. ā€” I believe that, regardless of your philosophy of compliance with the "rules" on MO, you are ignoring reality. Many years of reality. Consisting of many fruitful back-and-forth conversations expressed via the comments to an answer here. I am, by the way, not at all suggesting that the written rules be modified. Only that the overeager rules enforcers consider the possibility that they are doing more harm than good. $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2023 at 1:29
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's worth noting, somewhat in the spirit of @DanielAsimov's comment, that MO is what its community says it is, neither more nor less. There can be external attempts to guide it, but, if the community rejects or does not follow those guidelines, then they become false statements, not broken rules. SE as a whole is as you say, but that doesn't mean MO is or, to the extent that it is, it must continue to be. (I have my own, strong, opinions, but they don't matter except as they are part of an expression of the community's views.) $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Apr 14, 2023 at 14:14

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