In the past, I’ve seen instances where a user has been accused of ‘using mathoverflow as a blog’; the specific criteria for when this accusation is leveled vary, but generally the following are included:

  1. The user editorializes, often verbosely, on why their question/potential answers should be considered significant.

  2. The user asks questions rapidly, often seemingly without taking the time to do their due diligence for researching the answers themselves before bringing their questions here.

  3. The user frequently bumps their own posts back to the front page with seemingly trivial edits.

  4. The user will sometimes answer their own questions on the subject, often within days of asking (which seemingly confirms that they should have just given it a few days themselves before blurting it out here).

These obviously aren’t comprehensive criteria, but I feel like long time users here will generally know what I’m talking about and be able to identify it when they see it.

My question is:

Can we decide on a formal policy regarding this type of approach to MO usage, perhaps up to and including a new question close reason?

I am personally very opposed to MO being used in this way; it changes the site from feeling like a pseudodemocratic forum of knowledge where the best/most interesting ideas naturally float to the top, into a place where (to put it very harshly) cranks come to vie for attention/validation, or (to put it more mildly) individuals with sufficient mathematical maturity are encouraged to basically publicize their otherwise internal lines of reasoning for potential internet points.

This practice has frequently been covered by other close reasons, for example when the editorializing is obviously opinion based, but recently there has been at least one user posting in a manner I think fits the bill for ‘MO blogging’ without their posts being obviously opinion based. Their questions also don’t really seem ‘not research level’, but their abundance/idiosyncrasy/frequency of edits/time to (sometimes self-accepted) answer all make me feel like I have to go out of my way to avoid being tricked into reading someone's personal blog on math subjects they find interesting each time I visit the site. I don’t want to get into finger pointing here, I love math as much as the next user of this site and believe that’s a large part of the motivation for these posts, but would like to hear the communities wider consensus on the matter.

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the tag (on-topic) would be suitble here. And maybe (close-reasons) and (policy)? $\endgroup$ Jan 30 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ In case it is interesting for some people around here, there is this discussion on Mathematics Meta: Users using Math Stack Exchange as a de facto blog. (Of course, we should keep in mind that the two communities are rather different.) $\endgroup$ Jan 30 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ +1 because I agree with you that MO should not be used this way. And, I think the question is good and on-topic for meta. $\endgroup$ Jan 31 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ My view is that there is no need for any formal policy or new reason to close a question. I agree that your four example behaviors are undesirable, but if someone is a first-time offender, then it probably betrays a lack of experience rather than anything else, and one can hope that gentle advice in the comments can correct it. If someone ignores the advice and persists in the behavior, then I'm not sure that the problem will be solved by inventing new rules for closing posts and aggressively enforcing said rules. Too much policing can also cause the MO ethos to deteriorate. $\endgroup$ Jan 31 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ Are these questions/answers well received? Why don't they get simply downvoted into oblivion if they are of bad quality? $\endgroup$ Jan 31 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ My understanding is that the number of reasons to close a question is limited, and I don't think this is worth getting rid of any of the existing ones. $\endgroup$
    – Will Sawin
    Feb 1 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ In practice these questions are quickly closed, aren't they? Is there a need to formalize this? $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Feb 1 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Nemo Do you have an example of that happening? $\endgroup$
    – JoshuaZ
    Feb 4 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ I am certainly guilty of 4. It happens quite often that I seem to be stuck somewhere, then I force myself to turn this into a precise question and afterwards an idea appears. I think this is more common and maybe not even a bad thing. $\endgroup$ Feb 6 at 10:37

1 Answer 1


My suggestions on how to deal with this behavior, possibly opinionated:

  • While some basic motivation for questions is expected, 'editorializing' in the way that you state is bad. Voting to close as "needs more focus" is not enough: we should edit the soapboxing out ourselves when we notice it, and do it quickly, since the author is effectively spamming advertisements and stealing attention from other posts.

  • We can invite the author to refrain from frequent trivial edits in the comments, and flag the question for moderator attention if this becomes a pattern. Only moderators can lock posts.

  • For questions that are not well thought out, the intended solution is the downvote button. We should use it more often. Remember, the tooltip of that button is "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful", and you don't need any justifications or comments for downvoting.

  • If these questions are well received by the rest of the community, consider the possibility that there is something wrong in your assessment. I cannot identify the user(s) you are complaining about, so this is just some general advice.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for "If these questions are well received by the rest of the community, consider the possibility that there is something wrong in your assessment." $\endgroup$ Feb 4 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ Hi Federico; I agree with the majority of your suggestions here. As to your last point highlighted by @StanleyYaoXiao they aren’t well-received; there was a post made yesterday that’s currently sitting at -5 with no upvotes, but with only one close vote (not mine). The user just sort of ignores it and keeps on posting usually, although today has been pleasantly devoid of additional posts. $\endgroup$
    – Alec Rhea
    Feb 5 at 3:38
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    $\begingroup$ @AlecRhea if a user is regularly getting their questions downvoted to -5, the stackexchange system will hand them first a question rate-limit, then a question ban in fairly short order. $\endgroup$
    – mbrig
    Feb 5 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ @mbrig They aren’t routinely that poorly received, although they are typically negative in total score and occasionally closed by the community; as of yet no automated punishment seems to have been meted out. $\endgroup$
    – Alec Rhea
    Feb 6 at 9:19
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    $\begingroup$ This might be a different perspective from yours, but "negative in total score and occasionally closed by the community" definitely means "poorly received", in my view. $\endgroup$ Feb 6 at 10:39
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    $\begingroup$ @FedericoPoloni: I don’t think Alec is suggesting they aren’t poorly received — they’re just not poorly received enough to receive the automated pushback that mbrig describes. $\endgroup$ Feb 7 at 19:10

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