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Is it possible to post a pdf file of a published article to MO as background for a question? I have searched the help for this. I know we can post specific citations to published articles, but this is very inconvenient if the published article is not publicly accessible online.


No one in the discussion above answered the posted question directly. The answer to the posted question seems to be No, a poster can not post a file on MO.

To clarify, I did not mean an inline posting. I meant a posting with a hyperlink to the file. I can arrange to post the file on my website at my institution, and then put a link on MO, but my website may not be permanent, or I may move, and then the link would come up dry. If we could post to MO, then presumably the file would last as ling as the question on MO --- they would both live or die together.

There are several perfectly good reasons that a literary reference can help a question. It is not required for the posting. It is background. It is a perfectly valid MO post.

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    $\begingroup$ Is there a particular reason against uploading the PDF file to some other website (e.g. your homepage) and providing a link in your question on MO? $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Sep 4 '13 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ There are also serious copyright issues here. Usually you have permission from the publisher to post your published papers on your own webpage and on repositories like the arXiv and certain institutional archives, but probably not on MO (and certainly you do not have permission to post other people's papers on MO). In general, I think that you can safely give references to the published literature here and assume that people have access to a library. But if your question requires reading a specific paper, then it probably is not a good fit for MO. $\endgroup$ – Andy Putman Sep 4 '13 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Andy: That's true but it's the same problem with images. One of the services MO secured when migrating is dedicated staff to deal with copyright issues and to handle takedown requests. So, as far as we are concerned, the isn't much to worry about until users start abusing MO and do excessive amounts of file sharing. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Sep 6 '13 at 14:21
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Perhaps the easiest workaround is to generate an image (jpeg, png, tiff, gif, bmp) of the part of the article you are interested in and insert that image. Many image manipulation software and some pdf viewers will allow you to do this, but the quickest way is perhaps to take a screenshot.


For posting links to complete files, you currently have to find your own hosting solution, which unfortunately leads to inevitable link rot. This used to be the case for images too but now SE exclusively uses imgur to host images inserted in posts. If there is enough interest across the network, there is a chance that SE would try to do something similar for documents.

I'm assuming this is material which is not available publicly anywhere. If it is published, either as a preprint or in a journal, then the best solution is to post a doi link or a link to the arxiv. That way, our robots will pick up the link and generate suitable backwards links to your question, when possible. We are currently working on easier methods to insert proper links to published and prepublished material but we don't expect that to be ready for a few months.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is certainly reasonable if only a snippet of the article is needed. -- But posting an entire article in this way is maybe less so ... . $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Sep 4 '13 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Stefan: Unless its a very short article, that sounds like an incredibly long question! Maybe I don't see what you have in mind... $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Sep 4 '13 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ I hadn't read the question as asking for a way to include the text of a paper into a question. Rather I thought the OP would like to attach a file to a question. But maybe I am wrong. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Sep 4 '13 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Stefan: I guess that might be what Fred meant by "background". In any case, for images SE uses a corporate account at imgur.com A similar solution would need to be found for full documents. There would also need to be sufficient motivation and interest for SE to pay for a corporate solution. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Sep 4 '13 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ As you mention images: is there a particular reason why images are not just treated like text, but need separate hosting? $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Sep 4 '13 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Stefan: They don't need separate hosting per se, though I wouldn't see the interest in storing a raw image file in a sql database. It's just easier to use an external service: imgur specializes in one thing and they do it well. However, there is a reason why SE doesn't allow images hosted elsewhere: image link rot. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Sep 4 '13 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ Saving it from now deleted post: AoPS allows users direct coding in Asymptote or Geogebra and uploads of reasonably small files too, which I find way more convenient. Is there any reason not to follow their path? $\endgroup$ – fedja Sep 6 '13 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @fedja: Sorry for the incidental deletion. Yes, we have been looking into such possibilities but it may take a while before we get around to this. You are welcome to start a technical discussion by contacting <moderators@mathoverflow.net>, that may speed things up... $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Sep 6 '13 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Francios The article is an AMS Memoir fromn 1964. These are currently behind a very expensive paywall. I posted a question about it and a reader wanted to look into it more deeply. I put it on my website and added a link to the MO post. $\endgroup$ – Fred Dashiell Sep 6 '13 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Fred: That's the best solution for now. You may want to cut and paste the additional links [DOI:10.1002/zamm.19650450430](http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/zamm.19650450430) and [MR0179580](http://www.ams.org/mathscinet-getitem?mr=179580) so that the reference is preserved even if your server dies. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Sep 6 '13 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ May you more explain on "Many image manipulation software and some pdf viewers will allow you to do this, but the quickest way is perhaps to take a screenshot"? I have a figure which I wish to embedd in my MO question. your help is very appreciated. $\endgroup$ – Ali Taghavi Jun 5 '18 at 12:36

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