# How to emphasize MathOverflow's best content?

There have been a few efforts to do this, such as the Best of MathOverflow thread. We could do more in this direction and this could have interesting repercussions. Vidit Nanda recently suggested that our front page still has too low signal to noise ratio to attract new experts in areas of need.

We are looking for fresh ideas. Ideally, such ideas would integrate well with the functionality of MathOverflow (and low burden on the MathOverflow crew). An interesting line of thought is to add more sophisticated editorial features and privileges in a similar fashion to the array of moderation features and privileges that users currently enjoy. Let's hash out some ideas here until we have some concrete feature requests to make.

• A problem. Suppose all the highest-voted posts are in 2 or 3 subfields of mathematics? Do we want to somehow insure a representative sample of broad mathematics in our list? And for fields with smaller membership, what if the "top" posts come only once a week or something? Oct 4, 2013 at 15:11
• The best content of MO is the questions and answers that have at most 1 upvote. Mar 23, 2019 at 3:24

I am attracted to Vidit's idea of (as I understand it) an alternate, software generated, front page, best.mathoverflow.net. It would be something like the "Top new questions this week" in the MathOverflow Weekly Newsletter, which are also software-selected and are pretty representative (it's the "Greatest hits from previous weeks" that does not show MO in its best light). But it would be continuous rather than episodic. Perhaps "Top (new?) questions in the last 24 hrs." One could exclude tags like soft question and career (which would remove "How do you not forget old math?"), exclude those "[on hold]," those not yet tested by some threshold of views, etc., etc. Over time the moderators could adjust the culling filter to remove the chaff and leave the wheat of MO.

If there are insufficient visits to the alternate URL during a trial period, the experiment could be abandoned.

Addendum. To address Dave Roberts' comment, here is how one entry in the MathOverflow Weekly Newsletter appears:

• An interesting possibility is that we could implement this ourselves. Using the API, a purely static HTML page (i.e. the hosting is trivial) can dynamically load posts and filter in any way we like. It could be prototyped and improved as a standalone project. We own the DNS, so we could subsequently point something like best.mathoverflow.net at it (although is wasn't too check there were no objections from SE before doing this). Oct 3, 2013 at 3:24
• And presumably said static page could have 'answer' links which go the page of the question on MO proper (and preferably with focus on the answer field).
– David Roberts Mod
Oct 3, 2013 at 6:39
• To flesh this out even more: Do we want just a list of top questions? A separate list of unanswered questions? Top questions separated by sub-areas? Oct 3, 2013 at 13:58
• Dear Joseph, thanks for the vote-of-confidence as well as the good ideas. Regarding the questions by @FrançoisG.Dorais, I'd say we at least want a "general" list of top questions. If nothing else, this would help us isolate those sub-areas where we need to get stronger. Oct 3, 2013 at 14:06
• @Vidit & François: I myself am more interested in a general list of top questions than I am in promoting specific areas. I think the latter might undermine the former; and conversely, the former might (partially) accomplish the latter. Top questions separated by subareas might be difficult. If you imagine doing that with the questions on the current front page, you would end up with each subarea populated with an average of 1 question. Oct 3, 2013 at 14:27

I would love a feature where anyone with sufficient reputation (whatever a good limit for this might be) can mark a question or answer as "of general interest".

Those questions and answers could then be put into a list, like the "featured" or similar lists, with the possibility of only seeing those in a certain set of tags.

• I think that's a good idea too. Since voting means "this was useful to me" the proposed mark is sufficiently different. There is a danger that the distinction is potentially confusing, so we need a mechanism that makes the distinction very clear. Oct 3, 2013 at 14:10
• The question is whether new experts are more attracted to general in terest questions or more to specialized questions. Maybe, we should sort with priority to underrepresented tags. Oct 3, 2013 at 17:52
• I downvoted, to indicate my feeling this is implausible to implement. The SE folks would not be interested in going this network wide, and it's beyond what we might be able to hack ourselves. Oct 3, 2013 at 23:32
• @ScottMorrison I am afraid you are completely correct about that. As for doing something like this ourselves, I feel that it would not be completely impossible (though the implementation would be rather different), but it would mean those experts picking out the questions and answers would have to spend more time doing so, which might not be plausible. Oct 4, 2013 at 6:53
• @MichaelGreinecker Good point. If anything like this was possible, it might then make sense to split into a "general interest" and an "interesting to specialists in the field". Oct 4, 2013 at 6:55
• @ScottMorrison I think this is testing the right boundaries of cooperation between us and SE. If we do it ourselves, all we need that is a way to eliminate repeated votes and check a reputation threshold? I don't think that's too much to ask. The question is whether this is the right project to do that with (and I can think of a few more important projects I'd rather spend that energy on). Oct 4, 2013 at 15:24
• @FrançoisG.Dorais, even with JavaScript hackery, it would be rather hard to restrict any kind of voting (thresholds or duplicates), in a way that anyone couldn't circumvent with a few lines of their own JavaScript. I don't think I'd want to allow that, and further I think the SE folks would reasonably complain. Our freedom to add JavaScript has not been well-specified, but there are restrictions on extra code that could compromise the site. Oct 5, 2013 at 5:18
• @ScottMorrison Yes, our contract only ensures client side modifications that do not compromise the site's functionality. In hindsight, a cooperation clause would have been more useful. I think there are other projects where we can push the idea of cooperation further. As for this one, I can think of a few reasons why this recommendation scheme should be on best.MO rather than main.MO and for it not to be directly attached to main site usership (e.g. this kind of detachment would eliminate confusion with voting). This idea needs a lot more hashing out... Oct 5, 2013 at 12:42

Expanding on the answers by Tobias Kildetoft and Joseph O'Rourke.

There is some kind of automatic Best Of:

Also, based on comments there are some StackApps, for example:

For more manual choice of questions (in the spirit of Editor's Choice or rather... Mod's Choice), I think the simplest way is to share links on G+ or Twitter (especially as sharing is already built-in).

• +1. I think your final point is right on. Users with G+, twitter or other social media accounts should be encouraged simply periodically to share MO questions or posts they find especially interesting. Feb 26, 2014 at 3:52
• @JoelDavidHamkins Sharing by users is one think, already used by some. Creating a MathOverflow account on Twitter / G+ (or rather reactivating one, see meta.mathoverflow.net/questions/1503/…) may be also beneficial (as it would be a channel only for MO, not personal "some math + political views + photos from trips"). Feb 27, 2014 at 11:50

Why not create a separate area with a sort of competition where anybody might nominate a question or answer for some nice tin token of honor? Everybody would then vote just as they vote here for anything else. It might be eternal or some sort of challenge banner with short transition period, personally for me such details are not that important. But I certainly have several favorite questions and answers which I would be happy to nominate for anything honorable.

• My opinion of this community at present is there would not be enough of a consensus to make such a contest meaninigful. However, you can start your own "Best Of" list. If several people do this, it would make sense to me to collate several of these lists. Gerhard "Linking To Them Also Works" Paseman, 2016.02.26. Feb 26, 2016 at 18:03
• @GerhardPaseman Thank you for the suggestion but I'm afraid I am too disorganized to do that. Most likely I would abandon maintaining the list after a short while. Also, this would not capture competitiveness component. As for the consensus - I don't think it is really needed here. We have voting, right? Leaders could change, new nominees might outdo old ones, etc. Feb 26, 2016 at 18:11
• We already have questions ranked by votes anyway. "Best of" should capture some other aspect. Why don't you make a list of MathOverflow question numbers and post that list here in a comment (assuming you have fewer than 50 questions to nominate)? That way someone can adapt it for later use should my belief prove wrong and a meaningful contest indeed develops. Gerhard "Bulletin Board, Not Filing Cabinet" Paseman, 2016.02.26. Feb 26, 2016 at 18:18
• @GerhardPaseman I can do that of course but this will be a personal list in any case, and that's the main point of my answer - to make it less personal and more community-shared. But to give an example - actually this answer of mine was inspired by re-reading the brilliant answer by Lubin to the beautiful, important, enticing and reasonably simple question "Formal group law over $\mathbb F_p$" by Daniel Hoffmann. Feb 26, 2016 at 18:30
• While I was enjoying it once more, a thought occurred to me - would not it be great to be able to somehow express my admiration by nominating it as something really standing out here on MO? Feb 26, 2016 at 18:31
• One way to do that is to edit your MathOverflow user page. There may be a way to place a lot of info (not just a link) on that page. Mine contains a character count at least as large as a comment. Gerhard "And That's On Two Accounts" Paseman, 2016.02.26. Feb 26, 2016 at 18:38
• Also, the Best of MathOverflow thread should still be open. Gerhard "Sometimes Slow On The Uptake" Paseman, 2016.02.26. Feb 26, 2016 at 18:40
• @GerhardPaseman Yes I know, but still I think both of these ways are different from what I have in mind here. Feb 26, 2016 at 18:43