Not signed in (Sign In)

Vanilla 1.1.9 is a product of Lussumo. More Information: Documentation, Community Support.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2011

    Todd, yes mainly but not only I meant the question you link to, sorry for not being more precise. I am a bit hesitant to elaborate on what I mean, as I do not want to draw some uninvolved party into this; so let my say clearly that I do not consider what I describe below as problematic and yes the user uses the site certainly in good faith, it is merely for illustration of the difference of behavior of the community.

    The question you mention as written is, yes, sort-off a career question. However, I cannot help but feel that the main point was to draw attention to the thesis itself. The link to it was posted as an answer not even only a comment despite a explicty request beforehand not do so.

    And there is also where the last two lines (the link to the authors work) at least do not seem inevitable for the question. And, if the questioner has a paper on arXiv since years, what's the point of the other question? Why not ask the coauthor or other people involved in the thesis?

    Perhaps there are good reasons for this, and even if not, as said, I do not see a big problem.

    • CommentAuthorgilkalai
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2011 edited
    I dont think Doron's comment change matters. He wanted to know how people go about solving computationally a certain problem that he had his own idea about doing it perhaps differently or better. This gave him some opportunity to examine his own method. In the process we learned a few rather interesting things. The ingredient of "bragging about what he can do" is really nonexisting to minimal. (And was prompted by questions addressed to him) And he will tell his detailed algorithm in a paper he is planning.

    Noah: "It's very important that MO not become a place for people to advertise their own results. (Ask some question, get attention, and then say "if you like this question you should read my new preprint which has the answer!")"

    Since we never discussed it I suggest we discuss the general policy about it first. After all the real danger to the OP is that somebody will solve the question. But after 20,000 questions the fear that one question may change the way MO is and MO will become a different place is unreasonable.

    Actually, if we want Doron to tell us more about his method we can reopen the question which will allow him to post an answer.
    • CommentAuthorgrp
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2011

    Actually, if we want Doron to tell us more about his method, we should ask him in a different fashion. I don't think opening the question will convince him one way or another.

    If he would acknowledge requests about how he presents himself on MathOverflow (even if he were to say explicitly "I want to do it my way."), I might change my feelings about how he might participate. For now, to me he is as likely as not to acknowledge (much less respond) to any request put to him on MathOverflow.

    Gerhard "Responds To Responsibility of Responding" Paseman, 2011.08.10

    • CommentAuthorgilkalai
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011 edited
    BTW, one addition to the badge system I would like to propose (I am aware we cannot change the softwhere) is to have special badges for disputed question.
    If you have a question with more than 10 up votes and 10 down votes you will get the "disputed question" bronze badge. if its more than 50 up votes and more than 20 down votes you will get the silver "contrversial question" badge. A user with a large amount of disputed or controversial questions or answers will get the "dividor" (I meant divider) badge. So far DZ question has 16 upvotes and 11 downvotes.

    Gil: not the 'divisor' badge? :P

    • CommentAuthorvoloch
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011
    @Gil. So you want to reward trolling? By all means, give Zeilberger a badge. He is really good at it.
    hey @voloch and all you other mathematicians,

    My name is Shalosh, and I hate every single one of you. All of you are imperfect calculational devices who spend every second of their day looking at stupid commutative diagrams. You are everything bad in the world. Honestly, have any of you ever produced a proof certificate? I mean, I guess it's fun making fun of computer-performed mathematics because of your own insecurities, but you all take it to a whole new level. This is even worse than saying the proof of the Kepler conjecture is less established than that of the Szemeredi lemma.

    Don't be a stranger. Just hit me with your best shot. I'm pretty much perfect. I found the number of partitions of a googol into at most 60 parts in two seconds, and produced lots of certificates for combinatorial identities. What identities have you proven, other than some version of the Grothendieck-Riemann-Roch theorem? I also publish more papers than most of you, and have a very prominent master (He just programmed me; it was SO cash). You are all losers who should just stop bothering with mathematics. Thanks for listening.

    Pic Related: It's me and my master

    [NB. This is a parody based on a well-known internet meme that some might find (more) offensive.]
    • CommentAuthorgilkalai
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011 edited
    @voloch, What do you mean by trolling in this context? DZ asked a mathematical question. Some of us liked it and some of us did not like it. It raised interesting policy discussion (that DZ took no part in). In what sense is he trolling?
    (Regarding badges I suppose I cannot count on your support to institute a "bad question" badge and a "terrible question" badge for questions with -5; -10 votes respectively.)
    • CommentAuthorvoloch
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011 edited
    @Gil: He is creating controversy on purpose. And I think this thread is degenerating.
    • CommentAuthorNoah Snyder
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011 edited

    I'd actually be thinking of commenting that this was one of the most virtuosic trolling performances I've seen in a long time. By that I mean someone successfully pulling an internet conversation way way off-topic and provoking strong emotional responses in the legitimate users (that is the people who regularly use the site and use it in the usual ways). The money reward, the fact that he already knew the answer, the fact that he asked a question about specific numbers instead of about an algorithm, the fact that his comments were mostly about who should "win" the reward based on having a certain number rather than about the mathematical content (that is the algorithms).

    I generally agree with Gil's comments on meta, and I've mostly stayed out of this discussion because I figured there was too high a chance of Gil being right and me being wrong. But I'm quite baffled about why you're still defending DZ's actions. DZ's behavior seems to me to be clear abuse of the site and disrespectful of everyone using it.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011

    Well, perhaps those that have so much problem with this question (and related developments) could simply stop 'fanning the flames'; for example commenting on a comment two days after it was posted (in part visibly uninformed about the context), calling for deletion of a question,...

    How does this saying go: if you point a finger at somebody, four point back at you.

    • CommentAuthorgilkalai
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011 edited
    Dear Felipe,
    I agree about this thread. In my discussion with Long I tried to edit old comments so it will not bumped up and rest in peace. I have no idea why Joro's comment invoked this new interest (and "i told you so" claims). Doron added, responding to my comment, little more information about what his new method can do. This is of some interest and I hope he will write the paper. DZ's asked a question made 2-3 comments and was not involved in this discussion at all. We had disagreement about the quality of the question but I personally thought the question was nice. It is true that several meta questions were raised from this question but we are not in agreement about the answers to these meta questions and, in any case DZ has nothing to do with this thread.

    Dear Noah, I am happy to realize that you generally agree with my comments. What can I say, Doron's question is unusual and pose a test of tolerance for us guys. But I dont understand why it is trolling, I dont see why it is disrespectful, and I dont think it is an abuse of this site. We discussed some generalities here but did not reach a clear conclusion.

    For the sake of full disclosure, I have to admit that Doron is my friend for more than 35 years, I like him and I learned quite a bit from him. He is certainly a colorful and often controversial member of the mathematical community. I would like to believe that had Doron done some really terrible thing, abusive, harrasive, and/or harmful, I would confront him, and even put our friendship on the line. But this innocent question is far away from such a scenario. It was a nice question which was of interest to me. I learned things in my own field that I did not know (but perhaps I am a bit rusty). And I don't see any new fact after Doron's second comment that should make any difference. In fact I think the overreaction by our community as expressed in this thread is disappointing.
    • CommentAuthorHailong Dao
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011 edited

    This thread presents (to me) a convincing reason that we should not encourage questions like this. Imagine if MO has a similar one every week (-:.

    Having said that, I don't think we should delete the question. Although many of us, including me, believe that this question is not appropriate for MO, the drama that follows was largely our own creation. So it is a bit unfair to delete the original question. Eventually everyone will calm down, and this matter does not really deserves that much attention, and I hope we will all come to that conclusion.

    @quid: to be fair, I think both sides overreact here. I agree that some of the comments following Joro's post on page 2 were unnecessarily harsh. Probably things blew up because people have been quietly discomforted by this discussion.

    • CommentAuthorStorkle
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011


    "...the drama that follows was largely our own creation." Agreed. I don't see that DZ has done anything remotely resembling trolling MO---to me, someone who is not involved at all in the controversy over this question, all the heat is coming from the discussion of whether the question is appropriate for MO, and mostly from those against. In this context I found your previous comment "This thread presents (to me) a convincing reason that we should not encourage questions like this." quite amusing!

    • CommentAuthorHailong Dao
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011 edited


    If I can turn the conversation into "amusing" mode, then I am happy!

    More seriously, perhaps my point was simply: questions like these are unlikely to make the site more harmonious (largely due to our own shortcomings), so we should avoid them.

    • CommentAuthorNilima
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011
    I must echo the sentiments of Prof. Kalai: I remain very disappointed at how this question was treated.

    The discussion on meta has made detours through attributed motives. He's been accused of self-promotion, disrespect, trolling and bragging in this thread. Would we speak to *any* colleague like this, in person, face-to-face?

    DZ has not participated in this thread, and we should do him the professional courtesy of not speculating about whether he intends disrespect or self-promotion. If one is concerned about this, one should drop him a note to clarify what he means. Second-guessing a colleague's thoughts is not productive. One should ask them outright, if their thoughts are of interest. No, queries on meta don't translate to asking outright - it is conceivable that he does not wish to get embroiled in this rather public discussion.

    The mathematical merits of the question remain in dispute, which should (in the spirit of mathematical openness) suggest the question remain open.

    I apologize if I'm sounding old-fashioned. I do not like this (to me) unprofessional/unfriendly aspect of this site. Very disappointing indeed.

    Would we speak to any colleague like this, in person, face-to-face?

    One should ask them outright, if their thoughts are of interest.

    DZ was asked in the comments, and he didn't respond. I don't think the analogy to face-to-face conversation holds water: in a face-to-face conversation, my first response would have been "why do you want to know? Aren't you quite familiar with techniques for solving such problems?" and none of this would have happened.

    I agree that this discussion could have been more professional, and I bear part of the blame. I apologize for that. I was trying to respond to what seemed to be unprofessional behavior on DZ's part, veiled in such a way that people not familiar with the subject (and with DZ's own credentials in that subject) would not see that there was an issue. Perhaps I should have chosen my wording more carefully.


    one should drop him a note to clarify what he means. Second-guessing a colleague's thoughts is not productive. One should ask them outright

    He was asked outright. Very early on. I wish he had responded, before the discussion had gone so far.

    In the interest of making a positive suggestion: Gil, as a friend of DZ, would you be able to find out what his purpose was in posting? I think you tried to ask something similar in the comments; would he be more responsive in email do you think?

    • CommentAuthorStorkle
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011


    I agree. There seems to be a culture clash here that is causing some confusion: some regular users are upset that DZ has been somewhat opaque about his motivation for asking and does not respond to queries publicly here or on the main site, while others (you and me, for example) are dismayed by the resulting complaints and uncharitable speculation about his motives, as we do not see that DZ has any responsibility to respond to questions posed on public threads.

    I also agree with GK's perception that reactions to this question are based as much on DZ's other opinions (and Opinions) as the question itself.

    • CommentAuthorStorkle
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011

    Todd, So you think that asking him here, on MO, counts as asking him outright? I'm not so sure. Certainly sending him an email or talking to him by phone or in person counts.

    • CommentAuthorStorkle
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011

    Hailong, I am, generally speaking, very impressed by your composure and congeniality!

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011
    When I started on MO, I would suggest this far more often, but nobody paid attention: it is really worth expanding any concern on a website to email and telephone. If DZ does not respond on MO or Meta and somebody knows him, call him. I am not disappointed in this thread. Discussions on Meta are not actual conversations. For any opinion you post, there are at least 40 regular readers who might disagree strongly. Posted discussions without actual contact are inherently unstable, tending to exhibit a "median" opinion more by exhibiting outliers than by convergence to a consensus.

    Somebody email and, for that matter, call the guy. He does not know me. Meanwhile, many people do not respond to email, or do not respond in a timely manner. Just call him.

    For clarification, I initially brought up this idea in terms of pairs or triples of people who had found some question of common interest on MO, why not expand to email and explore really deeply, see where it goes. That does happen sometimes.
    • CommentAuthorStorkle
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011

    Will, "Discussions on Meta are not actual conversations." No, they are much more public! For that reason it seems wise to be more polite to your colleagues on the internet than you are in person (especially when factoring in the additional information (inflection, body language) that is missing online, which makes misunderstandings more likely).

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011
    Oh, yes, I do try to be polite, and I acknowledge that we on Meta or MO may not be polite all the time. But I also contact people offsite.

    "So you think that asking him here, on MO, counts as asking him outright?"

    Well, Storkle, you're asking me outright right here, aren't you? The answer is: yes. I assume he read the comments. He is under no compunction to respond (just as no one is compelled to respond to email), but since there were repeated requests in the beginning, I think it would have been a nice gesture to do so. Don't you?

    Although I've had very brief email contact with him (in response to one of his Opinions, which he gracefully acknowledged in an addendum), I don't feel I know him well enough to email about anything that's taken place here.

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011
    I sent DZ an email according to the directions on his webpage. No guarantee he will get it, read it, or do anything about it. I just asked him to post here on Meta.
    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011
    Got a very nice answer from DZ, plus permission to post it. With that, I request this thread be closed pretty soon:

    from Doron Zeilberger

    date Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    Dear Will,
    Thanks for your Email.

    1. I must confess that while I find mathoverflow very useful, I am
    not that comfortable using it, and I definitely don't like the endless meta.
    I have already answered Gil Kalai in

    but if was not for bragging, just reporting.

    2. You are welcome to post this on my behalf (I am not a registered user, and if I am I forgot
    my password)

    3. The motivation to my question will be described in an article, joint with Drew Sills, to be soon posted in my website and the arxiv.
    In that article I will mention how useful mathoverflow and joro were.

    4. I must admit that I was sure that no one will do my challenge, so it was VERY useful to know that
    computing p_60(10^100) is not such a big deal. The "new" method (that goes back to Cayley, but
    using computer algebra and the quasi-polynomial ansatz) is still much faster than the
    generic way that joro used, but the challenge was doable, as joro demonstrated.
    By hindsight, I should have known it of course, since
    the generating function is a rational function, and there are poly-log algorithms for computing the
    coefficients. But in the first exctiment of discovering the method, using quasi-polynomials
    (see forthcoming article) I forgot this.

    5. I apologize for breaking the rules of etiquette of MO. It is more inexperience and naivete then

    Best wishes


    Point 4 makes the whole situation make a lot more sense.


    Thank you Will. I hope this brings an end to this exciting episode.

    In my opinion, this letter from Dr. Zeilberger satisfactorily explains everything. While I was originally in favor of closing the MO question, Dr. Zeilberger's reply has changed my mind. I propose that this meta thread be closed now.

    I second closing the thread soon. I also think that my comments earlier in the thread were ill-advised, and given the circumstances renounce them.

    The question that was meant to be asked was: "I have a new technique for computing X, and I'd like to know how it compares to known techniques. How fast is the current state of the art." Is there any objection to my editing the question by inserting something saying roughly that? (I wouldn't remove any of the current content.)

    • CommentAuthorWill Jagy
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011
    Makes sense
    • CommentAuthorgrp
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011

    Noah, as long as you make it clear that it is your rephrasing, I think it should have been done long ago.

    I appreciate that there is an acknowledgment, if indirect. I offer my services to Prof. Zeilberger to rewrite any question he wishes to present in a form suitable for MathOverflow.

    Gerhard Paseman, 2011.08.11


    Dear Will, thank you for the great work!

    I think this thread has served some really useful purpose. Next time we are in this situation this one can be used to remind us that: 1) Some preemptive editing of controversial questions could be really helpful; 2) Most of the drama could be our own creation; 3) A simple solution like what Will did could save a lot of troubles.

    Can I say one more thing: Storkle, thanks for your kind words, they made my day!


    Edited and voted to reopen.


    I am also happy to renounce some of my earlier words. I thank Will Jagy for taking the initiative here, and I am very glad Professor Zeilberger responded.

    • CommentAuthorStorkle
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011


    Perhaps I was mistaken, but because of Nilima's statement

    "One should ask them outright, if their thoughts are of interest. No, queries on meta don't translate to asking outright - it is conceivable that he does not wish to get embroiled in this rather public discussion."

    I assumed that the word "outright" (as used by Nilima) meant a direct query by email, phone, or in person. Perhaps you thought the bit "queries on meta" was meant to be interpreted as distinct from queries on main MO, and I think that's a reasonable interpretation, but probably not what Nilima meant (was it?). Probably it's not worth worrying about too much.


    Dear Storkle: I agree, let's not worry about it. Despite some heat throughout the exchange, I think just about every one who participated in the thread is reasonable enough that we can all just metaphorically shake hands, take something useful away from this, and move on. At least I hope there are no permanent hard feelings.


    I agree that the question should not be deleted, but I don't understand why it should be reopened. The challenge has been won and it is now past due anyway. What benefit would new answers have?

    Also, I think that Noah's edit reads a bit much into Zeilberger's explanation: there is nothing about the "state of the art" in what Zeilberger wrote, it looks like he only wanted to know whether computing p_60(10^100) was doable using known methods.

    • CommentAuthorHailong Dao
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2011 edited

    I agree with François. Also, please note that the first reopen vote was a mistake, see the 21st comment of the original question.


    Doesn't "state of the art" just mean "what you can do with known methods"?

    Anyway, I don't think this question if reopened will attract much more attention. It already has an accepted answer, so it won't pop up to the main page very often.


    I had to look it up. To save others some trouble, here is what the OED says:

    state of the art: the current stage of development of a practical or technological subject; freq. (esp. in attrib. use) implying the use of the latest techniques in a product or activity.

    I guess Noah is correct, though the phrase is frequently used to mean something stronger.

    • CommentAuthorjoro
    • CommentTimeAug 12th 2011

    May I ask 10K+ users for more tolerance when closing/deleting questions? Suppose DZ asked anonymously and just before deleting his unanswered question someone wrongly insulted him badly. The article he will write might asymetrically hurt MO's reputation more than say 100 open questions with negative votes where cranks give clearly wrong proofs of famous conjectures. In addition you can't technically stop a motivated crank because at least of (open) proxies and one time accounts.

    • CommentAuthorWillieWong
    • CommentTimeAug 12th 2011

    @joro: While I agree with your sentiments in your last post, I have to point out that

    In addition you can't technically stop a motivated crank because at least of (open) proxies and one time accounts.

    is rather besides the point. In regards to crank the moderation of the community should aim at effectively stop not completely stop. If it means the moderators having to play whack-a-mole for a few weeks, so be it.

    (This also reminds me of an after-dinner chat at a workshop a few years ago, where from the shared experiences it was revealed that mathematicians are often automatically washed from serving jury duty because prosecutors know that mathematicians and physicists tend to confuse beyond reasonable doubt with absolute certainty and 5-sigma level of confidence respectively.)


    Question is open! Future users may now cite this question as evidence for "why my post should not be closed".

    • CommentAuthorHailong Dao
    • CommentTimeAug 12th 2011 edited

    Dear Joro,

    I think the heated nature of this conversation has given you a too negative impression of how the process works. Usually most questions are closed with justified reasons (by the way, to vote to close you only need 3K). In addition, anyone can open a meta thread to keep a question open (a very recent example is this one. Finally, deletion is quite rare, I have never voted to delete one, and even in this case most people disagreed with deletion.

    After all, the question is now open, even though many people (myself included) think it is not an appropriate use of MO (Of course, as Professor Kalai rightly pointed out, it is a subjective opinion).

    The article he will write might asymetrically hurt MO's reputation more than say 100 open questions with negative votes where cranks give clearly wrong proofs of famous conjectures.

    The strength of MO lies in its ability to answer (not too difficult) technical questions reasonably well, since getting stuck is such a frequent experience in our life. If it keeps doing that job, it will be quite hard for an article to hurt its reputation, even if it is written by someone of Professor Zeilberger's stature and reputation in the mathematical community.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeAug 12th 2011

    Will Jagy, thanks a lot for your initiative on this!

    Gerald Edgar, it might be a bit ironic, but if you read the meta thread and study the timeline you might notice that it is you who is to a considerable extent responsible for the reopening. Since I consider the final turn of the discussion, for various reasons (whether the question is open or not is a detail), as quite fortunate, I am (at least in retrospect) also grateful for your contribution.

    The precedence-issue is certainly something to keep in mind, but then I think one also should not overdramatize this risk. For one thing, as François Dorais mentioned a while ago: C'est l'exception qui confirme la règle.

    Looking back at the discussion I can see points where I could and should have been less confrontational. I appologize to those negatively affected by this.

    • CommentAuthorStorkle
    • CommentTimeAug 12th 2011


    I (third?) the thanks for you sending email directly to DZ, which, in light of the resolution it brought, is the most productive contribution anyone has made to this thread. I'm also very grateful to Nilima for the original suggestion.


    An aside on closing and deleting...

    The only effect of closing a question is to prevent further answers from being added. There are many legitimate reasons to do that. (Albeit, the stock reasons that the software provides are not always self-explanatory.) Generally, there is no reason for posters to feel stigmatized when their questions are closed. Moreover, closing should never be used in a punitive manner -- such inappropriate actions will be notoced by the moderators who will then take appropriate measures. (Downvotes are the appropriate way to express disapproval of a question or answer.)

    On the other hand, deletion is a much more drastic measure that should be used with great care. Worse still is deletion by way of flagging as spam/offensive, which comes with an additional 100 pt penalty to the poster. Needless to say that this should be reserved for extreme cases.



    Generally, there is no reason for posters to feel stigmatized when their questions are closed.

    You may claim that there's "no reason" to feel stigmatized, but remember that all people feel a little embarrassed when they are publicly shamed, no matter how trivial the transgression.