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    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeNov 27th 2011

    This is the meta thrread of question Citation of a paper with a proof... .

    It is currently closed but has a vote to reopen, and some dicussion is developping, thus a meta thread.

    Personal comments:

    I am not among the voters to close, but I can perfectly understand why one would vote to close this. Depending on various unspecified circumstances any among the listed four options could be advisible. So, this is not a 'real question'. (As documented, one can still answer something useful of the form, if this than do that, but still I do not think this is a suitable MO question.)

    That there are some questions on MO that are similar, as was pointed out, is not much or any reason to not close this one.


    I'd like to add another suggestion: stick the simplified proof on the nLab and cite that.


    Hear, hear, Andrew.


    As it's been reopened, I've posted my comment there as an answer.

    However, I don't think it's a good MO question. In this case, my principle of "promote the nLab whenever possible" overrode my principle of "keep the riff-raff off MO"[1].

    [1] I really wish I didn't have to point out the intentional self-parody here, but past experience says that I do.


    I can't bring up the list of people that voted to re-open. I'm curious what their reasons are.

    On another note, sometimes the link for the edit-log for a question appears when a question is re-opened, and sometimes it doesn't. Is it just my browser that renders the threads incorrectly (Firefox 8.0) or is this some strange "feature"?

    • CommentAuthorgrp
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2011
    My experience (perhaps influenced by reputation level) suggests that the edit log link appears when a substantial edit to title or body appears, and does not appear if the edits are only meta (open or close) edits to the question. If you are willing to hack the URL, "revisions/82001/list" is a handy substring for seeing the meta edits as well. I would be surprised if what Ryan observes is browser dependent.

    Gerhard "Ask Me About System Design" Paseman, 2011.11.28

    I'm curious what their reasons are.

    So am I. I really wish that re-openers would join meta discussions.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2011

    Regarding the technicalties: it is my impression that the edit log appears if and only if there was some edit (including retag, but close/ereopen or also CW does not suffice, though the info is included if there is a log). I once asked if there is a clickable solution; but did not get any response to that so I suppose grp's solution is what needs to be done. (Perhaps this is different for moderators?).

    In any case, to avoid everybody who is interested needs to do this via URL, here is the list of reopeners: Martin Brandenburg, Igor Pak, Kevin Walker, Simon Thomas, Neil Strickland.

    And, we are at least three, who wish reopeners would comment. As essentially announced and in the absence of any (new) counterargument and since the original ones were merely vague claims of precedence cases, I voted to reclose.


    Wow, I didn't know you could vote to reopen your own question! Interesting.

    I too wish reopeners would explain their reasons.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2011

    @Todd: with 250 points one gets 'vote open/close own questions'.

    Something general: I am tyically not somebody to call for CW mode. But how can a question asking

    What do you think, which option is your favorite and why? Also, are there other appropriate options?

    not be CW?


    I think you're right, quid: this really should be CW.


    I'm one of the reopeners. While I think there are various valid criticisms one can make of the question, I don't think those flaws are sufficient to justify closing. I'll try to address the reasons I imagine people might have for closing.

    "The question is too ambiguous." I don't think it's so ambiguous that one can't give useful answers. The answer from Chris Godsil is a good example of how to deal with ambiguities in questions. In general, I think that several active MO users are overly sensitive to ambiguous questions. Of course, there are many questions which truly are too ambiguous. But there are many others where it would be better to answer something like "If by Y you meant Y1, then the answer is Z, but if by Y you meant Y2, then the answer is W" instead of "I can't tell whether you mean Y1 or Y2; voting to close until it question is edited".

    "The question is not really about mathematics." I think questions about writing math papers are appropriate for MO. I think the most fundamental rule for MO questions is that they should be of interest to research mathematicians. We should be reluctant to close questions which pass this test unless there are strong reasons to do so. One possible class of exceptions to this general rule is frivolous questions like "What paper maximizes the ratio of importance to length?" or "What are some good math urban legends?" I'm not a huge fan of these sorts of questions, and I think it's good that they are somewhat discouraged lest they dominate the site. But the question we're discussing in this thread is nothing like that. I don't think there's a danger that this sort of question will become too popular and take over the site, and I think that the issue in the question is not at all frivolous.

    "The question is too discussiony." I might be discussiony, but it's not too discussiony; i.e. it's not controversial and likely to inflame passions. It's discussiony in the harmless sense that there is not a 100% objectively right answer. Compare to questions like "I'm giving a math lecture to undergraduates. What are some good examples to illustrate the concept of X?" or to this old question of mine: .

    "The question should be Community Wiki." I agree, but I don't think that's a reason to close.

    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeNov 28th 2011

    @Kevin Walker: Thank you for the detailed reasoning.

    Regarding 'ambigous': in general I can see how one can have different opinions on this, but in this precise case (and related ones, meaning writing, publishing, and various career related things) it is in my opinion not even only that one has to do this 'case distinction' type answering. The main problem to me here is that in my own experience with various such questions is that I rarely have a problem to come up with reasonable 'if-then' scenario solutions. The real problem is to decide in which situation I am. As such to me personally often such questions feel a bit pointless. For this specific question; in some sense I beleive I did each of the four things on some occassion, and it was then my 'favourite option.'

    Regarding 'really math' personally I did not raise this objection in this case. In general my rule of thumb is of interest to research mathematicians and specific to research mathematics/mathematicians. Some people like to give playful reasons why the second part is important, I will try something not so playful. If there were a change say of some US law that would significantly affect all or most of US professors (in all disciplines) than this would be of interest to a considerable subset of the research mathematicians on MO. However, I would find it strange to discuss say general question of retirement or prof/student interaction on MO. If there is something specific to mathematics than this is fine. But if it is the same for the collegues in the philosophy, biology, and Spanish literature department I would say it is not for MO. This questio to me actually passes this test; as writing a math paper seems specifc to math (and standards of citation in other disciplines are quite different, AFAIK, that is vaguely). Yet the danger that such content could dominate, to me is real. It is sort-of interesting, a lot of people have an opinion though not an answer (on some occassions myself included)...

    Regarding 'discussiony': We'll see...the perceived 'evilness' of paper journals or rather the 'greed' of the companies behind (some of) them...leading to the 'problem' of space constraints some seem to think is the prime reason for poor exposition. Various unethical or not patterns of behavior lurking everywhere regarding citation culture. Lots of things could get heated here. I will stop, not trying to make this a self-fulfilling statement.

    Regarding 'CW': yes, I never just vote to close because of CW, and find doing so strange. [If I think it should be CW, it is early on and I assume OP could be unaaware of it, I leave a comment; else I flag for mods, as only they can turn also all the answers into CW in one sweep.] Still that such an experience user does not do it right away is IMO surprising. Also that he makes it look as if otherwise there never ever was any discussion related to such question. We have them all the time. Some such questions 'survive' many others get closed quickly. The latter are typically quickly forgotten; and thus in such discussion often some precedences are brought up making it look as if opposition to such question was some sort of new phenomenon (not so much you in this case).


    The question appears to be trolling for a big list of possibilities about something that's a mundane daily-reality for academic writers rather than anything specific to mathematics. As quid observes, the answer (given any particular situation) is pretty much always just the common-sense anyone-would-think-of-it solution. It's like having a thread on folding your laundry, or which spell-check software to use. Certainly these are questions academics think about but this forum is meant for relatively focused discussion.


    This discussion persuaded me to cast the final vote to close.


    Ryan, in your last comment, did you mean "trawling" rather than "trolling"?


    I mix-up fishing metaphors all the time. :)