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    Recently a number of questions that I've asked on MathOverflow have either been closed, or have received votes to be closed.

    In particular, was closed, initially received 3-4 votes to close, was closed, and my question just received a vote to close.

    I don't want to get into an argument about whether or not my questions should have been closed. However, I wanted to raise two points:

    1. The fact that my questions keep getting closed is making me feel unwelcome at MathOverflow and is reducing my interest in participating. I imagine that I'm not the only person who's felt this way. Of course, the community may judge the cost of driving away some participants to be worth the benefit of discouraging questions that it deems inappropriate. But I wanted to raise the point that there is in fact a cost.

    2. It's not clear to me that the mechanism by which questions are closed is one that reflects community consensus. High variance questions (which some people really like and some people really don't like) are apt to be closed by default. Because the number of votes needed to close a question is fairly small, questions that a large majority of community members really like and that a small minority of community members really don't like are apt to be closed.

    I recognize that (i) in order to maintain the integrity of a forum not all opinions should count equally and that (ii) there are questions that people may be tempted to engage with which are ultimately detrimental to them and that people may want to have safeguards against engaging in with these questions. But my own impression is that neither of (i) or (ii) is being addressed in an optimal way.

    Your questions tend to border on being too discussion-y for the forum. Aside from some of them being borderline in terms of the content of the question, questions like your reciprocity thread are more suitable for a discussion forum than a research Q&A site. This isn't a place to set agendas and policies. I think that's likely the issue you're running up against. I believe I only voted on one of those threads so I can't really speak for the other three.

    Thanks Ryan. I recognize that MathOverflow was overtly created with a view toward being a question-answer forum rather than a discussion forum. At the same time, I think that there's a blurry boundary between the two things, and that where one draws the line is a subjective judgment. I also don't know of a discussion forum where my questions would be more appropriate. I would welcome suggestions on this last point.

    Jonah, I've just looked at your user page, and I see that many of your questions are in fact well-regarded and welcomed. So I'd like to encourage you to feel, at least for the most part, well, encouraged. I'm sure that will continue to be the case for thoughtful mathematical questions that you really want answered and that stand a good chance of having a definitive mathematical answer.

    Discussion-y questions seem to be dicey no matter who asks them, and should be posted sparingly in my opinion -- you yourself seem to recognize that MO is poorly adapted for exploratory discussions. (The post about reciprocity laws, for example, would be a great way to start a blog discussion, I think -- do you have a blog? Or, it might be something for a talk to students.)

    It's never clear how much community consensus there is behind votes to close, or to reopen for that matter. This seems to be a topic of innumerable discussions at meta; you are not the only one who experiences some frustrations with the mechanism. We can't change the mechanism directly, but if you have some concrete suggestions for informal guidelines, that might be a good discussion here.

    "...questions that a large majority of community members really like and that a small minority of community members really don't like are apt to be closed."

    If a large majority really likes a question then it is apt to be re-opened after it is closed, especially if someone raises the issue.
    • CommentAuthorquid
    • CommentTimeNov 24th 2012

    I just wanted to say something very briefly on "tempted to engage with which are ultimately detrimental to them" since there is a comment of me on one of the questions (the Weil one) that could be read in that way: It is not so much that I personally would have a problem to say what I was tempted to say, but then I am quite sure this would create some "flames" which I thought would better be avoided. But then I am quite unhappy with an existing comment. So, this is a bit of an annoying situation for me.

    " I imagine that I'm not the only person who's felt this way. "
    That's true.

    On the other hand any question which is not strictly technical math has a big chance to be closed or deleted,
    so its our own risk to ask such questions.