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What should the FAQ contain?

asked 2010-08-18 12:55:17 -0500

William Stein gravatar image

updated 2010-12-18 23:54:12 -0500

niles gravatar image

The mathoverflow site has a great FAQ. What are some key points that the FAQ for this site should make?

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it might be useful to resurrect this question for a while

niles gravatar imageniles ( 2010-12-19 00:27:13 -0500 )edit

Question? Does the FAQ include any of these things? Doesn't seem to...

kcrisman gravatar imagekcrisman ( 2011-06-01 16:48:51 -0500 )edit

no, I don't know who would update it. Another approach would be to post these as separate question/answer pairs -- I think I'll try that with the syntax question

niles gravatar imageniles ( 2011-06-01 18:12:41 -0500 )edit

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answered 2010-08-18 13:24:29 -0500

For one, the site should clearly specify its role in providing help for using the Sage software. That is, with the sage-devel and sage-support Google Groups already in place a good question to ask is whether or not this site should in whole or in part provide programming help. Specifying whether or not to focus on user-level or developer-level comments or even both would also help in answering this questions. On a more practical note, the FAQ could provide links to these two sites and state their purpose.

William Stein mentions in his blog post

"The site would not be specific to Sage or restricted to open source."

So another question to ask is "how is distinct from MathOverflow?" since both focus on mathematics. At the very least, my guess is that the topics would focus around "computational mathematics"; that is, anything that could possibly be implemented in Sage. By no means should the site not allow research-level questions. Including them would be great! The FAQ should make clear whatever distinctions are required.

These are just a few questions that popped up in my head when I found out about this neat question board. I'm interested to hear what other people have to say.

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My blog remark was really about a site like mathoverflow focused on computation. I don't think is that -- sage is in the name. I also don't think ask.sagemath should be focused on developer questions. It could be: *user question involving sage* -- a better sage-support

William Stein gravatar imageWilliam Stein ( 2010-08-18 14:01:31 -0500 )edit

But it will be good to watch what happens, and decide later just what should be.

William Stein gravatar imageWilliam Stein ( 2010-08-18 14:01:54 -0500 )edit

It would be really interesting if some research discussions involving some computational / Sage elements would spawn on! Once my qualifying exams are over and I resume my work on computing Riemann matrices I hope to contribute some discussions of my own.

cswiercz gravatar imagecswiercz ( 2010-08-18 18:46:08 -0500 )edit

answered 2011-02-17 00:19:03 -0500

niles gravatar image

A clear statement that this site is for the mathematics software Sage, not the accounting software by the same name.

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Heh heh. Agreed.

cswiercz gravatar imagecswiercz ( 2011-02-17 05:49:54 -0500 )edit

answered 2010-12-19 00:25:01 -0500

niles gravatar image

updated 2011-06-01 10:46:42 -0500

Recently askbot has been updated to make it easy to link to Trac tickets with the syntax "ticket 1956" as well as autolinking url's like Both of these would make useful additions to the FAQ. Further details are given here (at the askbot site)

Moreover, new users often overlook the code formatting button (little picture of 0's and 1's), so perhaps that should be a FAQ item too.

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I don't think I ever knew about this.

kcrisman gravatar imagekcrisman ( 2016-11-02 21:37:46 -0500 )edit

answered 2016-11-02 16:21:59 -0500

etb gravatar image

updated 2016-11-02 16:23:15 -0500

direction for how to ask a good question, e.g. aim to post a question with code that can reproduce your problem, make it short.

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answered 2010-08-19 10:28:53 -0500

kcrisman gravatar image

It should have VERY clear instructions about what people can and cannot do with various 'point levels', and exactly how many 'points' you get for various actions. For example, I just wanted to retag a bunch of questions as 'graphics' since that matches the Trac thing and would make them easy to find... but I can't.

There should also be explanations of every color thingie and what the "0 mins ago John Palmieri 36" means (last answer? last comment? what?). Essentially, every possible thing on the front page should be well-documented on the FAQ.

To be fair, I just checked out the actual askbot site... and it doesn't do that either!

(This is less on topic, but it is also weird that the number of votes and answers on the front page don't correspond to the actual number of votes and answers.)

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answered 2010-08-18 14:11:56 -0500

Before answering the question "What are some key points that the FAQ for this site should make?", we need to know exactly what this site is for. Do we want questions about how to compute things with Sage or other software? Do we want questions about installing and basic usage of Sage? Do we want questions about design, improvement, bugfixes in Sage?

Having a well-defined focus will certainly improve the usefulness of this site. I would like to see the relationship between this and the mailing lists explained/decided.

We might also develop some guidelines about the questions that are asked. It seems like a question such as "Should we support 32-bit FreeBSD?" would not be ideal for this venue; a question such as "I have a bunch of data in format X, how do I load that into Sage, interpret it as Y, and then compute Z?" seems much better.

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Having studied the *overflow sites a lot this week, I think this site is most likely to be of value for answering questions like your last example: "I want to do X using Sage. How?" This will help exactly where sage-support often fails, since questions won't get lost here so easily.

William Stein gravatar imageWilliam Stein ( 2010-08-18 14:17:27 -0500 )edit

Also, such questions have a fairly definite answer, and these sites work best with questions that have a definite answer.

William Stein gravatar imageWilliam Stein ( 2010-08-18 14:17:51 -0500 )edit

answered 2011-03-13 03:44:22 -0500

niles gravatar image

updated 2011-03-13 03:53:42 -0500

The FAQ should say that this site is for questions about using the software, not about answering homework or other general mathematical questions.

Some places to get such help are:

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answered 2011-02-17 00:24:03 -0500

niles gravatar image

Links to other places for getting help:

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answered 2010-08-19 07:01:29 -0500

ccanonc gravatar image

updated 2010-08-19 07:02:11 -0500

Links to good answers (per rating system) which have a high frequency of tag hits (from the search box) and a high frequency of fulltext-search hits, weighted. Also links to answers with high pagerank (from a google search with

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answered 2010-08-19 09:39:25 -0500

niles gravatar image

What is this site for?

This probably deserves to be its own question, but some discussion has started in the comments here already. I'd like to add that I think/hope certain questions about sage development can be included here (and tagged with devel)--this could be a good resource for those starting out with sage development. For example, the question about mercurial queues could, in its answers, help others get off to a smoother start.

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Explaining good use of tags, in general, is a good idea. The FAQ could suggest / require that certain topics (like sage development) include tags. It might be helpful to use tags to separate the devel and support communities so it's easier to find relevant posts.

cswiercz gravatar imagecswiercz ( 2010-08-19 10:34:06 -0500 )edit

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Asked: 2010-08-18 12:55:17 -0500

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Last updated: Nov 02 '16