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  FAQ discussion

+ 4 like - 0 dislike

The official FAQ can be found here. This thread is preserved for discussion about specific FAQ's. To propose a new FAQ, please create a new meta post, and tag it with the-faq

Note: This thread is not actively maintained; please refer to the official FAQ.  

This question will serve as the FAQ for PhysicsOverflow (found in the answers). Note that it is not finalised yet, and you should feel free to contribute to it, and share your views on it.     

It includes policies, rules, and FAQs in general.      

asked Feb 23, 2014 in Public Official Posts by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 24, 2014 by dimension10

26 Answers

+ 2 like - 1 dislike

(5) When/Where/How was Physics Overflow born?     

See History of Physics Overflow  

answered Feb 26, 2014 by Dilaton (6,040 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 21, 2014 by dimension10

This looks like a political rant against SE, with too much information.

You only need to say that Dilaton, Dimension10, PolarKernel were the main driving force behind the creation of the site, perhaps giving their real names if that's what they want.

@physicsnewbie If you read carefully, only the first sentence very briefly talks about the political problems of SE, the other mention of "Stack Exchange" or SE is about the SE software. 

When I first wrote it, I had ranted more against SE, despite the fact that I had consciously not wanted to talk about it much. 

Moved to a different thread as per suggestions on the original answer. 

However, the summary of differences in the functionality of PhysicsOverflow compared to SE might be useful, in particular for users comming from SE ...

+ 1 like - 0 dislike

(11) Permissions 

The following are the permissions ("priviledges") you get with rep or whatever. Note that every user group in a third-level heading also has the priviledges of the user group in the previous third-level heading of the same second-level heading, and that every user group in a fourth-level heading also has the priviledges of the previous fourth-level heading in the same third-level heading. 


  • Viewing non-admin pages  
  • Asking questions
  • Answering questions
  • Commenting anywhere 
  • Suggesting Edits
  • Searching 
  • Editing Full Tag Wikis  
  • Create new tags 



  • Searching for users 
  • Viewing Post Histories 

500 points   

  • Editing any post or comment
  • Retagging or Recategorising any question    
  • Voting to Close 
  • Voting to Reopen
  • Voting to Delete
  • Voting to Undelete 
  • Voting on Tag Synonyms 
  • Voting on Tag Aninhilation
  • Viewing Closed Questions

Registered & Email-Confirmed 

  • Flagging Posts  
  • Posting messages on User walls 

15 points 

  • Voting on Comments  

25 points 

  • Voting on Questions  

50 points 

  • Voting on Answers           

Experts and Editors        

  • Closing or Reopening any question   
  • Deleting or Undeleting any post 
  • Editing Short Tag Descriptions 
  • Approving or Rejecting reshown posts  
  • Rollbacking edits


  • Viewing IPs  
  • Viewing voters and flaggers 
  • Blocking or unblocking users   
  • Creating Experts 


  • Deleting users 
  • Creating moderators
  • Creating editors
  • Removing answers and comments from the database  
  • Viewing user emails 
  • Changing plug-in options  
  • Merging duplicate posts 
  • Create tag synonyms 
  • Delete tags 
  • Edit custom pages 
  • Make new custom pages  
  • Add new scripts
  • Edit the NavBar, SideBox, Footer etc.  
  • Change points gained per action 
  • Change category descriptions 
  • Delete categories
  • Create new categories 
  • Change site styles  
  • Enable or disable some plugins
  • Choose site theme  
  • View user emails  
  • Change lots of other settings through the admin panel   


  • Creating Administrators
  • Creating other Super-Administrators 
  • Importing questions from SE 
  • Merging accounts
  • Resetting accounts 
  • Changing post authors   
  • Renaming users 

System Developers (polarkernel) 

  • Installing plug-ins 
  • Make Changes to Q2A core 
  • Change the Q2A database 
  • Make changes to Q2A plugins 
  • Make changes to Q2A themes  
  • Basically, magic : )    
answered Mar 19, 2014 by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 13, 2014 by dimension10
+ 1 like - 0 dislike

(10) Reputation Points

Reputation points are a rough measure of your contribution to the site (this is not to say, however, that participating on meta doesn't help the site. Of course it does.). It helps decide the permissions you get.       

How do I gain/lose reputation? 

In Q&A  

  • Question upvoted +5 
  • Question downvoted -5 
  • Answer upvoted +10  
  • Answer downvoted -10  

In Meta 

(no reputation change)     

In Reviewing 

If you review a paper's accuracy (in the answers), you will gain reputation just like any other answer on Q&A. If you come to the site to defend your paper, then you will gain the reputation from upvotes on the paper.       

The rep gain from papers in the Reviewing section is determined by the following formula: 

\(x= 5\mathfrak{S} \exp\left( \sqrt[3]{\frac{\mathfrak{\times}}{5}} \right) \)

Here, $x$ is the overall rep gain, $\mathfrak{S}$ is the accuracy score and $\mathfrak{\times}$ is the originality score as voted by the voters.    


You can also earn reputation by winning a bounty.   

You can also lose reputation by giving away a bounty.    

answered Mar 19, 2014 by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 24, 2014 by dimension10

I have an idea for a self-sufficient refereeing system, which uses the paper references to set up a skeleton votes in absentia, without any participation (it can be modified later, of course), so that papers can be evaluated already based on their references, before anyone even joins the site, much like page-rank on google, except for papers. I will try to write it.

@RonMaimon Oops I have completely overlooked your comment. 

The problem is that citations are very political, self-citations etc. Just a few weeks ago, a journal I had submitted a paper to came back to me telling me that I have not cited a paper in that journal! Such instances are quite common, and therefore basing paper votes on citations is quite dangerous. 

Yes, we know, you can modify this by up/down votes afterwards, but it is good to have something that works badly even before anyone signs up, and that is modified after people sign up. A citation can be considered .1 vote.

+ 1 like - 0 dislike

(12) Bounties 

Bounties are a way of promoting a particular question you find interesting. Instructions here

Basically, you offer some of your reputation points so that someone answers a particular question. You choose the answer which you like best by linking to it on the bounties page. If you don't choose the answer within one day after the time limit you have specified, the bounty will be awarded to the most upvoted answer. 

answered Mar 19, 2014 by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 20, 2014 by dimension10
+ 0 like - 0 dislike

(13) Tag Wikis 

Tag Wikis are editable descriptions for tags. They are hosted at the Mathematics and Physics Wiki. They can be edited by anyone, since there are some powerful tools installed to combat vandalism.   

Each tag also has a shorter tag description ("Short Tag Description"/"Tag Wiki Excerpt") which is hosted right here on Physics Overflow. It contains a very short summary or definition, and a link to the longer tag wiki on the Mathematics and Physics Wiki.  

The small margins, as you can see, are not suitable for writing the entire longer tag wikis, which is why they need to be hosted externally.   

Note: The short tag descriptions are now moved to above the list of questions in the tag, but still, the editor for these tag wikis is not ideal for them, and LaTeX doesn't work properly sometimes in these short tag descriptions, so they are still hosted externally. Also, externally hosting tag wikis allows anyone to edit them, yet easily combat vandalism.

Note: If you'd like to see the longer tag wikis in a wider margin, please use the Pseudo-Vector skin, e.g. like this.  

answered Mar 19, 2014 by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 19, 2014 by dimension10
How to create a new tagTest
+ 0 like - 0 dislike

(14) The Navigation Bars   

There are four navigation bars on Physics Overflow, in addition to a footer. 

Note: To users with JavaScript disabled, the HeadBar and the Admin Bar do not appear and their contents appear as a part of the NavBar.  

I. The TopBar

The top-most bar contains account-related matters, link to Moderation (usable by 500+ rep users only), and a search widget.   

On the left-most (in red), there is a link to one's user profile. 

Next, (in blue), one's total reputation on Physics Overflow is written. 

Next, there is a link to edit one's account details, user profile, and so on. 

This is followed by a list of one's updates, which is less comprehensive than the User History which can be found on the SubNavBar of one's profile page. 

II. The HeadBar 

The HeadBar is the bar in the header, next to the logo.  

  • Ask Question allows one to ask a question 
  • All Activity shows the recent activity on Physics Overflow.  
  • Tags is a list of tags on Physics Overflow.  
  • Categories shows the categories on Physics Overflow.
  • Users is a list of Physics Overflow users. 

III. The Admin Bar

The Admin Bar contains the "Search User" link and all the tools that are not available to anonymous users, including:   

  • Search User (visible to all) 
  • Chat (visible to Registered Users) 
  • Import Votes (visible to Registered Users, usable by at least 500 rep) 
  • Moderate (visible to Registered Users, usable by at least 500 rep)     
  • Webmaster (visible to Admins) 
  • Admin (visible to Admins) 
  • Comment2Answer (visible to Admins) 
  • User Admin (visible to Admins, usable by Super-Admins)
  • Import SE Question (visible to Super-Admins)  


IV. The NavBar

The NavBar contains many links that can be seen by all users, listed below: 

  • Questions shows a list of the questions on Physics Overflow. 
  • Unanswered is a list of the unanswered questions on Physics Overflow.  
  • Reviews is the reviews category. 
  • Q&A is the Q&A. 
  • Meta is meta. 
  • Tag Wikis are the tag wikis of Physics Overflow, hosted on the Mathematics and Physics Wiki   
  • Blog is the blog associated with Physics Overflow, which was also used to discuss while starting the site up.   
  • Featured ! is a list of questions with a bounty on.  

V. The SubNavBar

The SubNavBar is used to list subpages, etc. of a particular page. It is found only on certain pages, e.g. user pages, the questions page, and the admin panel. On the users page, it contains the following links on the user pages:  

  • Wall (Public Message Wall)
  • Recent Activity (not as comprehensive as the user history)
  • All questions (posted by the user)
  • All answers (posted by the user) 
  • History (User history, contains rep history, recent activity, updates, etc., some things are hidden from public view)

The questions page contains the following subpages in the SubNavBar: 

  • Recent questions
  • Hot questions (questions with a lot of activity, votes, views, etc.)
  • Questions with a high net score    
  • Questions with many answers
  • Questions with a lot of views  

The Admin Panel does not need further documentation.  

VI. The Footer

The footer is not a navigation bar, but it contains a link to a form to contact the site's Super-Administrators privately, and a link to the Question2Answer (the software that we use) official website, and a note saying that the theme used is "OverSnow", short for "Physics OverSnow" by polarkernel, based on the standard Snow theme.  

answered Mar 19, 2014 by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 27, 2014 by dimension10

What??? Why does chromium have to crash only when I'm writing something important?! Not that I want it to crash otherwise too.  

+ 0 like - 0 dislike

(15) The Moderation Queues 

If you have 500 reputation points, you may help Physics Overflow further by helping out in Community Moderation. From the Navigation Bar, click "Moderate":

 enter image description here

You will be lead to this page. There, you can help with the following tasks:

  • Reviewing Suggested Edits which are suggested by lower-reputation users.
  • Reviewing Close Votes or casting them yourself if you think that the certain questions are not appropriate for Physics Overflow.  
  • Reviewing Reopen Votes or casting them yourself if you think that certain questions have been wrongly closed. 
  • Reviewing Delete Votes or casting them yourself if you think that a certain post is spam, gibberish, or off-topic. 
  • Reviewing Undelete Votes or casting them yourself if you think that a certain post has been unfairly deleted. This is hopefully rare, since posts may only get deleted for the above mentioned reasons.  

For each task, click on the link to see the review page, together with the instructions.

answered Mar 19, 2014 by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 30, 2014 by dimension10
+ 0 like - 0 dislike

(16) What can I do if I observe bad things ?

(Users with less than 500 reputation) 

I see an off-topic/low-level question  

Downvote the question and flag it. A moderator will attend to your flag and put it up in the queue. Your identity will not be revealed. If many people agree with your flag, the question will be closed. 

I see a non-answer (incl. spam) or spam question      

Same thing. Downvote the post and flag it. A moderator will attend to your flag and put it up in the queue. Your identity will not be revealed. If many people agree with your flag, the post will be deleted. 

(Users with at least 500 reputation)    

I see an off-topic/low-level question  

Downvote the question and Vote to Close it by clicking the "Vote to Close" Button. You will be directed here. Check if the question has already been reported, and if it is, then upvote the proposal to close it. If not, then write a new answer linking to the question. If your proposal reaches a net score of +2, the question will be closed. 

I see a non-answer (incl. spam) or spam question      

Downvote the post. Copy the URL of the post. If it is an answer, you can click on "answered" below the post content and you will get the URL. Then in the White Navigation Bar, click on "Moderate". 

enter image description here 

Select "Review Delete Votes": 

Then do the same as what you would do to vote to close a question. 

All Users 

I disagree with a moderator decision 

While the moderators are supposed to exercise the will of the community at all costs, in case you feel that they make a mistake (which does not violate any conservation laws, so this has a non-zero probability of occuring.), Make a post on meta condemning the action. Other people will add comments to the post, and if enough people agree, the moderator decision will be overruled by the community.  

If the moderator decision is outright ridiculous (e.g. banning an extremely important contributor to the site, or coming up with niceness rules), there could be a vote whether the moderator is to retain their moderatorship any longer.   

If you have at least 500 reputation, and disagree with the closure of a question, then you can vote to reopen it. 

If you don't have enough reputation, make a post about it on meta. 

answered Mar 20, 2014 by Dilaton (6,040 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 22, 2014 by dimension10

I am worried about the voting aspects--- I think that the "community will" is extremely difficult to decide, you will get people joining, and cliques forming, and loud cliques sound like a community, and unlike refereeing, I don't trust communities to do moderation. They can gang up on people, and do horrible things, by a slow process of first producing a false community of loud-mouths, and then ganging up on everyone else, to get rid of them one by one. This was the process at Wikipedia. I think you need a clear "bill of rights", and perhaps a clear "judicial system" by a randomly chosen jury.

Despite appearences, it is hardly ever easy to know what the "community will" is at any one time. You perhaps have the idea from SE that it is easy, but that was a relatively small community, where you were discounting the opinions of those who you knew were not really physicists. But these folks were more numerous than the physicists.

I am just suspicious of any form of democracy or democratic communal decision making, for the reason that terrible people take it over. Democracy is simply a trick to allow people with free time to take over your decisions. I would have been happy if Dilaton and Dimension 10 said "We will rule like dictators, we won't do anything that we think is censorious or wrong, and our decision is final. If you don't like it, set up another site!"

Hm, it seems things broke down on Physics SE and on Wikipedia in almost exactly the same way, gangs of knowledge free but power driven loud mouths taking over etc ... :-/.

However my impression was that MathOverflow has a rather nice healthy high-level community, who nicely shows any emerging power driven dilettants the door at first sight. Of course the mods there are very competent and the community seems to almost exactly agree with and thrust them. So the idea is that this could work for PhysicsOverflow too ...

@RonMaimon Such problems cannot arise here. It is set in stone that this site is about graduate-level (and above) physics, so trolls cannot take over, they won't be able to do anything in Q&A and refreeing so they won't be able vote on meta, as their reputation won't be enough. 

I would however, if possible, increase the reputation needed to post and vote in the "Community Moderation" section, so that such trolls don't take over the site.  

+ 0 like - 0 dislike

(25) Glossary of Physics Overflow terms 

answered Mar 21, 2014 by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 15, 2014 by dimension10
+ 0 like - 0 dislike

(17) How do I bookmark a question, tag, category or user? 

If you want to recieve updates each time 

  • there is new activity on a particuar question, or 
  • there is a new question with a particular tag, or 
  • there is a new question in a particular category, or 
  • there is a new post by a particular user, 

Just go to the question, tag, category, or user 's page, and click the Star on the top right.  

answered Mar 22, 2014 by dimension10 (1,975 points) [ revision history ]
edited Apr 19, 2014 by dimension10

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