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  Should we speed up going publicly online by restricting access to the Q&A feature of PhysicsOverflow while finalizing the Reviews section?

+ 3 like - 0 dislike

As Polarkernel explains here, from a technical point of view it seems now that it is possible to implement questions with two voting criteria (accuracy and originality) in the Reviews section, such that only one (automated) question for each paper to be reviewed would be needed. The issue of importing old and actual physics papers from ArXiv (all of them or selected ones) looks solvable too. However this might need its time (about two months according to Polarkernal's first guess).

So my question is:

Do we want to accelerate the process of going publicly online by first restricting access to the Q&A section while keep working on finalizing the Reviews section?

Technically, the Reviews category could temporarily be hidden from the public by making it only visible to > 1 000 000 rep users, admins, etc ... Getting ready just for the Q&A business would involve relatively minor tasks, such that it would be feasable withing a few days or a week.

Possible Advantages

  • By getting started we could finally give our "friends" the bird ...  ;-)
  • A larger community could take part in our discussions and give feedback on what we are doing here.
  • MathOverflow would finally have the urgently needed physics brother, where higher-level physics can be done without unneeded bureaucratic/political restrictions.

Possible Drawbacks

  • If not immediately implemented, some hacks could steal Ron's ideas from reading our ongoing discussions about the implementation of the Reviews section
  • It might be more difficult to promote the Reviewing facility of PhysicsOverflow later after the site has run for some weeks with just the Q&A feature
  • ... ?
asked Mar 12, 2014 in Discussion by Dilaton (6,240 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 29, 2014 by dimension10

directory listing denied on your link

Fixed it.      

3 Answers

+ 4 like - 1 dislike

I agree with getting the site up as soon as possible. I have slight reservations about delaying the review, only because I am worried it will be delayed too long.

Having the review makes something good happen in the Q&A: in order to do a review, someone coming here will surely get confused on one or two small points in the paper, and it is natural to ask about these points in the Q&A section. This can be answered quickly. Having a referee section snowballs the Q/A site into high-quality question mode immediately.

But one comment for Dimension 10: don't worry about anyone "stealing" ideas. It never happens. When ideas are good, nobody understands them well enough to steal them for at least a year or two.

This positive feedback between the refereeing and the Q/A is a cheap way to ensure that the Q/A is professional level right from the start. If you go public without a refereeing section, your first questions (which set the tone for the site) are going to be "Do we REALLY know there is dark matter?" "Why is 1+2+3 ...  = -1/12 in string theory?" and other extremely old and well understood things, rather than "In fig 2 of http://arxiv.org/abs/1403.1254 , how sensitively does the null result depend on the background fitting?" and things like this, which one wants to encourage.

The feedback between Q/A and reviews can go two ways, as when an answer in Q/A becomes sufficiently high quality, it might merit an evaluation as a publication, in which case, you can simply copy it in the review section and ask for a vote on the same criteria. This allows the site to host original contributions locally, and this means academics need to pay attention just to avoid missing something new.

The question is the time-frame. If it is one month or two, no problem, but if it is a year, we will accumulate hundreds of student questions and then people will just feel inhibited from posting nitpicky technical questions about the guts of a paper, because the atmosphere will not feel serious enough.

But still I support going live immediately, the sooner the better. This will at least get the technical stuff sorted out quickly. I still would like to try to modify the tag system to a heirarchical thing before going live, but my laptop was stolen(!) and I can't write any code until my new one arrives.

answered Mar 13, 2014 by Ron Maimon (7,730 points) [ no revision ]

+1 for pointing out the long-term virtue of starting at professional level, and for pointing out that having a review section can facilitate this.

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

I'm down! Bring on the physics!

answered Mar 13, 2014 by Ryan Thorngren (1,925 points) [ no revision ]

+1 I'm down too, with slight reservations.

+ 0 like - 2 dislike


We can get a verstion of the Reviews section up and running where people introduce papers, and allocates two questions that can be independely voted upon. The issues as I understand them, are to do with auto-downloading papers from Arxiv, and how to combine the scores for the two questions. But these aren't important to start with since these can be added in later on.

answered Mar 13, 2014 by physicsnewbie (-20 points) [ no revision ]

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