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Let's have a "Papers" category.


Currently, we have two categories, Q&A and Meta. Those seem to be working well.

New topic type available

A category can now be created where there is a single post per topic, with only comments allowed on that post. The Meta site uses this for their Blog category, and the Cooking site for their Recipes category.

Papers category

I propose that we add such a category here, called "Papers". This would be meant for telling the world about something you've discovered, a new technique you've developed, result of research you've done, etc.

The name "Papers" is a good first pass description, and is meant to set the tone that we're looking for good quality, well thought out, and well written material. Of course there will be a short intro at the top, and a help page detailing all the categories.

If such a thing is doable, upvotes should be worth 2-3 times what they are worth on answers. Papers are intended to take some care and effort to write. The larger bump from upvotes re-enforces that point, and gives some reward for that larger effort.

Downvotes can likewise be worth more. Again, we only want papers that are well thought out, well written, and relevant to the community. You should know what you're doing before attempting to post a paper. A paper is not meant to be something you bang out in a spare half hour.

Categories should be added sparingly

I have been thinking about this for a while, but wanted to let the site settle a little before proposing this. I am also worried that one such proposal begets more. I don't envision any additional categories for this site.

Too many categories are bad. Take a look at the Photography site as an example. It feels like too much hassle to go thru and find everything, and the empty categories make the site look even more dead than it already is.

I have several ideas for papers, so there will be some within a week or two (the day job gets in the way sometimes) of the category being available.

Response to @Lundin

I wasn't aware of SO's documentation "category", so that's good info. However, it's not clear what your overall point is. Are you saying we shouldn't try because it is doomed to fail, or that we should proceed but keep in mind the issues you raised?

It seems your main point is that it may end up with low quality. I can think of some tactics we can use to mitigate that problem:

  1. The expectations will be clearly documented. Calling it "Papers" is the first step in setting the tone.
  2. It will be seeded with some good papers. I suggested something like this on SE, but was ignored. I have several topics ready to write about, some of them original research I've done.
  3. As you say, we're sortof getting papers in the Q&A section now, because there is no other place for them. Self-answered questions is really a hack to use Q&A to write a paper.
  4. Voting. The standards will be high. People will be encouraged to upvote good papers, but also to downvote bad, lazy, or sloppy ones. There will be a considerable guidance in Help about voting on papers.
  5. Maybe we can even have votes to delete? I don't know if such a thing is available. Maybe a paper can be automatically deleted if it fails to get a positive score after 1 month or so? I don't expect a large number of papers, at least initially. Perhaps the mods can clean house occasionally, based on some well-published and previously agreed-to criteria.

So, what exactly are you proposing we do or don't do? Just list of issues isn't really actionable.

I think we should probably rather be looking for a FAQ system where we can post a list of canonical posts, similar to the example I gave from SO's C FAQ

What you describe doesn't sound like a FAQ, but rather an index to useful questions. We don't have a lot of people asking questions. It will be a long time before we can determine which ones are asked frequently. All too often "FAQ" is just a poor name for documention written in question/answer format. Most of the time, that is the wrong format for the information, and is somewhat annoying to read.

While a real index (not one pretending to be a FAQ), might be of some use, it is a completely different thing from a papers category. It would also take a lot of volunteer time to curate, there will be arguments about what should and should not be in it, and will be difficult to organize in a way for users to find the information they are looking for.

I did look at the FAQ on C you linked to, and it doesn't present very well. It gives a very short introduction to C, but then becomes a set of topics in no apparent order. It feels overwhelming and disorganized. If I had a question, I can see how I'd give up after 10 seconds and just ask my question.

This FAQ also doesn't address the purpose of the Papers category at all. You've just discovered a neat trick for solving a problem that others might run into, you've done some research and have new knowledge to report, you've worked out something that might be patentable, but want to put it "out there" to establish prior art and let the world use it for free. A FAQ doesn't help with any of those.


It's been 12 days now. This proposal is at +4,-0. One answer basically agreed and is at +3,-0, and one answer said we should have a FAQ instead and is at +1,-1. I think that's sufficient to declare a consensus and have a Papers category.

Admin: Please create a Papers category. Once it's there, I'll add some help pages explaining it and catagories in general.

Short description

Here is my first pass attempt at the short description for the top of the papers category:

Scholarly articles on original research, new ideas, tips and tricks for common problems, and the like. See HERE for details.
Why should this post be closed?


If such a thing is doable, upvotes should be worth 2-3 times what they are worth on answers. Keep in mind that the current plan is to not have a single "reputation" score. There will be ways to account for quality contributions, but it will be different than Some Other sites. manassehkatz about 1 month ago

@mana: But that's a bad idea some sites. I realize some don't like rep. That's fine. But they also don't want anyone else to have it on other sites where it would help. That's not fine. There needs to be a single obvious "score" somehow that shows how much a user's contributions were appreciated by the users. Let it be site-specific. That way everyone gets what they want. If Buddhist, for example, don't want rep, that's their call, but they don't get to impose that on everyone else. Olin Lathrop about 1 month ago

@mana: I see you made a suggested edit, but I can't figure out what it is. I click on Review Changes, and I get two texts side by side that look the same as far as I can tell. If there is a change, the system should highlight it somehow. I don't want to approve something when I can't tell what I'm approving. Olin Lathrop about 1 month ago

Self-answered questions is really a hack to use Q&A to write a paper. Actually, I think self-answered questions take 3 forms - "paper" (as noted), "personal experience and want to let everyone know how I solved the problem" (quite common in some SE sites) and (what I expected): Examples of typical/common problems with solutions. I actually was surprised at the very involved (yes, "paper"-like) answers in the initial self-answered questions. manassehkatz about 1 month ago

As far as "votes to delete". No need for that. Simple downvotes will serve the purpose quite well, and if people have specific issues, they can discuss via comments. manassehkatz about 1 month ago

Show 5 more comments

3 answers


That's an excellent idea. But I think there is no need in punishing bad posts here, because there will be very few posts here anyway, I'm sure. You have only to remove those infrequent "bad papers", and this is more than enough. For example, I think I have very good things to say about pulse generation, but I'm not a professional, and maybe this will not be of the expected level. On the other hand, you may be satisfied with that. There is only one way to know: you have to see. But if I'm afraid to be punished, I will not even try to invest efforts here.


A lot has to do with collaboration. There are (arguably) three types of "bad" papers: 1 - "junk" - spam, intentionally misleading, etc. - those should get closed/moderated away just as with regular questions; 2 - not appropriate for a "paper level" post - these would (I hope) be rare - someone who takes something that really doesn't belong to "papers" and tries to make it one - e.g., perhaps describing a hobbyist project; 3 - Low quality but fixable - this is where collaboration is key. manassehkatz about 1 month ago

One user might have the start of a great paper but simply not have the math or physics or whatever background to really flesh it out properly. Or may have the technical knowledge but be a poor writer (grammar, etc.). In these cases, if others jump in to help they can together turn it into something worthwhile. That only works if people are willing to cooperate rather than "every person for themselves" manassehkatz about 1 month ago

Nobody is going to get punished for writing a bad paper, unless it's clearly spam or the like. Well intentioned but bad papers will merely get downvoted to oblivion. If the author feels that is punishment, he can always just delete the paper and it never happened. That said, papers will be held to a higher standard than answer to questions. If you don't think you can live up to that, don't write a paper. Still, the only real downside of a genuine attempt is getting downvote. No punishment. Olin Lathrop 30 days ago

@mana: Collaboration on a paper makes sense, but we would need some new features from the system for that to work. We would need the concept of multiple authors, and a way to have drafts that only the authors can see until the paper is published. We don't want all the noise of multiple people eventually turning a mess into a worthwhile paper. Olin Lathrop 30 days ago


I've created the category and enabled the Article post type (only). It uses the same tag set as Q&A. If you want me to change either of those, let me know.

Please let me know what you'd like the text in the short description at the top to say and I'll add that. When you create a help page about the category, we can also add a link to that there.


Thanks. Now I need to get busy adding some help pages. If only the day job would leave me alone for a while ... Olin Lathrop 29 days ago

I added the short description for the Papers category to the end of my question. This may change if there is consensus to do so, but we have to start somewhere. Olin Lathrop 29 days ago

@OlinLathrop implemented. (I tweaked your link to replace "here" with the page title, but otherwise straight cut & paste.) Monica Cellio 29 days ago


My biggest concern is that it will get too random and low quality.

The worst that can happen is something similar to SO's failed "Documentation project" a couple of years ago, where users were to write documentation and examples of misc programming-related topics. These ended up in a separate place at the site - a category if you will. There was no clear structure for how to organize these articles - anyone could write one, edit one etc. You could provide feedback to specific articles. What happened was this:

  • It was rather unclear and subjective what problem "Documentation" was supposed to solve in the first place. (Wikipedia 2?)
  • Documentation pages ended up all over the place, broad and arbitrary. It was impossible to search through it looking for a specific topic.
  • Everyone and their mother felt the urge to write these posts, meaning that the overall quality ended up very low. The domain experts who wrote good articles had them drown in floods of crap.
  • Duplicates and overlapping topics happened frequently, with no easy way to resolve them.

And then there was actually a peer review system in place + you could leave comments etc, but it wasn't nearly enough. The whole project collapsed under the weight of crappy, chaotic articles.

Something similar to SO Documentation must be avoided. Then the question is - how do you do that, on an open Q&A site where everyone is (and should be) allowed to post, regardless of knowledge level. And how do you provide structure and guidelines for what the papers must look like, how they are categorized and so on.


I see the issues. At the same time, I think some of the "seed Q&A" already posted are almost at the level of scholarly articles, and left as ordinary Q&A they will get lost in the shuffle because people looking for quick answers don't search very effectively and related articles are nearly as likely to show up in the search. manassehkatz about 1 month ago

@manassehkatz Yeah so what we need is a working FAQ system, which was also the problem SO had since day 1. We could however use tag wiki for now, to maintain a list to high-quality canonical posts. Take for example the C programming FAQ I was pushing for over at SO: (scroll down to FAQ). It's an on-site link collection. Not so much for the benefit of beginners as for veteran users who need a "canonical dupe" link. Lundin about 1 month ago

Actually I addressed this issue back in December Nothing came out from that discussion... except it does seem like we can use Q&A tags here on meta too, so it may be possible to set up a link collection that way too. Lundin about 1 month ago

Response added to question. Olin Lathrop about 1 month ago

I think the apparent problem stems from the idea that "everyone is (and should be) allowed to post, regardless of knowledge level". What's wrong with only letting proven community members to post papers? Dmitry 29 days ago

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