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Lots of people come on this site asking (often) similar questions about PhD. Shouldn't we create some sort of "Master" question which would appear as 'to read before putting PhD in your title' (amongst the suggestions), and which would answer many of the frequently asked questions?

This wiki could also give the kind of questions that we will not answer on cstheory.se. Another advantage would be that it would be easier to refer every one to this question when asking about PhD?

To be more precise, I was thinking of a CW with all the "mainstream" answers, for the recurrent questions such as :

  • Litterature 1, 2, 3,
  • topics 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
  • fundings 9,
  • Universities/Places/people 10, (see also on meta)

So it could be just stuff like this, I am not saying all the questions I quoted could be put in this CW: some really interesting ones cannot be foreseen and it is really a good thing for this site to have them appearing. However for readability reasons, if at least the main ideas were in the same place it might be easier for the people asking the questions?

Then of course we can create a template that refers to this CW when people ask about PhD.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you saying that we need a comment template for such questions ? Because we do entertain SOME questions about Ph.D work $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Nov 1 '11 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ @SureshVenkat, see my edit if it makes things clearer? $\endgroup$ – Gopi Nov 1 '11 at 21:20
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I think a better solution might be to enlist the help of the cstheory blog. There's already a page there summarizing the answers to the question about CS conferences, and this seems like a useful page as well.

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  • $\begingroup$ The list of CS conference is not on the cstheory blog, but on cstheory.SE? This was the idea, to make a page as useful as this last one if possible. $\endgroup$ – Gopi Nov 2 '11 at 7:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Gopi: I don't understand your comment. The blog page for conferences is here: cstheory.blogoverflow.com/… $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Nov 2 '11 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeFitzsimons, my bad, I did not see it on the right side of the blog :s. Then yes I suppose it would be probably the best thing to do. However can we modify it easily (add information we did not think at first that came after with new questions)? Would people that ask a question that has already been asked see it easily, without having someone telling them after they already asked the question (hence making new questions)? When it is a CW, it appears on the proposed similar questions after you write the title. $\endgroup$ – Gopi Nov 2 '11 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Joe and Suresh (and Gopi!): I have been swamped, but I am going to try to create some new blog content this weekend. I was planning to publish a new entry, but we could discuss an additional page as well. We discussed a career advice page on meta a couple months ago, which is currently in limbo. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Sterling Nov 2 '11 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Aaron: Me too. Sorry, it shouldn't always fall on you. I'll try to get the new post up tomorrow. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Nov 2 '11 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think a CW question here is entirely appropriate. I think the blog is the correct place to locate such information. As for updates, things don't get changed so quickly, so if someone has access to that page, they can periodically go in and update it. $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Nov 2 '11 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, perhaps a meta question (rather than CW) would be a good way to collate the information to put on the blog page. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Nov 2 '11 at 18:44
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I am fine with advice questions from people who are target community of the site, less so with questions which are from others (e.g. undergrad students), there are other recourses on the net that deal with topics quite well, and there seems no reason the TCS researchers will give a better answer than those resources. Take for example the most recent one. One can search Google, go and check the websites of universities (even better make a Wikipedia list of them), there is no expert knowledge that is needed, it seems just laziness.

IMO, item 1 in the list seems is a reasonable type of soft-question (as long as we are not getting too many of them), item 2 and 3 are off-topic here (with the exception of question 7). About item 4, we have discussed the problems with ranking department/people before, don't see any reason to change the current policy about that.


About CW: it was a vague, confusing, and mis-defined concept (and IMHO it still is). I think we should avoid it as much as possible. It does NOT turn a off-topic into a on-topic one.

(The problem is that people want to express that they like a post but think the author deserves no reputation for posting it. CW is being abused for covering this conflict.)

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  • $\begingroup$ About item 4, I was not advising to change the policy, on the contrary, but to give it explicitly on this CW, of what will not be discussed here. I am not sure people posting for the first time will think of reading the meta :). They might however read one of the related questions when they start to type their questions :). $\endgroup$ – Gopi Nov 2 '11 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Also about CW, it was not a problem of according reputation to author, but about "factorizing" some "mainstream" answers. I was not implying that there should be no questions about PhD. But like @SureshVenkat said before, it might be better as a post on the cstheory blog. $\endgroup$ – Gopi Nov 2 '11 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Gopi: I don't think having it on the main site in place of on the meta will change anything. There are closed questions that show up if you search for say topics but it doesn't seem to stop people from posting similar questions. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Nov 2 '11 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ about CW, the real underlying reason I see for making a post CW is that we don't want upvotes to give reputation (the reason for that can change from case to case) and that is IMO just covering the conflict. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Nov 2 '11 at 16:33
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Please don't. This kind of information shouldn't be on the site at all, and instances that do appear ought to be closed. Using the CW status is merely abusive.

Put another way, "The PhD CW question" is to this site as [any question that belongs on Programmers SE] is to Stack Overflow.

(I admit that I'm a bit annoyed right now. Now that I'm actually a grad student, I came here to look up information about a research-related topic. One of the first search results I got was Funny TCS-related papers etc?, which should have been closed as "Not constructive" the moment it was asked per network-wide policy. This doesn't make me feel like I'm at a community for experts; quite the opposite, in fact.)

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't it a little extreme to label an entire community with nearly 2500 questions based on a single question that pops up in a search result ? And even serious theoreticians need to blow off steam sometimes :) $\endgroup$ – Suresh Venkat Nov 2 '11 at 3:43
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    $\begingroup$ @LordTorgamus: Have you looked at the front page and the high rep users? If you have and still think this is the opposite of a community of experts then your scale is severely miscalibrated. $\endgroup$ – Joe Fitzsimons Nov 2 '11 at 10:33
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    $\begingroup$ Downvoted. We just had a discussion on meta, led by a top expert, about the importance of allowing silly questions on the site. Serious != expert. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Sterling Nov 2 '11 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is gray area, and most of users of the site seem to be OK with some of soft-questions. Since you are new here, let me tell that the policies and norms here generally are closer to MathOverflow than to SO, so I guess it will take you sometime to adopt to the norms here. Remember also that the mood changes over time, we haven't had that kind of question for a considerable time (the question you linked to belongs to the early months). In any case, I think it is a distraction to generalize discussion about the specific type of question this post is about. $\endgroup$ – Kaveh Nov 2 '11 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ I understand the annoyance which you experienced. I do not know what phrase you searched, but it is certainly unfortunate that a pastime question showed up as a top result when you were looking for some serious information. Although most of the questions posted on this site are about serious research, a small number of highly voted questions are pastime questions (which is unfortunate but understandable). I wish that you will not judge the entire community of cstheory.stackexchange.com by just looking at those few pastime questions. $\endgroup$ – Tsuyoshi Ito Nov 2 '11 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ Whoa, hey, easy. I never said the actual community was bad. I only said that that one question didn't make me feel like this was a place for experts. As a matter of fact, I have read other questions here, and I do intend to keep coming back to this site. $\endgroup$ – Pops Nov 3 '11 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ @SureshVenkat please see new comment $\endgroup$ – Pops Nov 3 '11 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeFitzsimons please see new comment $\endgroup$ – Pops Nov 3 '11 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @AaronSterling please see new comment $\endgroup$ – Pops Nov 3 '11 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Kaveh please see new comment $\endgroup$ – Pops Nov 3 '11 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ @TsuyoshiIto please see new comment (sometimes I wish multiple notifications per comment were allowed) $\endgroup$ – Pops Nov 3 '11 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ Argh, ran past the five-minute comment edit timer. To remove any ambiguity: I was trying to convey that I am not judging the whole site based on that one post, which is somehow the exact opposite of what everyone seems to have read. $\endgroup$ – Pops Nov 3 '11 at 0:39

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