There's been a lot of chatter of late about our scope, the declining number of questions being asked per day, and whether we're being excessively strict about question scope.
This question is intended to revisit the debate over scope. I'll outline some reasons why I think it's a good idea to revisit the question, and propose a new scope definition that we can debate.
Why revisit our scope ?
Our original intent in defining our scope was to shelter the site from a potential deluge of basic algorithms questions, and to model our community on the very successful MathOverflow model. I think two things have changed since that time:
We now have a natural forum (cs.stackexchange.com) for the more "basic" algorithms questions, and the cstheory "brand" is well established as a 'research-only' venue. So we have an easy process to shunt questions that are obviously undergrad level.
As has been observed, our overall participation numbers have slowed, as well as the pace of new upvoted questions. Given how many people I personally know who aren't active on the site, I see no reason why our numbers should be slowing.
My view of the problem
We are not the same as the mathoverflow community. TCS is much smaller to start with, and there's a much smaller gap between the "starting grad student question" and "advanced research question" in TCS than in math. By limiting ourselves to the research end of the spectrum, we are
- excluding questions from people who might be 'research-level' in a sub area but aren't experts in some other domain. This is often mitigated by reputation (I might be able to get away with asking a basic complexity theory question), but it shouldn't be !
- creating the impression of an unfriendly site (which is a bigger problem in terms of maintaining the audience)
- spending far too much time policing the boundaries of what's acceptable, instead of being willing to accept some small fraction of lower-level questions in order to also bring in more interesting ones.
We should allow questions that might be asked by a grad student in a grad theory class, even if they are not 'research-level', as long as they are looking for a deeper understanding. For example, a question "What is Sauer's lemma' could be dismissed because it's on Wikipedia, but "How should I go about proving an upper bound on VC dimension" would be ok.
This is not perfect as examples go, and I'm happy to hear modifications and suggestions.
But please keep the discussion constructive and focused. Just because your questions are closed doesn't mean that there's a problem. Conversely, just because you like the site just as it is doesn't mean you can't try to imagine something even more useful to the community.