It seems that overzealous folks at Area 51 closed the proposal without giving it a fair chance. (Dave Clarke)


mathoverflow.net is for mathematicians.

math.stackexchange.com is for wannabe and newbie mathematicians.


cstheory.stackexchange.com is for computer scientists.

but-there-is-nothing-AFAIK for wannabe and newbie computer scientists.

Some might say that you can ask your stupid non-research-level questions at math.SE. Well, most probably that won't work. For these reasons.

Such website can help beginners to get to "research level" quickly and then contribute to cstheroy.SE.


  • By newbie and wannabe I mean me :D
  • I have searched area51.SE but there is no such proposal currently.
  • Being a beginner I strongly feel need for beginner cstheory website.

So, should there be cstheory website for beginners? If yes, please suggest a good name for the same.

  • $\begingroup$ I was waiting for 1 upvote. Proposal created @area51 bit.ly/h4yyV4 $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ Currently the proposal is named “Theoretical Computer Science.” Please change the name to avoid clashing with existing Stack Exchange websites. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi Ito: Can you please suggest some good name? All I can think of is "Beginner Theoretical Computer Science". $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ “All I can think of is "Beginner Theoretical Computer Science".” I think that that name represents the proposal well and is good enough to distinguish the proposal from the existing site (that is, this one). $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi Ito: How do you add link into comments? $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 8:27
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    $\begingroup$ I'm definitely in favour of such a site. It will certainly provide a logical place to redirect many of our questions. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ “How do you add link into comments?” See the help next to the comment text box. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Tsuyoshi Ito Thanks! I tried it a few times but didn't work. :) wow! its working now. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 9:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: I scanned the front page of math.stackexchange.com and found few questions that looked like beginner's TCS. Nothing about automata, nothing about complexity, nothing about lambda calculus. Certainly, there is overlap, but the focus is different IMHO. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 13:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Dave, my opinion is that the other topics on Math.SE have the same situation. How many algebraic topology questions do you see on the front page? The same applies to almost all topics in math, TCS is not different. I don't know if you see what I mean. There is not a community for undergrad theoretical computer science as there is not one for undergraduate topology. And also the question are not so advanced that others would not understand the question. The situation is quite different for research-level topics. In any case, I am following the proposal (but I probably will not commit to it :). $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Feb 9, 2011 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Kaveh: I did misunderstand you. The point is, rephrasing, that there is such a thing as undergraduate mathematics, but there is not really such a thing as undergraduate theoretical computer science, only undergraduate computer science. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Dave: yes. I am not sure if extending the proposal to include other undergrad CS topics is good or not. Also the level of questions on Math.SE is such that non-experts can understand them, it is again quite different for advanced research topics on MO, this might be different for you but I don't even understand most of algebraic geometry/topology questions on MO (and I have a BS in pure math) which are the majority of MO questions. So it is not clear to me that the reasons stated for starting cstheory also applies to Beginner TCS. In any case, lets see how the proposal develops. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Feb 9, 2011 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ Duplicate to what, is the question. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Dave: I do not think that the proposal was closed by moderators of Area 51. Not sure if it is an important difference or not, but what you added to the question is incorrect as fact. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2011 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. I've fixed it. That makes the matter even more disappointing. $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2011 at 10:00

3 Answers 3


I think that we should have an all-CS beginners site. As an undergrad, you might not have positioned yourself in CS as clearly as later, and you have naturally daily contact with content other than your favorite on the level of others' questions.

Once people graduate (wether by knowledge or degree), they can choose the expert site(s) that fit(s) their needs best. That way, so far not existing sites might emerge once enough people graduate and feel the need for a new place.

A proper name should be the least problem. What about [t]csunderflow or [t]csnovice or [t]csadept?


A framework like Lev Reyzin's proposal of "different forums" might address this issue. Membership in cstheory could give you access to a research-level and a beginners forum. If you chose to click on the beginner's forum, you could see, ask, and answer those questions. If you didn't click on that forum, you wouldn't see any of that content.

The difference is that a researcher would have to OPT IN to see the beginner content. Current proposals (and the StackExchancge software) requires someone to OPT OUT, by, for example, declaring a "Beginner" tag uninteresting. This distinction between opting in and opting out seems at the core of the concern about allowing beginner questions -- we don't want researchers, especially those new to StackExchange and unfamiliar with things like tagging, to be "spammed" by questions below research level. On the other hand, if a beginner forum were to exist, I bet a lot of knowledgeable people would stop by there from time to time, because educating others is rewarding and fun.

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    $\begingroup$ "I bet a lot of knowledgeable people would stop by there from time to time, because educating others is rewarding and fun", I strongly agree with that. Sometimes I feel like I can spend some time for that, but most of the time I simply don't have time at all... $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2011 at 21:27

It seems to me like you're either going to need to allow beginner questions on Theory.SE, or that Area51 should allow a beginner Theory.SE to emerge.

What good is all of your expert knowledge if you cannot share it with those less fortunate?

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    $\begingroup$ We attempted to allow a beginner Theory.SE to emerge, but with no luck. I'm sure that if such a thing did emerge, many of the people here would actually help with answering questions. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ That's a little inflammatory no ? we use our expert knowledge to solve problems, and many of us ALSO share it (via teaching, blogging, etc). $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Suresh: But I trust I've made my point, yes? $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ but wasn't your point based on the premise that people here were blocking the creation of the site ? that is the opposite of the truth $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Suresh: I believe you. I was speaking in a more general way about all Area51 users allowing a beginner site to emerge. I have edited my answer to clarify. In truth, I believe you should allow non-graduate-level questions on your site. Granted, the really basic questions that can be answered with a Google search should probably be off-topic. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ We have this discussion a lot. The consensus, based on both MO and Jeff Atwood's comments on the matter, is that the right way to go is to cultivate a site that experts will visit, and the best way to do that is to maintain a strong lower bound fiercely. Otherwise, gravity forces things downwards $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2011 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ Forces down to what? Surely you don't expect high school kids to start asking questions here or things every Wikipedia article describes? But there's a whole group of people out there, who are climbing the mountain of knowledge you sit upon and instead of helping them climb, you'd rather throw rocks down at them... That's gravity working for you $\endgroup$
    – Ivo Flipse
    Feb 10, 2011 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ actually, we do get people asking questions that Wikipedia answers :). But your comment is based on the assumption that it's our job to help these people climbing the mountain. Why ? I had very selfish reasons in participating: I want a site that I can enjoy returning to, to talk with my peers. I spend enough time helping people climb the mountain of knowledge in my day job. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2011 at 5:58
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, we would help them climb, but maintain that the slope should be on another site than the top. (Note that I am not entirely happy with this myself, but I have come to understand and accept it.) $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Feb 10, 2011 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ For the algorithms and data structures side of TCS, the proposal practical algorithms might be a reasonable stand-in TCS for beginners site. For the complexity side, I don't see why the Math stackexchange wouldn't serve this purpose. Of course, this leaves a lot of areas uncovered. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2011 at 20:27

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