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A “beginners” complementation to PhysicsOverflow?

PhysicsOverflow has always been, and will always be a site for physics and has always maintained, and will continue to forever maintain a minimum level or standard for questions. Specifically, every question posted on PhysicsOverflow must be at least at a graduate level. For example, in terms of theoretical physics, quantum field theory and advanced general relativity mark the bottom level for questions.

However, we have recently had private discussions with a user who has preferred to remain anonymous, about setting up a lower-level completion to PhysicsOverflow. I personally consider this to be an absolutely brilliant idea. When we first talked about starting a new physics forum or Question & Answer site, we immediately wanted to have a site at a higher level because we felt that a free, frank, and non-censorious environment was most needed for a site at a higher level as opposed to a site for basic physics. When we conducted our poll for the level of our site nearly last year, “graduate level” won the poll. However, now that PhysicsOverflow is up and running, we realise that every community that discusses a scientific discipline needs a free, frank, and non-censorious environment to develop.

First of all, let me note that we are NOT planning to allow lower-level physics on PhysicsOverflow. PhysicsOverflow shall maintain its level forever. Our plan is to set up an additional site at a lower level than PhysicsOverflow at a domain like They will get to use our software (since our software contains many additional plugins made by polarkernel to the freely available, open-source Question2Answer software). This was not the first time we have seen the lack of a free, frank, and non-censorious site for lower-level physics. Another user, whose preference for anonymity is unknown, has also previously expressed that there is no undergraduate-level counterpart for PhysicsOverflow. The plan is therefore to set up an additional site (PhysicsUnderflow?) at a subdomain of PhysicsOverflow, like or

Will this positively affect PhysicsOverflow?

Yes, of course!

  • Post migration – This is the main positive impact of a “PhysicsUnderflow” on PhysicsOverflow. If a question is too basic for PhysicsOverflow or too advanced for “PhysicsUnderflow”, the question can be migrated between the sites. There is a Question2Answer plugin for this.
  • More contributors – I mean positive contributors. If someone enjoys participating on “PhysicsUnderflow”, they have a greater likelihood of participating on PhysicsOverflow, when they’re ready to participate on PhysicsOverflow.
  • Post diversion – Currently, we tell new users in their confirmation emails that PhysicsOverflow is a site for physics at a graduate-level and above; basic questions go here: If we have a brother site, “PhysicsUnderflow”, we can tell users to participate on PhysicsUnderflow for lower-level physics.

How can I help?

The PhysicsOverflow team is unfortunately uncapable of providing our full attention to “PhysicsUnderflow”, since we all have long to-do lists for PhysicsOverflow itself. The “PhysicsUnderflow” project requires:

  • At least one Super-administrator. This is essential. A super-administrator’s tasks include: executing the will of the community and managing the site in general, importing of posts from StackExchange, if the PhysicsUnderflow deems this necessary.
  • It would be nice to have a Developer to assist polarkernel at least in the beginning for setting up this site. This developer would have to voluntarily support the development of a “PhysicsUnderflow”, i.e. to put it straightforwardly, we, as a very small team, are currently incapable of paying an additional developer for the development of a “PhysicsUnderflow”.
  • Most importantly, the site needs to have a Community. There are no minimum criteria for activity (unlike in some dystopic settings across the internet), but people who are interested in a “PhysicsUnderflow”.

If you want to make the idea of a “PhysicsUnderflow” a reality, then please try to help out.

I am willing to be a super-administrator on “PhysicsUnderflow”! What next?

The first step in setting up a “PhysicsUnderflow”, in my opinion, is to set up a public blog for organised disucssion on this matter, like how PhysicsOverflow set up this very blog as per John McVirgo’s suggestion. You are encouraged to use as structure similar to that of this blog when writing posts for comment discussion on this blog of a “PhysicsUnderflow”. So please tell us if you are willing (and have the time, capacity, and inclination) to be a super-administrator, and tell us the URL of the blog that you have set up so we can link to it from the top of this post.

How will PhysicsOverflow support PhysicsUnderflow?

  • Helping you install all the PhysicsOverflow software (including the Question2Answer core, all our plugins, our theme, admin panel code, and everything) on it.
  • Providing you with a list of our custom pages.
  • Telling you how we deal with community moderation, provide a list of our community moderation posts.
  • Advising you on managing a “PhysicsUnderflow”, etc., ; for example, do you think it that this beginners site would also need to import posts from SE? In that case, it would be a pretty huge burden on you, since there are a lot of basic questions on SE. Maybe you should just import questions with at least 10 votes and not graduate-level+.
  • Promote the beginners site on the tpproposal blog and on the meta of PhysicsOverflow (done)

Eventually, I hope to see more and more “*erflow” (where “*” could be “und” or “ov”) sites form, and eventually form some sort of a large “Erflow” network with each scientific discipline having two sites, one overflow, and one underflow. Like a, etc. Anyway, that will probably take years : )

Physics Overflow is going to go public!

Finally, a long-awaited announcement. Physics Overflow’s private beta will end next week at midnight on Thursday, i.e. at 0000 hours, 4 April 2014!

This means that the public beta, which is the fifth phase in the history of Physics Overflow is going to begin. The phases so far are:

  • The TRF thread
  • The blog
  • The offline site [Foetushood]
  • The private beta [Infanthood]
  • The public beta (will begin next week) [Childhood]
  • Site Graduation… (in late August or beyond) [Adulthood]

So Physics Overflow will reach it’s childhood at the age of one and a half months next week! Sorry, couldn’t resist from giving stupid analogies.

Seriously, these things remain to be done, with the deadline (I copy an answer of mine from Physics Overflow):


I think that the TP.SE question Public beta: Attracting users? is also relevant to us.

In my opinion, there are some plug-ins (a job for polarkernel) remaining to be installed as soon as possible, such as

These plug-ins are good to have, and the first one is almost a necessity. I wonder why Q2A does not incorporate it in it’s core.

The second one gives admins some great tools to see how well the site is faring at a glance. It could even be made public I hope.

Additionally, we also may want to decide on solutions for having a chat room. That somehow reminds me; we may also consider retaining the tpproposal blog as a (hopefully $\infty$) life-long blog for Physics Overflow. The chat room; I’m not sure if we should wait for the public beta to start or not, but I just thought of reminding everyone about it.

From the things you have listed the following need to be done by 0000 hours, [CEST]

  • Sunday:
  • Tuesday:
    • We should invite everyone listed in the blog post.
    • We should announce on the TRF thread and invite Lubos too. Dilaton will write a guest post on TRF.
    • We should obviously announce on the blog.
    • On the blog, user10001 (dushya) had the idea of promoting the site to various physicists in the world.
  • Wednesday: 
    • I (and anyone else who is interested) need to finish 14 and 15 of the FAQ.
    • The long users need to be corrected (I will do this).
    • The main page needs to be set to Q&A.
  • Thursday:  
    • Change permissions
    • Edit robots.txt (a job for polarkernel)
    • Changing all admin-added links (in the sidebar, navbar, etc.)

High-level old questions

Following up on this, please write down the URLs to interesting questions on Physics.SE, whose question ID is lesser than 76440.

You may use, for example:

Admin Dashboard Settings: Part 7 – Navigation Bar Settings, etc.

Ok, here’s the seventh part of Admin Dashboard Settings, about Navigation Bars.

Firstly, I think
that out of the default links we can have all of them, except
probably “Q&A”, as it’ is basically the home page, which can be
found by clicking on the

Out of those enablable by plug-ins, the two displayed in the demo sandbox aare
basically the useless “Example Page” (Who wants to know that they clicked “Ok then”
, and the sitemap which is useless to most users of the site (right?, does anyone even know where SE’s sitemap is?).

For the custom pages, I think we should have a link to meta, the tag wikis, and the review queues. Remember that the tag wikis and the (Suggested Edits) review queues will most likely be hosted on The Matheamtics and Physics Wikia. I think this is advantageous for a number of reasons.

  • As for the suggested edits, it’s the only way we can do this.
  • As for the tag wikis, it’s also the only way we can do this, since the tag description plug-in for Q2A is hardly satisfactory. We *could* install it though, to just provide a link to the tag wiki on the Mathematics and Physics Wiki.
  • The tag wikis on SE are hardly tag “wikis“, at all. No one – body can edit them. It’s all suggested edits. And a more difficult suggested edit than the usual one. Why, the entire Q & A are more “wiki” than the so-called tag “wiki”s, since you just need 2k rep to edit them normally, as opposed to 20k rep, and Community Wiki posts are easier to edit, requiring just 100 rep. And here, stupid mods talk about how talking about D-Branes isn’t a[[ppropriate for a tag wiki a about btranes branes. Those mods just have no brains : ) …
  • The wiki interface, and even more-so, Wikia’s default narrow-width “Oasis” skin (check it out, click on this random article I found, and ensure that the “rails” are not hidden) look very appropriate for a tag wiki to me.
  • I think linking such websites may be advantageous to both, since people whom join either one can come to know of the other, which is good because a collaborative wiki, and a collaborative Q&A, are both important, especially for Physcs.

Which reminds me, I think we should also have a custom HTML on the sidebar telling people to suggest edits at this page.

Additionally, we may also have a “Meta” and “Main” links there, because people may not bother going through the categroiories, oor even eimagine that both “Meta” and “Main” exist there.

Any other ideas?

Admin Dashboard Settings: Part 6 – Users Settings

    • Notice at top for first-time visitors 

Maybe we should use this oppurtunity to reinstate that only graduate-level questions are allowed, something like:

Welcome to “Physics Overflow”! We are a site for graduate-level Physics, from […] to […] . Off-topic questions will not be answered, and will be closed, or even deleted very soon.

would be just fine.

When a visitor just sees that notice once, they’ll hardly care. People generally don’tbelieve such things immediately, or will at least think they’ll get answered, or at keast they’lll get a hint from someone; you’ll need to drill it into their head if you really put the same notice everywhere. Therefore, I think that this notice should not just be put in the Top, Site Notice Bar for new users but also on the:

    • Custom Message on Register form

and the

    • Custom Message for newly registered users
  • Log in by email only, not username

Why would one want to do that?

  • Allow users with posts to change their username

No, this is misleading, when users change their username too drastically. If they want to change their username, they should be having to contact a mod first, who should check that the change is not too drastic.

  • Enable Private Messageing 

Why not?

  • Rest of the options

You can see them here . I think the checkboxes there should all be marked as “yes”, and the options can just be taken to be default. It may be  a nice idea to make the default avatar something nice and funny, like this:

Untitled (21401236432141569807312.041)

like on TRF.

Admin Dashboard Settings: Part 4 – Some more “General” Customisation

Some Sort of a “Follow – Up” to Part 1 of Admin Dashboard settings.

  • Provide a Feedback Page?

    Unnecessary, in my opinion, since we have a meta.

  • Logo
    I don’t know, but here’s my proposal:

    Stacked Branes (BPS Overflow)

    Any objections? Or here’s an other one:

    Untitled (21401236432141569807312.041)

    Or any other proposals?

  • Custom HTML in Side Bar

    Already discussed

  • Other Custom HTML?

    I don’t exactly have an idea for these, but Q2A allows one to add custom HTML in the Side Bar, the Side Panel, the Top, the Bottom, the Head, and an option to add some meta tags.

    I suppose the head will mean basically the MaThJaX script, and the meta tags would be the tags used for things like Google site verification, etc. …

  • Widgets

    There are some widgets allowed by Q2A. Namely, “Recent Activity” (I think this is a nice feature to attract new users. Also, if I am not wrong, it increases SEO if you put it at the top of the side panel, or something/where like that ), “Ask Box” (may be a good idea to increase the number of inflowing questions), “Related Questions” (as on SE, a very nice feature), “Basic Ad Sense” (I don’t know what it is, but on the demo sandbox, it just “ad”ds a big space or gap at the top of each page.) and “Tag Cloud” (a good idea for new users to quickly get what is the scope of the site)

Ok, that’s it for this post, and I think the next post should be about the “Posting” Settings.

More specific meta questions

(I’m trying my best to use the visual editor, please excuse any crappy formatting)

Here are some more specific meta questions (compared to the fundamental ones) I  think we should have, from lessons on the Meta of Physics Stack Exchange:

  • SE account reclaim  


  • Close Vote Requests         

Q2A does not have an inbuilt VTC feature. To  allow for a “VTC” feature, we should have a meta posts on which one may request for close votes. (X rep users would agree/disagree in the comments; total of two  agreements minus disagreements would mean closure).

  • Reopen Vote Requests  

Just like the last one.

  • Tag Synonyms and

To decide on Tag Synonymisation; which tags have the same meaning as one another, etc.

  •  Burnination

To decide on Tag Burnination; which tags are useless, etc.

  • Which questions should be in the “FAQ” tag? 

Like this.

  • 404 Page

I suggest the D’ Alembert one, by the way : )

  • Suggesting additional categories .

We have categorisation on Q2A. The default categorisation will likelyily be     this.   However, users should have the ability to “suggest” categories.

  • … ? ( suggest in comments )  

Any issues with the existing ideas ? Any more for proposing ?