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7 Important questions we have to clarify

On the new Astronomy SE site, I have seen a blog post promoted that gives some advice about what important meta questions have to be considered by an upraising new site. My plan for this post is to steal and adapt these ideas for our purpose and to evaluate what has already been clarified, and start some new discussions as needed. It is clear that there are things that can only be done as soon as we actually have  a site up and running  … 😉

So here we go!

1. What should be on or off topic ?

Some polling about what topics will be welcome has already been done here. Up to now it seems, that all of the suggested broad fields

  • Theoretical Physics
  • Fundamental Physics
  •  Phenomenology
  •  Experimental Physics
  • Mathematics / Mathematical Physics
  •  Astrophysics

are almost equally welcome (the votes currently vary between 8 and 10). Concerning the off topics

  • Engineering
  • Non Mainstream Physics
  • Applied Physics

it looks like the first two will rather be off topic indeed, whereas concerning Applied Physics, which has presently only 3 votes to be off topic things are slightly less clear.

An aside: These two and all of the other polls in this blog are still ongoing …. if I have done it right 😉

2. Do we need an FAQ and what should it say?

As I read it from the SE blog post, this is mostly used to define the scope of the site, what kind of questions are welcome and what questions are no good.  In addition, it would maybe be an idea to shortly outline there the purpose and targeted audience, goal of the site, what will be allowed  and what not, etc (?) …

We already have started to gather example questions.

3. What kind of tags should we have?

Just recently it was said in some comments to this blog, that it could be an idea to subdivide our site a bit into categories, such as for example into the broad on topics theoretical physics, experimental physics etc… If this should be done, right from the start or only later when the site has become large enough needs to be discussed. Maybe it is enough to keep this written here and in mind for now.

Concerning the subfield tags, I often enough complained about the (increasing in number and application) terrible and blatantly dilettante / unprofessional looking ones (such as food, aircraft, and other everyday life and man-made things) on Physics SE… As I understand it, meaningful physics or mathematics tags should either denote subfields or other keywords, useful to and applied by physicists.

Another, for a professional site rather appropriate suggestion from a comment would be to apply Arxiv nomenclature.

4. Who should the moderators be?

We obviously only need moderators as soon as we have the site up and running. Are moderators even needed, or could good community moderation be enough too ?

In my opinion moderators should be the most knowledgeable and trusted by the community users, who are willing to do the job. The SE point of view that anybody can moderate a site even if he is lacking the appropriate knowledge about the topic of the site, is in my personal opinion just nonsense …

5. A slogan or motto  (on SE called “elevator pitch”)

As I understand it this should be a short slogan characterizing the site, which can the be artistically and graphically visualized on the site. I am not sure, if this is really needed ?

However, if somebody can come up with something that is cool and contains a nice portion of physics humor, it could be fun  … 😀

The domain name or name of the site  could be used as some kind of slogan / motto too, and from the discussions on TRF the name of the new site seems to equilibrate to PhysicsOverflow. This I would like because of  the nice analogy to MathOverflow, which is a nice research-level math site …

To be sure and just for the fun, it maybe does not hurt to do another short poll for the name (and domain name) of the site here:

The first three names have already been mentioned on TRF. I added “The Hidden Sector”, because I always like to think about the new physics site as a  refuge or hiding place, where all mainstream physics topics can be discussed seriously and reasonably, without having to deal with uninformed trolling about certain topics, as it is observed too often in most other online physics discussions (including Physics SE unfortunately) …

6. What should our site design (including a logo) look like?

This will strongly depend on the corresponding degrees of freedom the Q&A software we use  (probably Q2A) has I guess. Maybe some screenshots can be posted on this blog while testing the software on a laptop …

7. How to promote the site?

This will be most important once the site is up and running, but it probably does not hurt to already note some people, that something is seriously going on concerning a new physics site to have good discussions here.

For this, the direct feed of posts from here into a Physics SE chat room  (which will probably also prevent it from getting frozen for inactivity) is rather fun, thanks to Dimension10 … 😀

Now I have talked or written enough for the moment, somebody on Physics Meta once even said that I  write a lot of text faster than he can read … 😀

We need a new higher-level physics site !

The purpose of this blog is to support setting up  a new higher-level  physics Q&A site, to allow the international community of researchers, students, and people  interested in learning physics at an advanced level  to enjoy discussing and improving their knowledge about physics topics they are interested in  unhindered by any externally predefined obstructions or negative interference by people outside the community. The new site is roughly expected to be some kind of physics analog to what the mathematicians have with the high-level  MathOverflow in addition to Mathematics SE, where more basic questions are welcome too.A new higher-level physics site is urgently needed, as the formerly existing Theoretical Physics Stack Exchange site has unfortunately been closed since such small, highly specialized communities are not what the Stack Exchange network supports in the long run by definition. Just to be sure, the theoretical physics site has NOT failed, it supported a very nice research-level community and the high quality questions and answers that appeared there are very valuable . The only problem I observed from silently  lurking around (I even had a fanatic batch there!) is that they probably had set the bar to ask slightly too high, such that the site suffered from not enough new questions coming in.  So, even though this  project of setting up a new high-level physics site can be seen as some kind of an attempt to resuscitated the closed theoretical physics site, it is probably a good idea to broaden the scope and targeted audience a bit to include for example experimental and phenomenological physics questions at an appropriate level too.

The still existing Physics Stack Exchange site, even though it was initially targeted at active researchers, academics, and (university?) students of physics (and astronomy today),  has clearly failed to offer the larger part of the former theoretical physics community a good new home, even though the questions were migrated there. In particular since the last elections in December last year, accompanied by some really bad happenings, the site has become terribly overmoderated and dominated by people more interested in enforcing rules which are detrimental to an academic community,  the site is flooded by popular physics and very low-level  questions of people who have (almost) no physics knowledge of their own, some moderators enforce their personal opinion in a rather dictatorial manner, etc … such that the site has now lost its nice collegial atmosphere and is no longer an agreeable place for people seriously interested in learning and doing higher-level physics. This is enough (or already too much said) to explain why the current Physics SE site does appropriate to fill the gap left by closing the Theoretical Physics SE site, more can be read here, here, and in related discussions on Physics Meta  . At least to me know other higher-level physics Q@A site is known to exist, as for example Quora has its strengths rather in the popular sector and Physics Forum is as the name says a forum.

A still ongoing discussion about setting up a higher-level physics site has already been started on TRF (kindly allowed by Lumo). But as this thread is growing things are becoming a bit messy and it has become rather hard to navigate through the now nicely many comments. So the plan is to summarize and evaluate further if needed what has already been said on TRF concerning the many technical issues and questions about the desired scope and content of the future physics site in dedicated posts on this blog to (I hope so) better structure and organize the discussion.

As this is my first blog and you are reading my very first blog post ;-), I am still figuring out how the different possibilities to customize the site work, how the design can be improved, what features can be included, etc … So apart from being happy about anybody who joins the discussions about setting up the new physics site, I appreciate any advice of more experienced people about how to improve the look, structure, and other aspects of this blog.  Help to improve the language (I am not a native speaker)  or removing typos (they badly accumulate when I am upset …)  is highly welcome too. As I have noted by browsing some WordPress tutorials, the rights of different (logged in?) users to edit this blog could be customized, such that it in principle does not have to be exclusively be me who writes posts, leads discussions, edits stuff,  etc here, even though John McVirgo has kindly enthrusted the task of running this blog to me, LOL 😀 ! So if other people are very eager to write and edit things here too, have good ideas, important things to say, I guess the blog could be run in a more collaborative way too. And who knows, even though it is intended to be a temporary blog  just to support setting up a new physics site, maybe it  could be kept as a companion of the new site, we’ll see.

Now I wish us all good success in bringing up the new physics site online 🙂