I fear that omnibus Q&A's (is there an accepted term for these?) like What are the most common pitfalls awaiting new users? and Where can I find examples of good Mathematica programming practice? can grow too long to be genuinely useful, and they may have done so already.

When one is met with a wall of links, even a well organize one, there is undeniable content dilution. Not all posts and not all elements of those posts are of equal importance. In the case of pitfalls posts are at least voted up or down which provides a relative placement for those with that sort option selected, but these unpopular posts still take room in the index. In the case of examples the many links in each post are not ranked by votes.

I propose a culling process by which unpopular content is removed from these pages.

For pitfalls this could be as simple as: if the post has not accrued p votes in d days (values to be determined) the post will be removed.

For examples this would be much harder. However I think here it may be that much more important so that high quality references on popular topics are not lost among those of lower merit. If others agree at least that this is a problem then we should consider if there is a practical approach to reviewing, ranking, and perhaps ultimately culling some of these many links.

  • If we would have a "documentation" section I'd argue for using that for this purpose. However, using stackoverflow.com/documentation/wolfram-mathematica/topics could be an option worth discussing, although it would be completely outside of mathematica.stackexchange.com. (Do our moderators have any power there?)
    – Karsten7
    Jan 22, 2017 at 17:54
  • Does this answer the question, for example: mathematica.stackexchange.com/a/118686/13162 Jan 23, 2017 at 11:29
  • 7
    I don't agree with culling those Q&As. I think it could actually be harmful. I like having canonical answers to refer to, and it's useful not just for the super common questions.
    – C. E.
    Jan 23, 2017 at 14:08
  • Can you, as a moderator, see how often a post is linked to? Removing a post could brake a lot of links.
    – Karsten7
    Jan 23, 2017 at 14:47
  • 1
    @C.E. In the case of pitfalls I am thinking of posts like (119939) which are not merely uncommon but IMHO out of place. Do we allow any post to remain because one person thinks it fits or do we as a community curate these to some extent?
    – Mr.Wizard
    Jan 24, 2017 at 8:56
  • @Karsten I don't believe that is a moderator function but it may be possible through data.stackexchange.com (for all users). The kind of posts I envision culling (see my comment immediately above) would not be linked often.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Jan 24, 2017 at 8:57

4 Answers 4


I wouldn't worry about good examples thread as it is for users who know, more or less, what they want to find. Or at least it is not a place you go when you are in hurry.

It is the opposite to common pitfalls which should be readable/searchable after a glimpse.

I agree we should not cut it but we should improve it, and my suggestion is to make it friendly for users who don't read but scan. Which is usually the case.

So I'd rephrase the table of contents:


Syntax and semantics

  • Basic syntax issues

  • What the @#%^&*?! do all those funny signs mean?

  • Understand that semicolon (;) is not a delimiter

  • Omitting ; can cause unexpected results in functions

  • Understand the difference between Set (or =) and Equal (or ==)

  • The displayed form may substantially differ from the internal form


Syntax and semantics

  • Guide: variables, functions, definitions, equations...

  • Guide: @@, @@@, #, ##, ##2, _?f, %% ...

  • Tutorial: (;) semicolon role

  • Tutorial: (;) when is semicolon needed

  • Tutorial: = vs ==

  • Tutorial: a + b vs Plus[a, b] and replacements.

  • Big picture: Coding in Mathematica

That is just an example but you get my point. So now the question is whether we proceed and, if so, how to decide what passes through.


I see the problem, but I think I agree with C.E. that culling may not be the best solution. At least for pitfalls, which has been organized into sub-topics, we might break the mega-question it multiple questions -- one new question for each sub-topic.

I do worry that this proposed solution might break many established links. Perhaps such links could be updated? Since a lot of those links appear in comments, I fear the editing will put a great burden on moderators.

  • 2
    This is what I was going to suggest, with one alternative: we leave the original in place, with it locked, and reset the links in the question to the new locations.
    – rcollyer
    Jan 24, 2017 at 3:27
  • Where do I upvote (downvote) if I think we should leave those threads as they are?
    – LLlAMnYP
    Jan 24, 2017 at 8:51
  • @LLlAMnYP You mean no culling of any kind? Post that an an Answer yourself, and others can vote for that position if they agree.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Jan 24, 2017 at 8:53
  • m_goldberg please see my comments below the question. Links directly to answers would be broken by splitting up pitfalls and off-hand I do not think that is a good plan. Culling early would prevent links from forming, and the kind of post I am thinking of isn't likely to be linked often anyway.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Jan 24, 2017 at 9:00
  • 2
    @Mr.W I realized that you meant removal of some lower-quality answers. I'd say I'm nonchalant about that. They don't get in my way, but I won't miss them if they go.
    – LLlAMnYP
    Jan 24, 2017 at 14:34

In general I am not a fan of the Pitfalls question and would rather see single-topic canonical Q&A's for these common mistakes/confusions (like this) They could be united by a common tag to make them easy to locate.

However, I do appreciate that the community as a whole likes having a single target for the commonly duplicated questions, and it would break a lot of links to make any radical changes.

Therefore I support Mr.Wizard's proposal to cull unpopular content. The disruption will be minimal, and the remaining answers will address genuinely common problems. Culled posts need not be deleted outright if they have value, but could be moved to dedicated questions.


In my opinion the Examples answers could be improved by removing most of the links to pages here on mathematica.stackexchange. The site itself already has functionality for finding content (search, tags), bookmarking useful pages (favorites) and identifying high quality material (votes). I question the usefulness of having these long lists of internal links.

If they were removed the remaining links would be more manageable and could be further culled or rearranged as necessary.

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