I've noticed that you must wait sometimes days to find halfway decent answers at Wolfram Community but when posting similar questions at StackExchange Mathematica answers sometimes come within minutes and the are often very well written with pride coming from its members. Why is it that it seems we attract a more dedicated clique of participants?

  • 6
    I think "Just for fun" is the main one reason.
    – cvgmt
    Dec 23, 2020 at 0:54
  • 10
    It's the points. Who can resist 10 points from everyone who thinks an answer is good?
    – bill s
    Dec 23, 2020 at 1:00
  • 2
    As it is this question will be closed I think. It would fit in the stack exchange chat room just fine, though there is less traffic there. It would be an appropriate question on Community though. :-) But I too come here for those sweet sweet points.
    – Jason B.
    Dec 23, 2020 at 1:12
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    I'd guess it's mostly a network effect
    – Chris K
    Dec 23, 2020 at 1:30
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    The Q&A format is better suited for questions about Wolfram Language and, as a result, more users choose to put their time into this site. There was a time when forums were used for programming questions but it is to a large extent over thanks to Stack Exchange. Conversely, on WC you’ll find several other types of posts which fit in there but not here.
    – C. E.
    Dec 23, 2020 at 2:35
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    Possibly related to the fact that this is not even remotely close to an appropriate question for MSE, and yet might be allowed on Wolfram Community Dec 23, 2020 at 3:04
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    Search. There is no Search capability just for Wolfram Community, one has to search the entire wolfram site. Dec 23, 2020 at 3:40
  • 3
    The Wolfram Community site does not have a Mobile version and the site looks horrible on cellular device. On the other hand the layout of Stackexchange site on Mobile phones is very intuitive and this keeps the user engaged.
    – Sâu
    Dec 23, 2020 at 6:38
  • 2
    FWIW: I often find myself needing at least half an hour (research time not included) to at least write a halfway-decent response to SE questions. I imagine the care needed is why whatever I write on SE looks a little better than my typical work. (That being said, writing an answer for math.SE or MO, on the other hand, is way more effort-intensive, because I also have to care about making sure the TeX shows as I intended it to be.) Dec 23, 2020 at 10:36
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    Which answers to posts you have participated in on Wolfram Community do you consider "halfass"? Dec 23, 2020 at 14:31
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    I think one of the biggest factor is just the quality of the website. StackOverflow is in the business of making a great Q/A website, so the interface is clean, effective, and easy to use. Wolfram Community is teeth-gridingly slow, poorly organized, and, unsearchable. You've got better access to Wolfram's devs there, but as in so many things implementation (and being there first) is everything.
    – b3m2a1
    Dec 23, 2020 at 21:07
  • 1
    In addition, the high quality and fairness of moderation (especially by Mr. Wizard) is surely a factor. (IMO not all SO sites have the quality of questions and answers, or attracts the levels of expertise, that this one does)
    – user1066
    Feb 5, 2021 at 21:13
  • I guess the question is how after the overwhelming evidence of the much more successful style of SE, why would community.wolfram.com stick to a bad model. Complicated topics need curated content, no chitchat.
    – rhermans
    Sep 30, 2022 at 8:42

2 Answers 2


Probably a combination of many factors. I will list some differences between SE sites (M SE in particular) and Wolfram Community, which I consider important in this context:

  • Historically M SE (this site) is a successor of Stack Overflow Mathematica tag, which was the place where the original smaller group of enthusiasts had enough time to gather and build a strong community core.
  • Stack Overflow Mathematica tag itself was empowered by an influx of users from MathGroup, which happened around 2010 - 2011. So M SE is in many ways a successor of both, which matters both in terms of culture of the M SE community and in terms of actual people involved. Wolfram Community came out later and had no such benefits, although of course some fraction of former MathGroup users have migrated there.
  • Stack Exchange Q/A model has been optimized for answers with high information density. Each answer is a standalone piece of information, which is not supposed to be a start of any kind of a discussion thread (which is not the case for Wolfram Community model, where answers very frequently transform into long threads of discussions which lower the information density and make it harder to find the relevant part). This also makes SE answers to be easier to index and promptly returned by the search engines.
  • Wolfram Community does not have a distinction between comments and answers. Stack Exchange has explicit distinction, and the two serve very different purpose. Comments are more or less a back door to allow some amount of discussions around the answers, which also serves as a source of extra fun and community-building device. But even so, extended comment discussions are also discouraged.
  • Stack Exchange voting model, as well as things such as badges etc, make it fun to answer and compete with fellow users. While in the short term it does not guarantee the best answer to bubble to the top / get the most votes, in the long term this usually happens. While Wolfram Community has voting functionality, for some reason (lack of comments, may be?) the competing part is not there, which takes a big chunk of fun out. And because the answers there frequently turn into threads of replies, voting is not at all as effective as answer-ranking device either.
  • Stack Exchange has a powerful community involvement model, where users can perform moderation, edit posts of others, etc. This brings extra fun and the sense of liveliness to the site.
  • Stack Exchange sites have a very high degree of polish, coming from the manpower behind the site, the effort spent on development, and the long history of getting massive feedback from the community via meta sites and evolving the sites / rules accordingly. Wolfram Community can't be even remotely compared to SE in this regard, since it probably has just a single developer.
  • M SE is not directly associated with Wolfram, while Wolfram Community is - for whatever difference that may make.

On the other hand, Wolfram Community is much better suited for posting various explorations, tutorials, computational essays, and otherwise showing some work one may have done. Which is what I personally find it most valuable for. It also is useful as a source of official opinions and information on various topics coming directly from the company and fully endorsed by it. Besides, a lot of questions that don't fit M SE strict Q/A format, are allowed on Wolfram Community, which in many cases can also be considered a definite plus for Wolfram Community.

So at the end of the day, I personally find both of them useful (albeit for different things). But as I have limited time to spend on this sort of activities, and can't afford to monitor both sites closely, I personally mostly monitor M SE, since I just find myself much more at home here. This is of course a very personal choice.

  • 3
    Chat used to be a nice community-building feature, too, for those who used it. A few years ago the activity tailed off. I used to check it every day, but now I might forget about it for a week or so.
    – Michael E2
    Dec 23, 2020 at 4:54
  • 4
    @MichaelE2 Indeed. Also in general, there was that feeling back then, that was bringing us back frequently (me anyway) to the site, in order not to miss some fun and / or some interesting stuff. While it is natural in part that that kind of vibe could not stay forever, and the pool of universally interesting questions about the language was probably exhausted to a large degree, I wonder what were the contributing factors which made us all be less attached to the site now than before. Dec 23, 2020 at 5:19
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    @MichaelE2 And how much of that can be attributed to standard community dynamics / evolution common to most such communities, vs. e.g. the changes in (perceived) role played by WL in the modern tech. landscape, vs. global world-changing events, big and small, which change our lives and our perspective on things. I personally feel that I have lost something important since 2012, something that allowed me to be naive in a good way and have energy and desire to engage in all this activity on the site. But that's my personal story, I wonder whether there are some universal things behind all this. Dec 23, 2020 at 5:19

I can add one more note to Leonid's excellent answer. Apparently, the moderators of the Wolfram Community are not guided in their work by any specific set of rules, and often act impulsively, and the participants have no way to somehow control the consequences of their actions. For example, yesterday I discovered a new question in the community (currently the entire thread has been deleted by a moderator):

It wasn't an elaborate and well-written question, but I gave it a good answer. However, the moderators almost immediately deleted the entire thread, having previously written the following post in it (I received it by email, so I kept it):

We don't see the line continuation symbol, i.e., "" in the output when we run your code. Please revise your question or make it clear how to reproduce the output, then repost again. You can always attach or embed a notebook to your post.

Now, when you try to open the thread, you see the following:


I believe that this behavior of the moderators is a direct disrespect for the participants. The question was indeed not quite correctly formulated, but by the time the thread was deleted, I had already answered it. The thread was not complete garbage, unlike many other threads on that site (which for some reason the moderators do not delete). Such behavior of moderators discourages the desire to participate in the life of the community. At the same time, the system of that site does not allow ordinary members to see deleted topics and posts. This makes it much less attractive to participants.

  • 2
    Indeed, this does not look nice at all. The possibility that your answer can ever be deleted on a whim by someone else is surely discouraging. The M SE model where users with high rep can still see deleted questions and answers seems much saner, and also here the decision to delete some Q/A is a collective one, happening in two stages - first close, then delete. It is interesting that I have run into your answer just 4 days after it was written, since last time I visited this page was more than a year ago, and I very rarely visit meta these days. Too bad meta does not have stronger visibility. Sep 7, 2022 at 22:35

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