Someone recently asked how to speed up iterated manipulations of a graph/table and included a (failed) link to an article about why he wanted to do it. It's about something important that has been recently discussed in Seed Magazine, the Publications of the National Academy of Science, and in newspaper articles. What do you think about encouraging people to include a link or reference (when appropriate) with asking a question? I think it would be interesting and informative for SE participants to know what other participants are using Mathematica to work on?

  • I fixed a link in that post a few minutes ago. Is it now pointing to what you expect?
    – Mr.Wizard
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 12:46
  • OP referred to an article by Watt, so perhaps not. I don't know where he meant to go. Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 12:55
  • The link was in post but incorrectly embedded. I just checked the referenced pages and it does refer to a model by Watts.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 12:58
  • 2
    Talking of background, some questions might simply start with choosing informative titles. Things like Faster code for specific problem are not very satisfying. A lot of this is corrected by edits (mostyl by the mods), but educating users to do so would be beneficial.
    – Yves Klett
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 17:49
  • Glad you like the question. I had a few problems formatting it (hyperlink, code etc). I guess I put some background in because it could be brief and interesting. Not sure if this is a general rule though. Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 9:11

1 Answer 1


I think supplying a background is often a mixed bag. In some cases, it is useful in determining if the user is asking the wrong question. But, sometimes the background for a question is part of a long twisting thought process where the question is ancillary to the thought process. I think instead of a question's background, per se, we should encourage the asker to address why they are trying to do what they're asking for. This allows us to address methodology while answering the question. Often times, this is the source of multiple good answers where some answer the direct question, while others tackle the approach itself.

  • I see your point about the twisting thought process (I followed the links you provided). Pretty confusing, and not helpful in thinking of an answer. I meant that, when someone is using Mathematica to work on an "interesting" problem, we might benefit if they said "I'm trying to replicate Watt's fractal theory (link), and ..." I was motivated by the comment to suggest we should encourage others to do so when relevant. Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 19:47
  • @GeorgeWolfe you are correct. But, I guess my point is it should be more general than that. The why is important, not just the background.
    – rcollyer
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 20:16
  • I agree with you Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 20:41

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