What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 128 Stack Exchange communities.

The main Q&A on this (here's one, and another one, and of course this one all seem to be 3+ years old. I'd accept that this question is a duplicate of this question which seems to have comprehensively covered all the bases last year.

I'm not asking why we don't have it. That seems to have been covered a lot. I am asking are we at the stage where we can at least start talking about it? Here are a few examples of posts that would benefit from MathJax (hurriedly hashed together so they may not be the best) are (and feel free to add your examples to this list):

  1. Answer to: Determine if two rectangles overlap each other?
  2. Question: Gram Schmidt with R
  3. Question: Speeding up Julia's poorly written R examples
  4. Question: Ukkonen's suffix tree algorithm in plain English?
  5. Question: How to pair socks from a pile efficiently?
  6. Answer to: Plot a heart in R
  7. Answer to: Cannot rotate from one specific orientation to another
  8. Answer to: Creating a rotation matrix based on two vectors

Surely WebKit and native rendering of MathML have come a long way since 2009 and we might be at the stage where it is feasible to at least start discussing the inclusion of math markup on Stack Overflow? Are those really heavy dependencies still necessary? Is it still better to carry on uploading images where necessary? Every time this has been bought up, it's been a blanket NO.

One of the reasons frequently trotted out is that you shouldn't need math markup on a programming site or it's not often needed. Without any support for math markup how can you guage how much interest there is in using it to help illustrate questions or answers?

I'd love this post not to get closed and to generate some fresh debate given advances in native rendering of math markup in browsers.

Here's hoping.

share|improve this question
11  
I can see how reading "Before you flame me and close this", would instantly trigger a user's defensive flame and close response. Giving readers a little bit of credit and not insulting their intelligence goes a long way. +1 for the proposal though. –  Asad Mar 27 '13 at 1:40
1  
And also suggestions on how it wouldn't have a real overlap with mathematics.SE. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/47107/… –  George Stocker Mar 27 '13 at 1:42
6  
Those of us in the math-centric DSLs (e.g. R, Matlab, Maple, Mathematica, a certain subset of Python users) would probably really find this useful. My guess is that we don't constitute a large enough subset of the SO user base to get much traction on this issue, though. –  joran Mar 27 '13 at 2:29
7  
@joran A lot of people in almost all 3D related tags frequently need to talk about transforms and matrices, so it helps there as well. This is actually quite broadly applicable. –  Asad Mar 27 '13 at 2:42
    
@Asad Good point. I hope that makes this more likely to be implemented. –  joran Mar 27 '13 at 3:48
    
I suppose that "I participate in CS.SE and Math.SE, and sorely miss MathJax on SO" doesn't cut it... –  vonbrand Mar 27 '13 at 4:05
3  
For the record, MathJax does substantially slow down those sites that have it, so I would only consider it if it adds significant value. –  Robert Harvey Mar 27 '13 at 4:23
8  
There could be a magic comment such as <!-- enable-mathjax --> that would enable it for a particular post, so that pages where it wasn't required wouldn't be slowed down. –  Jeremy Banks Mar 27 '13 at 4:31
2  
Or it could be reserved for certain tags, or activated by a mod after flagging, similarly to CW for questions (not sure if this last one is such a good idea, but just putting it out there) –  Asad Mar 27 '13 at 6:07
    
I assume that a downvote on this question should mean we are NOT at the stage where we should talk about including Math ML, or does it mean this is a stupid question? –  Simon O'Hanlon Mar 27 '13 at 7:50
    
@SimonO101 Voting works differently here on meta. So the downvoters probably think support of math markup is unnecessary. –  Spontifixus Mar 27 '13 at 8:53
add comment

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Of your 8 examples:

  • I don't see the need for mathematical markup for 1, 2, 3.
  • 8 is squarely off-topic, it's a math question. There's a site for that.
  • 4 and 5 are algorithm questions. They're grandfathered in on SO by tradition, but they're not programming questions. I'd vote to close them as off-topic if I caught them coming in, but I prefer to let old borderline questions stand and only close the strongly off-topic ones. There's a proper site for algorithm questions now.

This leaves 7 and 6 as questions which are within SO's scope and would benefit from math markup. I don't think the need is common enough to warrant adding that feature to SO.

When a question is borderline between SO and CS.SE, I find that a good guideline for choosing which site has the most appropriate audience is whether it would benefit most from code markup or math markup. This isn't foolproof, but it's good enough that I think we're giving the right tools to the right audiences.

And yes, MathJax is still slow for some people.

share|improve this answer
    
seeing the need is somewhat subjective and whilst I greatly respect your opinion I disagree with it (aside from for 1, but then I did leave a disclaimer). Trying to follow the algorithm in 2 is difficult and would be aided by a formula. 3 is perhaps the best example of where a math formula would be ideal. The Question is about the best implementation of a particular algorithm. Having the mathematical definition of the algorithm in front of you allows those implementing new versions to work off the definition rather than suboptimal code of what the algorithm should do. –  Simon O'Hanlon Mar 27 '13 at 11:25
    
I also take you point regarding 4 and 5. Still, these are 8 examples from the whole of SO, and without the support for it, need can't truly be gauged. I am very willing to accept that if it places too much load on SO then so be it, but I was under the impression that for instance Math ML could be rendered natively by the client-side browser and would not place a load on the system. Unfortunately I am not a web-dev and would happily accept that I am talking rubbish, but I just thought that as the technology has matured it might now be an option. –  Simon O'Hanlon Mar 27 '13 at 11:28
    
@SimonO101: You may not be a web developer, but I would hope that you could use Wikipedia. There, you see that native MathML support is basically: Firefox, yes; Chrome, pre-beta; Opera, mostly; IE, no. –  Nicol Bolas Mar 27 '13 at 11:34
3  
@NicolBolas The sarcastic tone is quite unnecessary. Yes I can use Wikipedia. What is your point? Because IE doesn't support it the feature should not be available? Websites have served up different versions of a site for different browsers since forever. Where is the incentive for all those IE devs posting on SE to incorporate support to remain competitive. And, if you read the piece in any depth, you would see that support for Math ML in IE is as simple as installing a plugin. –  Simon O'Hanlon Mar 27 '13 at 11:47
    
@SimonO101: My point is that you should do at least basic research into the current state of native MathML client-side rendering. I see the most popular browser having zero support for it, and I see the third-most-popular browser not having solid support for it. As for "installing a plugin", I'm not sure what your definition of "native" allows a plugin to be native to a browser. Also, if a post is unintelligible or significantly corrupt without some plugin, that's not a good thing. Are you really suggesting we ask people to install security holes in their browser just for MathML support? –  Nicol Bolas Mar 27 '13 at 11:54
    
Sounds like the solution might be a MathML parser with a reasonable fallback for IE, whether that's a server-generated image, or something better. –  Chris Moschini Apr 3 '13 at 22:45
add comment

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .