Now that several Area 51 sites are entering the beta phase, I'm wondering what the status is on migrating Stack Exchange 1.0 sites to 2.0, and what sites have already opted into the transition. I'm also wondering how many existing site proposals might be duplicates of these sites once they do transition, and how that will affect those proposals, whether they will be closed, merged, or left alone to create separate sites/communities.

I'm also curious about some of the demands that MathOverflow has made:

We have a set of 3 incontrovertible requirements for switching, all of which go against the rules for new StackExchange 2.0 sites.

  1. Anton maintains personal ownership of the mathoverflow.net domain name.
  2. We continue to have access to the full unsanitized database dumps.
  3. Anton continues to have administrator privileges on the site.

(re: 2, all of the StackExchange 2.0 sites will have public data dumps equivalent to what we already provide here. At present, only Anton has access to the unsanitized dumps, and the main purpose of these is so that we can in principle jump ship to an alternative software base.)

I understand that they have a certain wariness about committing to Stack Exchange given the radical shift from SE 1.0 to 2.0, but points #1 and especially #2 seem directly in conflict with the network effect that SE 2.0 is trying to build by being prepared to tear itself away at a moment's notice.

On the other hand, MathOverflow was really the first site to prove the viability of Stack Exchange as a platform for Q&A topics outside the realm of computers, and so given this should they be 'grandfathered in' under SE 1.0 terms? What about other SE sites that make similar demands?

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    The thread you linked to was a brief recap of a much longer discussion on another thread. Perhaps reading that thread can avoid the misunderstandings that George had. meta.mathoverflow.net/discussion/354/1/… Jul 10, 2010 at 17:15
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    I hope Noah's answer and comments have clarified why it's reasonable for MO to make those demands. Think of them as a pre-nup. If all goes well between SO Inc and MO—I expect it will—these conditions should make almost no difference to anything. However, it's not unreasonable to plan for the possibility that there will be problems. I've left a slightly more detailed answer on meta.MO: meta.mathoverflow.net/discussion/454/… Jul 11, 2010 at 5:15
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    I voted to close. This is an issue between SO incorporated and the MO community. The rest of us can do nothing but stir up a cloud of squid-ink here.
    – Rosinante
    Jul 11, 2010 at 13:15

4 Answers 4


The reason for control of domain name and full data dumps are to allow for the possibility of moving to a competing similar platform if something goes bad with SO in the future (say they get bought by Elsevier). We academics have been bitten enough times by our journals being sold and turning evil after we'd already signed away all our rights to our work, we don't want the same thing happening to MO down the road. It's not that we don't trust the SO people, it's that we don't know what will happen in the future.

Anton as administrator is a separate issue from being just a moderator. My understanding (and Anton and Scott who are more involved can correct me if I'm wrong) is that there are two important things here: 1) Anton's ability to control certain aspects of the website's functionality (for example, how we display LaTeX) and 2) Benevolent dictatorship is a better model for keeping MO going in the direction we want it to go and for settling disputes about what the goals are and what is appropriate in terms of questions.

As for the funding issue brought up by George, by grants we mean money taken from professor's grants from the National Science Foundation. Such grants cover professor's travel expenses, fund graduate students, fund conferences, etc. The NSF likes its grants to include "broader impacts" which is a somewhat tricky concept, but MathOverflow clearly qualifies. When Anton originally started MO under the SE 1.0 model Ravi Vakil (a professor at Stanford) promised funding for several years out of his grant. Raising more money from other people's grants would be quite easy. The MO community has always been willing to pay SE (i.e. you give us x and we pay you y out of our grants), we'd also be open to certain other monetizing options (e.g. the SO careers thing seems fine to me), but we don't want ads because they'd make the site appear unprofessional.

  • While I understand that you want to hedge against SE going in an unfavorable direction, I think the fact that a SE network site being capable and prepared to separate itself from the network is antithetical to the system SO, Inc is trying to create. As such, I think ownership of the domain should be transferred to SO, Inc. Jul 10, 2010 at 17:39
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    However, all the content on SE network sites will be released under Creative Commons and made available through periodic dumps of public data, so there's no possibility of SO claiming ownership or exerting control over the content against the wishes of its creator. The only things not available in the public dump are voting information, IPs, email addresses, passwords, etc, and these are excluded because they're private information. If MathOverflow joined the SE network, I don't think that access to this private information should continue. Jul 10, 2010 at 17:40
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    Also, the concept of 'administrator' does not exist on Trilogy/SE 2.0 sites, meaning that only SO, Inc can make changes to the markup. The position of Moderator allows access to everything except voting data and the ability to change the markup of the site, but I think the SE team is willing and able to make changes to the site based on the recommendation of the community, though they will likely have to review the changes to make sure that they don't break or compromise the security of the site. Jul 10, 2010 at 17:41
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    Finally, though I can't speak for the company, I don't think it would be a problem for SO, Inc to agree not to put ads on MO, so that's a bit of a non-issue. Jul 10, 2010 at 17:44
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    Right, we understand that what we're asking for doesn't exactly fit the SE 2.0 model. But our goals and desires aren't exactly the same as SO inc.'s. Hence: negotiation. We have to decide which is better for MO: migrating to SE 2.0, sticking with SE 1.0, or jumping ship to something like OQSA. There are upsides and downsides to each option, but what we'd prefer is moving to SE 2.0 but with some exceptions grandfathered in (which we're optimistic SO will allow). If that's not possible, then we'll need to make further decisions which will be made based on our needs and desires, not SO inc's. Jul 10, 2010 at 17:49
  • @Kyle: The reason we want the full dumps is that the administrators on MO are pretty involved in the way the site runs. If you read our meta, you'll see that Scott and Anton often use the unsanitized dumps to find abusive voters or find out when the fraudulent voting detector is on the fritz. Jul 10, 2010 at 18:13
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    The reason why MO is different in this regard is that we have a lot of professional mathematicians, who, if harassed by jerks on the internet, would leave and offer their expertise elsewhere. Jul 10, 2010 at 18:18
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    @Harry I'm not sure I follow how vote fraud affects professional mathematicians differently than other people, but I suppose that's a legitimate use case. However, I'd rather see the voting fraud detection system shored up so that all the SE sites can benefit. There are also people on the SE team that have access to the data and can investigate vote fraud on a case-by-case basis. Jul 10, 2010 at 19:35
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    One reason why MO is likely to be different from other SE sites is that it's a site that couldn't have gotten through the Area51 process. It's a site aimed at a much smaller community of people many of whom have no interest in the larger SE 2.0 project. We want to be careful not to have the site turn into something different from what it is now, because we really like what it is now. Jul 10, 2010 at 22:24
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    "but we don't want ads because they'd make the site appear unprofessional." - I thought the site was academical, rather than professional?
    – jjnguy
    Jul 11, 2010 at 5:57
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    The academy is a profession! Jul 11, 2010 at 6:02
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    @Kyle: The main difference is that the mathematical community is not nearly as web-friendly as the programming community. Most mathematicians communicate through e-mail or in person. This is a system that has evolved from the old system of communication via telegram or in person. For this reason, MO has to tread very lightly and try very hard not to piss these people off, since they can easily just go back to their old methods of communication and collaboration. Jul 11, 2010 at 15:49

Hopefully Noah's answer and the two meta.MO threads (link and link) have addressed the part of the question specific to MO. I'll just add a bit about the first part of the question.

Now that several Area 51 sites are entering the beta phase, I'm wondering what the status is on migrating Stack Exchange 1.0 sites to 2.0, and what sites have already opted into the transition.

As an admin of an SE 1.0 site, I haven't heard anything about migration since the blog post Migration of SE 1.0 Sites. I assume other admins haven't heard anything either, in which case none of them could have opted into the migration yet. You may be able to find some posts on meta.SE by SE admins vowing to migrate when the time comes.

The blog post is pretty firm about what the terms of migration will be, but it's also been made pretty clear that SE 1.0 sites will be dealt with on a case by case basis. I'm at least as curious as anybody else is about what will happen to successful SE 1.0 sites, but it's just not possible to take the conversation further until SO Inc. is actually ready to start migrating sites, or at least start discussing in detail what the terms of migration will be. But that's okay. It doesn't need to go any further until then. When the time comes to decide whether to migrate, SE 1.0 sites and SO Inc will have to figure out if it's possible to make everybody happy with migration. If yes, great! If no, that's okay too; it just means that everybody's interests are better served by not migrating. It doesn't mean that one side or the other is being unreasonable.

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    I just (today) received an e-mail from Robert letting me know that one of the sites I set up wasn't going to qualify to remain (which was fine with me). That indicates that there may be movement as far as a decision on what sites should be migrated.
    – Tim Post
    Jul 11, 2010 at 13:31
  • Anton, any news? Nov 8, 2010 at 12:02
  • @Kop: I did have a short email exchange with SO about two months ago. I emailed them because it was grant application season and I wanted to know if there was some possibility that money could come up in the terms of migration--the SE 1.0 model was perfect for MO, so I'd really like to get terms of migration as close to that as possible. Joel got back to me, saying that they don't want any money, and briefly said which of our terms they would and wouldn't be happy with. I emailed back, clarifying some of our desires and asking for clarification of theirs, but never heard back. Nov 8, 2010 at 19:31

I am an ordinary user of Mathoverflow. Here is my perspective.

MO is the personal initiative of Anton Geraschenko, a graduate student at Berkeley, in which he was helped by a team of graduate students and recent graduates from the same place. He appears to be a very nice person. I would trust him much more than I would trust a corporate entity. I do not know anybody in stackexchange and while they might be individually quite nice people, the control would be ultimately in the hands of the corporate house. It is much easier to trust the warm and familiar and live person Anton who is just like us in every way, rather than trusting an abstract entity. I suspect that you will hear the same from most other users of Mathoverflow. Not to mention that legally Anton is the owner of Mathoverflow. I think he will get strong support from the community if he keeps the site as his. Here of course we are trusting him that he wouldn't sell the site in future to Elsevier or Springer or other corporate houses. But as I said it is easier to trust him than to trust Fog Creek. I myself would strongly root for Anton's side.

Also, what Harry Gindi said:

The reason why MO is different in this regard is that we have a lot of professional mathematicians, who, if harassed by jerks on the internet, would leave and offer their expertise elsewhere. – Harry Gindi Jul 10 at 18:18

That said, to be fair, I must also mention the advantages of Fog Creek handling the site. For one, the (mostly Berkeley) team of moderators would not have access to our personal information, as mentioned by Kyle Kronin. Also jerks(senior or junior) could be dealt with more effectively if the control is in the hands of Fog Creek. I was very impressed with stackoverflow's handling of problematic users, for example the case of this user. It was dealt very effectively. So in that kind of matters the control by an impersonal external corporate agency may be better.

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    We all fear the cold, unfeeling grip of the corporate entity, and recoil before its faceless visage. But some tasks are too distasteful for us, and so we grudgingly allow the shadowy figure in the executioner's hood to step forward and do our dirty work, praying all the while that the mask does not slip, lest we recognize our own faces behind it...
    – Shog9
    Jul 21, 2010 at 17:45

According to this and this, http://basicallymoney.com has been migrated to http://money.stackexchange.com.

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