Concerning: Are there any open research problems in the world of TeX?

In my understanding, this question is a big one, but there are many 'big' questions out there:

All of these questions have a similar model to mine; they have one pretty open-ended question and many answers to tie it up. I know the question in question (...) is similarly open-ended, but how is it 'too broad' when these questions are among our most popular?

In particular, what can be done to have this question (or a question like this) improve in the event of close votes?

  • The first four are 3 years old so I think they can't be migrated and last one I believe should be meta but others may disagree.
    – dustin
    Aug 16, 2013 at 13:50
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    @dustin, meta is specifically for questions about the TeX.SX site, its questions, and the SE Network only. None of these would be fit for migration. See also the about page. Aug 16, 2013 at 13:52
  • This link was accessed from the main site what types of question I shouldn't ask. It is then deemed discussion on unanswerable question fall into this category. I don't think they should be stopped unless they shouldn't be here just moved to the discussion area--meta where that tag is available.
    – dustin
    Aug 16, 2013 at 14:13
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    If it's not appropriate for the main site so be it, but it is certainly not appropriate for meta. Aug 16, 2013 at 14:28
  • Then the moderators should set a clear rule on this with no to little ambiguity.
    – dustin
    Aug 16, 2013 at 14:37
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    @dustin Discussion (open-ended questions with no real 'answer') is allowed on meta for the purpose of making the site itself work better. That doesn't mean that you can ask open-ended TeX-related questions on meta: you can ask ones about TeX-sx. Open-ended discussion about TeX itself simply doesn't fit the format: there are lots of other places for that.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Aug 16, 2013 at 14:45
  • @JosephWright then why was my thread moved? It isn't about promoting the site but promoting LaTeX. After it was moved, I read all the information and I was okay it is a discussion with no clear answer which is similar to Sean's. This is why there needs to be some clear rules on these type of questions. How can some be justified on one site but others moved?
    – dustin
    Aug 16, 2013 at 15:11
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    @dustin That seems to be a slightly separate question, so I've asked it: meta.tex.stackexchange.com/questions/3752/…. Note that I didn't migrate your question from the main site to meta, so I'll be very interested to see what everyone else has to say!
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Aug 16, 2013 at 17:40
  • @JosephWright To me, it seems hard to figure out what discussion questions can be meta and main now.
    – dustin
    Aug 16, 2013 at 17:45
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    @dustin: I've just posted my thoughts on the other question (imo your question should not be on meta as it is not about [the promotion of] TeX, not the TeX.SE site).
    – kwah
    Aug 17, 2013 at 12:46
  • @kwah I read it 12mins after you posted it. I think discussion type questions just need to be defined in terms of usage. I believe they should be allowed if useful to TeX and the community but there needs to be a consensus on where they go--no confusion then.
    – dustin
    Aug 17, 2013 at 12:47

3 Answers 3


Consider this quote from the help pages:

Accepting an answer is not meant to be a definitive and final statement indicating that the question has now been answered perfectly. It simply means that the author received an answer that worked for him or her personally, but not every user comes back to accept an answer, and of those who do, they may not change the accepted answer if a newer, better answer comes along later.

The emphasis is mine, but to me this means that "too broad" is when there cannot be a single accepted answer (either from the given answers, or from an amalgamated summary answer describing what actually worked for the asker if multiple authors contributed to the final success).

My, personal, verdict (disclaimer: opinions based mostly on the titles):

  • "Showcase of beautiful typography done in TeX & friends"

    • .. is too broad, as there is no single answer for a "showcase"
  • LaTeX Editors/IDEs

    • .. is too broad, what is the question? I note that it has the "big-list" tag..
    • clicking through reveals "What editors/IDEs are available for easing the process of writing TeX/LaTeX documents?" - IMO this should be rephrased and then the asker will accept whichever answer he/she actually ended up using
  • What packages do people load by default in LaTeX?

    • Is borderline too broad depending on the actual question
    • Could be rephrased, eg ("I am looking to create a template file that will contain the packages I use most often (ie setup my default development/writing environment templates), what do you include in yours?")
    • .. and then the accepted answer can be an amalgamation of what the asker actually used in his/her "normal" setup (while upvotes will indicate what the community believe)
  • "How can I explain the meaning of LaTeX to my grandma?"

    • Perfectly acceptable, imo, assuming that the asker does actually intend to explain TeX to his grandma ;)
    • .. can be specific, assuming that the accepted answer is the answer that the asker actually used (ie "worked for him or her personally")
  • In this case though, that single answer that worked for me personally will be the one I end up pursuing. Aug 17, 2013 at 15:02
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    @SeanAllred: In that case, I suggest that your specific question passes the test(s) I describe above :) For what it is worth, I believe you have done a great job at keeping the question objective and fact-based (as opposed to discussion, debate, opinion, or simple lists of data). See this blog post for further notes ref: six guidelines to a great subjective posts (about half-way down) -- blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective
    – kwah
    Aug 17, 2013 at 23:42

Let me give another example type which never gets in the way of the users,

What happened to Textures and Bluesky Research?

Now this is clearly a very important question due to its answer not as a question itself. If you look at the typically-complained questions, they are either grandma category or big list of LaTeX editors question type for which everybody has an opinion.

This is simply the same problem with removing Thanks in disguise. Whenever there is room for speculation, it rubs the disciplined users the wrong way. But they are not alone in this environment. Moreover, as we know from the every-now-and-then happening edit frenzies some users only care about the structure but not the content itself.


This is by far the most importantly a social medium. Clear set of rules etc. don't apply but only guide. It is especially important on TeX.SE which is the main fabric of our <insert all the nice things here, friendliness, kindness>.

We can deal with uncertainty and hance we deal with them case-by-case basis. There is no need to impose structure on an already nicely-working system led by its entire user base. Example; it takes a few comments to make a (proper!) case and make a question reopened. Anyone is free to try the same on other SE networks which have clear set of rules for reopening that render reopening impossible.

I would like to remind everyone who participates in the discussion and cites FAQ and help pages that originates from SO-templates, that we have fiddled with most of the rules and expectations. So every SE site has its own habitat. Arguing via SO-based dictations might be misleading.

If it's fun we don't spoil the fun. Sometimes we can't just close it because it's fun. Sometimes we don't let it become fun. I don't know how that mechanism works. But I don't need to anyway.

Long story short there is no fixed rule set hence there is no way for a rigorous explanation of a complicated social interaction. It just doesn't work that way

  • Structure isn't bad. For instance, I learn from experience. If we move one thread based on one thought process, that process should hold true for another thread of similar characteristics. Having a simple rule wouldn't be the end of the world nor make the site horrible. It could be as simple as: If the question is useful to the TeX world, doesn't have one answer, will inspire a big list, etc, let's put those threads on the main site (meta site). There will be no confusion then. No questioning why are you voting to close or migrate. No why this thread and not that thread. It will befair
    – dustin
    Aug 19, 2013 at 0:15
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    @dustin It might comfort you but not the owners of the questions. A rule is a rule and it needs to be respected otherwise it's a nuisance. But we don't respect any particular rule on that matter due to many exceptions. So it will be a nuisance by definition. If there was no quick answer to the question I've given as an example, it would have been closed in no time. We see that it became a very specialized and important question with some info that you would find nowhere else. Dealing with people needs care not concrete rules and the community here is very good at it.
    – percusse
    Aug 19, 2013 at 7:23

I think the FAQ is pretty clear that big-list questions are in general inappropriate. Many of these big-list questions become CW which is also discouraged. I personally do not think that high vote totals make these question a better fit. I also do not think that the up votes on answers is informative (by definition there is no right answer).

So while I think it is clear that these types of questions are discouraged, I think used sparingly and well targeted they can be useful. I personally wouldn't mind seeing most of the CW and big-list questions closed. whatever we do, I think it is important for people to talk about it.

  • By my definition, the highest-voted appropriate answer (involves original research, etc.) will be my project for the next year. Is there a right answer as to the best way to explain something to your grandma? Of course not, but I assume Stefan accepted the one which helped his grandmother understand the point of TeX as much as possible. I also don't think high votes automatically make the Q a good fit, but I do think it can be a tipping point where it's close to the line. Aug 18, 2013 at 0:03

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