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I recently answered the following question:

Differentiating a vector product

and although I don't think it's written in the clearest possible way, I (and another answerer) had no trouble understanding the question.

The question was nonetheless put on hold (due to the votes of a number of users) for being unclear. I'm pretty confused by this to be honest.

Is what the OP is asking really sufficiently unclear for it to be closed? He pretty clearly states that he just wants to know how the derivative operator was "factored out" of a particular expression. I would be much less confused if, for example, the question had been moved to math.SE instead of being closed as unclear.

Perhaps I'm just clairvoyant and I don't know it? Perhaps I'm just confused about the SE definition of "clarity"? I dunno.

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    $\begingroup$ You'd have to ask the people who voted to close, but I am not interested in re-opening it because it is a pure math question at this point. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Feb 18 '14 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't exactly sure what the OP was asking but my logic was that even if I did know, it would have been closed as belonging on Math.SE so voting "unclear what you're asking" was just about the only chance we'd have of getting a better question out of it. $\endgroup$ – Brandon Enright Feb 18 '14 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee I'm not particularly interested in reopening it either, I'm simply concerned about the potential for an SE culture in which a question is closed for one reason that is not the real reason for which close voters would like it to be closed/migrated. $\endgroup$ – joshphysics Feb 19 '14 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ I'd argue that it shouldn't have been asked or answered on this site because it was purely a mathematics problem. I'd also argue that it was unclear what physics had to do with the problem, so asking to clarify the physics concept part of the question is a reasonable thing to do. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Feb 19 '14 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos I'd argue that 1) There is nothing inappropriate about answering a mathematics problem on physics.SE; there is always the migrate option, and I see no reason why one should wait until it is migrated. 2) I agree that asking to clarify the physics concept part is reasonable, if the close vote is your way of doing that, then I understand (although I personally think a comment would be preferable) 3) Take a look at: physics.stackexchange.com/q/99559 It's certainly clear, but is the OP asking about physics? $\endgroup$ – joshphysics Feb 19 '14 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ (cont.) I don't think he/she is. Yet no one voted to migrate. Why? I speculate it's because 1) there is a physics.SE social phenomenon where harder math questions are migrated less 2) It has physical relevance even though it's not a physics question. Notice that the question I ask about above has property 2). If it were more clear, I'm not sure it would be consistent to migrate it but not the one answered by Qmechanic to which I linked. $\endgroup$ – joshphysics Feb 19 '14 at 2:42
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    $\begingroup$ I personally avoid voting on group theory questions because I don't understand enough of it to know where the line is drawn. But answering "simple" mathematics questions makes other people more likely to ask those rudimentary questions that rightfully belong elsewhere, especially when that someone answering is a respected user with 20k+ rep. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Feb 19 '14 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos That's a completely fair point about your not voting on group theory questions; I'm in no way attempting to make some sort of an accusation. I'm merely pointing out that I don't personally think migration and/or closing should have anything to do with the level of difficulty of the question unless we are attempting to create physicsoverflow, which we're not right? For the record, I'm not convinced that the question does rightfully belong elsewhere. It has physical relevance, just like The Lorentz group question, and could have been answered physically, but wasn't. $\endgroup$ – joshphysics Feb 19 '14 at 2:58
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    $\begingroup$ Exactly, we have too many reviewers that vote to close questions just because they personally dont understant them, while the same questions are for other people (in particular ones knowledgeable about the topic at hand), perfectly clear. This close reason should not be used by the reviewers to express their personal lack of understanding. The question in the question is such a case where this happend again. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Feb 19 '14 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ The same happens often concerning the "too broad" close reason.Just some hours ago, a for experts and people knowledgeable about the topic at hand question about string theory, AdS/CFT got closed and I would bet quite some money that thouse 5 reviewers dont understand the topic at a deeper technical level and can therefore not judge from a physics point of view if the question is too broad. IMHO it would be good if rewiewers could skip questions about topics they are not familiar with at a deeper level as people do in MO and Maths. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Feb 19 '14 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: this is getting off topic, but I didn't VTC that question because I thought it was silly or meaningless. I VTC'd because to do it justice you'd need to write a review paper like the one I linked in my comment, and that isn't an appropriate use of this site. Anyone wanting to do this would be better off writing a paper and posting it on the Arxiv. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Feb 19 '14 at 17:52
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For the record I thought the question was perfectly clear and in fact I was halfway through my own answer when the dreaded There is a new answer to the question banner appeared.

I was surprised that the question got closed, but then that's democracy for you.

I voted to reopen when I got the chance and I see the question has been reopened, but then that's democracy for you :-)

I wouldn't attach too much significance to the affair. As the number of active >3k users increases we're going to get more statistical fluctuations, but you just wait for the statistics to build up, which is exactly what happened in this case. I've made some close votes that were in retrospect not warranted, and I'm now quite glad that cooler heads outvoted me. The whole point of requiring 5 votes to close (and 5 to reopen?) is that individual aberrations will eventually get overruled by the site members as a whole.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the thoughts; good points in the last paragraph. $\endgroup$ – joshphysics Feb 19 '14 at 21:24

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