There's been talk in the hbar of starting an "Ask me Anything" (AMA) series in which featured guests would answer questions from other users. These questions would be about physics, the guest's career, or anything else.

What format would work well for a Physics Stack Exchange AMA?

  • $\begingroup$ hi all also more in DSs document "physics SE AMA". fyi slereah is the 1st guest scheduled 16:00 UTC Tue Jun14th on top of the recurring mtg, plz join and ask your question(s)! heres his masters thesis. hes an expert on CTCs $\endgroup$ – vzn May 28 '16 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ see also the community ad for chat/ AMA/ guest speaker & plz upvote :) $\endgroup$ – vzn May 28 '16 at 6:18
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    $\begingroup$ @vzn is there an English version of the Thesis by any chance? $\endgroup$ – Wolpertinger May 30 '16 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ (oops, full disclosure, the thesis is in french, forgot to mention that.) @Numrok alas not yet, asked slereah for that. he says he will update his profile with some info. have also asked in chat to translate the abstract at least. he does not have published papers in english yet. maybe he has something else to share, misc notes etc. suggest pinging him in Physics Chat with any requests etc. another route to go is just look at the eqns in the paper & the refs etc.; and then theres google translate also. and certainly encourage any volunteers for translation! $\endgroup$ – vzn May 30 '16 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn I think this is not the place to discuss particulars of any one AMA guest. Perhaps you'd like to post on the meta for that. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank May 30 '16 at 6:28
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    $\begingroup$ It might be worth asking in Meta Stack Exchange to see if other sites have experimented with similar formats, and what their experience was in adapting AMA to the SE engine. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 30 '16 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ fyi here is a recent/ new use (case) of SE chat for a very well attended town hall mtg $\endgroup$ – vzn May 30 '16 at 13:59


We could just open the chat room for any and all questions from users and answers from the guest. How would the guest keep track of the questions? How would participants keep track of the answers if they’re interrupted by messages from other people?

  • $\begingroup$ "free for all" might seem to have some negative connotations. but the standard chat room dynamic is already "free for all" with some basic/ rough (n)etiquette. see also seminar which references socratic dialog $\endgroup$ – vzn May 30 '16 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn If you have another format idea please post it as an answer. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank May 30 '16 at 6:27

Interview style

In this style, users submit questions ahead of time, e.g. here in the meta. A moderator (not necessarily a site moderator) filters the questions, e.g. by meta votes, and then conducts a real-time interview with the guest, in the chat room, based on those questions. Some allowance for on-the-spot questions during the interview would be good. We could open a side chat room for these questions.

  • $\begingroup$ It is even followed at Quora session (though I hate that since many good questions are dumped down and not answered) and it is the only way to avert any mess at the session if a large crowd gets gathered. However, I better deem if it doesn't become too rigid. You can too ask question at the session but one at a time and of course less-technical so that the interaction doesn't get confined to too mechanical one. $\endgroup$ – user36790 May 28 '16 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ the guest could also answer questions on meta. anyway this (meta) site can accomplish voting but is not so great to have separate posts for each question, its too granular. think need more of a "poll format," with easily submittable poll items, maybe using some other site, there are some polling-specific sites etc. $\endgroup$ – vzn May 28 '16 at 6:12
  • $\begingroup$ I think the side chatroom is probably the best place to voice questions while the AMA is in progress. Chat has a natural star-based voting system, and a room owner could remove the top ones as they get asked. Having a single chat room for the interviewee and a moderator would also make for a cleaner transcript, which makes for a better artifact to leave behind for future visitors. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 30 '16 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ It would also be worthwhile to go over the transcript and see if there's good questions to turn over into regular Q&As, though that does add to the load on the speaker. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 30 '16 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty Good idea. I certainly wouldn't mind doing that if I were the speaker, although note that we can always have a person other than the guest speaker help with or do the question curating. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank May 30 '16 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Daniel Yeah, that's always an option. In terms of attribution, moral ownership, CC licensing, and fake internet points a.k.a. rep, though, it's best if the question and the answer are owned by the original questioner (if it's clear who that is) and the interviewee, respectively. Or maybe they can be collected into formal Q&A posts by a third person and the ownership changed by a moderator / SE team member? $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 30 '16 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ Relevant information on the side channel: it's apparently relatively difficult to move messages from one room to another - it's probably not possible to do at the speed required to move questions from the main room to the side room. So this flow might need a stricter all-new-questions-to-the-side-room policy. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jul 13 '16 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ (As part of a conversation on what happens if a not-quite-right question is posed on the main room. Pinging @vzn, this is also FYI.) $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jul 13 '16 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ For the record: the mods can do things like freezing the room during AMA events which limits only certain people to talking. We can also delete (or move, though it's less efficient) messages not meeting a certain standard. If any of this would be helpful for running an AMA, we can discuss it in chat, or in a meta post for drastic changes. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jul 13 '16 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Emilio / DZ thx for the notice. like this overall idea but it requires quite a bit of preparation/ effort by a moderator. any volunteers? DZ has said before in chat he is not available for finegrained guest speaker coordination. also note that with yuggib, there were no questions posted in meta for the moderator to filter. we could experiment with another chat room but don't think the current user activity needs/ requires it. will discuss further in Physics Chat $\endgroup$ – vzn Jul 13 '16 at 21:37

This is similar to DanielSank's idea.

First a meta question is made, asking what questions should be asked to the subject of the AMA. People post their questions as answers to this meta post. Then, there is a period of time where people upvote the questions they want to see answered. Maybe these get community wiki'd to not mess up rep too much. After this voting period ends, the subject of the AMA edits his initial answer into each of the questions (where each question, remember, is an "answer" to a meta post).

After the subject of the ama makes his initial answer to a given question, discussion can continue in the form of comments, which will get moved to chat. Thus each quetion has its own chat room where a free form discussion can take place. After discussion of one question dies down, the subject of the AMA moves on to the next question.

A downside is that a moderator will need to continually edit the original meta post to indicate which question's chat room the subject of the AMA is currently in. The advantage is that the questions are more easily browsable.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. I could see this being successfully done on an individual basis by any user interested in answering questions in the way you've described. However, I'd skip the step where the subject posts an initial answer as a comment and instead just put a link to the chat room and hold the discussion there. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Jun 9 '16 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ I was saying the original answer should be an edit to the question and not a comment. It would be inconvenient to write your answer as a collection of consecutive uneditable comments. But what you say could work to, but then a summary of the chat could be edited back into the answer at the end to make for easier reading after the fact. $\endgroup$ – Brian Moths Jun 9 '16 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ (Technical note - there's no need to CW posts on meta as votes here do not affect reputation.) $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 9 '16 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty I was convinced to CW the titles post for some reason. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Jun 10 '16 at 4:26

Reddit style

Reddit is a forum style website. Users post comments to the original post, or as child comments of existing comments. In this way, a reddit thread is a tree of comments. In Reddit AMA's, the main post introduces the guest and the top level comments (those which are children of the main post) ask questions. The guest answers the question in a comment which is a child of the question comment. Other users can post follow-up questions as child comments of the answer, etc.

This style probably cannot work in a chat room, but it could work as a meta post. Questions could be submitted as comments on the main post, and the guest could write answers as answers.


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