Home > data science, math, math education, statistics > Love StackOverflow and MathOverflow? Now there’s StemForums!

Love StackOverflow and MathOverflow? Now there’s StemForums!

August 14, 2014

Everyone I know who codes uses stackoverflow.com for absolutely everything.

Just yesterday I met a cool coding chick who was learning python and pandas (of course!) with the assistance of stackoverflow. It is exactly what you need to get stuff working, and it’s better than having a friend to ask, even a highly knowledgable friend, because your friend might be busy or might not know the answer, or even if your friend knew the answer her answer isn’t cut-and-paste-able.

If you are someone who has never used stackoverflow for help, then let me explain how it works. Say you want to know how to load a JSON file into python but you don’t want to write a script for that because you’re pretty sure someone already has. You just search for “import json into python” and you get results with vote counts:

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 7.32.52 AM

Also, every math nerd I know uses and contributes to mathoverflow.net. It’s not just for math facts and questions, either, there are interesting discussions going on there all the time. Here’s an example of a comment in response to understanding the philosophy behind the claimed proof of the ABC Conjecture:

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 7.37.27 AM

OK well hold on tight because now there’s a new online forum, but not about coding and not about math. It’s about all the other STEM subjects, which since we’ve removed math might need to be called STE subjects, which is not catchy.

It’s called stemforums.com, and it is being created by a team led by Gary Cornell, mathematician, publisher at Apress, and beloved Black Oak bookstore owner.

So far only statistics is open, but other stuff is coming very soon. Specifically it covers, or soon will cover, the following fields:

  1. Statistics
  2. Biology
  3. Chemistry
  4. Cognitive Sciences
  5. Computer Sciences
  6. Earth and Planetary Sciences
  7. Economics
  8. Science & Math Education
  9. Engineering
  10. History of Science and Mathematics
  11. Applied Mathematics, and
  12. Physics

I’m super excited for this site, it has serious potential to make peoples’ lives better. I wish it had a category for Data Sciences, and for Data Journalism, because I’d probably be more involved in those categories than most of the above, but then again most data science-y questions could be inserted into one of the above. I’ll try to be patient on this one.

Here’s a screen shot of an existing Stats question on the site:

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 7.45.00 AMThe site doesn’t have many questions, and even fewer answers, but as I understand it the first few people to get involved are eligible for Springer books, so go check it out.

  1. daviddlewis
    August 25, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    I have mixed feelings about adding another question answer site, and it seems particularly unfortunate that they chose statistics to start with. Stack Exchange already has Cross-Validated which is very active. Cross-Validated killed off the earlier Meta Optimize QA, where thousands of questions and answers are now buried under a layer of Chinese heavy equipment manufacturer spam. Meta Optimize killed off a number of previous email-based discussion lists. Etc.

    On the other hand, the moderation on Stack Exchange is occasionally heavy-handed and intimidating to newcomers. So perhaps have an alternative is a good idea.

  2. September 5, 2014 at 7:14 am

    I agree with daviddlewis. It seems weird that they targeted stats first, given how successful CrossValidated is. I wish them luck on setting up good boards for Biology, Cognitive Science, Economcs, and Physics; since all of those have failed to attract (heavy or any) research level involvement on SE, and Econ site was even closed. Although I hear Physics SE has gotten better after the research-level theoretical physics SE was merged into it. I am also skeptical of their CS site; StackExchange covers this extremely well with the CS and SO covering virtually every basic question you want, and cstheory being the equivalent of MO for researchers in theoretical computer science.

    Full disclosure: I am a moderator on the cstheory and Cognitive Science StackExchanges.

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