We closed the domain naming thread (click for details).

Instead, let's start with a killer "elevator pitch!" Joel will be blogging about the elevator pitch approach to naming, but to get you started:

The Elevator Pitch

This isn't as easy as it sounds. Imagine the user who will never read your FAQ and you have two seconds to grab their attention. It should be catchy but descriptive. It should be thoroughly clear but painfully concise. Make every... word... count.

Here are some creative examples:

  • Gawker: Daily Manhattan media news and gossip. Reporting live from the center of the universe.
  • Gizmodo: The gadget guide. So much in love with shiny new toys, it’s unnatural.
  • Autoblog: We obsessively cover the auto industry.
  • DumbLittleMan: So what do we do here? Well, it’s simple. 15 to 20 times per week we provide tips that will save you money, increase your productivity, or simply keep you sane.
  • Needcoffee.com: We are the Internet equivalent of a triple espresso with whipped cream. Mmmm…whipped cream.

Use it as a Tagline

A shorter elevator pitch can be used as a tagline — something you can display in the header at the top of the page. If it doesn't fit, consider shortening it or creating a separate tagline. Here are some great examples:

The Motto (don't forget your logo)

A logo begs for it own little, short tagline — like a motto. Maybe the tagline inspires the logo; Maybe it's the other way around. Mottos make good t-shirt, bumper stickers, and other marketing material. Either way, you'll recognize a good motto when you see it:

  • Just do it.
  • Think Different.
  • The Uncola.
  • Intel inside.
  • Like a rock.
  • The king of beers.

…and perhaps all this leads to a proper name and domain for your site… eventually. So let's start from the basics. Come up with a killer elevator pitch, tagline, and/or motto!

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All these examples are awful; why do we need such a thing? –  Robin Chapman Oct 9 '10 at 15:24
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In my view, the purpose of the web-site is first and foremost to answer questions regarding mathematics, which it should self-advertise in name, logo, motto, etc (which we need because the world expects of us; it's the codified dialect of the professional world, the way wearing suits & ties is). In any case, I believe that the pitch/self-advertising should not be in any way self-depricating or elitist (that is, no out-jokes [jokes at our expense] and no in-jokes [jokes at others' expense/ignorance]). –  Vladimir Sotirov Oct 10 '10 at 1:07
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Mathematics is a profession, and academic mathematics is a profession within that larger profession. On the other hand, very few academic mathematicians wear suits and ties. –  Matt E Oct 10 '10 at 3:31
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In my opinion, it is always useful to have a short and clear explanation of what the website is. It is similar to the importance of recognizing the thesis of a paper you are writing. Whether to use it as a tagline or not is far less important. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 10 '10 at 23:27
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All of this marketing-type nonsense makes me sick to my stomach. –  97832123 Oct 11 '10 at 8:27
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@97832123 At last we find some common ground! –  walkytalky Oct 11 '10 at 13:38
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Uncle Joe writes a new blog post, an old question is closed and a new question is asked. The unnamed "we" tell us what happens to "your site". I don't think maths and astroturf engineering are going to go well together. –  Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya Oct 11 '10 at 14:17
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I cannot understand the relevance of the anti-commercialism which some people are expressing loudly here. A defining statement of a website helps to build a successful website. Here the “success” means that the website continues to be a good community. If you cannot define what the website is, it is difficult to build a successful website. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 11 '10 at 17:16
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@Tsuyoshi. In the answers you have given a defining statement which is simple and perfect. We don't need any fancy taglines and mottos beyond that. But what really worries me is the behaviour of the moderator in closing one thread and opening another not because of something which happened in the community but because of a change of opinion in the corporation he represents. I am all for corporations making money. But if they want to channel my efforts for their own agenda then they are supposed to pay me a salary. If I volunteer for a community, I want all decisions to be taken democratically. –  Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya Oct 12 '10 at 0:04
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For-profit corporations providing hosted services are all around us. But Google Groups, or Gmail, or Twitter, or Flickr, do not descend from the skies to tell you how to use their services. They set the terms of use and then you are free to do whatever you like within those terms. Stackexchange's efforts to actively mould the communities is unusual. –  Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya Oct 12 '10 at 0:08
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I have to ask, is there such a thing as a "dignified tagline"? I probably have been conditioned by the examples listed, but I'm having a hard time thinking of something that won't sound cheap. At any rate, the simplicity of something like Tsuyoshi's proposed elevator pitch might be more workable. –  J. M. Oct 12 '10 at 6:22
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Whenever I hear anything about marketing, I always think of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation marketing division =\. –  97832123 Oct 12 '10 at 8:12
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Recall: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy defines the Marketing Division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes", with a footnote stating that the position of Robotics Correspondent is vacant. It is notable that a future edition of The Encyclopedia Galactica fell through a wormhole in time, and its entry for the Marketing Division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation is "a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came." –  97832123 Oct 12 '10 at 8:16
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3 Answers

dear Robert and other math.SE website managers,

math.SE and its fellow sites have made a promising start and could certainly be, commercially, a "win-win" situation that delivers substantial and unique value to the users while earning profits for the operators. It is a public service to reinstate (some of) the functionality of the former USENET newsgroups, which for years have languished as, in effect, an unsupported corner of the Google search engine, and for this you have my gratitude. If the SE sites ever attain the levels of freedom and laissez-faire intellectual content sharing seen in the newsgroups --- and note that the runaway success of Mathoverflow is in large measure attributable to its greater openness compared to sci.math.research or specialized e-mail lists in topology, number theory and other math subjects --- then this reconstruction would in my opinion amount to a significant upgrade of the worldwide knowledge sharing and creation capacity, comparable to the advent of Wikipedia or the Arxiv. At that point my gratitude might be expressed in a more tangible form such as donations of money, time or software.

With that said, the commercial aspects of the site are SO Inc's and SO's alone. If it wishes to hire users in some form as a paid-for ad agency that is great. But to invite them to perform unpaid work for the commercial benefit of SE and its venture capital investors, seems rather cynical as far as the flow of benefits from this activity would be one-way and not the win-win model described above. For users to believe that they should promote the site, or even that it is in their interest for the site to prosper (rather than, say, growing in public mode and then privatizing via subscriptions) it would be important for SE owners to explain to what extent their vision includes a long-term cultivation of a major free knowledge resource, of value to all people, and not merely the creation of a neat and profitable web site or network thereof, driven by whatever commercial potential is seen by the owners and operators and investors.

This is not entirely a philosophical or hypothetical question of asking the SE management to provide gushing testimonials that they really "Get It". The actual site operation, although in beta, has often resembled an overmanaged parochial school, with concerns about trivia like homework, or censorship of postings on a pre-emptive suspicion of hypothetical (indeed, nonexistent) copyright issues, dominating the discussion. I would like to see evidence that the SE overlords, as one user amusingly called them, see the big picture and understand the role of freedom, non-commercial and academic (and some non-academic) interests, knowledge sharing and transparency in setting the direction of the site. Selecting cute slogans and logos and the appointment of enough twentysomething volunteer moderators to "manage" discussion is secondary to understanding what kind of culture, course of development, and goals the SE intends to promote. (For example, at the most basic level, it is hard to learn from the site documentation who owns and operates the site and what their backgrounds are.)

The potential is enormous but past privately run sites have failed or hit a ceiling through lack of vision, often stemming from a lack of subject matter expertise among the management. It would be a pity to see math.SE turn into an intellectually depopulated site predominantly shaped by energetic hackers with a math hobby, or users with high reputation from solving large numbers of calculus problems but who were never part of academia, or people who don't have experience of what USENET and other predecessors were like and what structural and demographic features doomed those forums. Before asking the users to promote the site, SE Inc should explain what they think their site is and can be. The level of articulation seen so far is mostly niceties like "run by the community", but the forum is open for posting more detailed statements or links to such.

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Your reservations about specific management decisions aside, the data (what's really important on this site) is made available under a Creative Commons license. Your contribution and labor is yours to benefit from in every way that matters. The operational philosophy has been exhaustively explored in 100+ hours of podcasts (itconversations.com), written up in hundreds of blog posts, and vetted through tens-of-thousands of meta posts. With all the resources we put into creating that compendium, I suspect you don't really want nor expect me to allay your concerns in a 500-character comment. –  Robert Cartaino Oct 13 '10 at 20:05
    
@Robert Cartaino: But the data is not yet available, correct? When will it be available? –  Bill Dubuque Oct 13 '10 at 20:28
    
@Bill Dubuque: The data is available right now for reuse (copy-paste). Being able to physically download all the data en masse is icing on that cake. But it is coming. I don't know the specific schedule for getting that implemented for all sites. –  Robert Cartaino Oct 13 '10 at 21:06
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@T.. +1 I agree wholeheartedly with the bulk of this answer. I have to say, though, that the en passant sniping at the volunteer mods and other contributors whose background isn't exactly congruent with yours is unnecessary and unhelpful. –  walkytalky Oct 13 '10 at 21:21
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@Robert. Not icing, but lock-in. Not having database dumps seriously limits the ability of the user community to fork the site if they are unhappy with SO management. So making these dumps available will be a big signal from SO that it does not want to hold us hostage. –  Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya Oct 13 '10 at 23:29
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@walkytalky: the initial natural overlap with MathOverflow has slowed down, with many users returning to MO. Main growth of new users and postings is from the September college arrivals. Other sites have died due to the tone that was set (or controlled) by moderators and site management. If SE continues to add more rating, tagging, search and editing features it won't be dependent on moderation, which would be healthy. Handling the volume and demographic issues will be critical, however. If you know a "nice" but comparably specific way to express these concerns, feel free to suggest. –  T.. Oct 14 '10 at 12:02
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@Robert: unfortunately the 100+ hrs podcasts increase rather than allay the sort of concerns articulated in this posting. The sole reference to USENET is that the site founders think that having a group creation mechanism (Area51) makes it "like USENET 2.0". In fact, the SE model makes branching into subsites difficult, and so will be troubled by growth in volume -- a problem that plagued its predecessors. Tagging handles this somewhat for content of postings but not for the composition of the user base. There are huge issues about the future that SE Inc should address. –  T.. Oct 14 '10 at 12:08
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Also, podcasts say that some free features have been unfree at times, while postings here have discussed VC funding of StackExchange. I think the data dumps would be a gigantic positive differentiator of SE from all competitors, so are in the enlightened self-interest of the site owners. Nevertheless, some clear indicators of whether and how the commercial interests are influencing the strategic decisions now and in future, would be of considerable interest to the user population. Especially if you want the users volunteering to promote the site or contribute time toward improving it. –  T.. Oct 14 '10 at 17:05
    
Plus One!!!!!111 –  97832123 Oct 14 '10 at 18:30
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@walkytalky: by the way, what you call sniping at moderators and/or users, is a fairly exact description of the collapse dynamics of earlier sites. Math sites that are regulated according to engineers' math preferences do not prosper. Math sites predominantly shaped by non-researchers do not prosper (but MO is doing great!). Math sites dominated by users or "overlords" who don't see the potential and the pitfalls, do not prosper. If math.SE is to be a venue for math questions at all levels it is paramount to attract and cultivate a user base that can answer at all levels. –  T.. Oct 14 '10 at 18:52
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@T.. MO already exists as a site run by researchers and catering to researchers. math.SE can have a place only if it does something different. September is a great time: you are once again together with your friends, ready to learn things which are new to you, not caring that they may be old-hat for others. –  Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya Oct 15 '10 at 13:11
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@Jyotirmoy: Dear Jyotirmoy, Already one regularly finds questions on math.SE which require the presence of research-level experts for their answer. (This is not to say that they are research-level questions: but the level of a question and the level of knowledge required to effectively answer it are two different things.) So the existence of MO in and of itself doesn't invalidate T..'s remark. –  Matt E Oct 16 '10 at 4:47
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@Matt: Research-level experts and the insights they bring are very very valuable things. I also agree with much in @T..'s answer. But I resent his disparaging comments re "energetic hackers with a math hobby", users who solve calculus problems, or about "September". This seems to be calling for a privileged or even an exclusive position for researchers. MO already has that, which leads to a site very different from what we have at math.SE. If @T.. wants the former, he knows where to find it. –  Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya Oct 16 '10 at 8:29
    
@Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya: I am calling for privileged and exclusive positions for researchers. What of it? –  97832123 Oct 25 '10 at 19:01
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A simple elevator pitch:

Ask and answer questions in mathematics at all levels.

Edit: After some thought, I do not think that this is very good in itself as a final defining sentence of the website any longer, because “at all levels” is too broad. Please feel free to use it as a starting point of discussion.

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Very good. Can I suggest the modification to "... at all levels"? –  Matt E Oct 12 '10 at 18:31
    
@Matt E: My English is too poor for this…. Corrected. Thanks! –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 12 '10 at 18:35
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@Tsuyoshi: Dear Tsyuyoshi, On the contrary, your English is wonderful, and your remarks above were extremely intersting to read! –  Matt E Oct 12 '10 at 18:40
    
@Matt E: Thank you for your kind comment. As I explained in the other answer, I think that this is at best the 0th-order approximation of the defining sentence of the website. I believe that we (as a community) should be able to give a better definition. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 13 '10 at 1:12
    
@Tsuyoshi: I read a lot of material from you (including our earlier discussion) and the writing was indistinguishable from that of a native English speaker, or of someone with perfect fluency and advanced education in English. Doing this in a second language is very impressive, congratulations. –  T.. Oct 13 '10 at 16:51
    
@T..: That means that you have wasted a lot of time! Seriously, thank you for your kind comment. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 13 '10 at 19:47
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I started writing this as a comment to the question, but it became too long to be readable as a comment. Please allow me to write it as an answer.

Before going into details, my proposal is: focus on the most interesting part of the question and ignore the rest, if the rest offends you. I tried to answer what I thought was the most important thing asked in the question: define the website in a short sentence.

Although I believed that my answer was excellent when I posted it and I still consider that it may be a good 0th-order approximation, I do not think that it is the best defining sentence any longer. It is very unclear what “at all levels” means, and at least we do not mean that we want questions like “Can someone do my homework for me?” (see also the off-topic example question “Can someone solve 2x2 + 3x + 2 = 0 for me?”). There should be a better definition, but I cannot think of any, partly because I am not an active member of math.stackexchange.com. So if you agree with me that the question contains something interesting, please find a better definition of the website.


Here are some more details. As I understand it, there are two sources of frustration.

  1. This question seems to focus on marketing.
  2. The domain name discussion was forcibly closed.

As for the first point, I admit that I interpreted the question to fit my own preference. I interpreted an “elevator pitch” just as a “short defining sentence,” ignoring the implied connection to suits and ties. I ignored the tagline/motto part of the question because it looked less important to me (and I could not think of any good tagline/motto anyway). Honestly speaking, I am not interested in making a tagline. I know I am bad at it, and I believe that a tagline is completely optional. I do not mind seeing a good tagline, or even seeing a non-terrible tagline. Just that it is optional and I am not interested.

As for the second point, I know that it is annoying because I spent some time in several domain name discussions on meta.cstheory.stackexchange.com. But at least a person in Stack Overflow explained that it was their mistake that they had asked what a domain name should be in the first place. Although I do not buy everything written in that post, I understand that it cannot be expected that most community members are good at choosing a domain name, because choosing a good domain name is a technical task which requires its own expertise. At the same time, personally I do not want to go into another domain name discussion anymore, so I would like to treat it as something which I cannot argue about any longer.

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I like your answer, and I don't think it is so bad if someone asks how to solve $2x^2 + 3x + 2 = 0$. Hopefully they will quickly get a nice answer, and the question will go away; or else it will be quickly solved. –  Matt E Oct 12 '10 at 18:33
    
@Matt E: Thank you for your kind comments. The question about the quadratic equation is an example off-topic question posted in the definition phase (even before private beta). The idea was that “solve this homework for me” would be off-topic. (I modified that part in this post to clarify this.) I am afraid that “questions in mathematics at all levels” might include questions like that, implying that such questions are welcomed. –  Tsuyoshi Ito Oct 13 '10 at 0:47
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Dear Tsuyoshi, Ah, thanks for pointing this out. I wasn't participating at that early stage and so didn't realize that this example had been used to help establish boundaries for the site. [Also, in my comment above, the final "quickly solved" was supposed to read "quickly closed".] –  Matt E Oct 13 '10 at 2:49
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