I've noticed that community wiki status is sometimes applied forcibly to posts that moderators judge are not quite a good fit for this site -- too broad, too open-ended, or too likely to attract multiple answers, or for whatever other reason having some defect.

I understand the motivations behind this and sympathize to some extent, but I'd like to propose a change to this policy. I propose a different policy:

Moderators should avoid forcibly applying community wiki status, if the author didn't request it, except for big-list questions.

Big-list questions are arguably special and should be discussed separately. But for questions that are not asking for a big list of X:

If the question meets the criteria for closure (e.g., too broad, too subjective, off-topic), the question should be closed. If the question does not meet the criteria for closure, it should be left open and should not be forcibly converted to community wiki. Community wiki should not be used for questions that are somehow in the middle -- make a decision, either it meets the criteria for closure, or it doesn't.

If the question is attracting poor-quality answers, moderators and the community should curate the answers (e.g., by deleting lower quality answers and answers that are redundant and do not add anything).

Forcible conversion to community wiki should not be used as 'closure lite' or as a way to deny reputation to users.

My rationale:

  1. If the question should be closed, close it (put it on hold). Putting a question on hold is not permanent. It acts a signal to encourage people to edit the question, and puts a pause on answers until the question is improved so it meets site standards. In the long run this will lead to higher-quality questions.

  2. The current c.w. policy risks discouraging answers. Reputation is a core part of the system; using community wiki denies people from receiving reputation for excellent answers, which may mean we don't get as much higher-quality answers.

    Also, converting an question to community wiki after some answers have been posted leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It violates the implicit contract with answerers that if they post a good answer they will receive reputation for people who upvote their answers -- and does so retroactively in a way that the answerer could not have anticipated, and after the answerer put in effort (possibly in an expectation that if others judge their effort valuable they will receive the reputation benefit). This won't matter to everyone, but it may matter for some answerers. Before you reject this because it doesn't matter to you, consider that others may feel differently.

    Personally, I also find the current policy discouraging from the perspective of a reader, because it means my votes do not translate into any reward for the person who took the time to answer.

    In short: the current policy interferes with the incentive system that underlies StackExchange sites.

  3. CrossValidated is out of sync with the rest of StackExchange policies. Standard policies on StackExchange strongly discourage use of community wiki in this way. See, e.g., the following:

    The StackExchange views on community wiki have evolved, based on experience with it. I suggest that this site evolve its views similarly.

A recent example where this came up (but it's not the only one): What's a real-world example of "overfitting"?

What do you think? Do you agree with my suggested policy, or do you like the current approach better? Or would you suggest something else entirely?


1 Answer 1


I disagree with this suggestion. Having grown up on this policy, I don't have the same issues with it. Here are some (rambling) thoughts:

  • There are a number of 'big-list' type questions on CV that are not really on topic here. Under the strict policy you suggest, they should be closed and then subsequently deleted. I gather this has happened on SO in the past. The result of that would be to not only prevent the gaining of reputation, but taking existing reputation away. On the other hand, making such threads CW seems like a useful way to split the difference and make an exception in exceptional cases. Threads like favorite cartoons and favorite quotes have benefited me personally (I've used examples in my classes). I'm glad they continue to exist.

    (Note: Upon looking at the thread in question for the first time today, I notice @whuber's reasoning is fairly similar.)

  • The fact that the favorite quotes thread is CW did not discourage me from posting a quote. It may prevent someone, I don't know, but those threads have more answers than any other and I don't think they are lacking in sufficient posts.

  • Regarding the claim that votes "not translate into any reward", this is incorrect: badges are accrued as they are with other posts. In fact, the existence of these threads, which garner a lot of views, is one of the primary sources of rare badges like great answers.

  • $\begingroup$ (I may add more later.) $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2014 at 1:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the thoughtful answer! Using community wiki for 'big-list' questions only seems like it might be a reasonable intermediate point. However, community wiki is also being applied to questions that are not a 'big-list' question, and that's where I have the biggest issues. The overfitting question I link to is not a 'big-list' question, and I think the points I make apply to it more. Think about each of your 3 bullet items -- how does your reasoning apply to those kind of non-big-list questions? $\endgroup$
    – D.W.
    Dec 12, 2014 at 1:52
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @gung here. I also think it's singularly futile to try to lay down exact policy on what should be community wiki. It's more or less whatever a moderator thinks is so different that it's in the best interests of the community that they be so designated. That doesn't mean that decisions can't be challenged. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Dec 12, 2014 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ The consent of the original poster is also indefensible as a criterion. Why not an argument that no question, answer or comment should be deleted without the OP's consent? Further, a small loss of potential reputation for a few individuals is just a trivial side-effect and is never a good argument for or against a policy. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Dec 12, 2014 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ @D.W., IMHO the overfitting question is a 'big-list' question. Over time, it will undoubtedly garner a long list of suggested examples of overfitting with no real objective way to determine which is the 'correct' suggested example of real-world overfitting. Under strict adherence to the rules it should be closed as off-topic & deleted. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2014 at 14:45

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