We have somewhat of an on-going problem in that "community wiki" is not perfectly defined (and even so far as it is defined in the stackoverflow world, it's conceivable that it should have a different meaning in our context).

Questions such as

do not have objective answers. Yet, they "feel" different to me than questions like

So the question is: how should we define "community wiki" for our site? Should "list" questions be community wiki, but otherwise subjective questions that are looking for a general answer be left alone?

One reason that I raise this is that making a question "community wiki" removes some of the incentive to provide great answers, but IMO questions such as the former two above require effort and good answers should be rewarded.

  • $\begingroup$ BTW, is this question you just asked a community wiki ? $\endgroup$ – Tal Galili Aug 31 '10 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Which question is that? $\endgroup$ – Shane Aug 31 '10 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @TalGalili: no, because there's ultimately only one answer (although parts of it may appear in different answers), ie. how we, as a community, are going to define the guidelines that define the use of the "community wiki" feature. $\endgroup$ – naught101 Mar 20 '12 at 3:14

Here's my perspective:

If the asker is looking for a singular right answer (even if that answer won't work for every user, such as in the case of my question, 1610), then it shouldn't be community wiki. In the case of my question, it shouldn't be community wiki from the get go since I (the asker) have the intention of selecting an answer as "the right answer" - it's the answer that solved my problem. Now, if it turns out that there truly isn't a right answer or a single answer that helps the asker, then it should be up to the asker to come back and make it a community wiki question to denote that there actually isn't a single right answer to solve the problem, but it's actually any (combination of) or all of the posted answers.

If the asker is just looking for suggestions or a collection of resources, that should be community wiki. The asker isn't looking for a singular solution to his/her problem - the answer will be a collection, taken as a whole. People contributing answers aren't as an individual helping the asker reach an answer, but contributing a small piece of the puzzle (a single book, a quote, a tool, a software program). The asker might find a single answer that answers his/her question, but the answer really doesn't mean much by itself.

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    $\begingroup$ Really well-said. $\endgroup$ – Matt Parker Aug 12 '10 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ I agree...the only issue that I see is that someone who asks "what is the best X" is also looking for a singular answer. But that's ususally "argumentative". $\endgroup$ – Shane Aug 12 '10 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ True. But then "What is the best X?" questions aren't helpful to anyone, I don't think. They should be questions phrased along the lines of "What X are available for Y?" and then expand on their specific needs in the body. There often is no "best" X for all situations. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Owens Aug 12 '10 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with your reasoning. The asker is irrelevant. SE's aim is to provide a good knowledge database for everyone. Your question is a prime example (because many people are likely to have the same question): If the answers were for you, and you only, then the question may as well be deleted as soon as you found an appropriate answer. But the answers aren't for you, they're for you and everyone after you. If a question really is only applicable to the asker, then it should probably be closed as too localised. (note: not saying you're wrong about your question being CW, just your reasoning) $\endgroup$ – naught101 Mar 22 '12 at 8:29
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    $\begingroup$ Also worth noting that the set of answers to your question, when taken in the context of my previous comment is a collection of resources - some mnemonics will work for some people, and others for other people. There's never going to be a definitive answer there. $\endgroup$ – naught101 Mar 22 '12 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ I somewhat feel that it is less likely to people to contribute once it hits community wiki since neither the asker nor the respondents will get out any reputation of that. On the other hand, I felt happy in a sense to know that one of my questions made up to a community wiki and get considerable amount of up votes, even thou I did not benefit from the last of them. $\endgroup$ – Oeufcoque Penteano Apr 4 '12 at 19:02

I don't think Thomas's question should be community wiki, because it is a focused question. There can be more discussion on the other one. The main reason is that it is not a question. Indeed, as the question is formulated we see the author has already his answer and is interesed in getting people's view. I think the question about bayesian is borderline, this other one is also borderline:

Clojure versus R: advantages and disadvantages for data analysis

Finally I guess we should keep them as non CW but remember that this is the border :) (a question can't be less focused)

The reason why a question asking for people's view (and not a question asking for an answer) should be CW is mechanic.

  • It generates a lot of reactions because when you have an answer it si likely that everyone has an answer.
  • People are happy to find a place to talk and vote up.
  • this type of question is encouraged (because you gain a lot of points) and thousands of answer are given.
  • stat.stackoverflow becomes a forum.

Do we want a forum ?

  • $\begingroup$ Couldn't moderators step in to lock/close a question at this point? $\endgroup$ – ars Aug 13 '10 at 7:14

I like what's been said already. In general, I favor approaches that result in greater sharing of information.

It seems that CW content tends to decline unless it's about jokes, quotes and such. I'd rather see people contributing more for points or whatever. I admit that I'm less concerned with subjectivity, etc. It's especially hard for me to see statisticians or data analysts agreeing on the one view to bind them all. Let downvoting do the work. In the extreme cases where discussion begins to devolve to nonsensical proportions, I favor moderators acting to close the question.

Very generally, my modest proposal is the following guidelines:

  • avoid a rush to judgement
  • if you think a question should be closed, err on the side of asking for it to go CW
  • if you think a question should go CW, err on the side of letting the community express disapproval through downvoting

I think the community wiki FAQ on cooking.SE answers this question excellently. Since both questions and answers can now be edited by anyone, regardless of rep (albeit with moderator approval for those of us with low rep), there is almost never a good reason to use community wiki. This even applies to most list questions.

Considering the ability for anyone to edit, the only value in community wiki is to deny reputation. This is potentially useful for avoiding rep farming, and filling the site with relatively useless fun list questions. Many questions of this type should just be closed anyway.

Community wiki is also potentially detrimental for the same reason: once there is no rep gain, there is less incentive for someone to spend their time writing a good, detailed answer.

Because community wiki can not be unapplied, it should be used judiciously. I would suggest that we adopt something like the cooking.SE guidelines linked above. Thoughts?

  • $\begingroup$ Hrm, I realised after I posted this that edit permissions seem to be different for different sites. So community wiki is still the only way to let anyone edit questions/answers on CV. Regardless, I think cooking.SE's policy is interesting, and worth considering. $\endgroup$ – naught101 Apr 3 '12 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ Naught, I think the reality is in the middle of your two characterizations. Users with sufficiently high reputation can edit questions and answers by anyone. For more information, please read our FAQ. If you're still serious about your proposal, please start a new meta thread: replies are not the place to be asking new questions. $\endgroup$ – whuber Apr 3 '12 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ BTW, some of the information in the cooking meta post is outdated. For instance, although I haven't tried it, I have access to an option to "remove wiki" status from any CW post on our site. $\endgroup$ – whuber Apr 3 '12 at 6:28
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    $\begingroup$ Good to know about removal of CW status. I'm not really looking to put forward a proposal (not yet, anyway), just trying to (help) figure out WTF community wiki is actually for. $\endgroup$ – naught101 Apr 3 '12 at 7:48

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