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It's no secret that Ask Different is more lenient than most other sites when it comes to allowing poll-like questions. We feel that a select few poll questions that are educational and well maintained are a great way to add some fun to our site, but to still stick to the principles of Stack Exchange: learning things and sharing knowledge.

However, such questions tend to get a lot of answers, votes, and views, and as such tend to tip the scales of the hotness algorithm that Stack Exchange uses for the http://stackexchange.com/ home page, the dropdown, and cross-site ads.

This, unfortunately, has driven several moderators on other sites to the point of madness. Though I disagree with their characterizations of such questions, I sympathize with the fact that they are attempting to establish rules and standards against such questions on their own sites, and recognize that the promotion of these questions from our site undermines their position.

I have no intention of changing the policy allowing these questions on Ask Different at the moment (though I may in the future), but it might be a good idea if these questions weren't as visible from the other sites. Therefore, I suggest a compromise: the hotness algorithm be modified to exclude any Community Wiki questions.

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Smiles don't make the Internet a better place –  random Oct 30 '11 at 3:21
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I appreciate what you're trying to do, but doesn't this only serve to further reinforce the tired old canard of Community Wiki being a safety button for borderline or outright inappropriate questions? It's practically cementing the problem that so many of us had to work so hard to solve - and the effects of it would reach out to the entire network, not just Apple.SE. If there's a solution to this, Community Wiki ain't it. –  Aarobot Oct 30 '11 at 3:25
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You're looking to make exceptions when there shouldn't be. –  random Oct 30 '11 at 3:27
    
possible duplicate of How do the "arbitrary hotness points" work on the new Stack Exchange home page? -- "We have a few tweaks: ...The benefit of many answers is capped at 10" –  gnat Nov 8 '13 at 13:08
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6 Answers 6

Let me just say this: I am a honest-to-goodness Mac expert. See my bio for details. Yet I often find the quality of the questions on Ask Different to be lacking. I often think that the moderators on the site should take a stronger hand in closing silly questions, and I personally find the community wiki questions to be almost wholly without merit.

As a person with expertise, I am less inclined to answer questions on Ask Different. I tend to immediately ignore a question with the community wiki tag, because I see them as simply a free-for-all for opinions, or mere lists of things, rather than definitive answers for community questions.

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I have no intention of changing the policy allowing these questions on Ask Different at the moment (though I may in the future), but it might be a good idea if these questions weren't as visible from the other sites.

Left unspoken here is your rationale for wanting such questions. I mean, if you accept that they're a poor example to the rest of the network, and have no problems hiding them, then what use could you possibly see? After all, what site wouldn't want their most popular questions nailed to the mast, an example to all of the best their experts could produce? And yet, you sound almost ashamed... So why would you strive to protect them?

I'm betting the answer can be found here:

I've always liked these questions and felt them to be an important part of building and maintaining a healthy community here [...]

And... I agree. To a point. There is some value to be had in a collaborative, all hands on deck exercise like this, even when it doesn't actually, y'know, produce anything of lasting value. They can, especially on a smaller site, create that feeling of being part of something larger, a community with more in common than a passing interest in the site's stated topic.

IMHO, the one site on the network that latched onto this early and handled it most elegantly is Photography. Click that link, if you haven't seen it - and pay close attention to that big beautiful picture right smack at the top of the page.

That picture comes from a thread like this one, hosted on their Meta site. The rules are laid out at the top, and are fairly simple: one submission per person, discussion happens in chat, thread gets locked once the week is over.

A bit unorthodox for SE, and perhaps even a bit of an abuse of the system... But, dammit, it works - just look at that pretty dandelion!

Dandelion seeds

Now, I don't think this is appropriate for every SE site. Nor do I think you could take the Photo.SE system and drop it unchanged into a site where it was appropriate without changes. But it's a pretty good reminder of how a little bit of planning and cooperation can turn an ad-hoc, slightly-sketchy community idea into a pillar of the community itself.

I guess what I'm getting at is... Maybe you can have your cake and eat it too. Without a return to that old, "CW as a get out of jail free card" approach. A way to bring the community together and have 'em all GTKY without doing it on the site itself...

Think about it.

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The discussion of why I support such questions is distinct from this proposal, so this will be my only comment on the subject. The answer is in the first paragraph of this feature request "... a select few poll questions that are educational and well maintained are a great way to add some fun to our site, but to still stick to the principles of Stack Exchange: learning things and sharing knowledge." And I'm not "ashamed" in any way by the questions. The reason why I'm suggesting this is because I'm sick of Aaronut pitching a fit in the TL. And IMO the questions do produce lasting value. –  Kyle Cronin Oct 30 '11 at 5:28
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If you're not ashamed, if you think these questions are actually useful for something more than participation value, then stick to your guns and defend them - don't propose we implement systems to hide them. We already have plenty of ways to hide things... –  Shog9 Oct 30 '11 at 5:41
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+1 for "stick to your guns and defend them - don't propose we implement systems to hide them", I downvoted the question because I don't think hiding them is the way to go, but I do feel and always have felt that some CW poll type questions like these add value. They are some of my favorite questions and some of the questions I have learned the most from, especially when they share unique tools or special tricks. And sometimes they're just plain awesome... I was very sad when the Coolest Server Names question on SF was deleted. –  The Unhandled Exception Oct 30 '11 at 16:48
    
The decision of the community leaders to prohibit Community Wiki questions from being used in this way is one of those kinds of decisions I just don't agree with, even if the rest of the community supports this. –  The Unhandled Exception Oct 30 '11 at 16:49
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While I don't wish to sound ungrateful for your recognition of the problem and desire to find a solution, I think this specific proposed solution would actually be worse than the current situation.

There are some great Community Wiki questions out there, like What's a nice explanation for pointers? or Options for HTML scraping?. It would be a shame to exclude those solely on the basis of that flag. But more importantly, Community Wiki is not supposed to be an indicator of the quality or appropriate-ness of the question, and many people across the network have worked very hard over the past several months to impart that understanding in the various communities.

The Community Wiki button was taken away from questions because it was abused as a justification for open-ended, non-constructive questions. There is a ton of literature on this topic now, all the way from Good Subjective, Bad Subjective to Real Questions Have Answers to The Future of Community Wiki. The overarching message being repeated again and again is that discussion and poll threads are not appropriate under any banner and that Community Wiki is principally meant for answers that need expansion or improvement by the community (think of Wikipedia's "stubs").

Sure, this rule would get rid of the poll questions from the Multicollider™ and so on, but as a policy/feature, it's a return to the dark ages, a new legitimate reason for people to demand that their borderline questions merely be turned into Community Wiki rather than closed.

With so many sites on the network, I think we need to start treating these inter-site promotional tools like common areas in a condo building. OK, you guys, moderators and community movements, you get to decide on the scope of your site, how to position it, how to handle things like tagging and comment cleanup and contests. But, just because I own my unit doesn't mean I'm allowed to put a BBQ on the balcony, and just because individual sites have a certain level of autonomy doesn't mean you should feel free to openly allow questions that flagrantly subvert network-wide policies, in the absence of some seriously crazy extenuating circumstances.

If you see a question getting 83 upvotes and 46 answers, you should close it. That is at the very least a red flag, a "question smell". If a question has 46 distinct answers then that really means it has no answer and isn't a question at all. That's not good for any community trying to position itself as a place for Q&A. You give one set of exceptions on one site and everybody else on every site will want special exceptions for their crappy questions as well.

We see a lot of goofy questions appearing on a fairly regular basis in the network ads, but those questions, while "fun", are also real questions most of the time, and their creators deserve some credit for being able to write a question that's fun and educational. These "little things that make you smile" threads are, I'm sorry to say, not in that category. They're little podiums for community members to get up and brag and rave about their newest consumer product acquisition. I don't see how they're practical and no, it's not just me hating on Apple, I feel very much the same way about the (mostly closed/locked) "hidden features" questions and feature wishlist questions that seem to pop up again and again on most sites.

People will ask them anyway, that's to be expected, but you should have the good sense to close them - if not right away then certainly after they've run their course and have more than 15-20 answers. That's the most effective solution to this problem; not to make yet another special exception for popular non-questions.

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Community wiki questions, when used properly, are just as fine as any other question. Using community wiki to endorse or allow questions that are way below the standards for the network is just an abuse of the feature.

It's the prerogative of Apple.SE and any other site to buck the standards for the rest of the network, but blacklisting community wiki across the network—when the problem at hand is that only one or two sites just don't follow the same conventions as the rest of the network—is like using an axe when a scalpel is required.

I'd much rather see Apple removed from the hot questions list, not community wiki questions.

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I don't want to see regular Ask Different questions removed, but if it's deemed necessary they could make a specific block for Ask Different community wiki, and still include other AD questions and CW questions from other sites. But that seems an inelegant solution. –  Kyle Cronin Oct 30 '11 at 3:30
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@KyleCronin The elegant solution is to ban these types of questions. The network has a set of base standards, and every site gets free publicity and cross-promotion because every site agrees to act as part of the network. If you don't want to follow the same rules as the rest of the network, why should you get the benefit of its endorsement through cross-promotion? –  user149432 Oct 30 '11 at 3:33
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Another option would be to allow moderators to specifically exclude specific questions from inter-site promotion (similar to what I think English.SE wanted for certain "explain this joke" questions). But that's a bit like using a plastic knife instead of a scalpel. –  Aarobot Oct 30 '11 at 3:46
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Kyle, I hope you are taking the top-voted answers here to heart. It's enheartening to see when the community just gets it so spot on.

The "problem" you describe here is an exemplary illustration of exactly why we forgo these types of questions. You say they're "a select few poll questions that are educational" and "a great way to add some fun to our site" — and then you lament that they are crowding out the hot questions on the site for everyone to see. What happened to "a select few?"

Sure… taken in isolation, there's nothing inherently horrific about someone asking for everyone's input about some subject. But on a network where your front page IS your design, most have come to learn that they simply do not want these questions becoming the mainstay of their site. And that's where this is heading.

Users will imitate what they see… and what they see is sooooo easy to imitate. 'List of [X]' questions… 'What do you think about…' questions — Each question inspires the next round of bike shed examples. Lots of answers; Lots to vote on; No answer better than any other — In short, these pile-on-your-answers poll questions are simply too easy to ask… and too easy to answer. It completely displaces any questions that take true expertise in the subject, and that's what this is supposed to be about.

You're asking us to hide a class of questions that are earning top accolades; That hardly seems fair to the author who asks them, no? So you've usurped Community Wiki as the marker to "excuse" the fact that these questions shouldn't be earning top accolades in the first place. That goes explicitly against the purpose of the wiki. The features of Stack Exchange are designed to make it easy to do the right thing while simultaneously difficult to go the wrong way. By going against the grain, you've taken on an up-hill battle.

You're asking to hide these "hot" questions from being broadcast. Does that mean your 'hot' tab is broken, too?

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Nope, our 'hot' tab is great. In fact, I personally don't have a problem with leaving things the way they are now with SE's hot algorithm, I just proposed this to appease people that were complaining about it. –  Kyle Cronin Oct 31 '11 at 2:01
    
@KyleCronin That's good to hear. Sorry you were the sacrificial lamb, or drew the short straw, or whatever metaphor fits. –  Robert Cartaino Oct 31 '11 at 2:06
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Kyle, I know we've discussed this before, and having read this, my opinion hasn't changed any:

This problem could be fixed—and should be fixed—by simply deleting 99% of the CW posts on Apple.se.

There's a question on meta.apple.se: How to kill off 'community wiki' entries. Based on the voting, the community agrees that the site has a CW problem that needs fixing.

Apple.se has also been having serious quality issues. While I can't unequivocally state that their elimination would turn things around, I personally suspect that CW questions are broken windows.

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I'd love to see some data on how CW questions lead to poor voting. If it's true I'd be glad to take it into consideration, but to me that theory doesn't even make sense. –  Kyle Cronin Oct 30 '11 at 7:01
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@Kyle - I didn't say CW led to poor voting. I hypothesized that CW questions lead to a general decrease in quality—that is, people see that low quality questions are considered acceptable, and so, they ask more lousy questions. –  Dori Oct 30 '11 at 7:06
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Also, it's "Ask Different", not "Apple.se" –  Kyle Cronin Oct 30 '11 at 7:06
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@Kyle - If you go to seasonedadvice.com and crossvalidated.com, you end up at cooking.stackexchange.com and stats.stackexchange.com, respectively. Similarly, if you go to askdifferent.com, you end up at apple.stackexchange.com. Apple.se, like cooking.se and stats.se, is owned and operated by Stack Exchange, Inc. My perception is that you would like it to be otherwise, but stating a preference as a fact doesn't make it one. –  Dori Oct 30 '11 at 7:18
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That's not what it says on the business cards –  Kyle Cronin Oct 30 '11 at 7:28
    
@Kyle - However, it is where the apple link at the bottom of this page goes—as does the apple link on every page of every launched SE site. –  Dori Oct 30 '11 at 7:53
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@Kyle: Really, come off it... I moderate Seasoned Advice and refer to it as such but I don't take offense when people call it "Cooking.SE". It's still referenced that way in several places. –  Aarobot Oct 30 '11 at 14:12
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Also, @Kyle, I don't think anybody is stating that Community Wiki leads to poor voting, but rather open-ended poll questions that happen to be getting equated with Community Wiki here. How could they not lead to poor voting? Answers are usually so short and trite that people can only possibly vote for their personal preferences, rather than any objective measure of the answer's quality. –  Aarobot Oct 30 '11 at 14:15
    
@Dori - You probably know this, but chiphacker.com also redirects to electronics.stackexchange.com. It's not our name, but it's another (the last?) site which redirects to its subject.stackexchange.com domain. –  Kevin Vermeer Oct 31 '11 at 2:34
    
@Kevin - Oh, there are plenty of others as well (e.g., mi.yodeya.com, nothingtoinstall.com). I just included a couple of examples of SE 2.0 sites where sitename.com redirects to its canonical se.com name. –  Dori Oct 31 '11 at 2:39
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