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I get the general impression that Community Wikis suck. You get a load of answers that no one votes on properly.

So why not make it so that all posts merge into one long wiki page? Have each post be a subheading that you can click to, like on wikipedia.

  1. Having one long wiki entry would make the posts more coherent.
  2. The main reason to have a seamless entry is so that content flowed, they would still remain separate.
  3. We would still keep the 'sub-headings' separate, and they could be voted on
  4. Removing the vote number would aid the merge into a more coherent wiki, whilst still lletting the good stuff float to the top
  5. Having a link to each post, at the top of the would encourage people to read all of the posts/entries, and in turn edit them so they fit together.

The 'contents' section would look a little like so:

enter image description here

All in all it would be more of a cosmetic change to make people see the wiki's as more of a community driven answer than what they are now, where people have a name on the page and lots of redundancy.

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A good place to start would be giving each "answer" a topic heading, this way it's clear to those who edit what the main focus of that particular "answer" section is. Other than that, I wouldn't force a merge into one long post. It makes it hard to separate content. – jmort253 Jul 27 '12 at 22:06

A Wikipedia entry about a place might have a "Geography" section, a "History" section and a "Demographics" section. Each section covers a separate topic about the place.

On Stack Exchange, all answers have exactly one topic, and it's the same one as every other answer to the question: trying to solve the problem described in the question. To continue the analogy from above, if you tried to apply the Wikipedia format, you'd get eight "Demographics" sections containing roughly the same information, just written differently.

It makes more sense for all the answers to be merged into one great answer containing all of the information and none of the redundancy. And that is, in fact, what's supposed to be happening now, in the rare cases where CW is appropriate to begin with.

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Copied from the above answer: My point about having one long post is that rather than editing individual posts, they are edited so that each salient point has it's own subheading: Point A, Point B etc, though still on the same topic. – Pureferret Jul 27 '12 at 22:09
I may be misunderstanding what you mean... could you give an example? The way I'm thinking of it now, the presence of multiple topics that are significant enough to deserve separate subheadings indicates a problem with the question. – Pops Jul 27 '12 at 22:51
For instance, here each subheading would be a different style, there list is reasonably finite, and is useful to the community at large, whilst no one answer is correct. – Pureferret Jul 27 '12 at 22:57
Here is another, could have subheadings of: Books, Films, TV etc. – Pureferret Jul 27 '12 at 23:03
@Pureferret - Those are not the kinds of questions that we really want on our network. It's asking for a list of things. As Popular Demand says, there is a problem with the question. Community wiki is oftentimes suggested by users who want to try to hide the fact that a question isn't a good fit, so making it easier to use this feature would only make it easier to abuse. – jmort253 Jul 27 '12 at 23:03
@jmort253 but a lot of different communities are approaching the 'rules' differently. I agree sometimes this is a bad thing, and that list questions aren't generally suitable, but I'm sure there is some scope for this. – Pureferret Jul 27 '12 at 23:05
Again, you're asking Stack Exchange to make it easier for a community to do something that Stack Exchange discourages. If you look, most list questions are from over 2 years ago, before the moderation was really enforced. Or you'll see it on beta sites, where the community hasn't yet learned that quality is something SE will take into account when deciding if a site should graduate. – jmort253 Jul 27 '12 at 23:09

I would like to disagree here. According to your list -

1. Having one long wiki entry would make the posts more coherent.

Merging all of the posts into one "long wiki page" would most certainly not make them more coherent. Even if the post and all its answers are made community wiki's, they are in-fact still supposed to be in the Question & Answer format. One question with many possible answers - this also helps to maintain correct attribution as all the edit history per post is always available (but I guess it would still be like that on one big post...). How would you differentiate between everyone's opinions? We all work in different ways, and the guidelines of the site should be broad to allow everyone to "take it in their own direction".

2. Removing the voting would remove well, the votes don't mean much anyway.

The voting system allows the community to gauge the "helpfulness" of the post. Votes mean everything here. I think you are confusing the voting system with the reputation system and which one drives the system and which one drives the users. You may not get reputation for votes on a CW post - but they can still be ranked with the voting system in the same way as any other post - according to the content.

The good stuff floats to the top

3. Having a link to each post would encourage people to read all of the posts/entries, and in turn edit them so they fit together.

This already exists -

To sum things up - I think that what you are looking for is already in the system. A community wiki post (with answers sorted by votes) could be read from beginning to end keeping in mind that as you read down you start getting into possibly less helpful and informative answers (but still on topic) and even further down you may perhaps get into some controversial opinions or methods.

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My point about having one long post is that rather than editing individual posts, they are edited so that each salient point has it's own subheading: Point A, Point B etc, though still on the same topic. With this, we could still having voting on each point, but it wouldn't be the obvious number by the post as we have now. The links to the points would be at the top of the 'answer/wiki', so you knew which points were where in the 'answer/wiki'. It would be one truely community driven answer. – Pureferret Jul 27 '12 at 22:08

What you're asking for is possible using the existing Q&A engine. While it won't look exactly like Wikipedia, the concept does exist and has been used in both site Meta's, this Meta, and the main Stack Exchange sites.

Each question, and each one of its answers, has a permalink associated with it which acts as a bookmark that, when clicked, takes the visitor to that particular portion of the page.

Thus, to organize a good Community Wiki post, follow these guidelines:

  • Edit the question so that it becomes a short summary of the subject followed by a table of contents.
  • Organize each subtopic by answer. For instance, if you were going to create a community wiki post to describe the 5 close reasons, all with example questions and references to the FAQ, you'd dedicate one answer to each close reason.
  • In the Question body, add the links to each answer, along with the heading. When a user clicks the appropriate resource, the browser will scroll, or reload the page, so that the specific topic appears before the user.
  • Edit each answer to organize it as appropriate, and make sure every answer, and the question, is community wiki.

This works best on meta sites, of course, since The Future of Community Wiki encourages us to focus on writing better questions instead of applying the quick fix known as community wiki.

For community wiki answers, since anyone can edit, users should be encouraged to make edits that improve the quality, layout, and formatting of that answer. Additionally, in rare cases where it makes more sense for answers to be merged, users can flag the posts, and a moderator can handle the merge.

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This is great but couldn't this formatting be done by the 'system'? It would push the users into writing better answers. – Pureferret Jul 27 '12 at 22:47
Community wiki isn't really what Stack Exchange is about. It's sort of the red-headed stepchild of Stack Exchange, and investing development time in it will only serve to promote more abuse of this rare feature. This is something that shouldn't really come up all too often, and if it does, something is really wrong on the site. – jmort253 Jul 27 '12 at 22:54
I'm just throwing the idea out here; I'm a relatively new user of SE, and I've not seen the horrors others have. If this idea doesn't float then that's also okay, I'm just as curious to see what others think as I am to get my views heard. – Pureferret Jul 27 '12 at 22:59

I've seen confusing definitions as to the purpose of the Community Wiki here on meta and in the FAQ/other places on SE. There is this (future-of-community-wiki) but I have also seen it described as the place for canonical questions + answers (can't find that link now). I guess the intended purpose or view of Community Wikis has changed over time.

While I greatly appreciate the point that SO/SE is Q+A based and that long, compendium-type posts are not its mission or purpose, I still think there is a place for improving the Community Wiki and giving it much more of a "canonical" capability (graphically, functionally, search-wise) than it has now.

For example, this question (Efficient cropping) has just appeared on SO. The are dozens of questions on the topic of cropping UIImages with many dozens of answers of varying quality, completeness and currency.

It seems to me that a Community Wiki on this narrow topic (and not all subtopics related to UIImage) would serve the community and the mission of SO/SE better than the current scattering of answers over many questions. In my thinking, this could reduce the number of new questions by prioritizing Community Wiki questions in the 'related questions' shown to the user when they first post a question and also through closing questions that are answered through a referral to a Community Wiki.

I'm reminded of that old joke about the comedians' convention where people are shouting out numbers - one of the gists being that the jokes have been told so many times that they can be referred to by number. For many SO questions, I think this applies.

As to improving how the Community Wiki functions, perhaps multiple users can "adopt" a Community Wiki question to improve and keep current, perhaps gain rep for that as incentive. The specifics would need to be worked out - but I really think there is a place for a more robust Community Wiki implementation.

share|improve this answer
The problem with the canonical Q&A is it encourages a single question which is too broad rather than a series of several great, targeted questions that can generate lots of great answers and benefit the community. Community Wiki should be used as the "seed" of an incomplete answer where others are encouraged to participate, and it shouldn't be used as an excuse to merge a group of questions into one. – jmort253 Jul 28 '12 at 0:30
Just like the guidelines as to proper questions, there can be guidelines as to proper use of Community Wikis in the manner I propose. In my example about cropping a UIImage, this is a specific topic question which is not well served by having many (often poor) questions with many, many answers. There are only so many use cases. Quite a few of the answers are incomplete, out of date, or just plain wrong but they get reposted and linked to over and over. Having "adopters" to keep things current (and concise) would work better, imo. – Will Tower Jul 28 '12 at 0:42
If it's a problem that people search for often, and there are slight variations in the question that generate slight variation in answers, this is beneficial not just for solving that particular problem but also for generating more traffic. Even then, a canonical post doesn't need to be community wiki. – jmort253 Jul 28 '12 at 0:44
Please look at the search link for 'UIImage crop' ( This is essentially the same question, over and over, with very small differences in context and application. There is no benefit to SO to having many often weak questions with often incomplete or incorrect answers. – Will Tower Jul 28 '12 at 0:51

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