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Community Wiki allows you to take other people's answers and replace them with (well) another person's answer to 'cheat' the original poster out of votes/badges.


Community Wiki posts in Stack Overflow exist to allow users to edit other's answers more easily -- to encourage participation. I could (with a mere 750 reputation, IIRC) go into any Community Wiki post and edit an existing answer. But what if I wanted to take a user's popular answer to another (very similar) question and just copy/paste that in? I could do that, and according to the 'rules' of CW, it would not be 'bad'.

Where it becomes unfair is now I'm getting rewards for someone else's answer; and they in turn are deprived of those rewards. Those rewards come in page views to their profile (which may lead to upvotes in other questions) and badges. It's that second part that is most important, it's the part that allows the original author to retain some benefit for a answer he made.

The Problem

Community Wiki should either

  1. Not give badges (another Meta SO discussion tracks this)
  2. Editing should be explicitly limited to improving the current answer without taking someone else's answer from another question wholesale. (clearly impossible)

An Example

In the answer to this question, I compiled all of the answers in that post into one answer. This one answer became 'the answer', and I received badges for it.

Later on, in this question, we found out that Question #391523 was a duplicate; and was closed ( I don't necessarily agree with it being closed, since that's a nomination for deletion, in your words). My answer still sits there, getting upvotes.

Gatekiller comes into that question, takes my answer, and replaces the accepted answer in his question with my answer.

As it would stand, the author of that answer would potentially receive dozens of upvotes for an answer he never gave, and I would be left out, with my reward mechanism removed.

The Solution

  1. Take out the reward for Community Wiki Posts (OR)
  2. Institute Guidelines for adding/editing CW posts (AND/OR)
  3. Explain why the current system is broken.

Also, even if you choose not to do any of these things, a discussion on the merit of this issue would be nice.

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I'm not sure I understand. So you're saying that other people can copy your answer to another question and get rewarded? If so, I fail to see what this has to do with CW specifically. – Kyle Cronin Jul 3 '09 at 3:41
Well, it's easier to detect as 'bad' when I still technically 'own' the answer, but if it's community wiki, then I don't technically 'own' it (but the system still gives me badges for it.) – George Stocker Jul 3 '09 at 3:42
The difference is a moot point. I could copy and paste your answer anyways, regardless of if it's a wiki or not. What are the odds you'll find out? Is there something I'm missing? – Ian Elliott Jul 3 '09 at 3:46
@Ian: exactly - I just don't get how CW protects you. By the way, nothing about CW rescinds ownership - you still very much own whatever you post regardless of wiki status. – Kyle Cronin Jul 3 '09 at 3:48
The intent of the site was that Community Wiki posts wouldn't be 'owned' by any one person (hence why they are community). So while I have a legitimate complaint (or rather, a hole in the CW mindset), technically and according to the site, what I post under CW isn't really mine. It belongs to the community. – George Stocker Jul 3 '09 at 4:36
But again, there's nothing to enforce any of these policies. Respectable users will usually attribute the original work if it's supplied verbatim, but there's nothing from stopping me from reposting any or all of your work. You're fighting a lost cause if you really believe someone won't repost your work just because it's not labeled as community wiki. – Ian Elliott Jul 3 '09 at 5:00
No, but I have more of a leg to stand on in the case of them reposting when it isn't community wiki. – George Stocker Jul 3 '09 at 5:08
Ok, then let me be blunt, with no disrespect. What is there to gain from this that justifies the cost? – Ian Elliott Jul 3 '09 at 5:23
Wait, you are mad that benefits you got by stealing everyone's answers might go to someone else who stole your answer? – Eric Aug 25 '09 at 20:37
Yes, I am Mad ( But it has nothing to do with this. Yes, "Stolen" in that I took the time (hours, all told) to compile all of the myriad of answers (in accordance with a practice encouraged by Joel Spolsky) into one easy to index, read, and edit answer. To take that and copy/paste it into another person's answer on another thread (Which was a duplicate and later merged, incidentally), is disingenuous at best. – George Stocker Aug 26 '09 at 2:10
up vote 11 down vote accepted

There's certainly a discrepancy in terms of CW granting badges but not rep. Big deal? Maybe, maybe not. Personally I'm not terribly bothered by it.

Now, as for gaming the system: there are various ways of gaming the system to get more badges - fewer for rep, but I dare say it's possible. The problem is that any "fix" to that is likely to harm the system too. For example, suppose someone does create an answer just by grabbing all the best bits of other answers. That's improving the site by collecting all the information together. In an ideal world, the other posters would then delete their original answers, leaving one definitive answer. That's good for the site, but bad for individuals in terms of "unfair" rep and badges.

Basically there's a tension between what's good (and fair) for an individual and what's good for the site as a resource. The system has been designed to keep the two goals in line as far as possible, but it's never going to be perfect.

Personally I would favour leaving the system as it is until there's evidence of widespread gaming which doesn't improve the quality of the site.

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I agree, and also find it confusing that CW posts will award badges, but not reputation.

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