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Community wiki is one of the most misunderstood and misused features of the SE network. The original purpose of CW was to enable collaboration on a post, it reduces the reputation needed for editing and results in collective authorship of the post instead of having an individual author.

But that is not how it is used most of the time. If a user that is completely new to SE would look at CW posts, I strongly doubt that they could make any sense of why certain posts are CW. There is nothing "wiki" or "community" about those posts, and that is because in most cases CW is misused as a reputation denial mechanism. And while part of this misuse is by the communities, a very large part is actually by SE itself. There are several automatic conversions to community wiki, and most of them are misusing CW for the reputation denial side-effect.

The automatic community wiki conversions are also a rather blunt instrument, and they often affect users that didn't do anything wrong. A user that substantially updates their posts over a long time frame will hit the auto-CW at some point, and not that many users know that they can flag for a moderator to remove it again. Also users that provide a good answer to a too popular question are likely to get hit by the auto-CW that triggers when too many answers are posted.

The automatic conversions to community wiki are fundamentally flawed. They're not very good at achieving their actual purpose, they are likely to hit innocent users, and they contribute to the confusion about what community wiki is actually meant for. I'm proposing to get rid of all of them and replace them with better alternatives.

Automatic conversion after 10 edits:

The purpose of this is to discourage excessive bumping of your own posts in order to gain more reputation. One major problem with this is that for a new user this is just terribly confusing, suddenly they don't gain any reputation for that post anymore but they aren't told what they did actually wrong.

I'd replace this with two mechanisms. First, users should get a warning once they edited a post more often than x times, the warning should remind them to make only substantial edits and to avoid excessive bumping. This should educate users about the issue, and it should be sufficient to deal with users that bump excessively out of ignorance.

To deal with users that intentionally abuse editing to bump their posts excessively I would create an automatic flag for moderators. At the current threshold of 10 edits this would likely be excessively noisy on larger sites, but I think this could be fixed by making the criteria a bit more intelligent:

  • Ignore the first post in x months above 10 edits. The harm is minimal to non-existent if a user hits the threshold only very rarely. These cases are also likely to be harmless.
  • Add a time component. If a user substantially edits a post over a long time frame this is likely to be harmless.

There are certainly ways to abuse editing and avoid these flags, but I think we can rely on the community to notice users that abuse this on a large scale.

Automatic conversion after 30 answers:

Nobody reads the second page of answers anyway. If having that many answers is so harmful that we currently punish all users, even those that posted excellent answers early, then we should simply add a hard limit to the number of answers. Questions with multiple pages of answers are very problematic and time-consuming to moderate, the later answers tend to be rather crappy or duplicate answers, and not enough people see and moderate them because they are on the second or third page.

Automatic conversion after 5 users edited the post:

This is the one mechanism that is not primarily used for the reputation denial. But it is still a confusing mechanism that doesn't really serve any useful purpose. I don't think anyone would miss it if it were simply removed.

Manual CW for certain questions:

Community wiki was used a lot to avoid giving out reputation for certain types of more subjective questions. This is strongly discouraged now, but some sites continue this usage.

This is also confusing for new users as they get the impression that reputation denial is the primary purpose of community wiki.

I'd remove the ability to CW questions entirely, it is used pretty much exclusively for the reputation denial. To support the sites that still use CW this way I'd propose to add a differently named mechanism with the only purpose to remove any reputation gain from the question and its answers. This would avoid confusion for new users, and it would enable some useful corrections to the behavior like e.g. removing the reputation gain retroactively.

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Regarding "Automatic conversion after 5 users edited the post", every time I've seen it occur it's just because the editors are doing a terrible job, not because the post has actually become a community effort and hence the OP shouldn't be penalised. In these cases I find myself not improving a post just so that it won't be converted to CW. –  OGHaza Mar 31 at 12:54
    
If a question or answer takes more than five people to fix, it's probably good that the poster doesn't get rewarded. If a question or answer gets edits from five different people, it's most likely because of an edit war. If the edit war is an act of vandalism, the vandal doesn't deserve a single point. –  Jan Dvorak Mar 31 at 13:04
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I totally agree with this. –  Brad Larson Mar 31 at 14:10
    
regarding multiple answers, isn't it fair to consider these as indication of community effort? (to avoid misunderstanding, I am not talking about hot / reddited questions, where multiple answers are quite often just a garbage brought in by lemmings) –  gnat Mar 31 at 15:18
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I can't say you'll be completely happy, but you'll be happier all the same soon. This has been part of my personal project for the past few months, in multiple parts, and I hope to have one that addresses this particular portion to come to light soon. –  Grace Note Mar 31 at 19:46

1 Answer 1

up vote 45 down vote accepted

Community wiki isn't a tool for reputation denial. We originally had all these automatic triggers mostly to leverage existing systems to handle abuse situations. While it can be said that it "worked", it also very largely didn't work, and a lot of pain was had by people who had legitimate contributions or labored tirelessly on their posts only to be basically slapped in the face.

That ends today. I'm happy to announce that we have removed all of the automatic triggers that convert a post to community wiki. Edits by the original author, edits by other people, and even volume of answers, all of these no longer cause a post to be automatically converted to community wiki. There will instead be flags for moderator action cast in these situations, but they are mostly to let moderators be aware of what is going on with posts. That will help take care of the actual abuse scenarios, and as an added bonus, it means that moderators will not only know that such things happened but also be able to speak directly to abusive users and take additional measures as necessary. Community wiki shouldn't be even on one's mind when viewing these flags.

The blog post Putting the Community back in Wiki discusses the intent behind the change, why it was assessed, and the impact we hope for the change. This was, after all, not just a mechanical change, but a shift for the whole ideal of Community Wiki to remove its punitive usage.


Regarding manual conversion. There's a lot of different idealogies across the network about this. Back in 2013 (it really is far enough that I can say that without feeling like I'm being weird), I ran a survey amongst moderators across the network to collect data about community wiki usage on their sites. The usage has certainly dwindled a lot in the past 2-3 years, but it still is strong and some sites are still making very strong use of it.

There's better solutions that can be thought of to handle these special scenarios that I've collected. But they aren't realized solutions yet. And until such time as we are able to give these needs the things that they, as needs, need, community wiki does the job adequately.

However in none of the talks did anyone like the automatic conversions. Which, indeed, this change to remove the automatic conversions was also something I've been plotting for a while, so again, I'm quite happy to announce their removal.

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I hope you checked how many 10-edit flags the SO mods will get before enabling that ;-). –  Mad Scientist Apr 9 at 20:18
    
We ran a lot of checks and queries on the volume of flags we'd get across the network and on SO particularly before settling on the numbers we came up with. –  Grace Note Apr 9 at 20:20
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Excellent. This sounds like a good design. If you want to drop a brief answer here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/203616/… , we can mark that as status-completed as well. –  Brad Larson Apr 9 at 20:22
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@Brad Oh, I've got a loooong list of things I'm getting to drop answers to today. –  Grace Note Apr 9 at 20:23
    
Wow wow wow yes yes yes this is amazing. :-D –  Doorknob Apr 10 at 23:30
    
One of those answers where a simple upvote doesn't seem enough. :) –  Erwin Brandstetter Apr 15 at 19:02
    
When the ability to mark questions as CW was turned on again? Is it documented anywhere? –  Shadow Wizard Apr 22 at 19:22
    
It wasn't, @ShadowWizard. –  Shog9 Apr 22 at 19:46
    
@Shog9 I must be getting crazy then. The blog post says "An author can still apply the status manually when posting or when editing their own post" which implies both answer and question can be marked CW by the author. Knowing it's true only for answers I was going to start bug report here asking to change the wording and can swear I saw "Community Wiki" checkbox in the Ask Question page. –  Shadow Wizard Apr 22 at 20:42
    
@Shog9 blonde moment. The checkbox is for the self answer. –  Shadow Wizard Apr 22 at 20:44
    
Yeah, you're crazy. ;-) FWIW, it would be nice if this could be enabled for Ask Question, but it was used incorrectly far, far more than it was ever used productively, so... Not likely. –  Shog9 Apr 22 at 20:44
    
What's the policy on reverting CW status? i.e. when I flag a question, how will you decide if it should stay CW? –  CodesInChaos Aug 12 at 15:40
    
@CodesInChaos As a general point, if the origin was by automatic trigger, then unless it strongly looks like it was needed for the improved edit accessibility, I'm unlikely to believe it should stay as community wiki. The more poor examples of usage we can remove, the better. If it was a manual conversion, though, that starts to stray more on community-specific regulations so that'd require a case-by-case analysis that has less to do with a general policy and more on the specific incident. –  Grace Note Aug 12 at 15:45

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