When someone asks a new question people sometimes comment, "This should be a community wiki".

The FAQ about CW isn't explicit about which new question should be CW; it says that:

  • CW makes it easier for people to edit other people answers (by requiring less rep to do so)
  • CW happens automatically in a variety of circumstances, or can be toggled by a moderator

(I might also have read, somewhere else, that a purpose of CW is to prevent rep-whoring by the questioner.)

So, my question: when, if ever, should a questioner mark their own question CW?

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Edit: the new answer is, Never: users can not mark questions wiki anymore, across the network.

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possible duplicate of What are "Community Wiki" posts? –  Jon Seigel Jul 5 '10 at 1:08
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There are a whole slew of answers in that question that cover this topic. Unfortunately, they were all deleted by Jeff. So I presume he doesn't want this kind of debate going on. And it is a debate, because there's really no official position on it, which is the most frustrating thing. –  Jon Seigel Jul 5 '10 at 1:11
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@Jon Seigel This is not a duplicate, but could/should eventually be a subtopic of that topic. An upvoted comment at the bottom of that topic says, please add "When to mark the 'community wiki' checkbox on a new question?". and this is an attempt to answer that. –  ChrisW Jul 5 '10 at 1:13
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@Chris: The answers (and debate) are there, but you need 10k to see them. –  Jon Seigel Jul 5 '10 at 1:17
    
@Jon Seigel - Can you let me see them (or it, if there's a consensus): either edit it in to the single visible answer there, or copy it to here? –  ChrisW Jul 5 '10 at 1:20
    
@Chris: There is no consensus; that was my point above. And unfortunately, the discussion spans several answers and many many times (at least 15x) the content of what is visible in there to < 10k's. I don't think it would be appropriate to post all that deleted content elsewhere anyway. –  Jon Seigel Jul 5 '10 at 1:27
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@Chris: As I mentioned, The Management has skirted this issue repeatedly, which is frustrating, because the community clearly hasn't resolved this by itself. –  Jon Seigel Jul 5 '10 at 1:28
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+1 for trying to be responsible about the cw process. Not sure what's driving the negative reaction here. –  Jaydles Jul 5 '10 at 2:47
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Why is this question CW? –  Ether Jul 5 '10 at 3:49
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@Ether I made this question CW beause in the section titled "How should a question be added to this FAQ?" at the end of The official FAQ says, "FAQ questions should: ... Be marked as community wiki. Any FAQ post not yet community wiki should be made into a community wiki." –  ChrisW Jul 5 '10 at 7:25
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Questions no longer have the option of being community wiki unless switched over by a moderator.

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When to do it

The main (perhaps only) reason to mark your own question as CW is if you post a topic which you intend from the begining as a Wiki topic.

Other types of question which should be marked CW from the begining, if they are even asked at all, are:

  • Trivial 'poll' questions: for example, "Do you use version control? {yes/no}"
  • Questions intended as a 'joke': though such jokes are increasingly rare now on StackOverflow
  • 'Soft' questions, whose answers neither reflect nor contribute to people's professional and technical know-how.

However new poll questions often get closed, as do jokes, discussions, and 'soft' questions, whether or not they're marked as CW.

When not to do it

Except as above, questioners need not mark their own questions as CW. Instead, any and all questions that are worth asking and worth trying to answer are worth potentially being given rep for. In particular, the following are not good reasons for marking a question as CW.

Questions which can have more than one answer -- The FAQ says, "this is a place for questions that can be answered", but it doesn't forbid questions which have more than one answer. Questions whose answers are subjective perhaps shouldn't be asked at all (especially if argumentative), but otherwise a question's having more than one answer is not a reason for the questioner to make it CW (except when it's a "trivial poll" question as mentioned above).

Questions which will be downvoted -- some questions will be downvoted for one reason or another. In this case you should ask a better question or not ask it all: don't make the question CW just in order to escape being given negative rep.

Questions which will be upvoted -- some people, when they don't like a question for one reason or another, demand that the questioner should mark the question as CW so that the questioner doesn't get rep for it; however:

  • If you don't like a question then, instead of demanding that it be CW, it's better to ignore it without upvoting it, or downvote it, or vote to close it.
  • Upvotes for questions are only worth +5 now (no longer +10): so, question's being upvoted isn't so important any more
  • There are other mechanisms (e.g. sufficiently many edits, or moderator actions, as listed in the FAQ about CW) which allow a question to become CW later: there is therefore no need to demand that a question be CW from the begining.

Questions which become FAQs -- people used to use CW to create the FAQ topics: this kind of topic and discussion has since been migrated to Meta. Outside of joke/poll style threads, CW was largely made obsolete with the creation of Meta.

Summary

A question should not be marked CW if it is possible to write valid, helpful and knowledgeable answers which contribute to SO. Even if there is more than one valid answer (in open-ended questions), individual answers may still have value, and so they deserve the rep gain when they're upvoted. Marking such a question CW just discourages people from putting any effort into their answers.

  • It's usually sufficient to have the other existing mechanisms which automatically convert a question or an answer to CW, after it's asked or answered.
  • There's usually no reason for a question to be CW when it's first asked.
  • It's virtually never appropriate to tell the questioner to mark their question CW.
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I wonder why this one was downvoted. Seems sensible to me. –  jalf Jul 6 '10 at 11:37
    
@jalf: None of the three "when to do it" reasons make sense on SO (those questions should be rephrased to be real questions or just not posted). Characterizing a group of users as "CW police" is definitely not constructive. All the talk about FAQs is irrelevant and misleading for those asking questions on SOFU. I only skimmed the rest, but this seems a fairly poor answer. –  Gnome Jul 7 '10 at 3:57
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@Gnome "None of the three when to do it reasons make sense on SO" -- If none of the three reason make sense on SO, then why have CW at all? Is CW entirely obsolete? –  ChrisW Jul 8 '10 at 11:22
    
@Gnome "Characterizing a group of users as CW police is definitely not constructive" -- it's the standard nickname, apparently; I'm not keen on it (not keen on "rep whoring either"). –  ChrisW Jul 8 '10 at 11:23
    
@Gnome "I only skimmed the rest, but this seems a fairly poor answer" -- would you like to suggest a better answer, or edit this one? –  ChrisW Jul 8 '10 at 11:24
    
New poll questions, especially trivial ones, often get closed. As do jokes and discussions (like this one -- SO is not a discussion board, even though Meta is a poor one). It doesn't make sense to outline CW usage guidelines for questions that should probably not have been asked in the first place. (Re polls in particular, some of those are very old on SO and are kept around for legacy reasons.) Is CW obsolete? I wouldn't say that; however, it does seem rarely needed. –  Gnome Jul 8 '10 at 20:27
    
If you're not keen on using a non-constructive term, then just don't use it. I don't. –  Gnome Jul 8 '10 at 20:28
    
@Gnome I edited the answer to incorporate your comments. –  ChrisW Jul 8 '10 at 21:43
    
Oh, "CW police" is the standard name? I always preferred "CW Mafia". That seems much more fitting to that group's behavior. It may not be constructive, but it is very, very descriptive. –  jalf Oct 14 '10 at 12:50
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I don't know if there is a canonical policy somewhere hidden away, but I generally ask myself if the effects of CW'ing a question are desirable:

The main effect is of course that no one gains rep for being upvoted. Is that desirable? Rep is meant to reflect a users helpfulness and level of knowledge and general contribution to the site and the community. If someone writes a good answer to the question, does that indicate a valid contribution?

If so, it should be reflected in their rep score.

Conclusion:
A question should not be marked CW if it is possible to write valid, helpful and knowledgeable answers which contribute to SO.

Even if there is more than one valid answer (in open-ended questions), individual answers may still have value, and so they deserve the rep gain when they're upvoted. Marking such a question CW just discourages people from putting any effort into their answers.

The other consequence of CW is that posts can be edited by more people. Usually, I don't think that's a big deal. I think that's a vestigial property, it was useful before the creation of Meta, back when CW posts served as a repository of howto and faq's about SO itself. Today, I can't think of many cases where it's desirable.

I know this brings me at odds with a large group of people who seemingly get a kick out of demanding "THIS SHOULD BE CW" whenever there's even a hint of subjectivity to a question. I still don't understand why, but it seems to be a cult created around some vague statement Jeff may have once made back when the site was in its infancy.

Mark a question CW if answers have no correlation to their authors' contributions to the community. If it is a poll thread, one answer is as good as another. The value is in the entire set of answers, not in what individuals chose to vote. So mark it CW. If it is a joke thread (although those seem to be getting rare), mark it CW. There may be good and bad answers, sure, but none of them say anything about the answerer's technical skills or contributions to the site. No matter how funny my joke was, it doesn't mean I'm any better at answering questions on SO, or that my account should be given broader moderating powers (as happens when you gain rep)

But CW is grossly overused in my opinion. Outside of joke/poll style threads, I really can't see a use for it any longer. It was largely made obsolete with the creation of Meta.

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I think your answer agreed with mine, in every way, except that you also added "CW if the question is a joke", and expanded on the rationale; so I've added to my answer, to include the extra parts which you provided in yours. –  ChrisW Jul 6 '10 at 12:40
    
thank you. I've been uncomfortable with the push to suppress all open ended questions but unable to articulate, until now, why it isn't necessarily bad to let some carry on. –  matt wilkie Aug 18 '10 at 17:37
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