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Community wiki questions often behave the same way: The first relatively good answer will be far above the other in votes. Human nature being as it is, if viewing a community wiki with the default sort by votes (as navigating trilogy sites regular questions pretty much requires setting that default), users will agree with the first few items and scroll down and not visit latter (and potentially better) answers.

My point is: that by force of human nature, in a community wiki question, the first answers in time are the first answers in votes.

There is a perverse effect here, and perhaps there is a way to resolve it. I propose either a default randomisation of answer order or default sort by newest on opening a Community wiki question.

EDIT: By no means is this a request to remove sorting by votes. I don't know how some people read that, but I'm simply suggesting a different default sorting on opening.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Most questions that are community wiki are like that for a few common reasons:

  • It's a poll question
  • It's a fun question
  • It's a totally subjective discussion question

Now, SO wasn't really designed for these sorts of questions in the first place. SO was designed for specific programming questions with a relatively small set of specific answers. When you start getting dozens upon dozens of answers to a question, things start to break down in various ways (no one reads through everything, answers are repeated, etc.).

So, should we implement new features to help these questions? I say "no", because these sorts of questions didn't really belong in the first place and don't deserve any special consideration. The SO Q&A model shouldn't have to contort itself in ways to help support these sorts of out-of-place things. Sites like Digg or Reddit are better suited to handle them.

If some guy parks his car in the center of my lawn, just because he wasn't willing to find a real parking spot, I'm not going to make him feel welcome by cooking him breakfast.

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It's not just about asking a question. It's about asking a question to an established community. If I want expert opinion on something technical, I'm not going to put it on Digg or Reddit where it will compete for attention with the latest LOLCats video and be potentially answered by 100% non-technical people. –  MPelletier Aug 13 '10 at 18:05
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@MPelletier How can people say "I want to submit my off-topic post on SO because it's a good community; all the other communities are full of off-topic posts" and seriously not realize what they're saying –  Michael Mrozek Aug 13 '10 at 18:13
    
@Michael Mrozek: There's a difference between a "Favourite LolCat" question (belongs anywhere but here) and "Favourite programming book" (which belongs here and would do poorly in a public-at-large venue). The Favourite LolCat one can be downvoted to hell for all I care, but the favourite book, that one is relevant to the community, even if not answerable by pure code. One of the goals behind making SO was to build a community of experts, not just get questions answered. –  MPelletier Aug 13 '10 at 18:18

Doesn't that ruin the point of voting on things in the wiki itself? Isn't the point of voting things up to increase the visiblity of the most widely-accepted answer? The problem causing this is the fastest gun in the west issue, which has been discussed before, and frankly i don't think it's solved by randomizing the answers with no regards to votes.

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The base problem you're trying to fix is that on many community wiki questions, one answer isn't better than another; they all have equal value because the question has no real solution, it's just soliciting opinions. You're trying to fix the SO engine to support that when it's specifically designed not to -- the real solution is to close those questions and ask them on a site more conducive to polls

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Everyone's tackling why we shouldn't bother with changing the sort order due to the nature of how CW questions operate. Here's two reasons why it's not a good idea to force a default sort order change on CW questions.

  1. If someone wants to surf the site on "Votes" sort, let them! It's not our business to change their plan on how to view it, and definitely not to reset this to our pre-determined default every time they open a question that happens to be CW. Yes they can change it, but it's a poor experience for a user to fight against preferences.

  2. The Meta site will have some CW questions just like you speak of, where this might "help". But the Meta site will also have FAQ posts which traditionally attract the highest votes to the most comprehensive answer, that which anyone will be looking for when looking at the FAQs. Now, in many situations the person who asked the question also provided said comprehensive answer, so accepting the answer will not dock it. As a consequence, forcing a switch to newest/random sort order will make it a chore for anyone to find these since they have to sift through everything else, whereas vote sort would keep it at the top.

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The problem is that people are just too lazy to read all the answer, because there is often too much. Having a random view for the answer won't solve the problem, it will just create an effect similar to "SCITE" which isn't necessary better.

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I disagree. The thought behind the SO engine is that in the long term, every question will become a community wiki question. The fact that it can be chosen at the point of posting a question or answer whether it is community wiki or not is simply a by product of the initial implementation.

Therefore, apart from the ownership and lack of reputation, they should not be treated any differently from any other question. The effect of people using CW as a way to initiate polls or even post subjective questions is just another by product of the original implementation, and I still feel incorrect usage of the community wiki concept.

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