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Or, more to the point: can these criteria (if any can even be agreed upon) be added to the official FAQ?

The answer to "What are 'Community Wiki' posts?" clarifies how they work, but does not really resolve the question of which questions should be marked as such.

I was surprised after positing this question on SO to discover how much general agreement there was (or seemed to be, anyway) that the question should be marked CW. Previously my understanding of CW was hazy; I had thought of the designation as being primarily for subjective topics, e.g., "What's your favorite "programmer ignorance" pet peeve?"

I really do feel that a link in the official FAQ would go a long way towards resolving this widespread lack of clarity re: the criteria for CW posts, or at the very least informing future discussions on the matter (since it does appear to be a somewhat contentious one).

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3… and more importantly… cover some reasonings that have been passed back and forth within the community as to what are proper use cases on the Stack Overflow Trilogy. – Grace Note Aug 18 '10 at 16:38
Also, people really need to divorce from "CW = subjective" thought pattern. We leverage Community Wiki as a workaround to allowing borderline questions where the votes are more likely to be for popularity than for usefulness. It is not a designation specifically for subjective material, nor one that allows such material freely. – Grace Note Aug 18 '10 at 16:42
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Previously my understanding of CW was hazy; I had thought of the designation as being primarily for subjective topics, e.g., "What's your favorite "programmer ignorance" pet peeve?"

This is only partly true. If you ask a subjective question, then yes: it should be community wiki. But it's important to clarify that community wiki does not make subjective questions okay. You should not ask most of your subjective questions in the first place.

Additionally, sometimes we will have questions that are related specifically to the field of programming in a way that is not relevant to other career fields, but not to the activity of programming. These questions might be still a good fit for the site or they might not; that's the nature of the community driven filter on whether a question should be closed. Probably most of them get closed, but a few of the better ones might deserve to remain open. However, regardless of whether or not they stay open they are generally non-technical questions. Often they are subjective as well. I think this pretty well describes the question you linked to.

On Stack Overflow, we generally prefer that users only gain reputation for posting technical content (this is likely true of SuperUser and ServerFault as well, but perhaps not other Stack Exchange sites). Therefore, we ask that these questions be marked CW to take advantage of a side-effect of the community wiki flag, so that the non-technical posts will not earn reputation for users.

Again, it's important to mention that CW is not a free pass for the question. It makes no more or less likely to be closed. Additionally, it's not a good idea to point at older questions as examples of something that was left open or not marked CW. Standards have evolved over time and the ability of a question to find an audience depends on who is active on the site at the time it's asked.

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This seems to be more consistent with the community's view of CW as a whole, and is different from the previous (apparently off-the-mark) view I had. Now, is there any reason why this explanation should not be provided in the official FAQ? – Dan Tao Aug 18 '10 at 18:02
Laziness / ignorance / gaps / indecision ← Pick one, @Dan. – Grace Note Aug 18 '10 at 18:05

1. When a question is appropriate for the site, but it is not appropriate for the question or answers' upvotes to generate rep.

2. When you want to make it easy for others to edit your post, regardless of their rep. (This is the official defintition, as @Lance pointed out previously)

A clear, if esoteric, example of #1 would be a post on meta to nominate a moderator. Such a question is clearly appropriate for the site, but pretty obviously shouldn't generate vote-based rep for the nominator of a candidate.

On SO and the trilogy sites, the challenge tends be that meeting the criteria in #1 is a lot like a coin landing on its edge. Generally, the current consensus seems to be that if you wouldn't want a question to generate rep, it probably doesn't belong on SO. The criteria on the new SE sites could be looser, but it's not yet clear.

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Officially, Community Wiki questions

  1. Can be edited by anyone with a nominal amount of rep, and
  2. Do not generate reputation.

Unofficially, CW questions are (more or less) understood by the community as having the following qualities:

  1. They have more than one correct answer (i.e. poll questions), and/or
  2. They generate a lot of upvotes due to their popularity, but are not strictly on-topic, for various reasons (the whole "avoiding the appearance of rep-whoring" thing), and/or
  3. They are subjective.

Essentially a CW question is any question that does not exactly fit the criteria for an on-topic question, but it is asked and answered anyway because it still has perceived value to the community. Some of these questions get a pass by the community because they don't generate "illegitimate" reputation.

CW is a contentious topic, and not everyone agrees on its "unofficial" purposes.

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Officially, CW posts are those that should be open to community editing.

It is not the official position of SO that CW should be used for subjective or non-technical questions, though a lot of users treat them that way. This is different than the official policy for the new SE 2.0 sites.

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Great question and, for me, rather timely. I posted that question thinking, hey - I might earn some rep with this one and then it got made into a community-wiki thing. And I was left watching the votes stack up thinking, it could have been me. =:-) Still, I suppose it is something of an achievement to have your question taken over like this - but I was left thinking what just happened?

So, those are the ramblings from a fairly new user who wants show things from my experience to say great that this discussion is happening.

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