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Wait, hear me out. This is not a joke question.

List-building websites with rankings, like Demolistic, have the potential to be very similar to SO. If the list items can have descriptions, and justifications, the similarity becomes even closer.

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closed as not constructive by XMLbog, BalusC, Steven A. Lowe, The Anti-Santa, waiwai933 Nov 4 '10 at 4:30

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Perhaps you could argue why there is a need to learn? –  Ivo Flipse Nov 3 '10 at 16:32
    
@Ivo: Because if someone asks, for example, "what's the best integrated development environment for writing embedded device software?" and someone replies with multiple choices in a single answer, people cannot vote for individual choices. Also, they can't supply their own rankings without writing their own answers, and if they do write their own answers, it's more text to wade through with no automated summarisation of the rankings of everyone who answered. –  Robin Green Nov 3 '10 at 16:36
    
Then there's clearly something wrong with the question, if it needs several answers. Plus in such a case, the answerer should have divided his answer into separate ones, so the best solution would float to the top. However, even so, the site doesn't need it as his answer does provide all the info the OP will need. PS: I meant you should edit your question to add these things, not add comments ;-) –  Ivo Flipse Nov 3 '10 at 16:39
    
@Robin The heart of that issue is that rated list items and rated answers are completely separate items, but to accomodate them in the Stack Exchange Network involves equating them. And they really aren't, because ratings on list items are meant to be relative inside of the list while ratings on answers are meant to be relative inside of the question and the rest of the site. –  Grace Note Nov 3 '10 at 16:41
    
@Grace Note: That would be one way of accomodating them - not the only way. I put it to you that there are some questions, of the form "What is the best $X for $Y?", which could benefit from being recast as lists called "Best $X for $Y". Rather than demanding that users disperse elsewhere to do collaborative list-oriented rankings, SO could synergistically benefit from the SO community that already exists and which makes it so great, by supporting list creation as well as question asking (although maybe this way of describing it is not the best). –  Robin Green Nov 3 '10 at 16:48
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I do not deny that there are questions that are better as lists. But I don't agree that they need to be on our Q&A websites. To properly accomodate lists without detracting from what we do great, we need to keep them completely separate from Q&A. And that's basically creating a completely separate system than Stack Exchange. I don't see why it should be on the team to build this when they're still working full time on expanding our Q&A and improving it. –  Grace Note Nov 3 '10 at 16:54
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Voting to close as duplicate of What can StackOverflow/StackExchange learn from Batman? –  XMLbog Nov 3 '10 at 16:54

2 Answers 2

There are two different purposes served by a list-building site and the type of Q&A that the Stack Exchange Network operates off of. It's because of this that I don't really think that there's anything which can be learned that will actually be put to good use here.

Q&A is around to answer questions and solve problems. What is intended is that when someone has a question, we have the comprehensive answer. Our own facilities are not very conducive towards hosting lists: we have a hard limit of 30 answers on a page per question, and the measure of rating lists conflicts with how votes are used for the rest of the site. To top it off, as a community we fail to build comprehensive lists when they're asked for; people only provide options which they know and no one works together to actually create a complete repository. It's a stark contrast against the more authoritative Q&A where people do direct their efforts.

List-building websites usually address the needs of lists. They probably won't give limits to the visibility of items, drastically improving the actual yield when reading a list and reducing the number of duplicates. They don't have to worry about normal Q&A that is in conflict with the ratings/positionings on the lists. And in being dedicated to building good repositories, people are probably more encouraged to actually keep the lists up-to-speed, without worrying about the constant updates overwhelming new content.

Both kinds of sites do have one thing in common: they want to provide what you as a user are looking for. The approaches are different; Q&A attempts a direct answer to problems, while lists are an indirect collection of answers hoping to solve multiple problems.

The root issue is, the Stack Exchange engine is miserable at handling lists. Maintaining a good collection of lists is not really an easy task (proven by our lack of dedication towards it), and trying to add that to Stack Exchange is just overwhelming on top of all the Q&A we already work on. Our mission on the Stack Exchange Network is to make the internet a better place; building sub-par lists is not going to accomplish that, and going further than that is steering away from the Q&A. And as a Q&A network, we really shouldn't steer away from Q&A.

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Lists aren't desirable here, for the reasons covered in http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective/ :

  1. Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”. The best subjective questions invite explanation. If you’re asking for a product recommendation of some kind, you want answers to contain detailed information about the features and how they can be used, and why you might want to choose one over the other. “How?” and “Why?” has more lasting value than a bunch of product-feature bullet points or a giant enumerated list, no matter how extensive. In contrast, the bad subjective questions let answerers get away with hit-and-run answers that maybe provide a name and a link — but fail to provide any sort of adequate explanation, context, or background.

  2. Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers. The best subjective questions inspire your peers to share their actual experiences, not just post a mindless one-liner or cartoon in hopes of being rewarded with upvotes for being merely “first.” Sharing an experience takes at least one paragraph; ideally several paragraphs. If I’m asking about how to bake cookies, don’t give me a list of grocery items: milk. butter. vanilla. eggs. There is virtually nothing I can learn from a short, static list of grocery items that make up a recipe. Instead, tell me what happened the last time you made cookies from that recipe! Share your detailed experiences, so that we all might learn from them.

Bottom line, you can't learn anything from a list. And our mission most of all is learning.

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If you read my question details, I specifically said "If the list items can have descriptions, and justifications, the similarity becomes even closer." These are the kinds of lists that you can learn something from. –  Robin Green Nov 4 '10 at 9:10
    
@robin and yet those are so rare in the real world. I think it's the difference between your theory and what actually happens. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 4 '10 at 10:24

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