I tried with https://stackoverflow.com/q/8161486, but it was suppressed. Other Stack Exchange sites allow such things, even when considerably less "on topic". Eg, List of Interesting Math Videos/ Documentaries.

It seems like having info on a particular topic in a central location is a valuable feature. Why is this so difficult?

Added: As it turns out, there are a whole bunch of "list" threads on SO:

What is the most useful R trick?



What is your favorite R debugging trick?

Useful little functions in R?

What useful R package doesn't currently exist?

However, it appears that R is somehow "special". The following similar threads were closed:


What is your single most favorite command-line trick using Bash?


Seems pretty arbitrary to me.

  • The second link takes to the first question you are referring to. – kiamlaluno Nov 17 '11 at 17:18
  • 8
    Yes, fix your link so that I may close it. – user1228 Nov 17 '11 at 17:23
  • I've fixed the link. Mathematics has at least half a dozen along this line, and either there or in Statistics I once encountered a list of cartoons. – The Dark Avenger Nov 17 '11 at 18:30
  • Why was this thread allowed to survive? What is the most useful R trick? – The Dark Avenger Nov 18 '11 at 1:43
  • 12
    Thank you for providing a list of questions to delete. I have either voted to close or to delete all of them. Please keep up the good work. – John Saunders Nov 18 '11 at 2:28
  • 1
    @DanielRHicks: Stack Overflow had a programming cartoon question with 300k views and 300 answers, but it was deleted a year ago. – REINSTATE MONICA -Jeremy Banks Nov 18 '11 at 3:48
  • 2
    @DanielRHicks: you could post it on a blog and maintain a list. Not everything is a good match for StackOverflow (read: not a bad thing). – user7116 Nov 18 '11 at 4:50
  • Why are you so respectful to the Rules that has been set? Decision can be changed. The answer is not "because the rules say that it is not allowed". Ok, the lists format doesn't fit well on SE for the moment, that's right. But, as the goal of the SE is to provide "quality content that solves people problems", then I don't see why a list format is soooo off-topic. This would help to target a lot of issues (on SO and other technical SE website). – Pierre Watelet Nov 23 '11 at 10:44
  • @Pierre -- It's a losing battle. TPTB have their preferences, and the rest of the folks here can be damned. – The Dark Avenger Nov 24 '11 at 4:00
  • "TPTB" ? What does it mean ? – Pierre Watelet Nov 24 '11 at 9:59
  • @Pierre "The Powers That Be". Basically, people in charge. – Adam Lear Nov 24 '11 at 14:40
  • Yes, it looks like "wolfs howling with (and behind) the great white wolf (aka Jeff)" : "You've have to agree or you're a bad person". I don't agree. I think "list" kind of question is an important format and is not well addressed for the moment. I truly believe that it will be addressed one day, it's just a question of time. I wonder what will say all those "religious-followers" when the big boss will announce this new feature :-) – Pierre Watelet Nov 25 '11 at 10:25
  • @HotLicks and Pierre: I can appreciate your frustration. At times it seems like the people who were here when SO start don't want anything to change ever. Kind of an "old dogs" phenomenon I guess. However, this particular proposal can deteriorate the quality of SE. If allowed, "list" questions will inevitably displace practical Q&A. Everyone and their mother will have such a question. I have a few of my own in mind, but SE isn't the place for that. You could get together and start your own site for those kinds of questions to complement SE though. I'm sure it would be quite popular. – Herbert Dec 5 '11 at 4:47

You can't. To quote the FAQ in the What not to ask here section:

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK. (Discussions are of course welcome in our real time web chat.)

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ - for ______, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “______ sucks, am I right?”

There are still some legacy questions that are open from the past, but the sites have matured since and lists or multi answer questions have been banned. Some newer sites tend to have them in the beginning, but the community generally tire of them quickly and they get closed.

  • Well, if it's written on the internet, it is surely right ;-) – Pierre Watelet Nov 18 '11 at 15:23

The first problem with https://stackoverflow.com/q/8161486 is that it is a question asking for a list that doesn't seem asked because a real, and specific, problem you are having.
It is also a too generic question, as you are not asking about compatibility issues for a specific case.

What would users answer to that question? They would write in their answer what reported in other sites, and if there is more than a site that reports different compatibility issues, you would get different answers that would be equally valid. The FAQ has a section about this, and it says that questions where each answer is equally valid should be avoided.
Even in the case the question was "What incompatibility issues did you find between iOS 4 and iOS 5?" the answers would still be all equally valid, and the question should not be asked.

The other problem is that the interest for the answer to that question is limited. Once there will be a new version of iOS, the list of incompatibilities between iOS 4 and iOS 5 will interest less people: When iOS 5 is the minimum version for which creating an application, the incompatibilities with the previous version will not be interesting anymore.

  • It was indeed a question asked because I was having (and am still having) real ongoing problems with incompatibilities in iOS 5. – The Dark Avenger Nov 17 '11 at 18:32
  • I should have written "it doesn't seem" as you didn't state you had compatibility issues with iOS 5. – kiamlaluno Nov 17 '11 at 18:45
  • It's pretty unbelievable what contorted reasoning is used here. – The Dark Avenger Nov 18 '11 at 1:40
  • @DanielRHicks: yeah, but it's my reasoning, so get used to it. (of course, everyone has their own reasoning, so get used to that) – John Saunders Nov 18 '11 at 2:35
  • 1
    @DanielRHicks It's not a contorted reasoning; I see if what reported in the FAQ applies to the question. The FAQ has a section about which questions you should not ask, or which questions are off-topic, and users vote to close basing on what reported there. – kiamlaluno Nov 18 '11 at 10:34

The reason you see arbitrary standards for closing and deleting questions is that this is how the sites are intended to be. They are community-moderated.

The true answer to "why was this question closed" is, "because five users voted to close it". Similarly to why things are deleted. The reasons why the closers or deleters closed or deleted may be unique to the individual.

But if you're getting enough close votes to close, or enough delete votes to delete, then you really need to give more thought to why you're so out of line with the rest of the users here.

Do take the opportunity to read the faq of each site you use.

  • It seems to me that a lot of this has to do with the same phenomenon seen in the Stanford Prison Guard Experiment -- there are people who exercise their power because they can, not because it makes sense. – The Dark Avenger Nov 18 '11 at 3:47
  • @DanielRHicks: I have to say that I've found John Saunders' answers in this thread to be a bit odd and abrasive; I don't think that most people would entirely agree with the way he put things. There is subjective judgement involved, but overall it's not such an arbitrary process. Most decisions are consistent with either the official guidelines or the community consensus. – REINSTATE MONICA -Jeremy Banks Nov 18 '11 at 3:52
  • I am deliberately expressing the more extreme end of the spectrum, in order to demonstrate that, although extreme, such an attitude is entirely permitted here. This is very different from any other "forum" software. – John Saunders Nov 18 '11 at 6:14
  • It often seems to me that it's not so much "consensus" as it is the actions of a few (powerful) bullies. I suspect that this will tear apart SO in a couple of years. – The Dark Avenger Nov 18 '11 at 12:44
  • 2
    There are about 1,800 users on Stack Overflow with reputation of 10,000 or more. That's not a few. And it's not "consensus", either. It's the aggregate behavior of a large number of individuals acting as a community of very different personalities, most of whom don't know each other and don't communicate, except through these sites, each site geared to their interests. It's a fascinating example of a self-organizing community. Join us. – John Saunders Nov 18 '11 at 13:53
  • I'd like to see some stats on how many of those with sufficient reputation ever vote to close, and how many people do high numbers of votes to close. – The Dark Avenger Nov 18 '11 at 16:20
  • @DanielRHicks: the data are all public. Go look at them. Use data.stackexchange.com – John Saunders Nov 18 '11 at 17:16

The list questions you mention do not generate exhaustive lists. They are a motley collection of whatever people have seen fit to mention. They are not organized in any sane way. Usually each answer gives a separate “tip or trick”. The votes on the answers don't mean anything useful (the number of votes reflects primarily the age of the answer, secondarily the popularity of the item mentioned in the answer, and not at all the usefulness of the answer).

These questions are not good because the answers are effectively lost to people seeking information. Many of the answers would be useful, but they are very difficult to find: you have to scroll, and scroll, and scroll, … Instead, each useful answer should be on a matching question. A question about a specific problem porting an application to iOS5, or a specific programming problem in R, or a specific problem writing SQL, … That way, each issue is easily searchable (if I have a problem with my table view working on iOS4 and being truncated on iOS5, I'll then be able to search for “[ios5] [uitableview] +truncated” rather than slog through “list of incompatibilities between iOS4 and iOS5”).

Stack Overflow and other Stack Exchange sites used to be more tolerant of questions of this type, but the general drive towards quality has mostly driven them out. You've found most of the major remaining exceptions. Please join our effort to keep the site high-quality. Ask about your specific iOS5 problem. Let others ask about their iOS5 problems. By doing so, Stack Overflow will build a list of incompatibilities between iOS4 and iOS5: the questions tagged both and .


I totally agree with Daniel. Even if the current SE-engine is not really "made" for this kind of questions, this could be the case with some adaptations...

The argument is, even if it is not a "solve-my-problem" type of question, it is tremendously helping people.

So as there is a flag for "Wiki" kind of questions, it maybe a nice improvement of the SE engine to think about a "List-type-of-answer" flag (that will for instance present another kind of form for the answer and will disable the voting on answer (because it has no sense in that case)

  • 3
    -1. This has been discussed, rehashed, rediscussed since the site inception. If you want lists and discussions, find a forum. If you want quality answers to questions, then use SE. Even Programmers.SE doesn't allow list questions. – BinaryMisfit Nov 18 '11 at 15:37
  • Why so religious? :-) – Pierre Watelet Nov 23 '11 at 10:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .