This question is related to this answer. The question very quickly got on a "hot list", and has been collecting multiple votes. It also got twelve answers, mostly overlapping (it's almost a multiple choice + "why"? question).

My answer happens to be somewhat controversial, with plenty of voting coming on both sides (+22/-9 after six hours). I would have deleted the answer because of this partial disagreement, simply to avoid the changes to the reputation (which I find quite annoying), except I think that the answer adds value, and that it would take down a long trail of comments going back and forth explaining pretty much the same point that I made in the edit.

This was a long explanation of why I decided to make the answer a community wiki by checking the checkbox in the editor, and saving the changes. However, the checkmark has magically disappeared after a few hours, and the reputation changes started rolling again.

Is this a bug? I cannot imagine this happening by design, unless a moderator has trumped my decision to make the answer a community wiki.

I am looking for two specific answers:

  1. Was this a prohibited use of the community wiki feature? If so, could you please point me to the FAQ?
  2. Was undoing the community wiki flag a bug, or did it happen by design? What can I do to avoid this happening in the future (short of writing controversial answers, of course)?

P.S. With the understanding that my answer may be controversial, I kindly request that the discussion of its merits, if any, be kept at the stack overflow site.

  • 3
    Huh, interesting... the revisions page has no trace of CW being applied to the post, let alone removed. Anyways, it's not technically a FAQ entry, but this blog entry might help you. tl;dr version is that CW is only for very rare cases where multiple people collaborate on a post, not to prevent rep change.
    – Pops
    Aug 15, 2012 at 19:50
  • @PopularDemand I've seen a few cases of CW being turned on and then off again. They don't get recorded in the revision history. Likewise, there are many posts that definitely satisfy the requirements for auto-wiki, yet are not wiki. I can only guess that their CW status was removed by a moderator.
    – Mysticial
    Aug 15, 2012 at 20:42
  • 2
    @Pop: the revision history didn't show it because when a moderator removes CW it's retroactive. This is different from the post being made CW, which takes a place in history so that previous rep-effects are preserved (if you recall, CW retraction wasn't supposed to be frequently used, and is rather ham-fisted in its effects).
    – Shog9
    Aug 15, 2012 at 20:51

3 Answers 3


A moderator responding to comment flags removed the wikiness. It's possible he thought it was a mistake - part of the reason for removing it from questions was the frequency with which folks turned it on accidentally (since it can't be turned off again without moderator intervention).

It's also possible he simply felt you were using it to avoid reputation effects rather than editing your answer to address the criticisms cropping up in comments. As Tart notes, CW is intended to be an invitation for others to edit - if you didn't intend for that to happen, then it's misleading.

Keeping that in mind, go ahead and turn it back on if you want.

  • Thank you very much for a thorough investigation, this is very helpful. I did turn the CW flag back on, because I did my best editing the answer to explain myself, but apparently it did not satisfy some users. The question are only a single answer away from the automatic CW conversion anyway, so I think that it's bound to happen some time in the next few hours. Aug 15, 2012 at 20:52
  • @dasblinkenlight Nah, it takes 31 answers on SO to force a question to CW. So it's still a long way to go. But that was one of the reasons why I protected this question. But it still got to 31 answers anyway.
    – Mysticial
    Aug 15, 2012 at 21:14
  • @Mysticial Ah, that's nice to know. The only time the auto-CW kicked in for me was on "programmers.stackexchange" where the threshold is 15, so I assumed that it is like that across all sites. Thanks! Aug 15, 2012 at 21:17
  • 1
    @dasblinkenlight On SO, the auto-wiki from edits is the most common one. I honestly think that it's a tad too aggressive as I've seen multiple posts that have gone auto-wiki when (IMO) they shouldn't have. I have a whole list of them somewhere...
    – Mysticial
    Aug 15, 2012 at 21:24
  • 1
    @Mysticial: If you think the auto-wiki shouldn't have happened you can always flag your answer (providing a good reason of course). Aug 16, 2012 at 0:18
  • @ThiefMaster I have a decent list of posts with 200+ votes that IMO shouldn't be CW. But some of them are very old so I don't have much "hope" for them to be unwikied. If you are the other mods are interested, you can put it on Google docs and link it here.
    – Mysticial
    Aug 16, 2012 at 0:21
  • Yeah that won't happen for sure. I'm talking about new answers that just got CW'd. Otherwise it would be pretty much only rep whoring anyway. Aug 16, 2012 at 0:22
  • 1
    @ThiefMaster Here's the list: docs.google.com/document/d/… Some are old, but some were only recently made wiki. Unwiki them as you choose.
    – Mysticial
    Aug 16, 2012 at 0:26
  1. Was this a prohibited use of the community wiki feature? If so, could you please point me to the FAQ?

Using Community Wiki to avoid the reputation repercussions of a post seems to me to be an abuse of the feature. If you want to avoid the "changes in reputation" due to your "controversial" answer, you should delete it.

Community Wiki Answers are answers that will benefit from Community Collaboration. A canonical answer to a common question, perhaps, or when you've only got a partial solution and you want to enlist the rest of the community to help turn it into a full solution.

From The Future of Community Wiki:

Community wiki is for that rare gem of a post that needs true community collaboration. That’s when community wiki shines.

See also: What are "Community Wiki" posts?

  • 1
    "If you want to avoid the "changes in reputation" due to your 'controversial' answer, you should delete it." The answer is controversial, not incorrect. It is also one answer short of becoming a CW automatically. Moreover, it is conceivable that it could benefit from community collaboration, perhaps by adding something that would make it less controversial (I honestly tried to do it with my edit, but obviously it did not eliminate all misunderstanding). Aug 15, 2012 at 20:07
  • Not sure how this answers the OP's question? It seems to be more of a bug report, or a question to the mod who rolled back CW-ness (if that's what happened)
    – Pekka
    Aug 15, 2012 at 20:32
  • @Pekka: Added a quote to clarify just what it was I was responding to.
    – ale
    Aug 15, 2012 at 22:43

I removed the community wiki status from the answer.

As Tart points out from "The Future of Community Wiki", the point of community wiki on an answer is for that post that needs true community collaboration.

Looking at the revision history when I came across your post, it was obvious from the revision history that this was not a post that was meant to be collaborated on by the community (as an aside, if you have an answer that truly requires community wiki under these guidelines, then chances are there's something that's really wrong with the question).

I won't go so far as to say that I thought that you were trying to avoid rep changes; I see a bunch of community wiki answers that have zero community collaboration, people like to click things that they don't have a full understanding of (insert joke here about moderators clicking buttons).

I can appreciate that you don't want to delete your answer when you believe it adds value, but flipping on community wiki to avoid pesky reputation changes because people don't see the same value in the post that you see is not permitted.

Answering your two questions directly:

Was this a prohibited use of the community wiki feature? If so, could you please point me to the FAQ?

Yes, absolutely. Please refrain from doing this for this reason in the future. The blog post "The Future of Community Wiki" is the canonical reference on this matter (as referenced from the FAQ).

(Note that marking an answer as CW to not be affected by voting is acceptable on meta, but it should be CW from the start)

Was undoing the community wiki flag a bug, or did it happen by design? What can I do to avoid this happening in the future (short of writing controversial answers, of course)?

No, removed it, because the nature in which you used community wiki was (as you say) prohibited.

As for keeping it from happening in the future, you shouldn't write controversial answers. I don't mean this tongue-in-cheek, either.

If you want an answer to be visible on the main site, we expect people to stand by those answers. Community wiki is not a free pass to push content to the main site without having to be answerable (no pun intended) for the content that you post.

I'm not going to reverse the community wiki that you put in place even though I think it's not appropriate to be wikied.

I will say that I felt that you misread Shog9's answer, his statement was not permission to go and put it back, but a request to keep what he (and others) said in mind before you make that decision and take action on that.

  • Thanks for a detailed answer! My answer to the question on SO was not that controversial, really, it's just that one reader who grossly misunderstood my answer managed to frame it as incorrect by a single comment which put words into my answer that I certainly did not write (eight of the ten downvotes can be traced to this comment, that has been upvoted seven times). Aug 16, 2012 at 14:48
  • @dasblinkenlight NP. I can understand how sometimes a single comment can lead to a wave of downvotes (acceptable or not). However, community wiki is not the tool to use in this case. You can either a) edit (or not) the answer and let what will be, be or b) delete the answer. That's a call you have to make, but we'd strongly prefer that you don't use the tool like this, as it sets a horrible precedent. Community wiki was effectively rendered moot with suggested edits and while it's still around, really doesn't have a place except in the narrowest of situations. This is not one of them.
    – casperOne
    Aug 16, 2012 at 14:51
  • Thanks! Of course I wouldn't consider using CW for this if it were not for the way the downvotes interact with over-the-cap votes. Do you think SO would be open to changing these rules a little by allowing over-the-cap votes to offset same-day downvotes regardless of the timing, in cases when both the upvote and the downvote are for the same question or answer? Aug 16, 2012 at 15:08
  • @dasblinkenlight On the use of community wiki to get around this case? Absolutely not. Community wiki is not a tool to be used to help play the game that is reputation. Considering changing how downvotes are offset when you are over the cap? That's a more constructive feature suggestion, and I'd recommend going that route, although frankly, I think it might meet some resistance along the form of "not worth the effort". But it doesn't hurt to try.
    – casperOne
    Aug 16, 2012 at 15:11

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