I have noticed a sea change recently with respect to the kinds of questions that can be asked on StackOverflow.

The community consensus nowadays seems to be that discussion/subjective/poll/more than one answer questions are no longer appropriate on SO, which would eliminate any questions that might otherwise be saved by marking the question Community Wiki.

Yet some of these questions continue to survive, because the community finds them fun or interesting.

If the only questions that can be saved are the questions that are fun or interesting, why do we continue to insist on the discussion/subjective/poll/more than one answer standard, if it cannot be applied objectively?

If the standard can be applied objectively, and all such questions are eliminated (using one of the close reasons) then why do we need Community Wiki?

If it is a judgement call, which I suspect that it is in a substantial number of cases, why do we tell people they are not following the standard (or let the question slide), when in reality we simply like or dislike the question?

  • I think the problem is that people really have no understanding what a wiki is supposed to be for, yourself included. – Ian Elliott Aug 14 '09 at 20:09
  • I know about the whole rep-whoring thing, and I have read the FAQ. I have a keen understanding of it. – user102937 Aug 14 '09 at 20:12
  • 4
    It's not necessarily about rep whoring, it's about users who believe that wiki's are blankets for covering up inappropriate questions. Just because a question is a wiki, it doesn't mean it's valid for discussion. – Ian Elliott Aug 14 '09 at 20:15

The only real use of CW which I find "proper" is when there is a question which is specifically going to end up being a long list of "stuff". These questions which are used to track and update (such as the FAQs and lists) will continue to be relevant and proper form in my opinion.

Everything else (polls, fun, discussion, whatever) is just using CW as a means to an end. That doesn't make it correct, although one could argue that if it passes through community and moderator attention without getting killed it is correct from a purely theoretical/philosophical standpoint.


Community Wiki will always be relevant, IMHO. As long as there are questions like "What framework would be good to learn MVC," there is a place for CW.

  • 2
    +1, Community wiki is relevant when used properly. – Ian Elliott Aug 14 '09 at 20:09
  • 3
    Is "avoiding the appearance of rep-whoring" a proper use? – user102937 Aug 14 '09 at 20:11
  • 1
    Yes. – Tyler Carter Aug 14 '09 at 20:58

The name Community Wiki certainly confused (and still confuses) me, and I'm not entirely sure I've got a grip on the reason for its existence.

I think what it seems to be is an attempt to allow questions to be generalised. This is certainly what we used to do in a previous life that involved fielding escalations of helpdesk questions.

The aim was to create an answer document that covered the problem in as complete (and general) way as possible, rather than just answering the specific question raised. Then, next time someone else had a similar sounding problem or question, the helpdesk would search among the existing documents, hopefully find something suitable, and send it back to the user. Only if they then said that didn't solve their particular problem would it get escalated by the helpdesk.

Useful, but hard to get people to do that on their own time (and, everyone wants answers to their own questions immediately [*]. They won't even do the leg-work of a quick web search first.)

Maybe there ought to be mechanisms to attempt to check that a "questionee" has first looked somewhere else for the answer, even just some natural language parsing and automated "these questions may be relevent" response when they submit the question, or automatic qualification if they can point to a pertinent question on expertsexchange!

[* I'm reminded of a certain Joel Spolsky's comments about interruptions by co-workers

"Mutt can't remember the name of the Unicode version of the strcpy function. He could look it up, which takes 30 seconds, or he could ask Jeff, which takes 15 seconds. Since he's sitting right next to Jeff, he asks Jeff. Jeff gets distracted and loses 15 minutes of productivity (to save Mutt 15 seconds)."

and yet we continue, like fools, to answer.]


I came across this question while thinking about The Great Question Deletion Audit of 2012, and it occurred to me that it is exactly the questions that this question is asking about that are now being deleted. Community wiki? It seems that it is an outmoded concept and should be removed, since the Big Maintained Lists that are meant to be supported by CW are now to be part of tag wikis (or just plain erased from the site).

While I will shed a tear or two in memory of some fun and interesting questions, I'll not lose any sleep over the concept of Community Wiki if that dies now it is no longer needed. Too often it seems to have been used inappropriately (whether through abuse or trigger-happy automagic rules).

  • I agree that many of the historical uses for "Community Wiki" seem no longer to be relevant. I'm not sure CW is really useful anywhere except on Meta, anymore. – Andrew Barber Feb 21 '12 at 22:34
  • @Andrew We can have different rules on Meta. Meta is different. (Meta is murder!) – Donal Fellows Feb 21 '12 at 22:39
  • 1
    Umm, yes, things work differently on Meta. I understand that... my comment in fact references that fact. am I missing your point? – Andrew Barber Feb 21 '12 at 22:40

You must log in to answer this question.