Related: https://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/the-future-of-community-wiki/ , 30 answers ought to be enough for anybody

Recently, after seeing a self-answer that the user had CWd (which the mods undid), I realized that CW is pretty pointless for most answers, just as it was for questions.

CW is applicable to very few answers. These are the answers that are being developed in true collaboration, and I see pretty much none of these anywhere. The only type of answer that really may need CW is the "recommendation list" answer, which isn't really allowed anyway.

If you want other people to improve an answer you've posted, then they can do so through suggested edits (and they get rep for it!). I don't see what the point of CW-ing a post is now that we have suggested edits and an effective way of getting them reviewed (namely, the new queues)

Looking through the recent CW answers on SO (ignoring those that are on CW questions, of course), I don't see any that need collaboration -- most are answers to rather localised questions. Some of them are crap posts that the user has CWd to avoid rep loss. Some are probably due to accidental CWing.

What I propose is this: Disable the "make CW" checkbox on all non-meta1 sites for answers as well. It's just as much a cheese knife as it was for questions, no need to have this extra feature lying around and being misused. If there really is a need, a moderator can make it CW, as always (or possibly a high number of edits, though I'm ambivalent about whether or not we need the auto-CW myself).

1. Metas of all kinds have quite a bit of collaborative editing of proposed policy posts/FAQ posts. Since suggested edits are disabled on per-site metas, CW is necessary in a wide range of cases. Also, ChrisF would probably stop posting on MSO if he learned that he would have to earn rep for it ;-)

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    I would say no; we don't need Community Wiki at all. Jan 8, 2013 at 18:19
  • Are you saying only a mod can make an answer CW? What about when it has been edited a high number of times, should it still turn into CW automatically? Jan 8, 2013 at 18:25
  • @AustinHenley: I'm ambivalent about that, see edit Jan 8, 2013 at 18:29
  • 1
    In some cases, CW answers look like just a counter-measure for troubles related to popularity. In hot-questions, with multiple answers and megazillion views, any piece of crap gets a good chance to be upvoted - if this would increase rep of the answerer, that would jeopardize Stack Exchange reputation system quite a lot.
    – gnat
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:41
  • @gnat: those answers generally get auto-CWd, remember? Jan 8, 2013 at 18:48
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    @gnat Maybe a lock would then be more appropriate?
    – badp
    Jan 8, 2013 at 19:16
  • @Manishearth got it, thanks
    – gnat
    Jan 8, 2013 at 21:28
  • @badp lock? how would it be appropriate? do you mean something like protection or post notices
    – gnat
    Jan 8, 2013 at 21:33
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    I sometimes use CW when the correct answer has been posted in the comments. There isn't anything very substantive that I can add, but the post should be answered. CW is a way to not take credit for someone else's solution (albeit one posted as a comment). Jan 8, 2013 at 23:05
  • @ire_and_curses: Yeah, that's misuse of CW (I used to do it too, though). It was never meant for this purpose, and shouldn't be used this way. Along the same lines, one could post crap as CW to avoid getting downvoted (this happens on MSO at times) Jan 9, 2013 at 5:11
  • Please, keep in mind that SO is not the only SE site. Would you like to apply it on all sites?
    – yo'
    Mar 9, 2013 at 14:14
  • @tohecz: Oh, no need to remind me of that. Many of my meta posts make that distinction clear (See this and this). I am keeping that in mind, and I don't see any use for CW networkwide, except for answers to questions which are NC by network policy (big-list on Math.SE -- which anyways gets mod-CWd or auto-CWd, so there's no need for the average user to have the checkbox.) Mar 9, 2013 at 15:12

2 Answers 2


I'll quote myself from an earlier post on the purpose of community wiki:

If you know that your answer is incomplete and you want to encourage other users to add information to it, you can make it CW to invite others to edit the answer. Since everyone can propose edits, community wiki is not necessary anymore for collaborative answers, so it has lost a lot of its usefulness. It is now more of an invitation for other users to edit, but it is not really a technical necessity anymore.

It is rather used as a sign for others that you don't mind, and even encourage other users to edit the post. Many users hesitate to make big changes to posts belonging to other users, CW means you relinquish the sole ownership of the answer and encourage other users to add to the answer.

I want to have the option to make an answer CW to specifically encourage other users to edit it and add some more content. CW is a big sign saying "please edit here" and indicates that substantial additions are welcome, which would usually be denied if they were suggested edits.

There are other changes one could make to CW to address the concerns you brought up. The CW option could be hidden for new users (but maybe still available on edit) to prevent confusion. Preventing the use of CW to evade downvotes could also be made much harder by letting downvotes for CW posts get through to the original author as long as they weren't edited. But I think those cases are rare enough that such measures are not really needed.

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    So CW is part social signal and part mechanism to tweak the rules of the site to encourage collaboration? That's a compelling argument. (And one I've not heard before.) Jan 8, 2013 at 18:23
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    @JonEricson The idea is that while the technical mechanisms of the site allow virtually the same level of editing of CW posts as non-CW posts, the actual site guidelines don't. Non-CW posts should not be edited for content, only any other problems else that might detract from the content. A CW post specifically allows editing for content. So even though technically you can suggest edits for content, under the current guidelines they should be rejected. To remove CW you'd need to amend those guidelines, and reviewing is hard enough as it is.
    – Servy
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:33
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    ...but then why would CW mean forfeiting reputation from the post?
    – badp
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:39
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    @badp: Because once people start adding content to your post, you don't deserve that reputation?
    – Matt
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:40
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    @badp: Because many users are petty reputation mongers who wouldn't lift a finger to help someone else get a leg up? (But by that logic, they would just write their own answer. Hmm...) Jan 8, 2013 at 18:43
  • @Matt That's wrong. You've laid on the basic structure of the post. You've made the basic point and constructed the argument in a certain way. If you're going to rewrite a post from the ground up you might as well write it in a new answer, after all. By your measure every edit ever should make you stop getting reputation for your post.
    – badp
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:45
  • I think you still need I think 10 reputation to actually see the checkbox, to address the current status for "CW option being hidden for new users".
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:50
  • @badp: Whilst that's true in some cases, there's other cases (faq on Meta, and the Recent Feature Changes to SO), as well as the Web Development Guide on SO and Auth Guide where it'd be wrong to credit the original author with the reputation, as the content has changed so much, it's by no means theirs any more.
    – Matt
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:52
  • ... I guess what would be the best of both worlds would be reputation getting divided based on the contribution each user makes to a post, but that's a big change from the current system.
    – Matt
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:53
  • @badp The idea is that voting (ideally) is based entirely or primarily based on content, and that a post shouldn't be voting on because of it's spelling, grammar, formatting, conforming to site guidelines, etc. With non-CW posts that content shouldn't be edited by anyone but the OP, so even if someone improves a post, the true "value" and ideas in it aren't there's, which is why the rep from votes all goes to the OP. For a CW post, the true value, the content isn't entirely (or even mostly) the OP's, it's a collaboration. Distributing rep was not solved, so it gives none instead.
    – Servy
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:57
  • @Matt Sounds like you can count the exceptions on one hand. Maybe it is indeed appropriate to move this checkbox to the moderator's toolbox (which isn't incompatible with Manis' suggestion).
    – badp
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:58
  • @badp: I disagree you can count them on one hand. I think there's a use-case for both situations, and the current system lets you have one or the other, but not both. I'd edge towards it being more common that a CW is mostly owned by a single user, but there's too many posts where this isn't the case to make mod-intervention viable.
    – Matt
    Jan 8, 2013 at 19:00
  • @Servy When I fix spelling or formatting in a post or add an additional fact or two, I am increasing that post's quality (and visibility by bumping it to the homepage). While giving reputation to reward awesome edits has been so far declined as a feature request, most edits typically do bring additional upvotes to the post owner without his intervention; this is true regardless of the CW status.
    – badp
    Jan 8, 2013 at 19:00
  • @badp If you're adding facts to the post then those edits are inappropriate, that content should be in an answer, not an edit. While your edit may result in the OP getting more upvotes, the point is it's still their content that is being upvoted, not your edit, your edit (if you did your job well) simply allowed their content to be more effectively digested by readers. If all you care about is rep, by all means don't edit other posts as a 2k+ user. If you care about making the site better regardless of rep, then editing is a great way to do so.
    – Servy
    Jan 8, 2013 at 19:06
  • @Servy Just because I know about a little factoid/nuance the post author didn't, I don't see why I'd have to come up with my own entire answer to write about it. It's much easier and better for everybody involved if I just DIY and edit that bit in.
    – badp
    Jan 8, 2013 at 19:11

I think CW is rarely useful, but unlike CW questions, CW answers don't inadvertently affect other users' posts. Worst-case, flagging for a moderator can remove the CW status.

I don't think the tool as it currently exists is dangerous enough to warrant further restrictions.

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