It can be difficult to navigate the magnitude of answers available on certain types of posts. These posts usually span multiple pages and by definition hide a lot of information.

While reading all the answers is a great way to understand the issues, there are posts with 5+ pages of answers. There is no way that most users have read all the answers (Some? Maybe), but most people want to be more efficient when going through these types of posts.

You don't read a scientific paper first. You read the abstract continue from there. What I am suggesting is an "abstract" for these confusing, and/or controversial posts.

From the last 2 months, these are the posts that come to mind that would benefit from an "abstract" of some kind

Is there a better way to navigate through all the answers and confusing parts of the post in a way that will allow others to understand the post and answers more clearly?

For clarity, this would not apply for your everyday Meta posts. This is only for those posts that produce multiple pages of answers. That heavily reduces which posts this would apply to.


4 Answers 4



Even if we could pretend that the views of loads of people could be neatly dropped into little "buckets" of predefined categories (which they can't), there is little benefit to this.

It could even be harmful, as people might then either stick to their own "bucket" (thus only hearing reinforcing opinions), or stick to the "opposite" bucket in order to go find people to fight with.

Not good.

If you don't have time to read all input on a subject, that's fine; you don't have to. Sorting it differently won't change that.

Moderators are probably the best source for a valid solution. They could monitor activity (or the site could and that would prompt moderators), and deem the post to be "categorized" as they see fit.

I very much doubt it.

Besides, if anyone's going to categorise my views, it'll be me.

  • "It could even be harmful, as people might then either stick to their own "bucket" (thus only hearing reinforcing opinions)" Like what is happening now in the Monica post and what happened in the upvotes post? Some people tend to do that regardless of additional information or ability to look for new ideas. This idea won't change their behavior but it would allow others to see other sides (FYI the Monica post probably should be one sided, but what about all the other ones) Jan 7, 2020 at 18:52
  • @ChristopherRucinski Indeed; in fact it's a widespread phenomenon, particularly in the social media age. Jan 7, 2020 at 18:55
  • 2
    You do keep categorising issues as having "sides", which is never going to be truly factual no matter how many sides you keep adding to the hypothetical idea. Life is nuance. Ultimately anyone who wants to hear all views needs to read all posts, and there's no way around that. Jan 7, 2020 at 18:56
  • I know, that is why I said what I did. But that doesn't mean that those others can't get this help to better understand. Jan 7, 2020 at 18:57
  • Life is nuance. Yes, so is this idea. You want to boil it down to something that a computer can easily determine but that isn't the case. That is why I say moderators (and the community) should be able to place them along the spectrum that they lie. For the Monica post, I could potentially see 3 general "sides". Those supporting Monica, Those supporting SE. and Undetermined/Nuanced. Can a nuanced answer go in the Monica support "side" sure. Can a Monica support answer go in the nuanced "side" sure. But a monica support shouldn't go on the SE support side. Clear categorization isn't the point Jan 7, 2020 at 19:02
  • Heck, the "solution" could be summary posts like @Em C stated meta.stackexchange.com/questions/341742/…. Create a system where these summary posts are more accepting. Not running into "duplicate" issues like that one did, etc... The answer doesn't have to be a new set of tools Jan 7, 2020 at 19:07
  • Repeating the question won't change my answer ;) Jan 8, 2020 at 11:17
  • I said that because I changed my solution drastically. No more sides, no need for moderators, no need for new tools. Just new guidelines. Quite different Jan 8, 2020 at 11:49
  • I see now, you "completely revamped the post". Please don't invalidate answers by completely changing your question; there's a reason that edit was then rolled back. Jan 8, 2020 at 11:50
  • Question was basically the same. Same endgoal. I actually left in the previous solution so I wouldn't invalidate previous answers, but someone else removed it because they say it added noise (and others can check the history). I agreed that it added noise but didn't think I should remove the old solution. Jan 8, 2020 at 11:52

If there are only two sides, there are (usually) only two answers.


If an question has so many answers they fill several pages, there are more than two sides

There are exceptions, of course, where someone rephrases an answer as a separate one, or when answers are posted simultaneously (like this one), but usually if there is already an answer near enough to someone's own opinion, they will upvote rather than provide their own answer.

The threads you reference have been the subject of a lot of nuanced opinions. They have also been the subject of a bit of cathartic venting. These are fairly unusual cases, and I don't think it makes much sense to develop new functionality directed only at these edge cases.


Well - these are exceptional times.

Under very normal circumstances - I suspect there would be significantly less answers, and we'd be a little more aggressive over pruning non answers (as hard as it is to believe!).

In short, this isn't normal.

I feel meta does poorly as a soapbox - and essentially that's roughly what a lot of these posts were. On the other hand - there was no other place we could discuss this and (while folks might be shocked to hear this), we ended up taking as light a hand as possible on moderation.

Everyone has an opinion on hot issues - as evidenced by... well lots of answers and comments.

These are not simple issues and there's a lot that I suspect folks can't and won't share. In the greater scheme of things - you're going to want to read the answers because the issue matters to you.

In the grander scheme of things - you'd find that a lot of what happened in the last few months is useful in our collective memory (how so depends on where you stand). Its certainly had an effect on the relationship between the communities and the company. I suspect though that in the longer run, most folks wouldn't notice or remember individual posts.

And I certainly hope we can avoid more of this. Its been an 'interesting' 3 months.


Based on an answer that I received (a comment), I was able to completely revamp my "solution" to this issue. No new tools needed as the tools are already there; however, it could be more streamlined.


Streamlined "Summary Posts"

I was made aware that the Monica post caused such an issue in the community that people had a hard time understanding the issues and detail at hand. This led to a summary post being created. This summary post can actually go into so much more detail than a simple "categorization" that I suggested above.

It could categorize, but maybe that isn't the best idea for each post; maybe it is?? But it can also explain additional details that people might not understand, such as what the Teacher's Lounge is (for this particular example), timelining, or anything else.

Once this "summary post" idea is taken up, the community could create a basic idea of what should and shouldn't go into these posts. Where exceptions could occur. How the community members that don't understand could ask for new details that others could create a full answer for. What type of answers should be CWs. And so on.

Why "Streamlined"

Edit: This deals more with how the community can create guidelines for these types of summary posts.

It is important that these summary posts are only for special types of posts that generate large amounts of answers, confusion, or other possible issues. The idea of creating these summary posts would take some time. Five to seven answers is probably way too low to need a summary, but eventually, a point of some kind (confusion, # of answers, etc...) is met and a summary post could be created.

The creation of the post could be so simple as to just indicate that it is a summary post for the said post or posts (possibly templated or following a format), and the community could add answers or update answers through CW.

Also, you will see in the linked summary post that it ran into issues of being a duplicate. Well, after the community decides on how to deal with these types of summary posts, then there should be far fewer issues.


So a possible solution to this issue is to use Summary Posts that use the current infrastructure of SE ... "Questions" and Answers. There might be a need to streamline these types of "Questions" but there, technically, doesn't need to be any new tools created. Just a new process or community guideline.

  • feedback would be welcome Jan 7, 2020 at 19:59
  • 1
    Again, why moderators? I didn't really mean for that to be a gold standard of "what to do" but more like, the one time there's been a huge multi-faceted controversy affecting many sites, this is something the community did on its own without need for special processes - e.g. if there's an issue that you feel is complicated enough to warrant a summary post, you're free to write it up and post yourself, and if people agree it's useful they'll vote it up and help edit in new info.
    – Em C
    Jan 7, 2020 at 20:27
  • @EmC I understand the issue with moderators, but let's look at some other ideas. Algorithm - it could be created to identify "controversial" posts or those with high answer counts. But it follows those strictly and there might need to be more wiggle room. Users - there wouldn't be a streamlined approach and there could be mutliple summary posts. Not ideal at all. Moderators - while there are some potential issues, they solve the issues above. Streamlined and not as strict. To smooth over other concerns, I said these moderator-initiated summary posts could be templated and waiting for answers?? Jan 7, 2020 at 20:35
  • @EmC What I am suggesting is that these summary posts be more acceptable for the community. Technically they aren't a question. Different users will create them differently and they could be closed due to multiple issues. More acceptable and creating a process that can be followed. Moderators aren't needed if there is a clearer process Jan 7, 2020 at 20:39
  • 1
    The summary post I linked as an example was very well received. If there's duplicate summary posts, the community can vote them as duplicates and then consolidate the info (IIRC this has been done a few times with latecomers asking "so what's up with all these posts"). Do you have any examples of poorly received ones? If the community downvotes / closes them, maybe they weren't really necessary..?
    – Em C
    Jan 7, 2020 at 20:43
  • @EmC I can once again go your way with the idea that you don't need moderators for this. I will modify the one instance I used that term in my answer. However, I still believe some community guidelines could be created to help users decide how to create these so they are of higher quality. I shouldn't have to explain a past experice with schools, lawyers, and my new-found understanding (like in the summary post you linked to did). But me just saying I don't get what's going on should be too low quality. What should be the quality post that doesn't get closed (if such a post would benefit)? Jan 7, 2020 at 20:56

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