Read me first: What are “Community Wiki” posts on Stack Overflow?

Some times I post things that are border line community wiki, like this question: Are there any C# open source log viewers? which the community wiki police demanded be made community wiki, thus signing the questions death warrant and stopping all contribution. Whereas this question: Does anyone know of any cross platform GUI log viewers for Ruby On Rails? remains non community wiki.

I know what you are thinking, the Ruby crowd are nicer people, but still.

I have done this in the past, put up a little comment saying, this question should really be community wiki. I feel bad about it, its pure bullying. Even worse is the bullying followed by prompt -1 should be community wiki vote.

Joel gets away with 102 upvotes for the logistics of moving a turtle without the community wiki police wanting his blood.

So my question is, should we shut down the community wiki police? If so how?


If someone thinks it's subjective that's a hint that the question is either not specific enough or that it is inherently subjective but still worthy of inclusion like list based answers often are)

Isn't saying, look your question is a bit subjective because XYZ, it may make sense to re-word it a little, nicer than -1 should be community wiki?


select count(*) from Comments
where Text like '%should%wiki%'



Another Edit: Normally I do not put answers in a question, but Marc came up with a great little idea, just introduce a vote to wiki feature and be done with this.

  • 11
    Note: I used this title to grab attention, I know we are all nice people trying to learn new things and have fun while doing it, just think there are better ways to achieve that goal.
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 0:18
  • 5
    @Sam: I think the better ways are slowly manifesting themselves (sister sites such as this one, nobody_'s forum, etc.), but CW provided an early compromise to allow questions that didn't exactly fit on SO (polls, GTKY) to still be asked on SO. Over time, i suspect it'll all become a non-issue, a silly little anecdote from the site's history.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 0:29
  • 80
    This seems rather subjective. Should be community wiki. (Sorry, somebody was bound to make the obvious joke here. :)) Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 0:47
  • Wow, a list of close candidates posted 4 years ago, and those are still open! Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 7:59

10 Answers 10


Important change

End users can not mark questions wiki anymore, so the only appropriate way to get action on a question you believe really should be wiki, is to flag it for moderator attention.

A couple points..

  1. Vote-to-wiki will not be implemented. When the answer to a problem is "let's make things arbitrarily more complicated", it is rarely the correct answer.

  2. Do not bully users into community wiki. You can offer a carrot in the form of a comment that says "wow, I'd love to vote this up if it was community wiki" but downvoting and other nagging is not appropriate. (addendum: the community wiki flag checkbox is not shown for new users because they can't possibly understand it, you may potentially be nagging new users about a setting they don't even have.)

  3. If you think something should be community wiki then flag it for mod attention with a comment to that effect. Simple.

Also, note that as of now the CW edit threshold has been reduced from 750 rep to 100 rep on all sites.

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    my 2cents worth re bullying ... the CW issue is amplified when it is seasoned "high rep" SO members trying to suggest wiki onto noobs (like me) who are trying to get rep. and that don't understand why it is being suggested and see it more as an attack. Once you understand why, it makes more sense and isn't so much of an issue. Commented Jul 20, 2009 at 5:05
  • 3
    Instead of vote to wiki, just let the mods (who have edit access anyway) go ahead and flip the wiki bit. Do this in combination with allowing wiki setting regardless of rep. If they can ask a question, they should be able to start a wiki discussion.
    – NotMe
    Commented Jul 28, 2009 at 16:02
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    This is really good information which should be in the FAQ, if it is not already. I have noticed a sea change recently with respect to Wiki, which I may open a question about here. The short version is that, since there are several ways a question can be closed for being "inappropriate" on SO, CW may no longer be relevant. The community consensus nowadays seems to be that discussion/subjective/more than one answer questions of any kind are no longer appropriate on SO, which would eliminate any questions that might otherwise be saved with CW.
    – user102937
    Commented Aug 12, 2009 at 23:37
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    Should be noted: no one ever bullies on answers (where the real rep is at stake). This is a sad injustice: as if questioners weren't under-appreciated enough on SO. Commented Jan 25, 2010 at 22:19
  • @Jeff / @waffles: Can you clarify this answer? #2 no longer makes sense. Commented Oct 21, 2010 at 0:23
  • 2
    Privileges still says "create wiki posts" at a real low rep value. I have 4K on SO and the privileges link says I have 100% access to create wiki posts. Looks like that needs updated as well (as does the FAQ).
    – user133772
    Commented Nov 2, 2010 at 16:36
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    Also, it may be a good idea to post this info to SO blog. Some people aren't very active on MSO even in read-only mode.
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 4:08

As far as I can tell, the CW flag currently has only the following effects:

  • Posts are editable by people after a lower rep threshold
  • No rep gain

Which means that people asking for something to be made CW are effectively asking either of:

  • I want to edit your post, but I do not have enough rep
  • I don't think you should get rep for this

I think the first is of rather dubious value on the grounds that something is 'subjective' in some form or other, because surely, a subjective question or answer is by definition something least suitable for editing by third parties?

I personally don't think the second point holds much water either (but I accept some will disagree with me), because there is a daily rep-cap, and if a question or answer is truly popular enough that a large number of poeple want to vote on it, then good for them!

It very much feels like someone wants to put their judgement on a transaction that does not in any way involve them, between one that wrote something and another that appreciated that which was written.


Just replace "wikipedia" with "stackoverflow" in this article:

"Psychologist finds Wikipedians grumpy and closed-minded"

As Amichai-Hamburger expected, the Wikipedians were more comfortable online. "They feel the internet is a more meaningful place to them," he says. But to his surprise, although Wikipedia is founded on the notion of openly sharing and collecting knowledge as a community, they scored low on agreeableness and openness.

I find this is the same attitude that infects users who are "close" happy, and likely those are the same people getting on your case about community wiki.

  • I read the article...Interesting, if somewhat condescending, though there may be a grain (or even a pound of sand) of truth to it. The intellectual elite (educators) regard Wikipedia with a similar condescension: it's not "peer-reviewed," so therefore it must be flawed.
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 1, 2009 at 4:36
  • I totally agree with your version of the quote. I wonder if I will turn grumpy when my reputation points get higher. BTW, at what point level do I become close-minded? (^u^) Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 20:05

should we shut down the community wiki police?


If so how?

I'm pretty sure I'm in a minority here, but if it were up to me I would just eliminate the concept of Community Wiki posts entirely. I don't find the distinction helpful and it just leads to a whole load of whining about what should and shouldn't be CW. Either a question is suitable for the site or it isn't. There's no need to get upset that somebody else might earn a lot of rep points by asking a "soft" or populist question. If you don't like the question, vote it down.

Jeff says:

When the answer to a problem is "let's make things arbitrarily more complicated", it is rarely the correct answer.

I know you won't go with it in this case, but perhaps the default thinking should be more towards making the site simpler? It seems that the changes over the last year have in fact tended towards making things more complex by adding more rules.

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    I should add that the one thing I do like about CW is that I can vote down with impunity, which I feel should be the case for all questions.
    – Dan Dyer
    Commented Aug 28, 2009 at 16:58
  • There are other advantages... I can edit CW posts on SO, SU, and SF, even though I lack the rep to edit ordinary posts outside of SO. This would also be nice for all posts...
    – Shog9
    Commented Aug 28, 2009 at 17:05
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    I wish I could upvote this 10 times. Get rid of the community wiki. It is confusing and unnecessary.
    – user140539
    Commented Dec 17, 2009 at 14:50
  • the "vote it down" is purely theoretically a correct advice, but is a bad advice in practice solely due to corrupting influence of pity upvote phenomenon. I COMPLETELY stopped down-voting questions because of that.
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 4:12

You're right: standards are inconsistently applied because it's really up to each individual how he or she interprets SO's guiding principles.

We used to have a similar problem with anything career-related, which I always saw as meeting's SO's standard. It got to the point where there were enough people above 3k rep that a handful closed--or tried to close--every career question that came up. Sometimes it would close and reopen multiple times.

Eventually Jeff posted a blog entry saying (amongst other things) that career questions are OK and the problem has pretty much disappeared. The career question police have moved onto greener pastures.

Until there is a similar clarification in policy, the problem will likely persist. The only thing you can do is bring such questions to community attention.


[sigh] The whole rep-whoring thing again...

It seems as though there are two camps: those who accuse others of rep whoring, and those that accuse the first group of bullying.

Call these rep-whores and rep-pimps.

Rep whores would like to earn "easy" points by creating questions that arouse lots of interest in the community and get voted up a lot.

Rep pimps would like rep-whores not to receive rep for the above (that's the pimp's job). Why? Well, no clear explanation aside from "we don't want you to get points for your contribution".

The pimps-whores analogy is thus very apt.

I believe the issue revolves around the following premise: If a question is relevant to the forum and is popular then it should be allowed to persist.

Some people disagree with this. Maybe they think that only non-popular questions should earn you points. Or only very objective one-answer-only questions. Who knows.

The rules of SO seem to be: if you don't like the question, you can vote it down. If you think it's inappropriate to the forum, vote to close it. I'm not familiar with the rule that says "if you don't want this guy to earn points for this popular question, vote to close it".

It remains for the rep pimps to explain exactly what they have against people earning "easy" popular rep points, aside from pure rep-competition of course.

Rep pimps, I await your comments. :P

  • 8
    Your analogy is a bit confusing. Shouldn't pimps and whores be on the same side? They are in the real world (so I am told). Rep whores and rep police would make a better analogy. Just sayin'. Commented Jul 27, 2009 at 20:36
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    the explanation for what you called "rep-pimps" and I would, agreening with Bill, call "Rep Vice Squad", is that such "easy rep" accumulation deflates the value of other's reputation that was hard-earned by posting good answers. It's especially painful to those of us active on less-popular tags who therefore have less rep for equivalent amount of work due to lower traffic.
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 4:16
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    @DVK, if you think questions that are popular shouldn't be contributing as much to rep as answers, then you should be calling for simply less points for every question up-vote. Not close what are basically the most popular questions on this site, but tweak their contribution to rep. Also, contributing to less popular tags (I'm personally very familiar with this) is an unrelated problem that will not be solved by prohibiting popular questions. And, btw, so what? That's life. If you deal with less popular stuff you get less rep. Commented Dec 22, 2010 at 16:21

How is Joel's question subjective? there are a fixed number of ways in move the turtle, including movement in the orientation as well as movement as translation. These can be listed, in full along with what they do (or a link to a site that clearly lists them all).

Who cares how much rep Joel gets because he's got a podcast and blog to pimp questions from. He's a ****ing co-creator! HE could put an infinity symbol next to his name if he wanted and I wouldn't care a bit (so long as Jon Skeet gets infinity plus 1 ;))

Jon's probably should be CW but was asked long ago before that sort of community consensus had been established.

If someone thinks it's subjective that's a hint that the question is either not specific enough or that it is inherently subjective but still worthy of inclusion like list based answers often are)

  • 2
    Thats not really answering the question, which is, is this bullying ok and warranted, is there any way to circumvent it? isn't should be community wiki subjective anyway?
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 28, 2009 at 23:42
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    How is "Are there any C# open source log viewers?" subjective?
    – cletus
    Commented Jun 28, 2009 at 23:49
  • @Cletus, turns out it is, look at the question and the bullying in the comments
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 28, 2009 at 23:50
  • @Cletus, i think I used the word "best" in one of the earlier revisions
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 28, 2009 at 23:50
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    I'd also point out that my question was asked long before my name became widely recognised on SO - this isn't a case of "one rule for high rep users, one rule for others." These days I would probably have marked the question as CW. (I haven't done it now, as that would look odd for anyone going to the question from this one!)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 5:29
  • @Jon I removed the link, i don't think it makes the argument any stronger, also if you notice I miss type your name please for the love of all that is good fix it :p
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 5:44

If you can come up with a meaningful solution to shut down the "community wiki police" as you call them then you should probably post an answer to your own question. Otherwise, I'd say this is a pretty much an inherent part of software developer behavior. I recall reading something in Weinberg's "The Psychology of Computer Programming" about software developers being extremely rule-oriented. And when someone sets out a rule that subjective, wide-open questions should be community wiki, then most of us are going to be quite inclined to be at least a little annoyed by people who don't follow the rule.

I guess what I'm saying is that I think trying to shut down the "community wiki police" is pretty much a waste of time due to the inherent psychology of many of the people that frequent StackOverflow.com

  • 2
    marc had a great suggestion, just add a vote to wiki feature.
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 1:17
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    How exactly did this rule come about? Is it a policy of StackOverflow, or is it just an opinion?
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 8, 2009 at 19:32
  • @Robert Harvey--read the SO FAQ; it's a policy of StackOverflow. Commented Jul 14, 2009 at 12:04
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    @Onorio Catenacci: Neither stackoverflow.com/faq nor stackoverflow.com/questions/128434 give a clear rule, when a post should be made CW, do you have any other source?
    – Treb
    Commented Jul 23, 2009 at 9:47
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    There is no such rule about CW, it's only something that has been done by a group of active users, and new users pick up the nagging without understanding that it isn't the purpose of CW. Commented Nov 21, 2009 at 6:10

I'm putting in my vote for the 'Vote to Wiki' feature. If there has to be a change to satisfy the "make it a wiki police", then it should be baked into the system.

But frankly I think there are enough safeguards already.


I'd try to write something helpful here, but... The whole "police" / "bully" name-calling thing kinda saps my resolve.

You'd rather non-questions were just closed without comment, their authors' pleas for enlightenment met with stony silence? Really?

  • 1
    the thing is that there is a big fat grey line between what should be community wiki and what not. my guess is this came into existence to stop rep-whoring, but im not sure. also marking a question community wiki does not only affect the asker, it affects all the answering people as well. In some way I would prefer 5 edits to the question that improve it and turn it into a cc wiki naturally to twisting arms
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 28, 2009 at 23:47
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    Rule of thumb: if everyone on earth could post a different answer and not be "wrong", it should be CW - rather everyone on earth edit/vote a single set of answers. This covers polls, GTKY questions, speculation, etc. Regardless, you linked to a question where you'd explicitly asked for our favorites, asked the world at large why it was being closed, and then got pissy about the answer you received. If you don't want to know, then don't ask...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 28, 2009 at 23:52
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    The whole point of the question is not that posts are closed but why a particular question was closed when a very similar one wasn't, which is a fair question. Your faux panic end-of-the-world. slipper slope protestations are... unhelpful and pointless.
    – cletus
    Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 0:03
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    @Shog, I used the word "best" where I should not have, instead of the bullying a better approach would be to remind me the "best" can be taken very subjectively. Regardless, there are a finite number of GUI logviewers for c#, in fact, to the best of my knowledge there is only one open-source one, the one I wrote, but I got upset by that question and see it as kind of dead no point contributing to it anymore. There were retribution votes involved and a lot of yucky mess, defiantly not something I enjoy doing. Point being if you piss someone off, its likely they will behave irrationally.
    – waffles
    Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 0:06
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    @Sam: Again, you're throwing up this bully boogieman. I can't know for sure why your question was voted the way it was, all that's there now is an open question, a revision list and a set of comments - prompted by your own - explaining why. If there's more to it, you'll have to explain... @cletus: you're responding to one part of the question, i'm responding to another. It's a long question. You can always just down-vote it if you've no relevant reponses...
    – Shog9
    Commented Jun 29, 2009 at 0:24
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    @Shog9: You should edit your answer to contain your "Rule of Thumb" comment. This is probably the best guideline to determining what should and shouldn't be CW.
    – toast
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 21:51

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