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What are “Community Wiki” posts?
Why is the stack overflow community so aggressive about question criteria?

I posted a question that was rather subjective I admit. A moderator converted my question to a community wiki, which is fine. But now the question has been closed as subjective and argumentative. Is is not what community wiki questions are for?

See original question:

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    Community Wiki is not an escape card to say: I can be subjective and argumentative! – Tyler Carter Feb 21 '10 at 21:33
  • but all those other subjective threads and "best programmer XXX" are tolerated. Sure, that's consistent... – tim Feb 21 '10 at 23:14
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    Community Wiki is not an escape card to say: I can be subjective and argumentative! -- But it is an escape card to say: I can be subjective... but only in indeterminate situations when enough of the community decides that its ok. Simple. :) – Alconja Feb 21 '10 at 23:23
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    So why do questions like this stackoverflow.com/questions/18120/… get to stay around? – tim Feb 22 '10 at 2:08
  • and this stackoverflow.com/questions/234075/… – tim Feb 22 '10 at 2:09
  • and this stackoverflow.com/questions/17512/… it goes on and on. yet a question with real merit gets closed... – tim Feb 22 '10 at 2:10
  • Yes, tim, we get it, you value consistency. That's not always possible in a community. Things sneak by. That doesn't make them examples of good questions. – Michael Petrotta Feb 22 '10 at 3:00
  • @Michael, I hardly call it sneaking... Jeff has been active on those in the past. Oh well, Not worth my time. – tim Feb 22 '10 at 3:14

No, that's not what Community Wiki is for, not at all.

This is what they are for.

  • Well, a high reputation user added this comment to my question: "Polls like this should be community wiki"... – Sly Feb 21 '10 at 20:56
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    @sly, he was wrong – juan Feb 21 '10 at 20:57
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    @Downvoter I was that high-rep user. The question is programming related and is a poll. There is a long tradition of polls on SO. – nb69307 Feb 21 '10 at 21:01
  • /s/is for/should be for – Thomas Bonini Feb 21 '10 at 21:12
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    @downvoter: the link you provided does not really explain what Community Wiki questions are for. It explains how a question becomes Community Wiki. – Sly Feb 21 '10 at 21:21
  • But the jon skeet trivia and best programmer xxx posts apparently are fine. Sure, that's consistent. – tim Feb 21 '10 at 23:15
  • @tim, they are not fine for all – juan Feb 22 '10 at 0:23
  • @downvoter. Yes, I know, and this particular question is actually a lot more relevant than those. – tim Feb 22 '10 at 0:54

Community Wiki is not for subjective and argumentative questions, it is for the type of questions that have the need to be edited by many users at different levels. The users who always post something along the lines of "Make this question community wiki", are subverting the intention of the CW device.

And for the record, that question wasn't a poll, it was just a vague, subjective question.

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    CW is for whatever the majority of active users say it is. – nb69307 Feb 21 '10 at 21:39
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    @Neil: you're in the minority here. – John Saunders Feb 21 '10 at 22:00
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    @John How do you know? And "here" is not SO. – nb69307 Feb 21 '10 at 22:04
  • @Neil: the question was about SO, and if you're not actually in the minority (which recollection suggests you are), then you should be. You seem to want SO to devolve into a discussion forum. – John Saunders Feb 21 '10 at 22:06
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    @John I haven't kept my views on the general quality of SO questions quiet, so I'm surprised you think that's what I want. I believe that SO should be about answering technical questions, which this one was. And what are you "recalling"? – nb69307 Feb 21 '10 at 22:15
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    It doesn't matter what any of us wants, or thinks CW should be: CW is frequently used as a way to mollify users who think folks shouldn't be getting rep for subjective discussions. It's been that way for almost as long as SO has been active, and unlikely to change regardless of what the consensus might be here. And given that Atwood and the moderators have been willing to force-CW subjective questions in cases where they've been unwilling to force-close (even making this behavior automatic for questions with > n answers), it's not unreasonable to believe that this is intended... – Shog9 Feb 21 '10 at 22:26
  • @Neil: I'm recalling the fact that you don't seem to get the distinction between a Q&A site and a discussion forum. – John Saunders Feb 21 '10 at 22:28
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    @Shog9: I do wish they'd add a separate, moderator-set flag for "permitted discussion". I think "requires edits from many people" is something that the community should set; I think "this is a discussion but we want to permit it just the same" is something that moderators should set. – John Saunders Feb 21 '10 at 22:30
  • @Neil, CW is defined in the FAQ, it shouldn't be used as a weapon. – Lance Roberts Feb 22 '10 at 0:15

There's something of a tradition on SO of using CW for polls: questions with a finite number of answers where users are expected to vote up the existing answers rather than posting duplicates, edit in additional information where appropriate, etc.

Examples: Hidden Features of C#?, C++ Urban Myths

Another sort of question that's frequently seen on SO (and also often marked Community Wiki) is the "What do you think?" question. These aren't so much polls as they are discussion threads: the phrasing of the question invites each reader to share his own personal experiences and opinions, and discussion frequently thrives in the comments as well. While you will find many of these on SO (indeed, this category includes most of the most popular questions on the site), they tend to be more readily closed, as they have little to offer casual readers beyond opinionated arguments.

Examples: What is the worst programming language you ever worked with?, What are the worst working conditions you have written code in?

As should be clear from the examples, the deciding factor is public opinion1, not any set of concrete rules: if enough people like your question, it'll either stay open or get re-opened; otherwise, it'll be closed and eventually deleted. No one person2 can say for sure which outcome will befall an individual question...

1Ok, so if a single moderator likes it then they can keep it open, and if a single moderator hates it, then they can delete it outright... but those tend to be edge cases.
2apart from moderators1


My two cents: It's a good question (and has attracted some good answers), and -- while it's indeed somewhat subjective -- it's not argumentative or confrontational. This question definitely has a place on SO and should be reopened.


I may as well throw in my 2 cents. I think that the S&A reason for closing (which was why the question was closed) should only be used for questions like "Why does Java suck?" and in fact I rarely close questions for the S&A reason. The question should not have been closed for any other reason (OK, I'm sure there's a dupe somewhere, but I can't find it), it was a poll, so it should have been CW.

  • @Neil: I would argue that we need a new close reason, "This is a discussion question, but this is a Q&A site". There are many questions I'd prefer to close with that reason, as they are not actually causing unpleasant arguments. The question being referred to is one of them. – John Saunders Feb 21 '10 at 22:27
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    "Not a real question" works for me... Had the author bothered to sketch out a more specific scenario it would still have been subjective, but somewhat less argumentative - right now, the answers seem more inclined towards platitudes ("keep code understandable", "rule of three") because in generalizing his question, Sly made it almost impossible to disagree with his own assertion ("Yes, I follow DRY religiously, even when it makes the code unreadable!") – Shog9 Feb 21 '10 at 22:38
  • @Shog9: I'd like to distinguish between questions which, as written, do not have an answer, and questions which have an infinite number of answers (IOW, discussions). I think that would make it easier to say, "this question is inappropriate for a Q&A site because it requires a discussion". It would also make it clearer who thinks discussions are appropriate for SO/SU/SF. – John Saunders Feb 21 '10 at 22:54
  • @John: I'd like a waffle. ;-) (see also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/19260/…) – Shog9 Feb 21 '10 at 22:57
  • +1 questions with Technical content are certainly more in line with what I think SO is - rather than nonsense like the "best programmer XXX" and jon skeet facts that are tolerated. – tim Feb 21 '10 at 23:17
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    @Shog9: I've started on your waffle: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/40159/… – John Saunders Feb 21 '10 at 23:22
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    @tim: they can have all the technical content they want. But if they're discussions, then they belong on a different site. BTW, I would have voted down "Jon Skeet Facts", but at this late date, it's pointless. – John Saunders Feb 21 '10 at 23:23
  • @John Saunders - one can say the same thing about other questions here - and this one in particular is relevant to programmers. It certainly has a lot more value than many other questions on SO. – tim Feb 22 '10 at 0:56
  • @tim: it doesn't matter. It's been decided by the creators that this is not the sort of question they want on SO. A significant portion of the benefit we get from SO as opposed to other types of web site is precisely the fact that it consists of Questions and Answers, and not Discussions. Permitting Discussions on SO would make it a much less effective way to get Answers to our Questions. – John Saunders Feb 22 '10 at 1:20
  • @John -= My understanding (and the literal post from Jeff) was that this site is for and run by the community. NOT JEFF. And how is the jon skeet crap and other stuff that Jeff also posted to in the spirit that you mention? It is inconsistent. Jeff's actions contradict your statement. – tim Feb 22 '10 at 2:01
  • @Tim: I'd vote those off as well. I think they come under "occasional fun". You seem to be talking about something different - a question that starts off as a discussion, and ends there. I think those are great questions for some other site. – John Saunders Feb 22 '10 at 2:06
  • @John, OK, at least you are consistent - some people try to quite jeff here as the answer, but jeff participates in the nonsense and joke stuff - but only the ones he deems appropriate - so there is no real hard definition of what belongs and what doesn't. All this talk without consistency is nonsense – tim Feb 22 '10 at 2:11
  • @tim: "All this talk without consistency is nonsense", except for me. – John Saunders Feb 22 '10 at 2:21
  • @John, I don't understand. Are you saying I am being inconsistent? – tim Feb 23 '10 at 0:01
  • @tim: no, don't worry about it. I misread your statement. – John Saunders Feb 23 '10 at 4:44

There are a number of reasons a Community Wiki question can be closed for:

  • exact duplicate
  • not programming related
  • subjective and argumentative
  • not a real question
  • too localized
  • belongs on meta.stackoverflow.com
  • belongs on serverfault.com
  • belongs on superuser.com

When it comes to the validity of questions, the standard rules apply to Community Wiki questions. Personally, I flag my questions or answers CW when even though they satisfy these requirements, I don't want to receive reputation points for them for some reason or other.

I don't think that CW ever served its original purpose; I really doubt that that many low-reputation users edited CW questions or answers.

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    +1 for your last sentence. I've never seen any more editing done to CW posts compared to normal posts (with the exception perhaps of things like the faqs on meta). CW has long since become the flag for subjective posts to prevent users getting cheesy rep boosts. While the whole wiki concept as described by the faq (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11740/…) is nice in concept, the simple (sad?) fact is that it hasn't been picked up that way by the community. – Alconja Feb 21 '10 at 23:19
  • It seems to me that people are reluctant to edit what other people have written, and new users are probably even more reluctant. – David Thornley Feb 22 '10 at 21:43

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