When I answer a question, I try to be as complete as possible. I also realize that I may not be as complete as I'd hoped.

Community Wiki answers provide an opportunity for good answers to float to the top, and for shortcomings in those answers to be rectified by folks other than the original authors.

But right now, the system discourages creating Community Wiki answers by denying all rep credits to those who create them. It also discourages improving community wiki answers by not granting any rep to people who do that. This means that the pattern that's encouraged is many separate and disjointed answers to each question, not one comprehensive answer that incorporates the bulk of the community's knowledge.

Combine that with the 750- 100-rep minimum to edit a Community Wiki answer, and I frankly don't get the point of the feature. It seems promising, but it just doesn't get used much, and it seems like the system, intentionally or unintentionally, is designed to ensure that this is the case.

So why was it designed like that? Should it be changed?

  • Everyone can edit posts when they get over 2k rep Jul 9, 2009 at 20:34
  • I'm aware of that but it isn't relevant to my question.
    – davidcl
    Jul 9, 2009 at 21:10
  • @davidcl: FYI the CW rep requirement was dropped to 100 with this question meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1219/…. that makes it more like a true wiki than it was at the time
    – Kip
    Nov 12, 2009 at 22:45
  • 3
    Thank you for asking this question. I'd upvote it if I could, but I can't as my rep is still a meagre 1 in spite of my only 2 contributions to MetaSO having 17 and 18 upvotes respectively. I did not realise the system was weighted to reward self aggrandizement over community service and have been systematically making all contributions community wiki. This is broken. Apr 6, 2010 at 17:23
  • 2
    I came here after wondering why my serverfault.com reputation was stuck at 490 despite numerous upvotes on my most recent answers, which I had designated "community wiki" in case others wanted to add further value to my (already complete) answers. Like @matt wilkie, I am confused not only by the brokenness of a system that punishes people who are open to community input, but also by the lack of any warning that opening the door to community input is tantamount to throwing your reputation out the window. Seriously? Jul 22, 2010 at 19:17
  • Okay, I know this is super-old, but: @davidcl Brad's comment actually is relevant. Part of your point is that CW allows "shortcomings in those answers to be rectified by folks other than the original authors." The fact that anyone with 2k rep can edit at will means that shortcomings could theoretically be rectified even without CW or the OP. EDIT: d'oh, now I read the answers, and I see that you already realized this. Sorry for lighting up your inbox.
    – Pops
    Sep 26, 2012 at 13:04

4 Answers 4


Community Wiki answers provide an opportunity ... for shortcomings in those answers to be rectified by folks other than the original author.

You're being misled by the word "Wiki" being in "Community Wiki." In practice, so many users are over 2k rep (at least on main SO) that every question can be rectified by folks other than the original author. And even then, it's not really "community" owned. Sure, the original author gets no rep from it, but try to significantly edit a "community wiki" question or answer (i.e. to the point that it expresses a completely different idea than it did to begin with) and people will cry foul.

The truth is that "community wiki" on SO really means something like "something that generates so much attention--because it is 'fun' rather than 'technical'--that the community feels it would generate unearned and undeserved amounts of rep."

  • 2
    Upon reflection - months of reflection! - this is the correct answer. The real problem is that the word "Wiki" is being misused.
    – davidcl
    Nov 11, 2009 at 23:43
  • 1
    I agree that wiki-mainly-for-better-formatting is the status quo. The question is, is that a good goal? Wikipedia is a powerful engine for gathering information, it seems like harnessing that kind of willingness to edit, beyond just format and into quality, would result in better posts in general
    – Kzqai
    Nov 21, 2009 at 0:16

It's mostly for large, vague questions as opposed to specific technical questions. It prevents users from racking up ridiculous reputation from a single, popular and slightly off-topic question. I think the goal is to keep the majority of the questions technical and specific.

  • 1
    I've heard that explanation before but I guess I'm suggesting that it's a feature that could be quite useful on technical on-topic questions, if it wasn't so heavily dis-incentivized.
    – davidcl
    Jul 9, 2009 at 20:28

I'd like to second this.

I've recently been trying to make my questions "community wiki", only to discover that I get no rep for the question!

TBH, I don't think it matters that much if only the OP gets rep from the question. As is pointed out above, after a certain point everyone can edit any question, at which point all questions effectively become community wiki questions, yet we don't have any problems dividing rep up there do we?

I suggest:

  1. Keep the rep model for wiki questions the same as normal questions - yes, it's slightly unfair for those who edit it later, but really, in the grand scheme of things, who cares?
  2. Add a carrot or a stick. Create some extra small incentive to persuade people to make questions community owned. Perhaps wiki questions gain 1 extra point or rep? or perhaps normal questions gain 1 point less? It doesn't need to be anything drastic, just enough to nudge people in the right direction.

The Wiki feature has the possibility of being a huge bonus to the SO scheme - we've already seen numerous examples of the fact that the wiki model works, so why not embrace it properly? At the moment it just feels like a half-hearted bolt-on. Hell, why not make all questions community wiki? What have you got to lose?


Look at the wiki aspect of the feature. Everyone (with at least 750 rep) can change your answer. If I wrote an answer and you change that answer to correct it, who should get the rep? You or me?
If you divide it: how?

  • I believe Jeff already has an algorithm for determining the relative authorship of a community wiki post.
    – davidcl
    Jul 9, 2009 at 20:51
  • 1
    In any event-- the rule doesn't need to be perfect in order to improve the current situation. Right now the incentive is to not allow editing of answers, which just seems silly.
    – davidcl
    Jul 9, 2009 at 20:54
  • 3
    IMHO, if your edit is significant enough that it could have stood on its own, you should have made it a separate answer. if you are just tweaking the answer, then you can't really claim any ownership of that post, anymore than a newspaper editor gets to claim ownership of a reporter's article.
    – Kip
    Jul 10, 2009 at 2:45
  • 1
    @davidcl: The relative authorshi algorithm has to do with who edit the question how often. It's no measure for the quality of the editing. But I guess you would need something like that, if you want to share rep. Jul 12, 2009 at 15:58
  • I agree with Kip - the original poster should get the rep ALWAYS. If your edit is significant enough that it effectively is a new answer, it should be posted as such.
    – Thomi
    Oct 2, 2009 at 8:14

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