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The title is pretty self-explanatory.

My interest was triggered by this post; although the OP accepted my answer, I feel like it could be greatly improved by adding other examples, simply because it is in no way exhaustive (i.e. I'd never accept it).

How do we know that an answer must could be in community wiki? Obviously, answers involving lists or evolving matters, but what else?

Edit: I might have overshot with this "must" thing; a way to rephrase the question: "When does an answer benefit most from being in community wiki?"

Edit 2: would it be considered good practice when a person transfers their own answer to CW when permanently leaving SE?

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    Community wiki answers are for answers that it is important the community be able to freely edit. I don't think that answer qualifies. (imo) – Riker Aug 26 '16 at 17:51
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    I was just thinking that Jason's answer is better than mine, since he addresses the "must" rather than "could", when you edited the question :-) – Rand al'Thor Aug 26 '16 at 19:13
  • @Randal'Thor both of your questions cover the issues very well, so I guess I'll accept neither and just leave this for the community wiki.*mwahahahaha*, joking. – Gallifreyan Aug 26 '16 at 19:19
  • To answer your second edit: no. If someone logs out permanently, their posts are still associated to their account, and don't become collaborative efforts just because the original poster is no longer around. If someone deletes their account, the posts are then associated to an anonymous "user1234", but that still doesn't make them collaborative efforts. – Rand al'Thor Aug 26 '16 at 19:27
  • @Randal'Thor but what if one does so for the sake of keeping an answer up to date? AFAIK you need poster's approval for an edit - how does that work if a poster is no longer among us? – Gallifreyan Aug 26 '16 at 19:30
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    @Gallifreian You don't need the original poster's approval for an edit. Anyone with at least 2k rep can edit any post without needing approval, and anyone (even anonymous people who aren't members of SE) can edit any post subject to approval by two 2k+ rep users (or one mod, or the original poster). – Rand al'Thor Aug 26 '16 at 19:34
  • @Randal'Thor that's a relief. After these clarifications your answer actually puts the final piece of the puzzle in place. Cheers for help! – Gallifreyan Aug 26 '16 at 20:10
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    Simple flowchart to decide if you should use CW: "Should I make this a CW? --> No." – KutuluMike Aug 29 '16 at 2:26
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An answer should be made community wiki only when it's such a collaborative effort that no single person wants to take full credit for it.

If many different people have contributed comparable amounts of input to an answer, making it community wiki is a way to ensure that the collaborative effort put into the post gets recognition without any single user benefiting from it in terms of reputation.

This is often done as soon as the answer is posted, if it seems clear from the outset that much collaboration will be needed to complete it. For instance, this recent answer was initially posted as a CW answer, and so far four users have contributed significantly to it. A common place to see CW answers is for list questions, e.g. those in the tag in which the OP presents a list of items and many different people contribute to identifying them, e.g. this answer.

Note that this isn't always done even if an answer is a collaborative effort. Sometimes one user contributes much more than any of the others, who simply leave comments on the answer and leave that one person to do most of the legwork. Sometimes two users collaborate together but the one who contributed less is happy to let the one who contributed more take the credit. Community wiki is an option but never an obligation.

This Stack Exchange blog post covers some of the negative points of CW, but mainly focuses on CW questions and other aspects which aren't relevant to our site. I'll quote the most relevant part here:

The intent of community wiki in answers is to help share the burden of solving a question. An incomplete "seed" answer is a stepping stone to a complete solution with help from others; an incomplete question is a hindrance and an obstacle to getting a solution as no one understands the inquiry. It is in answers that the goal of community wiki, for the community, by the community, shows its truest colors.

Yet even in answers, true collaboration is scarce. Most of the time, a single individual can provide a complete answer. There are even times where a question looks like it'll need a massive effort, but one gallant user steps up to the plate with an impressive and comprehensive answer.

'Not wanting to get rep from it' is not a good reason to CWify an answer.

The purpose of community wiki is to facilitate - and symbolise - cooperation among multiple members of the community. People shouldn't post answers which are lone efforts and make them CW just in order to avoid getting rep out of them. Noble though this sentiment might be, it's not what CW is intended for.

See also Stop using community wiki as a reputation denial mechanism on main meta.

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The answer to the question "Should I make this post Community Wiki" is nearly always going to be "No".

No answer must be community wiki

The Community Wiki feature is a tool to encourage collaboration; it is not a mandate, and there is nothing either in the community-at-large or in the SE system saying "This Shalt Be CW"1.

Much of the guidance for when answers could be made CW is outlined in these two blog posts by GraceNote, one of our Community Managers. The only time you should be considering making a post CW is when it would benefit from collaboration from the community.

Practically speaking, some of the times that comes up for us are:

That last bullet point raises a good point, which I want to expand on:

Just because an answer could be CW doesn't mean it should be CW

The point of marking a post CW is to encourage collaboration; it lowers the reputation requirement for editing, and removes the reputation incentive (i.e. personal ego) attached to the post. There are perhaps many situations where this could be beneficial, but virtually none where it's necessary.

Any question that could be CW can also survive quite well as a non-CW answer. Valorum's answer above is a good example; another is What novels or movies are set in these fantasy lands?, which has both a CW and a non-CW answer; or my answer to How many non-Doctor regenerations have we seen on-screen?, which has seen collaboration in the comments helping me with things I'd forgotten.

The problem, which GraceNote points out in that first blog post I linked to is that we already have collaboration through more edits, thanks to the Suggested Edit feature. To crib from him:

[E]ven in answers, true collaboration is scarce. Most of the time, a single individual can provide a complete answer. There are even times where a question looks like it'll need a massive effort, but one gallant user steps up to the plate with an impressive and comprehensive answer.

Most of the time, you should be asking yourself "How can I improve this post so that community wiki isn't needed?" Community wiki is like a cheese knife: it is a specialized tool to be used sparingly.

Community wiki is for that rare gem of a post that needs true community collaboration.

Your specific answer

The answer you linked to in the question would not, in my opinion, benefit from being made CW. Why?

  • It's a complete answer to the question. Insofar as any answer to a question about a 80-year-old franchise can be considered "complete", that one is; it provides an example of the current state of affairs, which is also the current state of canon
  • Any additions would be quite minor. Why do you think your answer would benefit from collaboration? The one thing it lacks is a perspective on the history of the Superman canon, which is largely unnecessary except for historical interest. There's a reason DC occasionally reboots their universe, and personally I don't see an excessive amount of value being gained from discussing the differences between modern Superman and Golden Age Superman. That's not to say the value doesn't exist, but the marginal benefit isn't enough to justify making the answer CW.

    Perhaps there's an argument that your answer is incomplete, because perhaps there are other examples in the current canon contradicting your statements. Maybe that's true - I don't know - but it still doesn't mean you should make the answer CW. Long history has shown that, if your answer is incomplete, someone will either leave a comment telling you, or else post a better answer themselves. That's the way the site is designed to work; if we marked every incomplete answer as CW, we'd have to make every answer as CW, which isn't the kind of community this is.


1 This wasn't always the case, of course; until 2014, answers that satisfied certain conditions would be automagically converted into CW answers. This is, thankfully, no longer the case.

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  • Thank you very much, the links you provided were of great help! Cheers! – Gallifreyan Aug 26 '16 at 20:10
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    One thing to note: CW is an artifact from the earlier, more civilized time, before the empire.... errr... what I mean less civilized time when low-rep users were NOT able to suggest edits to an answer like they do now. As well as a time when questions that required overly broad answers were considered OK on StackOverflow (as they aren't now on SE) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 28 '16 at 23:40

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