We've had a number of questions on this site of the form "Here's a picture with dozens of characters/items from sci-fi and fantasy - can you identify them all?" Such questions have generally been welcomed by the community as a chance for everyone to work together and have fun.

In that spirit of working together, what often happens is that a single massive Community Wiki answer emerges where many users make small contributions, sometimes amounting to hundreds of edits before everything is correctly identified. If there were other non-CW answers posted, the answerers sometimes self-delete those in favour of cooperating on the big CW answer.

It's not always the case that a CW answer is posted - e.g. here and here a single user did most of the legwork and retained ownership of their post - but in some cases, after a CW answer rises to the top, there's been debate in comments over whether or not others should delete their answers.

Today I just realised that there is a mod tool available to restrict the thread to one CW answer!

Screenshot of "wiki lock" option

If it's what the community wants, we could use this in certain circumstances, on certain posts, to restrict people to editing an existing CW answer instead of posting a new one. But first we need some community consensus on how, when - and indeed if - this should be done.

EDIT: the "wiki lock" for questions doesn't work as I'd thought. If we don't want to prevent the question from being voted on, then this isn't an option. I'm slightly re-scoping this meta: feel free to discuss the possibility of forcibly CW-ifying answers as well as wiki-locking questions.

Should we begin forcing CW answers to some/any mass-ID questions? If so, which ones?

  • 4
    Yeah, do that. These questions seem to generate single-answer answers that add little value.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 20:40
  • I think editors should get some sort of rep if we do this, e.g. five rep per upvote for everyone who edited it significantly Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:14
  • It seems unfair to stop the answerer from getting any rep. because of ambition Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:15
  • 1
    Is there any clear guidance on these questions in general? Personally, I don't like them very much; but I'm not nearly active enough here to really complain about it. These questions seem poorly designed for the entire format, as there can only ever really be one best answer, which would in theory have everything labelled right. It makes sense to me that it would essentially require a CW to align with the SE format in any reasonable way.
    – JMac
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:18
  • @JMac I believe we are trying to establish the guidance now...
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:19
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    @Stormblessed don't do it for the glory, do it for the good of realm!
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:20
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    @Skooba I mean like the on-topicness or discussion of these questions in general. I feel like a question like that would have sparked a meta-discussion the first time one was posted, but my limited search had little luck.
    – JMac
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:20
  • 1
    @JMac I'm not sure if we've ever had a specific meta about such questions - the closest I could find is this - but in practice they're welcomed by the community.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:27
  • @Randal'Thor I saw that one too. I also know how it works in practice. I think the overall idea of using SE to solve these types of puzzles is beneficial, and definitely does attract some users. I don't quite think they fit well into the Q&A format; which is why I personally don't like them so much.
    – JMac
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:29
  • This question is baffling. Would it not be better to re-ask it in a format that lays out the pros and cons?
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 22:28
  • 1
    @Valorum I accept I've made a royal muckup of this meta, after failing to understand how the wiki lock works. Hence why I've re-scoped the question to include forcibly CWifying answers as well as (read: instead of) wiki-locking questions. I'd welcome other possibilities for fixing this mess, but laying out pros and cons sounds a bit like putting the answer in the question ...
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 8:54
  • Well, only if you don't do a good job of laying out the cons...
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 11:06
  • 2
    A useless comment from me - I've grown to hate these questions. It doesn't feel like learning anything, just a round of trivia with a bunch of voices buzzing in, and I'm in the habit of downvoting them if I find a slight reason to. I think wiki answers are probably helpful in pooling the trivia, and I agree they feel better as a community thing. I think forcing or converting is not in the spirit of community however - if an obviously partial answer is posted and kept by a single user, it should be downvoted, not converted.
    – Radhil
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 2:48

4 Answers 4


In the case of a mass id question I think it is almost always favourable to have a community wiki answer that everyone can contribute to. After all one big comprehensive answer is always better than dozens of partial ones. That isn't to say we haven't had cases of a single user doing almost all or all of the work but a big community effort is generally what makes this cases so good. Therefore, I propose the following:

An answer should always be posted as a community wiki that everyone can contribute to.

That isn't to say an existing answer should always be converted into one just that we should post one as soon as possible, probably with a heading/disclaimer describing why it is a community wiki.

To note though this shouldn't be applied blindly and there can be exceptions to the rule. If a user familiar with the policy comes across the post and it has not community wiki but is largely answered by a sole user we probably don't need one: just user your common sense.

But what is a mass id?

This is going to be subjective but I'd say it generally falls somewhere in the starting range of 10-100+. Again use your common sense, if it looks like there is potential for lots of people to post partial answers just make a CW answer.

  • 1
    I'm happy to use common sense, but that often ends up in accusations of mod abuse :-)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 12:30
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    @Randal'Thor Stop abusing your mod powers then, jeez!
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 12:31
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    Literally every time a mod exercises "common sense" (applying their judgement to a situation), they open themselves to accusations of mod abuse. Whether it's closing, reopening, deleting, undeleting, locking, ... someone who disagrees with the decision can say it's a mod using their powers to do wrong stuff.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 12:36


But evaluated on a case by case basis...

Having been involved in asking and answering a few of these questions I find that there end up being lots of one line/item answers that can quickly add up. Judging from the review queues these answers are not well received and are down-voted and often times deleted.

To be fair to the poster of the answer, a moderator should not immediately/automatically apply the CW, but leave a comment and see if they are open to the idea. Have a discussion and nudge the answerer in that direction gently. I bet most of the time that works.

If that doesn't work a moderator should use their CW ability only if there is a certain number of one line answers (my suggestion would be 3) that have been removed.

The only thing we might have a little trouble on is where we draw the line... Is 10 ID's enough to require a CW? 50? 100? 500? etc. etc. (My suggestion would around the 50 mark).

The only other thing I could think of is that since those posting the large ID questions are typically regular users of the site, is to create the CW answer when asking the question (i.e. use the "Answer your own question" check box). The OP would need to add some basic detail and maybe a disclaimer on what is going on. Then any other answers posted could be removed if necessary.

  • I think you're misunderstanding what the question is about. This isn't about forcibly converting an answer to CW (although maybe I should have made that part of the same discussion) - it's about locking the question so that no further non-CW answers can be posted.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:25
  • @Randal'Thor I misunderstand a bit, but the answer largely remains the same. Don't lock it unless you have to (i.e. the bold line up there).
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:50
  • Ugh. My mistake. Turns out that wiki-locking works in a completely counterintuitive way, preventing voting on the question. I've rejigged this meta question so that your 'misunderstanding' is within scope. Sorry about that.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:51

I'm not sure if this would be overkill or not, and I'm really only active on a few tags here, so if this suggestion doesn't fit, feel free to downvote to oblivion.

I feel like these questions would be well handled by making a tag for these types of questions, and requiring, as a policy, that they be made into a community wiki. I basically stole this idea from Physics SE, where they have a very similar rule applied to Resource Recommendation questions (i.e. can anyone tell me books that cover this topic).

In those, obviously it is a fairly different problem, but they seemed to be running into similar issues with questions that had the potential to generate large list-like answers or multiple single-line responses to a list question.

(more info on the physics policy https://physics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4698/127931)

Given the nature of the questions, and the extreme differences in how answers would be received based on when the post them, how many characters are identified and how many of those have already been identified, it seems pointless to separate answers into multiple incomplete lists when we can instead work on a single comprehensive list.

The only downside that comes to mind is the lack of reputation gains; but given the collaborative nature of the question, it isn't a major concern in my eyes.

  • 1
    One issue that would need to be resolved before applying such a policy is: how do we define "these types of questions"? There are character-identification and object-identification questions which only ask about a single character; those don't need CW. Then there are some which ask about ~10-20. Even some which ask about hundreds of characters have non-CW answers by single users. Where do we draw the line?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 12, 2019 at 8:55

No, we definitely should not require it.

Sometimes a user answers a mass-ID question practically alone. The most notable examples are Jack B. Nimble identifying all the superheroes in the pictures hung on the wall behind the Justice League, and Ducky Momo identifying over 200 wedding guests (Rand points out the latter case in his post). In these cases, the user who answers should get the post on their own.

Even apart from that, I don't think we should require CW answers. If someone posts a non-CW answer, then another user can post a CW answer instead. The first user will lose badges, but that's their problem.

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