As I understand it, list questions tend to take over the SE site such that other worthy questions are (relatively?) ignored. Additionally, there are endless answers to them, each of which is partial (and not definitive), and it just becomes a vote-fest.

What if we only allowed a single, community wiki answer? That way, the single answer would improve over time, becoming something like definitive? After that answer was created, someone just protects it and no more are possible (but the community wiki is still editable).

The various privileges would keep out drive-bys from rep 1 users. Additionally, since no one is receiving rep from answers it would tend to tone that down. And we could even make it a rule that list questions should be kept at score zero... if I see one that someone votes up, I'd just use one of my votes to put it back down to zero.

Wouldn't this address most of the criticisms? They're no longer the top-voted questions, nor the answers the top-voted answers.

We could still vote to close low-quality list questions, we could still close those for which Wikipedia or IMDB has a ready-made list.

If there are further criticisms, what features would be necessary to mitigate those, short of just disallowing them?

  • Great idea. I'd think twice about score zero, since a question's score is a gauge of its popularity/importance. – sjl Dec 15 '12 at 0:34

This how it worked before list questions were banned altogether.

First, Those list are often forgotten and not updated. Maintaining a list is something complicated that need both rigor and discipline. Updating often need discussion and the comment section is not really designed for that mater.

Which bring my to the second point, they don't fit well the Q&A format. Putting the restrictions you are talking about is just, IMHO, misappropriation of the mechanic of the site. We are a Q&A site, not Wikipedia.

As a side note, you were not there when the community wiki police was terrorizing users. They were always saying : "This question might be acceptable if it's made community wiki.". We just (almost) got rid of our General Reference Task Force. We don't need a new bone to throw to the hounds, there is more productive works that could be done.

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    If Wikipedia answers the list question, it's wrong to ask it here. The fact that Wikipedia hasn't answered that means that if we did... we wouldn't be doing what they do. – John O Dec 13 '12 at 20:12
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    @JohnO The point is not that Wikipedia could answer the list questions or not, the point is that we don't have a well suited platform to handle those list. It's anecdotal that Wikipedia (and others wikis) have a well suited platform to do the job. – DavRob60 Dec 13 '12 at 20:28
  • Well, that's part of the question here: what would it take for this platform to become well-suited to handle list questions. We can set it up so no one can mine for rep, we can set it up so they're not filled with 90 answers. What's left that would be an impediment? – John O Dec 13 '12 at 20:57
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    @JohnO Too many things. The way questions are bumped in the front page after each edit, the tag driven sorting, the way questions are shown according to the number of votes. It's a Q&A site; Don't try to build a airplane out of submarine parts. – DavRob60 Dec 14 '12 at 3:32
  • That's not "too many things"... that's two things. We'd need vote-locking, and some way to keep them from being bumped. – John O Dec 14 '12 at 13:16
  • @JohnO Those were only examples. My point is, IMHO, you should not try do deviate scifi.stackexchange and try to do something else with it. There is some platform that are more appropriate to do this. We should keep focus on ours strong points. – DavRob60 Dec 14 '12 at 14:02
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    Why should we not try to do something else with it? It was originally designed for people to ask technical questions where there were definitive answers, and now we're doing science fiction trivia on it. – John O Dec 14 '12 at 14:23
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    Changing the scope is one thing, changing the framework is an other. – DavRob60 Dec 14 '12 at 14:29

Ok, I'll criticize my own question here:

The asker of a list question would still gain rep from upvotes, even if others can be trusted to behave and downvote it back to 0. So it just becomes a way to mine rep points... that's less than ideal.

Nothing short of being able to vote-lock a question would fix this. It doesn't appear as if you can mark questions as community wiki, only answers.

Additionally, there's no guarantee enough people would behave, meaning that questions could still be voted up well past other worthy non-list questions, and would come to dominate the rankings.

On top of that, there has been some call to remove "general reference" as a close reason, and those arguments have merit. However, list questions would still require it so that we could close those dumb list questions for which Wikipedia has a comprehensive list already made.

  • G.R. was not removed because we wish to copy Wikipedia. In other words, if an answer is ACTUALLY a Wiki article, the question is still close-candidate and can be closed. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 13 '12 at 14:32
  • "Offtopic"? Wouldn't it still be on-topic (assuming it's about science fiction)? I'd agree that it should be closed, but it seems wrong to call something like that off topic. – John O Dec 13 '12 at 14:34
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    YEah, bad wording. Closeable. We can always find a bureaucratic loophole to close them :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 13 '12 at 14:36
  • FWIW, mods are able to make questions CW. – user1027 Dec 13 '12 at 15:55
  • @Keen - out of sheer curiosity, is that on front end or back end? (I just got nominated for temp modship, so it's justified curiosity :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 14 '12 at 14:10
  • @DVK When I click 'edit' on questions, there's a 'make CW' checkbox. – user1027 Dec 14 '12 at 14:54
  • @Keen are any of these features scriptable/modifiable from your end, or do the SE exchange gods have to do such things? Like, could that checkbox be turned on for everyone else, do you know? – John O Dec 14 '12 at 15:03
  • @JohnO All I'm saying is that we mods have the capability to manually make questions CW. Anything else should be asked of the SE powers-that-be. – user1027 Dec 14 '12 at 15:15

List questions historically just aren't a good fit for our format. Time and experience has demonstrated this repeatedly, across multiple Stack Exchange sites.

That doesn't mean "good" list questions aren't possible. Just that they are the exception to the rule (and this is the only reason, as far as I know, why Community Wiki still exists).

My understanding is that CW is reserved for really important, frequently asked questions that have an outstanding canonical answer, or series of outstanding answers that can be consolidated into a single canonical answer.

As examples, see this question and this question.

As DavRob60 mentioned, maintenance of CW questions/answers is cumbersome, ongoing, and frequently neglected. A site having a handful of CW questions that are already thoroughly addressed is manageable. Opening the site to any "good" list question, and therefore having the potential for a relatively frequent influx of new CW questions that will continue to see answers trickle in over a long period of time, will quickly become unmanageable.

I'm sorry, but I think this is a bad idea, and any possible benefit is far outweighed by the negatives.

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    The two examples you link to are this way for historical reasons. If they were asked now, the question would probably not be CW, only the answer. – user56 Dec 13 '12 at 21:16

I think this is a great idea, with a small twist; Allow list questions, but have a mod mark both the unique answer and the original question as CW (only mods can mark question posts as CW).

This wouldn't destroy the voting system and we could still use it to determine if a question is a good or a bad one. I would suggest adding the mandatory tag for these (in order to lampshade them).

  • You don't even need the mods (if you did, they would legitimately object to such a proposal as increasing their workload for no good reason). 12 minor edits and you get yourself a CW – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 13 '12 at 14:30
  • @DVK: You cannot expect everybody who asks such a question to adhere to this or even know of it. Sure, you can always force CW yourself, you have no chance on a question that does not belong to you. – bitmask Dec 13 '12 at 14:32
  • Yes. 4 edits from other users IIRC also means CW – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 13 '12 at 14:36
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    Also, I'm fully comfortable with close-hammering those list questions that do NOT abide by the rules. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 13 '12 at 14:37
  • @bitmask I've (mostly) seen even newbies get tags right though. If there were some way to automate changing it to CW if it were tagged that way... – John O Dec 13 '12 at 14:37
  • @JohnO: If this idea is accepted we could try a feature-request, yes. – bitmask Dec 13 '12 at 14:38
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    @DVK Yes, I'd be ok with nailing questions that disobey the rules, especially considering what it'd take to overturn the ban on them. It'd have to be a very probationary thing. – John O Dec 13 '12 at 14:38

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