After many discussions, it has been decided that questions calling for lists of works (or authors, etc) or more or less personalized recommendations are not acceptable. The site FAQ has been adapted accordingly.

A number of questions were closed in one fell swoop on 2011-03-06 — essentially, the questions tagged list or recommendations. This was a one-time cleanup, following the writing of the official site FAQ. Closing off-topic questions is normally done by the community.

These questions (see this posts's history for the list), and other closed questions, have now been deleted or are likely to be deleted soon.

Deleted questions are not visible except to users with ≥2000 rep, and not easily searchable. You can download an archive (in parsable JSON format) of all the not-yet-deleted closed questions as of a few days ago there. This is a limited-time offer and I do not provide technical support.

Note that some of these questions and their answers had a lot of votes. The associated reputation disappears when the posts are deleted, but you might not see the effect immediately, because your reputation total is cached for efficiency. You can recalculate your reputation from the /reputation page, and it might happen automatically without notice.

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    In case anyone is interested, the list was compiled by querying the API, then running this script. – user56 Feb 27 '11 at 16:20
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    @gilles this is awesome, can you put that script on stackapps.com/?tab=scripts ? – Jeff Atwood Feb 28 '11 at 4:40
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    @Jeff: status-completed. Under app rather than scripts because it doesn't run in a browser, right? – user56 Feb 28 '11 at 20:04
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    I just read all the questions you link to, and I don't understand how you came to the conclusion that "it has been decided that questions calling for lists of works [...] are not acceptable." – Martha Mar 1 '11 at 4:49
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    @Martha: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/350/… and meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/375/… . Note that the list of questions in my question was compiled automatically, I fully expect that there are gems that should be kept in here, that's why I'm asking you all to review it. – user56 Mar 1 '11 at 8:06
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    @Martha: The site FAQ is our guideline now, and it rejects “Questions calling for a list of works, authors, …”. It was reached part by consensus and part by compromise. My aim here is to make the site match the guideline. Note that I'm calling it a guideline, not a rule — it's more of a default rule. Maybe we'll end up keeping 5, or 10, or 20 of these — but they'll have to be either miscategorized, or exceptionally good questions, worth keeping even though they're technically off-topic. – user56 Mar 1 '11 at 19:12
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    @Gilles: what I'm trying to say is that changing our FAQ was, perhaps, premature, since I do not see any consensus on list/recommendation questions. I can totally see getting rid of the "list" tag, since it's a meta-tag; but disallowing questions whose answers happen to consist of more than one item is, IMNSHO, insane. – Martha Mar 1 '11 at 19:45
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    @Tony: personalized recommendations were at -1 IIRC (I've never seen them positive) when the FAQ was written, and the two people who commented on them agreed against them and considered the existing ones bad. If you want to defend them, supply a good argument in their favor. The FAQ is not fixed in stone, but don't expect frequent changes in policy, which would be bad in themselves. – user56 Mar 4 '11 at 21:21
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    @Tony: P.S. That's both a lack of consensus and a decision. Choosing a policy is sometimes a good thing, even if it's a compromise and not a consensus. – user56 Mar 4 '11 at 21:22
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    Many of these questions are among the best on this site. If they're deleted, I question how relevant or useful this site will be. – Martha Mar 5 '11 at 17:27
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    Very thorough implementation of the rules, that's good. But really, are these questions so harmful they need to be closed? I'm curious as to whether this will help or harm the long term viability of this site. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Mar 7 '11 at 9:04
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    @Wikis: Closed: yes, because otherwise how are people to realize we don't want any more such questions? Deleted: perhaps not, we'll see. – user56 Mar 8 '11 at 9:56
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    @Wikis: At the moment, my rule of thumb is that questions about a specific work/author/universe are ok, and questions requesting a list of works/authors/universes are not. (N.B. “rule of thumb” means there can be overriding arguments in a specific case.) – user56 Mar 8 '11 at 16:16
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    @Wikis: My rule of thumb is based on the FAQ text, which didn't receive any major objection. This closing is a one-off intended to bring the site content in line with the FAQ. Moderators cannot cast normal closing votes, only “supervotes” with immediate effect, and decisions to close are normally left to users with the vote-to-close privilege (≥500 rep). – user56 Mar 8 '11 at 16:42
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    i shall try not to be too tragedized, but must express disapproval. fare thee well and good luck with your site. – user586 Mar 9 '11 at 6:51

I modified my question:

What are the different types of robots in Total Recall 2070?


Other than Alpha and Delta, were there any other types of androids in Total Recall 2070?

I'm not sure what the answer is, but it's probably one or two other androids, I would hardly call it a classic list question.

I consider the question an ordinary Explanatory Question.

  • I find it kind of ridiculous that this question had to be reworded simply to fit a "no lists" rule. – grautur Jun 10 '11 at 4:06
  • @grautur - I felt the same way at the time, and still do now. I can understand why it was attacked though, because most list questions aren't asking for a finite list. This one was, and I think we decided that any list question asking for a fixed list was allowed. I think this question had so many problems because it was closed in the early days of the site before we had really decided what was on and off-topic. – Mark Rogers Jun 10 '11 at 14:38

The question on Moorcock Reading Order should remain as per the decision on reading order questions.


These questions do not have the tag or tag, but are as much lists/recommendations as the ones listed above, so should presumably be considered at the same time:

  • Note that I'm absolutely not suggesting that these are all deleted, just that they are as much lists/recommendations as those questions that have the tags. – Tony Meyer Mar 1 '11 at 0:42
  • @Tony: The point is to delete questions that are not supposed to be on the site given the current FAQ. On this basis, which questions would you delete? – user56 Mar 1 '11 at 8:07
  • @gilles I think that all of these match the description in the FAQ, so if I was forced to adhere to that, I would delete all of these. I think several types of "lists" were conflated in the summary question (as mentioned in the comments there) and so the definition we have excludes too much. However, I could be in the minority in feeling that, so if that's the case, I argue that we need to be fair and delete all of these too, since they are the same type of question, but without the tag. – Tony Meyer Mar 1 '11 at 10:13
  • @Tony: If a question strongly encourages an answer that describes the most significant members of a class, or discusses the class without requesting an enumeration of the elements, or has a very narrow focus that makes a complete list within reach, I consider it worth keeping. (This is a personal opinion, not an official statement of any kind.) E.g. I'd keep time-manipulating characters on Heroes and Dune Hebrew-inspired phrases but not Star Trek predictions. – user56 Mar 1 '11 at 19:23
  • @Tony - I think a lot of these should be saved, and some deleted. The problem is that I'm not sure whether to upvote or downvote your answer. Maybe we should save the questions in this answer for a separate battle, seeing as how it is quite a lengthy list as well. Just an idea. – Mark Rogers Mar 1 '11 at 20:35
  • @mark I don't really know what to do here either. But ISTM that the measure shouldn't be that the question has a particular tag (although that's considerably easier to search for), but what the question actually is. – Tony Meyer Mar 1 '11 at 23:07
  • Looking through this list, I feel that only about half the questions in it fall into the same category as the type of list/recommendation question that are not allowed. The first question is a perfect example, because it can be answered by a short definitive list of characters. (It has only 1 right answer) I think the best approach is to deal with all the questions that have the list/recommendation tags first, then consider the other questions on a case by case basis. – shadowfission Mar 4 '11 at 19:17
  • Thanks. I've included some of them in my to-close list. Most of these are “list works with X” (bad) or questions about a specific work/universe (good). – user56 Mar 5 '11 at 22:10

As an experiment, I have completely reworded one of these questions:
How could I find fantasy stories with all female characters?
(formerly “Fantasy novel with all female characters (name that novel or a short story”)

If you're against list questions, do you think my reworded question makes the question appropriate for the site?

If you like list questions, do you think my reworded question is still interesting enough?

(This is aside from the question of whether it was acceptable for me to edit Darius's question. Darius, please accept my apologies for that. I'm trying to move the site in a constructive direction, which sometimes requires action. I do not intend to make a habit of such major edits.)


The description of what was voted off-topic:

Questions [that] provide some background information about the question asker in hopes that answerers can recommend new material for the question asker to consume, provide a fact or concept and ask for a list of all works that talk about said fact or concept, or ask for all the examples of the use of a work in popular culture.

Many of the questions that happen to have the tag do not match this description. Deleting questions should be based not on the tags that a question has, but what the question actually is, and the description the "on topic" decision votes were for.

The following do not ask for a recommendation, do not ask for a list of all works that talk about a fact/concept, and do not ask for all examples of the use of a work.

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    You're too hung up on the word "unending": being unending wasn't the bar set when the community reached consensus on barring lists. – user366 Feb 28 '11 at 5:27
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    Sorry, I don't have time to go over your lists at the moment. I can't promise I will have time before Saturday. I agree with keeping the robots in Total Recall and the reverse chronology, because one has a clear limit and the other is really very specific. I disagree with keeping ways of communication between human and aliens or classes of FTL engines: I don't see the end of them. This is a personal opinion, which I imagine others don't share. – user56 Mar 1 '11 at 19:28
  • @MarkTrapp, what consensus? Just because an answer consists of more than one concept doesn't make the question off-topic. – Martha Mar 1 '11 at 19:47
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    @Martha: More of a compromise than consensus, but we did have to decide something, because a site where the scope is constantly contested is not welcoming to people who get caught in the crossfire. Feel free to argue in favor of questions that you think should be kept, but do realize that most of them will go. – user56 Mar 1 '11 at 20:00
  • Note that questions of this type are currently +3/-1: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/350/… – Tony Meyer Mar 4 '11 at 20:58
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    Dr Who: just ask Wikipedia or IMDB. The two Oscar questions: ok. Black holes, without humans, ways of communication: these are typical examples that we reject (the “without humans” question already has 20 answers!). Memento: I like it, but I'm conflicted. – user56 Mar 5 '11 at 21:28
  • @Gilles my understanding is that we are only discussing list-ness and recommendation-ness here, not whether the questions are good in other ways. – Tony Meyer Mar 6 '11 at 4:15

List of questions I believe should live and why:

The rest should be closed.

Feel free to vote for or against this suggestion if you agree or disagree.

  • What else should I be reading to make better sense of Cyclonopedia?

Although the language is not clear, I believe that the votes for "questions [that] provide some background information about the question asker in hopes that answerers can recommend new material for the question asker to consume" were in regards to questions in the form "I liked X, what else should I read". This is not that sort of question.

This question is better placed in the "questions [that] a librarian or bookseller would typically know" category (+6/-3 at present). The asker is trying to find information to explain a work (directly asking explanation questions is clearly on topic), not find a completely new work.


This question has a good answer. This question does not "provide a fact or concept and ask for a list of all works that talk about said fact or concept", it provides a high-level concept and asks for examples of lower-level concepts. There is no request for a list of works.

  • Note that questions of this type are currently +3/-1: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/350/… – Tony Meyer Mar 4 '11 at 20:58
  • In addition to calling for a list with no end in sight, the criteria for inclusion in the list are very blurry. I don't see any way to salvage this question. – user56 Mar 5 '11 at 21:12
  • @Gilles are you saying that it's a bad question for other reasons, or you you think it actually matches the description of questions that are off-topic? – Tony Meyer Mar 6 '11 at 4:18
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    It calls for a list of types of FTL engines, and “types of FTL engine” is vague, so: 1. the question invites yet another answer with an example that hadn't been (explicitly) mentioned yet; 2. the question invites arguments about the classification. These are two reasons for closing. – user56 Mar 6 '11 at 11:35

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