This question got put on hold recently as being too broad. I voted to have it put on hold, and I stand by it being too broad.

The issue I have with this question is not that the number of answers is to great, but that the number of referenced materials that would have to be scoured would be too great. But some of the commenters, high-rep, respectable commenters, disagree and say the number of variations on Joker-Batman nicknames are few enough that it should be a manageable list.

They make a good point, and while I take the other side on this, I feel like the question could be salvaged with a bit more specification, but that the nature of the franchise would make forming a complete answer unreasonable for any Sci-Fi user.

Should a list question be put on hold if the franchise is too broad, even though the pool of answers would be relatively small?

  • Note: I still contend that the Adam West Joker alone would double the size of this list, but that's irrelevant to this question.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 13:19
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    Previous discussion: Are list questions allowed? and Are all list questions off-topic?. Based on those, finite scoped list questions are acceptable. Unsure if the community is changing its mind.
    – phantom42
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 13:21
  • 2
    Why are list questions allowed if they're not asking for lists of works? also has good discussion
    – phantom42
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 13:23
  • @phantom42 This is a little more specific than that - the pool of answers is small, but the pool of possible sources is very large. There is probably a reasonable number of Joker nicknames, but a wide number of sources that make answering this particular question much more difficult.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 13:24
  • It's not (in my mind) that it's too difficult, it's that the answer could go stale very quickly....See my answer below.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 14:34
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    I don't think a question should be closed as "too broad" just because someone lacks the knowledge or capability to search a wide enough cross - section of sources.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 16:27
  • @Richard You should say so as an answer then. Seriously. I suspect you have some very good reasoning behind it, and I specifically opened this question so that it could be written in more detail.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 16:55
  • @zibbobz - I'm on my mobile at present. I'll answer properly when I get home.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 18:36
  • 1
    I think we should let it open back up, let the answers flow, once we see the breadth of answers then we can see whether or not the question is "too-broad". In situations such as these, if the question falls into the 'grey' area, then let it be for a couple of days; we are too quick to close in these cases IMO. It doesn't hurt to let some answers flow in, and then use the responses as a gauge as well. What if this question netted 3 good answers?
    – Möoz
    Commented Mar 22, 2015 at 23:08
  • 1
    @Mooz All it needs is one more re-open vote.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 1:27
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    @Zibbobz And I'd give it, if I hadn't already VTRO'd... I think the main issue is that we should just slow-down on the closing (in these uncertain cases) :)
    – Möoz
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 2:43
  • @AncientSwordRage - by my estimates, 30-50% of The Force Awakens answers went stale quickly at this point, with new media being released, new interviews etc... I had to edit my answers numerous times to reflect that. Following your logic, one would need to consider making TFA offtopic, till a couple of months from now. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 21:40
  • @DVK by stale I mean that the question has been completely forgotten about between being answered and then Proved incorrect or incomplete.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 22:47
  • @AncientSwordRage - I can see some questions where what you say would apply 100%. I can also, however, see some questions where it would virtually never apply. My concern is that (as is usually with my concerns on meta) throwing baby out with the bathwater, and taking a valid concern and using it to prohibit things which aren't actually practically likely to be problematic, just because they share some aspect with problematic things - because distinguishing the two is not always easy at first glance. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 22:58
  • @AncientSwordRage -Also, i'm concerned that we are using principles selectively. If you're concerned with answers that become and remain incorrect for example, by all rights we need to ban ALL guesses that aren't backed by canon (or at least, early guesses) - I can point you to dozens of answers that are 100% incorrect yet have high upvotes. Because they violate this principle as much as the type of "list" answers being discussed here. So we need to either ban both if the principle is correct, OR not use that principle as a reason to only ban ONE type of questions when it applies to others Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 23:02

3 Answers 3


The real problem here is the question absolutely should have been closed as "too broad", but not for the reasons those who voted to close have argued.

Yes, it's a list question and one that could potentially spawn multiple answers from a variety of canon universes. Theoretically you could find one set of answers from the comics, another from the films, yet one more from the cartoons. How do you judge the relative "rightness" of an answer when two answers may be equally right? For that reason, it should have been closed as "too broad".

On the other hand, some people seem to be saying that because the OP is asking for answers from across the full spectrum of canons that feature Batman, that that somehow makes the answer too hard to answer. I'd argue that's a poor excuse for a close. The idea that we want to focus on making questions as easy as possible to answer is just plain wrong.

  • "it should have been closed as "too broad"." Umm.. It was.
    – phantom42
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 19:57
  • 3
    @phantom42 - The irony is that it needs reopening, then reclosing for the same VTC reason.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 20:00
  • 2
    @Richard Now that's meta.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 13:24
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    In all seriousness though, I agree with this answer. Whether or not an answer is 'easy' shouldn't determine whether or not it's kept open. Whether or not a question can be reasonably answered at all should. Despite it being put on hold for the 'right' reason, it was justified for the wrong reason.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 13:25
  • I'm glad someone finally had the courage to express something I've been fuming about for years on this site, silently. The whole idea of "you can't answer this without knowing 100s of works in a franchise" is faulty - attracting experts who DO know 100s of works and can guess at the start of an answer and dig in to firm it up is one of the goals of this site. Other reasons this is correct: if the spectrum of works is 100s of titles but they are all short, the question is no broader than if it's asked about a series of 10 titles which are all Battlefield-Earth sized. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 21:37

Post whatever you know, there shouldn't be one right answer

This has sent my alarm bells ringing!

My main issue with this question is that it's possibly very difficult to maintain. If it was more strict on which films the OP was interested in, it'd be trivial to get all the names by watching films and noting them down. In that case I'd like to re-open it.

As it stands it sounds like they just want any-and-all nicknames, the listed actors are just story inspiration (possibly irrelevant to question's scope).

Here is an example of a good list-question. No one is going to add to that picture - the list there is static.

This question could definitely be re-opened if it the scope could be better defined.


tl;dr: Yes, the community consensus, at least the last time I brought this up, is that a question with a small, finite, stable list-style answer is on-topic. Unfortunately, the question at issue here doesn't fit that criteria, and was rightly closed.

I agree with Pureferret, and I'm rather shocked that high-rep users would consider this a good question. IMO it falls squarely into the kind of list question that motivated the no-lists policy in the first place.

In general, regardless of the form that it takes, a question on a Stack Exchange site is expected to have a single, objectively correct answer, and that answer is expected to be valid for future users that have the same question. Obviously, that's an ideal that isn't always possible to meet, particularly on this site where retcons are almost the rule rather than the exception, but it's still the goal we should strive for.

An on-topic list question is a question that can be answered entirely in a single answer, which can be judged "right" or "wrong", and is likely to remain correct forever. For example, "How many Observers were there in Fringe", or "How many species of intelligent non-human were there in Harry Potter" would fall into that category.

An off-topic list question is any question that fails one of those criteria. In the case of the Batman nickname question, the main issue is that any answer we give today is very likely to become wrong in the near future, because Batman stories are being published constantly.

On top of that, it's going to be very difficult for the OP to determine if any given answer is correct or not, because it's any answering user would need to have either memorized, or have access to, every single issue of any comic imprint that includes Joker making reference to Batman. As @Keen says in the related meta-question:

It's not reasonable to ask a question on a Q&A site that requires knowledge of all works that ever existed, and then request a massive list of the works that contain one specific element.

Finally, there is the issue that we can't tell from the question how broad the answer will end up being. On this point, I think there is some disagreement; comments on the related meta question go both ways:

Questions shouldn't really be judged on the quality of the answers provided, they should be judged on their own merits. - @Anthony Grist

I disagree with your premise - to an extent, the answers a question generates (or will likely generate) should be a factor in judging a question - @Iszi

But it is a factor worth considering, that leaving the question open because it might not generate a huge list of partial lists as answers, means risking that it will produce exactly that. And closing a question because we don't like the answesr just feels wrong.

  • 1
    Why should it be unreasonable to demand encyclopedic knowledge of a subject area?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 18:37
  • mostly because it's difficult, if not impossible, for other people to check the answer and confirm that it's true... which includes the OP. It's the classic P vs. NP problem: for a non-list answer, you only need to check the one reference that is relevant; for a list question, you need to check every reference to see if one was missing.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 19:42
  • That sucks as a reason. When I answer Star Trek questions, I draw on the films, the TV shows, the cartoon, the novelisations, the books, the technical guides, interviews, deleted scenes and original scripts. Is that too much for someone to check? If I ask a question, should I be punished for expecting that other answers will meet the same level of diligence?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 20:04
  • Well, I never meant that I would close a question just for that reason, merely that it would be a factor. But the distinction is not so much that you'd need to know a lot about a given canon, it's that you'd need to know every single work in a given canon, or your answer would look right but possibly be wrong. But it's just one element on the spectrum from bad to good.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 20:06
  • @MichaelEdenfield The "checkability" objection would apply to all questions asking for the earliest something (e.g. earliest story with time-traveling robots), wouldn't it? Of course the correct answer can't "go stale" (barring real-life time travel), but how can we possibly know that we've got the correct answer, if we haven't checked every prior work ever written?
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 21:31
  • @user14111 I'm not really a huge fan of "the first X" questions, either, for that reason. Most of them tend to follow the same pattern of a short burst of wrong answers, followed by the accepted one, followed by someone a year-later providing a better one, but those fall just short of the "too broad" line. For a list question, this is just one of several problems they have, and is why they go over the line.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 22:27
  • Aren't most questions given with an implied, "To the best of my knowledge, based on information available to me at this time, this is the answer?" Questions about current in-universe stuff also ends up needing follow-ups when new canon content is created (JK Rowling does a new Q&A) or old canon content is nixed (such as Disney/LucasFilm "Legends").
    – user31178
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 20:17
  • Yes, but there is a difference between "there's 3000 years of data to go through, but as far as I know, the first place we see Y is in X", vs. "I've read all of the Harry Potter books, and the only time we see Y is when X happens." One of them is likely to be wrong, the other is only potentially going to become wrong.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 21:00

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