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Here's an idle question based on idle curiosity (so please don't feel obliged to spend time answering it; close/delete it if you like).

What's your rationale for making a question "Community Wiki"?

For example in the question titled Recommended budget waterproof jacket there's a comment, an up-voted comment, which says, "Converted to wiki, there's no right answer to this."

Is the reason:

  • To prevent the question getting rep.?
  • To prevent answers getting rep.?
  • To make the questions and answers easier for other low-rep users to edit?
  • Superstition (e.g. "if there's more than one right answer then it should be CW, for no particular reason")?
  • Other?

Policy for CW has varied over the years and it's now something of a moderator decision, and I'm curious to know the benefit of CW. I once argued against the CW police myself and, as I said, I'm just idly/mildly curious to understand the actual or alleged benefit of CW in this situation.

This is presumably a question adressed only to the mods, e.g. Neil.

  • I think this is a good question, and has actually been a subject of a little debate amongst us moderators before. Besides, I'm inclined to treat every question on meta like gold. :) – freiheit Feb 27 '11 at 7:42
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    I've always been of the opinion that questions get made into CW because they're too popular to close without controversy but not good enough to be a proper SE question. But on the other hand, we do have a few good CW questions. – Neil Fein Feb 27 '11 at 21:32
  • Please note that the linked question is quite old, and clearly a shopping recommendation. If it were asked now it'd either be edited into a better question or closed. It would not be made a community wiki. – Neil Fein Aug 20 '11 at 14:02
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I view community wiki as two things

  1. protection against questions with 30+ "answers", where it is forced (this threshold is 15 on superuser and programmers). Any question that has more than thirty so called-answers is not really a question any more, is it? It's some sort of discussion or list. Forcing wiki is a call to produce 30 readable answers through community editing rather than mindlessly, compulsively adding 60, 90, 120+ answers -- answers nobody will ever read -- piling up and cluttering the place.

  2. for questions that are marginal-but-useful, that barely make the cut, sometimes community wiki can make them more palatable and survivable because they don't become unfair sources of upvote rep, and people are incentivized to participate in those questions for reasons other than reputation gain.

Note that it is impossible for users to make questions community wiki, but anyone can still mark answers community wiki.

We have provided some additional guidance at the blog:

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/the-future-of-community-wiki/

TL;DR version

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, and only in very specific circumstances.

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My rationale for making questions community wiki is: don't. (usually)

This site is supposed to be primarily for "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face". If we make a question CW, nobody gets rep and we're discouraging spending time writing good answers. That combination leaves very few cases where a CW question makes sense. The new approval process for editing questions and answers for lower-rep users has made CW even less useful.

I think historically CW has been used (here and on all of the SE sites) for questions that maybe simply should have been closed. That's a usage of CW that's now discouraged.


I think our Terminology index - a list of bike part names and cycling concepts is a great example of what Community Wiki should be used for. But we only need one terminology index and maybe we don't even need that one.

There's an argument to be made that tag wikis are how to define terms, but the tag wikis weren't as functional when our Terminology index started, and many of those terms really aren't good tags, anyways.

So perhaps another rationale: if it's a question that could turn into another Terminology Index and the questioner asks for it to be made CW.


I was curious and did a scan of the last times we created a new community wiki question on this site. Apparently we let in about one a month:


Another version:

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    Yeah, I may have been hasty in making the winter pack question into a community wiki. It's too late now -- you can't un-CW a question -- but rewriting it to something like "how to pack for a winter ride" "what items are the most useful in winter" would have been better. – Neil Fein Feb 27 '11 at 21:28
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    @Neil I think that "Community wiki" can, eventually, happen automatically under certain conditions. – ChrisW Feb 28 '11 at 0:42
  • Any interest in rewriting the winter pack question as a non-CW? Or editing and removing the wiki? (Since we can do that now, it wasn't possible when the question was asked, I think.) – Neil Fein Aug 20 '11 at 21:32
  • @NeilFein: I think there's no problem with de-wiki'ing it. However I seem to be the person with the accepted top-voted answer, so my vote should probably be ignored. – freiheit Aug 21 '11 at 3:19
  • I'm having second thoughts about that question. It's really more of a getting-to-know-you poll than anything else. Perhaps it should simply be closed and a new question written? OTOH, there are many older questions that we'd have to clean up if we started down this road. – Neil Fein Aug 21 '11 at 3:21
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Community Wiki can eventually happen automatically, under certain conditions.

freiheit's answer, "don't (usually)", is pretty good IMO.

Alternatives (instead of making a question CW) include:

  • Wait for CW to happen automatically, if it does
  • Edit and/or close the question if it doesn't meet the normal criteria for being a good question.

One (perhaps rare) time for CW is if you really want it to be Wiki-like, for example when:

  • The question solicits multiple answers
  • And each answer ought to be on a different topic
  • And each answer ought to be edited by more than one person

The following are examples of when a question should or shouldn't be Wiki-like:

  • What are the different types of grommet? (not CW because someone can reply to the question in a single, good, comprehensive answer)
  • What are the characteristics of the various types of grommet? (CW because describing each and every grommet would be too long for a single answer: you want a separate answer for each type of grommet)
  • What's your experience with using grommets? (not CW because each answer is personal or subjective and is, therefore, not intended to be edited by other people)

You needn't hurry to make a question CW. You can see how it evolves (whether the question is changed; how many answers it gets) before deciding that it's a topic that you want as a Wiki.

  • The fact that making a question CW is a one-way street indeed means that one should be cautious when doing it. – Neil Fein Mar 1 '11 at 18:32
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    Another criterion is, not just "when there's no single/correct answer", but "when it's meaningless to say that one answer is better than another, and nobody could want to use 'number of votes' to find the 'best' answer." For example, subjective answers ("Do you like grommets?") can be good or bad, useful or less useful: I might upvote one if, "Yes that's my experience too"; but when each answer is about the characteristics of a different type of grommet, one answer isn't better than another: the answer you're looking for depends on which type of grommet you want to read about. – ChrisW Mar 1 '11 at 18:57
  • Please note that things have changed since my comment above: Questions that are made CW can now be un -wikified. – Neil Fein Aug 20 '11 at 21:29

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