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There are several questions on this site, like Will point-and-shoot cameras be able to compete with camera phones? which have been made into community wiki questions. Presumably this was because someone felt that they were veering towards subjectivity.

If a question is really unanswerably subjective, it should just be closed. (Ideally, by vote, now that we've got a lot of users with reputation to do that.)

If the question has a subjective component — and where various reasonable answers might disagree — but where answers can be backed up with solid reasoning and references, they should be left as regular questions.

I don't mean to imply that the moderators are being horrible dictators or anything. Just a request.

It's not just about the above question; here's a few others.

Some of those I think should have been closed (or still should be); others should be rephrased; and others should just be regular questions.

And in these cases, the questioner or a commenter requested that the post be made CW, but maybe they shouldn't have been:

Edit 2:

I guess I should explain why I feel that Community Wiki is the wrong tool for subjective-tending questions. The effect of CW is to reduce ownership in answers. The bar to editing is lowered (both by actual mechanical reputation required, and because it's overtly encouraged). And, no reputation score is given. This means Community Wiki is great for lists of factual references, and it's even great for survey-type questions (even though those are discouraged for other reasons). But it's exactly the wrong thing for questions where answers may contain subjective, personal opinions. In those cases, individual ownership should be more apparent, not less. So, I think we're using the wrong tool for the job here.


Edit: @jrista, I'm sorry I've offended you with this and with the tone of my original message. I really didn't intend it that way. You and the other moderators are doing an excellent job and the site wouldn't be as awesome without all your hard work.

  • Then what would qualify as a community-wiki type of question? – Finer Recliner Apr 18 '11 at 15:54
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    @Finer Recliner: list-of-resources questions, for example. – mattdm Apr 18 '11 at 16:23
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    That phone question should have been closed. Nobody's got a crystal ball and its just noise. – rfusca Apr 18 '11 at 18:54
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    If you have other examples of this, cite them, otherwise, this is not about a trend but a specific question! – Jeff Atwood Apr 19 '11 at 1:37
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    @Jeff Atwood: done! – mattdm Apr 21 '11 at 1:23
  • See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/55888/… – mattdm May 12 '11 at 20:49
  • There's also some good discussion here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/67039/… – mattdm May 13 '11 at 12:43
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Some of those I think should have been closed (or still should be); others should be rephrased; and others should just be regular questions.

You're probably right -- so the correct way to look at this is "how can we fix this question without making it community wiki?"

And then make it so with the edit link. :)

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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I'm not sure there's need to "reduce" the use of Community Wiki. I suspect you are taking on this post, specifically, since a cursory inspection of posts-made-wiki didn't reveal any sort of wide-spread abuse of this feature.

But, in the general sense, if a post is of questionable value for this type of Q&A, the proper course of action is to vote to delete it. Wiki doesn't excuse or offer a pass on "this question isn't very good so let's make it community wiki." The two issues are unrelated.

  • To be clear, I don't mean abuse, with the hostile connotation that implies. – mattdm Apr 21 '11 at 23:56
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While I agree that the linked question should indeed have been closed (I didn't vote as I was leaving it up to the community, and I was not the one who converted it), I don't think we have miss-used or over-used the CW feature here. Many of the conversions (most of the ones that have been created since the beta days) are done in response to numerous flags on posts by the members of this community or by op request...rarely by moderator "fiat", as you put it.

We do have list-type questions and a few subjectives that have been converted. When the community shows clear interest in a general informational/subjective/list-type question without voting to close it, I think the first appropriate action is to make it CW. However, making a post CW does not in any way preclude it from being voted on by the community for closure. It is not a matter of moderator fiat dictate in some cases where topics are converted to CW...its the moderators trying to give the community a chance to decide on their own whether to close or not...and if not, at least the topic is converted into fully community editable content allowing them at large to maintain the quality of it rather than let it degrade for any reason. And remember, most CW conversions are made in response to moderator flags submitted by community members, or even direct request of the OP...we rarely just convert to CW for the hell of it.

For reference, almost all of the CW posts from the first four pages of this search are clearly list-type questions. Any other CW posts that might have been left non-CW are from the beta days, when everyone on this site had the power to make things CW, and when everyone was still learning the ropes of the site and how to manage and moderate it:

http://www.bing.com/search?q=%22community+wiki%22+site%3ahttp%3a%2f%2fphoto.stackexchange.com&pc=OPER&first=1&FORM=PERE

The discussion about whether to continue allowing list-type questions is one for another thread, not to mention one we have had before and made a decision regarding.

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    @jrista, the expressed intent of the community wiki seems to be "a continually evolving source of good information through repeated editing". We seem to have perverted this purpose and made it the dumping ground for postings without clear answers. This is the bigger issue that @mattdm has exposed. Now, are we happy with that? Is this what we really want to do? Then we better change the definitions accordingly. Or, alternatively, do we want to preserve the original intent of the community wiki? – labnut Apr 20 '11 at 15:37
  • @labnut: We have already gyrated over this a few times during and since beta. It is a pretty common practice across the StackExchange network to convert to CW "list-type" questions, which is what the vast majority of our CW topics are. The rest is up to subjective decision, and in most of the cases I have looked at, the community did NOT vote to close, but DID ask for a CW conversion (it is often clear in the comments right on the question if you take the time to look.) Again, as I stated...we mods can convert, but we try to leave CLOSURE up to the community...as requested. – jrista Apr 20 '11 at 16:16
  • If the community, including you and Matt, decide that a topic that has been converted to CW just doesn't belong here...close it. You certainly have the power, and there are enough users here now that a community decision can be made pretty easily. At the very least, when it comes to list-type questions, we should either be merging them with existing equivalent questions, or converting them to CW as is appropriate. I would prefer NOT to make the unilateral decision to close for the community, as you guys can make those decisions on your own. As for subjective questions...one at a time is best. – jrista Apr 20 '11 at 16:18
  • @jrista, OK, to paraphrase, it has become common practice to use the CW as the destination of unclear questions (I'm trying to use neutral wording). I'm not concerned about this being the correct decision or not (another debate), I am simply looking for clarity and accuracy in light of the fact that the documentation says something rather different. So, should we not change the documentation to reflect what we actually do??? – labnut Apr 20 '11 at 17:16
  • Well, let me ask this. Would you dispute that list-type questions (which comprise the vast majority of our CW topics) do NOT meet the criteria specified in the link you posted? As far as I can tell, they meet it explicitly. List should be editable by the community, which is exemplified in many of the popular ones like: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/496/…. There are some "borderline" subjective type questions...but ultimately, its up to you guys, the community, to decide on a case-by-case basis what to do there. – jrista Apr 20 '11 at 18:13
  • Not all subjective questions have been made CW, but some have. In most cases (I can't speak for every case as my memory is not that excellent and I was not the mod who converted every one of them), conversions to CW were at the request of the OP or in response to mod flags and a general trend in comments to the posts made. Outside of the very clear cut cases, a closure will probably not be made by a mod, simply because we are, throughout SEN, encouraged to use our powers sparingly. Which once again leads us to the same conclusion: its up to you guys to decide when to close in most cases. – jrista Apr 20 '11 at 18:15
  • @jrista, hey, I am all for being clear and explicit. Why don't we just say what we mean, in the least ambiguous terms possible? I am sure it won't hurt to clear up possible confusion. If we want the CW to be the destination of list type questions let's just say so in the documentation. After all this is what the CW is mostly used for. – labnut Apr 20 '11 at 18:19
  • @jrista, I completely fail to see why we should not make the documentation for the CW clearly, and unambiguously reflect what our current best practices are. Surely it is in our best interests to have accurate and unambiguous documentation? – labnut Apr 20 '11 at 18:39
  • As far as I know, that particular documentation is standard for all SEN sites. I don't think mods have the power to change it. I also don't think it is unclear in any way, and I think we have appropriately made list-type questions CW according do that documentation. The desire to keep list-type questions was something the PhotoSE community decided to do, which is different than for sites like SO, which decided against keeping them. I think some things need to be left up to the individual sites, and I think the decision here was made some time ag. Or am I being unclear in another way? – jrista Apr 20 '11 at 19:47
  • Also, if you guys think we need to reevaluate the decision to keep list-type questions around, since before we thought they did provide value to our community, by all means start a topic regarding that specifically. I'm not here to impose any rules, I'm just stating that many of the reasons we do things the way we do them is due to prior decisions the community made...many of them during beta. There is nothing to say our approach can't be changed, and it is again up to the community as a whole to decide when to reevaluate and change our rules. I'm not trying to make unilateral decisions here. – jrista Apr 20 '11 at 20:07
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    FTR, I'm fine with the CW list-type questions. I think they scratch an itch, so to speak. But I think the others should be either left as non-CW or closed. – mattdm Apr 21 '11 at 1:30
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    If you feel particularly strongly about a specific thread, flag it or start a discussion about it here in meta. We have the ability to convert back, but it needs to be a community decision if we do. As for closing, vote to close if you think it should be closed. Generally, a mod won't step in and close unless it is perfectly clear that something should definitely be closed/migrated/deleted (i.e. a rant from Handy Andy.) – jrista Apr 21 '11 at 1:36
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I have to agree with mattdm on this one, it is definitely not a good question. It should have been put to death at the first opportunity. So why make it a community wiki?

I am elaborating on this because it illustrates a larger problem.

What are “Community Wiki” posts? has this to say

Why have Community Wiki posts?

One of the goals of the website is to be a continually evolving source of good information. Community Wiki posts help enhance the wiki aspect of the site.

And Create community-wiki posts says this

What are Community Wiki posts?

Community wiki posts are more easily editable by all users, and do not confer any reputation.

When should I make my answers Community Wiki?

When you want to enhance the "wiki" aspect of your post, so that it can be a continually evolving source of good information through repeated editing.

When you feel your post would benefit from less concern about voting affecting the reputation of those participating in it.

Edit community wiki questions has this to say

Community wiki posts have been donated to the community in hopes that others will edit them to keep them up to date, to add useful information, and generally improve their quality.

I really doubt whether the camera phone posts qualify as 'evolving good information'. They are speculative opinions dependent on the state of the industry at a particular point in time. While I appreciate the value of speculative discussions, this is the wrong forum.

The heart of the problem seems to be a very loose definition. When I read the above definitions I am left wondering what it really is. It is basically a circular definition, saying a 'wiki' is a 'wiki'.

Our community has evolved its own definition which roughly says "no clear answer, like list of items or very subjective". But I don't see this in the official definitions above. Perhaps there is a better definition somewhere else but then it should not be so hard to find.

So we are seemingly using it as a place to dump uncertain questions, which seems to contradict the intent expressed in the quotes above. And it is this which makes it possible for moderators to make mistaken decisions, like the one with the cell phone question.

Incidentally, is there a better way to find community wiki questions? I had to use this command in Google: "community wiki" site:http://photo.stackexchange.com

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