By design, many of the questions on this website are asking for tips and advice.

But some questions are more likely to admit many equally good answers.

What is this community's standard for Community Wiki Questions?

As an example, this question would be an obvious candidate to be a community wiki question on many other sites in the StackExchange network, being a question asking for book suggestions. But compared to the other questions on this site, it may not be particularly different in terms of the types of answers it may attract. What is this community's thought on this issue?


The Purpose of Community Wiki

Community Wiki is:

  • A way to mark a question for collaborative editing
    • All questions/answers may be edited by users with sufficient rep, but CW makes this purposeful
    • Useful when information is constantly being added and updated

Community Wiki is not:

  • A way to make otherwise problematic questions (list questions or recommendation questions) acceptable

When and Why Use Community Wiki?

As above, Community Wiki is useful when information it constantly being added and updated. This is why posts are automatically made CW after 10 edits or after being edited by 5 users. Posts should be manually marked CW when intention is to have this collaborative editing. This is normally done to questions, to ensure all of its answers will be CW.

Community Wiki posts stop giving reputation (due to upvotes) to the original poster once they are made CW. When you have 90% of the content from a post coming from other community members, for example, why would you want rep going to only one of them? CW neatly solves this problem.

This is why CW is bad for opinions, recommendations, and list questions. If someone provides a useful opinion on an aspect of music theory or recommends a method of practice, they should get reputation points if others find it useful! Those do not need to be collaboratively edited, and neither do lists; a new poster will just add a new list item as a separate answer.

Examples of Good Community Wiki Questions

  1. What are "Community Wiki" posts? (Meta Stack Overflow)

    This post is a good example because the nature, purpose, and application of Community Wiki has been repeatedly revised. As such, the answers have needed to be revised over time, regardless of whether the original asker and answerers are around to update their old posts. The appropriate knowledge should be added by whoever has it at the time.

  2. How do I root my device? (Android Enthusiasts)

    This post is a good example because new Android phones and tablets come out all the time, in addition to software updates. The methods for rooting are not the same between devices and software, and so they are constantly revised. Anyone who reads about a new rooting method/tool can post it in the answer.

  • 3
    I know the problems with CW, but I think it is OK to use it for big-list questions where there is a right answer but many answers. Too subjective list questions are bad mainly because of being too subjective, but good list questions are possible and they can be very helpful for users.
    – user107
    Apr 27 '11 at 3:43
  • 2
    Yeah, I pointed out what I thought was a good list question. music.stackexchange.com/questions/63/… really isn't, though. The problem of being able to learn without reading music -- which isn't really what the question was about -- is simply answered by "Yes, you can play music without following an arbitrary format for writing it down." If not self-evident, it's still irrelevant to the question asked about composers.
    – user28
    Apr 27 '11 at 3:53
  • Post has been updated. The old version is partially invalidated, but mostly explained in greater detail.
    – user28
    May 24 '11 at 16:29

Historically, CW addressed two issues: Collaborative editing and runaway rep on 'bikeshed' questions. The collaboration idea turned out to be a complete bust.

That leaves bikesheds. Those are questions where everybody has an opinion, and votes arrive that indicate popularity or cleverness rather than any meaningful ranking. The result was a running battle between people trying to get rep and people trying to prevent it by forcing CW. "The CW mafia police," etc.

On Stackoverflow and the other core sites, the management decided, in the end, that it was better to discourage bikeshed questions than to have CW. Questions that call forth multiple answers are OK if the answers have real content. And, for that matter, if the community resists the urge to let them degenerate into stupid popularity and joke contests.

Consider What is the proper way to play A-Flat scales on piano?. Six answers, containing several distinct ideas about how to play this scale. Not CW. No runaway votes. Looks just fine to me the way it is.

So, my point here is not to suggest that we forbid the sort of question with multiple answers. Rather, it's that we permit such questions that are real questions, and not worry about 'CW' for them.

  • 1
    I disagree - some very good questions are by their very nature unbounded. True, far too many CW questions should be closed, but I think your answer is far too narrow for reality.
    – Doktor Mayhem Mod
    May 3 '11 at 13:01
  • I disagree too - there are simply unbounded questions just like DrMayhem mentioned, your addendum doesn't change anything about your first paragraph. May 8 '11 at 20:01

We have provided some additional guidance at the blog:


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.


I personally am not a fan of community wiki questions: they don't count towards Sportsmanship badges, and my experience with the SharePoint beta is that wikied answers do not count towards fulfilling your Area51 committments. There are probably a few other badges and counting things that they don't count for as well (my suspicion is that Electorate is similar).

  • 1
    I don't think badges have much bearing on the use(fulness) of the feature.
    – user28
    Apr 28 '11 at 22:59
  • 1
    Badges aren't meant to be easy, if you could just up-vote the answers in list posts it wouldn't be hard. May 8 '11 at 19:59

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