# Community Wiki?

Every so often I run into a question which I think should be community wiki. I am usually not sure about flagging since some of them have been around for a while and the question of why did noone else suggest it comes up. Also I am confused about how questions are chosen to be community wiki.

Just some examples: Calculus Today, Prestige, Publishing Theorems. In particular the question of why did none of the answerers suggest it comes up as well, since in the above examples, many of the answerers are very experienced users.

Are the above good examples of community wiki questions? Why or why not. Should I just flag in any case if I think so? What is the appropriate response?

I know there is another thread related to this topic, but I don't find that thread too helpful. (Also, the answers haven't been voted up very much which usually means the community is not in agreement)

Thanks,

• I flagged my question (Calculus Today) to make it into a CW. – Américo Tavares Aug 18 '11 at 11:20
• "Should I just flag in any case if I think so?" Yes. Sometimes the question maybe a bit borderline and even the moderators would like to know that at least one other non-mod user thinks the same. Also, mods cannot be everywhere at the same time. – Willie Wong Aug 18 '11 at 11:29
• I've converted all of three to CW, just in case people are wondering. (BTW, the middle one was kinda old, and before any of the current mods became mods.) – Willie Wong Aug 18 '11 at 11:32
• @Willie Wong: Thanks for the conversion. – Américo Tavares Aug 18 '11 at 12:05
• In 33 question only two questions, this one "What is the importance of Calculus in today's Mathematics?" [Calculus Today] and "What does closed form solution usually mean?" are "soft" questions. It is my intention not to ask "soft" questions in the main site anymore. – Américo Tavares Aug 19 '11 at 6:55

IMO, all questions that have no objective right answer but asks for a list of opinions should be CW. In particular, all questions mentioned in post should be CW (if not closed — but let's restrict our discussion to CW policy, for a moment).

• (We haven't reached community agreement last time, indeed. Let's try again?) – Grigory M Aug 18 '11 at 8:07
• Yesterday I flagged my question (Calculus Today) to make it into a CW. Is was converted to CW yesterday by Willie Wong ♦. – Américo Tavares Aug 19 '11 at 6:59
• "It was converted" instead of "Is was converted". – Américo Tavares Aug 19 '11 at 9:13
• I didn't read the comment thread in Shog9's answer and also only glanced at the long blog post he linked to both tl;dr. However, it seems to me that the "automatic CW-fication" of certain questions, especially questions asking for references on a more specialized topic, might be counter productive. Specialized is intended to mean "no very strong user base here". For instance, there is this question on numerical analysis which might be a better question, of course. I think there aren't that many users able to say much more... – t.b. Aug 22 '11 at 1:23
• ...than what Google spits out after the first two or three most obvious searches, so leaving the question non-CW might induce one or two good answers motivated by reputation. Yes, it belongs to the good tone to say one doesn't care about reputation but still I think it does its job quite well. – t.b. Aug 22 '11 at 1:27

If you're thinking a question should be CW because it can't garner useful, objective answers... Then you should probably just vote to close it. From the FAQ:

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here. However, if your motivation is “I would like others to explain ______ to me”, then you are probably OK.

(and also the guidelines for asking subjective questions, linked to from the FAQ)

If it's actual, useful stuff, then CW isn't necessary:

Instead, strive for quality. If you’re unsure a certain question class belongs on the site, don’t tolerate the worst examples — demand that these questions be awesome. Questions shouldn’t be swept under the rug with community wiki; they should get the same respect and treatment as the rest of your Q&A. If those questions are something you are uncomfortable showing to visitors … they probably don’t belong on your site.

Why would you need Community Wiki on a question? Well...

Sometimes you have content which is valuable and on-topic, but is perhaps a bit too popular. It runs the risk of overwhelming the rest of your site if it grows untamed. In these circumstances, community wiki can be a way to preserve the value of these posts while stifling their growth. Keep in mind, though, that in using community wiki to stifle growth, you should actually follow through with it — a site should never have more than one community wiki question for every hundred questions. Having too many community wiki questions defeats the entire purpose.

So again, first ask yourself if the question even belongs on the site. Then ask if it could be structured so as to encourage high-quality responses. Finally, if the question belongs, encourages and is receiving good answers, ask yourself if there's a really good reason why the site should encourage editing existing answers over posting new ones - that would be when you might ask for it to be made Community Wiki.

• Maybe things are different here, but on MathOverflow Community Wiki is often used for questions of the form "Give me some examples of ...." – Gerry Myerson Aug 18 '11 at 2:07
• @Gerry: this doesn't seem to be universal (even here), but then you guys have both soft-question (equivalent to the [subjective] tag on SO that was killed a year ago) and big-list (= [poll]). If CW can aid in encouraging wiki-like behavior (editing...) over runaway Q&A (absurd numbers of answers), then fine, but... the crucial first question is still, "does this even belong here" – Shog9 Aug 18 '11 at 2:14
• Now, when anybody can suggest edits, the main effect of CW is not that answers can be edited, but that they don't generate rep, IMHO... – Grigory M Aug 18 '11 at 8:33
• @Shog9 Well, my point is, let's have a clear CW policy -- that can be enforced by moderators quickly -- and after question is CW already, community can decide, whether it should be closed (which is a long process with unpredictable results, it seems). – Grigory M Aug 18 '11 at 8:42
• I wrote the first example Calculus Today. Since it is "quite poorly-written", I would appreciate someone edit it. As far as the CW question, I will make my question a CW. – Américo Tavares Aug 18 '11 at 10:29
• I flagged my question (Calculus Today) to make it into a CW. – Américo Tavares Aug 18 '11 at 11:19
• @Grigory If the main purpose of CW becomes "no reputation", you then have to think for yourself - "Is it worth anything to this site?" If something is valuable to the site, it should generate reputation - you want to encourage the value you want to harvest. It's a lot more rewarding when a person is recognized for their efforts for providing value, so if it is something you find valuable enough to warrant a place on the site, it probably shouldn't be Community Wiki. If it isn't valuable, then you want to think long and hard about whether you really want to keep it around at all. – Grace Note Aug 18 '11 at 13:25
• @Grace Your definition of valuable looks somewhat... 1-dimensional to me: I find... good poetry, for example, valuable — but still don't think that posting it on math.SE should generate rep. And it's more or less the same thing with some questions and answers: community finds them valuable enough to have but not... let's say on-topic enough to generate rep. – Grigory M Aug 18 '11 at 13:33
• @Grigory I mean valuable to the site. Most poetry isn't of use to the site, but if something is desired to be on-topic and kept on the site, that it is something you want people to see when coming to the site and enjoy, then it should be something people can contribute to with full acknowledgement. If it is something you want to show off on the site, then you want people to feel it is worth it to contribute the best to make it shine its greatest. If it isn't something you want to show off, then perhaps Community Wiki solely for removing reputation is perhaps apt. – Grace Note Aug 18 '11 at 13:37
• @GrigoryM: moderators can close just as fast as they can CW a post. So if you have to ask a moderator to step in anyway (which you do for CW), you might as well ask for closing if that's more appropriate. Note that the community can override a moderator's close vote, but CW is irreversible (without further moderator intervention). – Shog9 Aug 18 '11 at 16:36
• @Grace, Shog: This approach is once again, in my opinion, a bad example to the approach which is useful on SO and not on MSE. The logic is that if it is valuable it should generate reputation is exactly to say if it does not generate reputation then it is invaluable. In this small community it is possible to reach a consensus within the core of users about valuable things. Reputation is just a bonus. Therefore things are valuable if they are valuable, and things generate reputation if they do that. The two notions are not completely orthogonal, but they are far from being the same. – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '11 at 18:22
• @Asaf My logic is that if you think that these soft questions are a valuable resource that you want people to find on this site, I have difficulty understanding why you would want to mark them Community Wiki. Vote-wise, they are on the exact same scale as contributions of "hard" questions, the image they provide for the site, to symbolize the community, doesn't change. All Community Wiki does is deny recognition to the authors of those contributions, and so if you want them to sit beside your hard content as quality voted material, I'm strained to see an actual benefit to marking them as such. – Grace Note Aug 18 '11 at 18:28
• @Grace: Reputation is not everything on this website. In particular, I think that reputation should come from accurate and well posed answers to questions which has such answer available. Subjective questions are still valuable but I do not agree that reputation must be earned from these. People may very well pay me to paint their house (a bad idea, though) but they will not pay me any money for voicing an agreeable opinion. They will, however, show a vote of confidence and say they support my idea. This is the correct analogy, I believe, here. – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '11 at 18:32
• @Shog9: Not to be dismissive, but the required level of maturity in the core users of SO seems be quite below that of the core level of MSE. Mostly because mathematics require a level of maturity which is less required for general programming (although it sure does contribute a lot when it is there). By this virtue the core users of MSE learn very well that sometimes one steps down from the reputation chase and writes an opinion they strongly believe in. And heck, if not for the reputation, there's always badges to chase :-) – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '11 at 19:06
• @Grace, Shog9: It appears to me, that again this is a very good example for dissonance between the math community and the big SO developers. Let me put it in this analogy, people who write in C their entire lives might not understand how can someone stand Common Lisp. Or Haskell. And to be fair, I see two options for a potential growth: the first is mature users who accept and understand the role of CW; the second is an explosion of reputation-chasing folks, trolls and so on. In which case, I will be leaving anyway. – Asaf Karagila Aug 20 '11 at 7:09