An important number of flags that are raised in the main site asks mods to turn questions into CW mode. This is usually due to the fact that those questions do not have one answer, but many. Two recent examples are 62565 and 62608.

I have never done this (other mods do CW-ify, though) because I do not understand why anyone should want to deprive an answerer —to any question— of the symbolic contribution of rep points. That a question admits many answers does not at all mean that providing them has zero cost for the answerer (in terms, say, of effort), nor that some of its answers may end up being more useful to some users —who, in that case, would have motivation to upvote them— and so on and on.

I do understand what's the point of making an answer CW: a user may feel that she herself does not deserve the recognition of rep points coming from upvotes (for example: she may me writing an answer simply as the result of collecting information posted by others in comments) But presumably this would be a decision taken by the author herself and which only affects her. CW-ifying a question deprives others —the ones doing the work, in fact!— of quantifiable recognition, and that is rather different.

Can the frequent «turn this into CW» flaggers explain why they want this?

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    $\begingroup$ Remark: CW also removes the onus from the OP to necessarily choose an answer. Non-CW questions for which there are answers but the OP choose not to accept any will negatively impact his "answer acceptance rate". CW questions won't. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Sep 7 '11 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ In this case, I am a culprit, even if I didn't flag the questions for CW myself. I was of the understanding that a question that asks for a big list of answers, but has no single correct answer, is usually flagged for CW. And I believe both of these fit the bill, so I commented saying exactly this. $\endgroup$ – Srivatsan Sep 7 '11 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ Related: What kind of questions should be asked as CW? $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Vogt Sep 7 '11 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ ...Also: Community Wiki? $\endgroup$ – Grigory M Sep 8 '11 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ One more reason to mark some questions for CW: (example) $\endgroup$ – Grigory M Sep 8 '11 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ Meanwhile, on the planet Krypton... :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 11 '11 at 19:16

As a frequent flagger for CW, I think it is my duty to respond here.

The C/W mode on questions is something that for some reason the administrators of the SE networks somewhat try to push down. I am not sure why, but it is possible that SO is too big to have these things.

On the other hand, math.SE as originally somewhat a derived site (a core base of users came from MO in the early days of the site) is a lot more relaxed about setting questions community wiki.

Since SO is a "hacker" sort of site, it is indeed prune for troll-edits and childish behavior from disgruntled users, whereas math.SE (at least in my view) is to some extent immune to this, mostly by the fact that mathematics usually speaks to a relatively mature crowd (yes, there is the point that SE-passports are given 100 points for free, which allows them to edit CW posts. This whole thing is something I am against anyway.)

I am very much happy for good questions, even those that I flag for CW. I believe, however, that as a mathematically inclined website the reputation should be given for a good mathematical question. Questions which are -like, -like and so on should be given the respect as highly voted answers, many answers, high activity, badges and so on.

Questions which are in essence meta-mathematical (and not in the mathematical meaning of meta-mathematics, but rather questions about doing mathematics and about mathematicians work, etc.) are not to be encouraged. They are not to be discouraged either, since this is a perfectly fine place for them to be asked, but this is still mathematics.SE and not mathematicians.SE.

Much like the SE team wants to "softly"-discourage CW questions, but not completely remove the option - I am trying to "softly"-discourage meta-mathematical questions, but not completely shoot them as off topic.

With sort of questions, it is the same idea. I don't think we should encourage people to start asking more "List of stuff" just for the sake of reputation. I don't want to think of this site becoming a math-big-list.SE sort of site - in the worst imaginable scenario (yes, this is somewhat of a hyperbole, but it is only to convey the point).

To sum the above points, much as CW questions are gently discouraged by the platform, I think that big lists and soft questions should be not-encouraged on this site. Yes, it's fine to ask those - but this is not the primary use for math.SE and I see no reason to let people earn "some rep. on the side" for that.

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    $\begingroup$ My reasons for flagging things to be made CW are essentially the same as Asaf's. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Sep 7 '11 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ While I understand the logic in this point, some things make me think a bit. You don't agree that soft questions are a primary use for the site, but certainly it's agreed by the community that they do belong, aye? They compete amongst your top mathematical questions in terms of votes, and votes aren't hindered by community wiki. They aren't overwhelming, though - only 2% of questions have the soft-question tag, and for top results they're actually few and far between. big-list is even smaller. The total impact isn't bad, it seems. $\endgroup$ – Grace Note Sep 8 '11 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Grace, I can honestly say that it is easier for me to vote a soft question if it is CW. When a soft question is not CW it is tenfold the consideration whether or not I should vote it, and any of its answers. On the other hand, when one of the "motivational tools" is disarmed from an otherwise possibly explosive situation, I find it easier to vote. In fact, I believe that the relatively extensive use derived from MathOverflow comes form the fact mathematicians see MO (and to some degree MSE) sites for mathematics, and wish not to take reputation from soft questions and big lists. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 8 '11 at 21:59

Up to now I have flagged two questions (of mine), 52139 and 58104, to be made CW. The first one was a reference request. As for the second I asked the moderators to convert it into a CW after some answers had been posted. The main reason was I had tagged it as a soft question and it had appeared as an example in a meta question concerning CW.


You might find


of interest.

As I see it, community wiki has two uses now:

  1. to discourage marginal questions that are still of some utility, but risky in that they might attract more of the same or too much attention for the wrong reasons

  2. to truly encourage a collaborative answer... it's not so useful for questions as a question that starts community wiki has "one foot in the grave".

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    $\begingroup$ How does 1 is different than my answer, and why do diamond users keep insisting that it is not the case? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Sep 10 '11 at 15:06

(1) The rep issue, as Asaf has described in detail. In particular, I'd rather not award rep for posting meta-mathematical questions.

(2) The converse of (1):I'd be much more willing to downvote bad advice that was given in good faith, ie. book or self-study recommendations that are not appropriate to the OP's stated background. For mathematical questions, I reserve downvotes mainly for a breach of community norms, preferring to leave a comment for inaccurate answers.

(3) It's a way of signaling that the question is somehow "not as serious."

If a question is valuable enough that you believe it belongs on the site, chances are you don’t need it to be community wiki! We welcome all contributions which improve the quality of a site and advertise its greatness to the rest of the world. If you allow a certain class of questions, but only under the stipulation that no one can earn reputation from them, you’ve strongly discouraged these sorts of questions. People aren’t going to put in nearly as much effort to ask them. 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.

The above just isn't the case for self-study questions, book recommendations, etc. These questions are intrinsically different from actual mathematical questions, and can't be somehow "improved" into the type of questions this site is really for. But, especially for those without a direct connection to academia, this site is probably the only place that will provide good answers to questions about self-study, project recommendations, and the like. CW seems, at least to me, like the right balance between accepting these questions as part of the norm and eliminating them outright.


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