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Background:

I was reviewing this question when I noticed that:

  1. it is a list question (i.e. open-ended, i.e. generally regarded as too broad)

  2. the OP posted two answers.

I have asked in the comments to the second answer to please merge them in accordance to our policy.

People have argued that the two answers should not be merged.

This has triggered two questions. The second can be found here.


Question 1:

What should we do with list questions?

Possible options:

  • not to allow them
  • allow them as any other question
  • allow them, but require that answers are CW (this is the option chosen by some other SEs)
  • other options (please mention your favourite in your answer)
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  • $\begingroup$ Can you clarify how that "our policy" link supports the merge viewpoint? The accepted answer there says "If you have different opinions of a single subject, you can write them in two answers.". My two answers only have the author in common, so by that policy they should be two answers. $\endgroup$ – Adam Jul 24 '19 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Adam I don't see how giving 2 examples from the same list can constitute "different opinions" $\endgroup$ – Federico Jul 25 '19 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ The word "opinion" came from the example that that answer used. If you step away from opinions, SE guidance is still for distinct answers to be distinct. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/25209/… $\endgroup$ – Adam Jul 26 '19 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Adam and I argue that those are not distinct answers. and this is not the question to discuss that. $\endgroup$ – Federico Jul 26 '19 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ I strongly believe that they are distinct. Note that one of the answers provides two examples of the same concept, so yes if I thought they weren't distinct I would have done exactly what you want and merged. Yes this is the question to discuss that, because you clearly bring up the point that it bothers you and that you want them merged. I've argued my position why I think lists should be done in the way I have done this one, and instead of providing a rebuttal it looks to me like you're just trying to steamroller me for some unclear reason. So goodbye. $\endgroup$ – Adam Jul 26 '19 at 22:02
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I only see a problem with list questions when they also have unclear metrics for inclusion.

Our guidelines only argue against "too broad", not against lists, so I don't see why we should preemptively take action against list questions when these have clear boundaries for what is a valid answer.

The benefit of a single canonical answer is questionable, in my eyes, compared to the drawback of lowered incentives to provide additional answers.

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    $\begingroup$ note that the last sentence is not what I ask here. $\endgroup$ – Federico Jul 26 '19 at 6:23
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What should we do with list questions?

As I argued in our chat conversation, I put forward the compromise solution which is to require list questions be community wiki (CW). If a question is a list question mods can turn it into community wiki and the effects of that apply to future (not existing) votes to the posts.

The benefits are as follows:

  1. List questions are still allowed, they often provide canonical insight into a subject and that's interesting for many users and visitors.

  2. Votes on CW posts don't affect reputation. That means, any concern of rep farming is gone.

  3. CW posts are still eligible for (some) badges. That means there's still incentive to provide good answers.

  4. The bar for improving these posts is lower, only 100 rep points are needed to edit them.

  5. Down voting doesn't come with a -1 rep penalty for the voter. That means it's easier to get users to down vote bad answers to have better quality control.

There are of course some obstacles:

  1. You no longer earn rep by posting these answers. That's a downside if you really spend time on writing a good answer and don't get rewarded as much as you normally would.

  2. Some don't like list questions at all, or at least not within the SE format. In that case, this isn't really a solution, but it might be preferable to having them as normal posts. Therefore, I called it a compromise solution.

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I guess the ideal solution would be to update the SE code to explicitly accommodate list questions, by permitting the user who asked a question to accept multiple answers as valid. Aside from questions about reputation, the main drawback I see with such questions is that only one reply can be accepted, and then it may become difficult to know which of the other answers are correct and which ones aren't (unless they're voted down).

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I'm the author of the question in question.

I think it's clear that the question itself has value and shouldn't be deleted or modified just because it asks for a list. Given the amount of votes and views I think many folks have gotten a lot of value from it. I know I've certainly learned a lot from the answers given, and have similarly enjoyed and learned from many "list" questions on this and other SE sites.

I provided two answers because I happened to know of them (one spurred the question in the first place), but they are certainly not exhaustive. The quantity and quality of other answers show this.

Now the concern at hand. I strongly believe my two answers should be kept separate. The ONLY thing they have in common is the author. Both are valid in their own right.

From a practical point of view, all the answers are valid answers to the question. In other words, the entire answer section becomes the list. Votes naturally order the list so the best elements are at the top. Indeed in this case if I merged my answers I would be bumping my less popular item over someone else's more popular item.

If we take the "list questions must get list answers" point of view, then the votes become "which is the best list", and naturally the answers become a union of each other or a single CW answer with a higher bar to contribution. Similarly the comment section becomes a mess, since conversations about different elements are interleaved with each other. This nearly happened here.

Indeed I'd argue that the answers that are lists should be broken up.

I agree there are downsides to individual answers:

  • Rep farming is a valid concern, though if you look at my profile you'll see I'm not interested in that here.
  • Only one item can get green check mark, even though all may deserve one. I view that as an understandable site limitation. I suppose giving a bounty to each answer is the best thing that can be done today, if the asker can afford it.

I think these are outweighed by the positives:

  • community can decide ordering of list
  • multiple versions of the same entry can exist, and community decides which is better
  • comments are close to what they are commenting about, forming logical threads
  • contributions are easier to make
  • no incentive to copy entries from other answers
  • more tidy

I'll go one further. If the merge viewpoint prevails, we should be logically consistent and merge all the answers into one list. Why does list item authorship matter?

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