0

On many other StackExchange sites, there are some excellent "big list" questions. These are basically questions that have many possible answers, and each answer may contribute such a question. The community decides by voting which are the best answers.

We have several questions that would lend themselves excellently to this format. A quick sample:

Right now, quite a few of them are on hold or about to be closed, and I think that would be a considerable loss for the site.

I think we should allow for "big list" questions, and create a specific tag for it.

2
  • 2
    This is from Robert who's acting as our moderator currently Feb 3, 2017 at 22:21
  • "On many other StackExchange sites, there are some excellent "big list" questions." - the only SE sites I'm aware of that allow such questions are Mathematics and Math Overflow. Maybe there are more, but I'm reasonably sure this is the exception rather than the rule. (Still, +1, because although I disagree with your conclusion, I do think this is a discussion worth having.) Feb 12, 2018 at 22:08

2 Answers 2

7

No, please, no!

Or rather... thank you for asking! But on reflection, I disagree that we should allow big lists as a matter of policy.

A Stack Exchange site is not supposed to be a forum. In general, answers should be complete (although of course, very often, multiple good answers are possible, offering different approaches).

Very occasionally, there may be a need for a catch-all question that requires a more collaborative approach, a canonical post. A canonical post, in my opinion, is (generally) not, and should not be, a big list, but an attempt to cover all angles of an issue comprehensively.

The post you linked to is a case where a big list is justified, because

  • the structure of the knowledge being shared lends itself to this format
  • each answer can be complete in itself as an item in the list
  • it would be impossible to incorporate all these answers into a single post or for one person to do all the work of compilation

None of the examples of questions here that you mention would work as a big list in my opinion.

Take the example of Do vegan instruments sound different from traditional instruments? which has been mod-closed by an SE staff member. We should assume that was done for a good reason. Can you imagine the big list of answers to this post? "In my experience, drums made from synthetic skins rather than traditional goatskin usually..." It could be a forest, it would go on and on and on and on. That question is too broad for sure, and answers would tend to be opinion-based too.

Considering Vegans: Besides supplements, what can substitute for Calcium? there is no need for a big list here. One or two or three posts by experts could cover all the significant sources.

This How much money would we save from going vegan? is unanswerable I think, though there might be several good questions in there that could be asked separately.

My view is that it is extremely unlikely that any area of knowledge about vegetarianism and veganism will lend itself to a big list format (which can make sense for knowledge about other topics, such as maths). If a post invites a big list, it is almost certainly too broad or polling for opinions, and those are classic close reasons.

That said, my imagination is limited; perhaps a question will come along that really does justify a big list, and that will be fine by me. But positively encouraging big-lists at this stage by making a tag and an inviting meta post is asking for trouble!

1

Young communities can sometimes tolerate big lists.

For the record I agree with Zanna's analysis, but think Zanna can go a step further in endorsing big lists in some occasions.

Big lists should be:

  • rare
  • a "community wiki" with one canonical answer
  • someone will do the duty of maintaining the canonical answer into a tidy form and further answers will be dissuaded
  • the canonical answer may require ongoing maintenance

You see why they should be rare? If v* becomes gargantuan these posts can be retrospectively locked when maintenance becomes untenable.

The structure of a "big list"

  1. The question knows it is a big list. It explicitly asks users to edit one canonical answer. The question-OP ought to start the answer.
  2. Make answer "community wiki" (I don't think SE has retired this feature?) so rep is shared. (Otherwise, OP should disperse rep via bounty as a courtesy).
  3. Other answers generally should be deleted and their content merged in the big list.
  4. Ideally the big list has lots of inline links and citations. (But not credit to who added it).
2
  • So basically the style of answer like this one?
    – Turion
    Feb 6, 2017 at 9:44
  • @Turion sort of, see my edit.
    – djechlin
    Feb 6, 2017 at 15:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .