We are picking up tons of subjective posts on superuser.com so far.

One way to mitigate this is to reduce the community wiki force threshold from 30 answers (as it is on SO, SF, and here) to 15 answers -- or maybe even 10 answers.

Any votes received prior to the 15th answer arriving are still counted, but once that 15th answer is posted, the question and all answers are forced into community wiki mode.

Goal: reduce incentive to post umpteen zillion …

What Are Your "Must Have" Thingamajigs?

… questions. They will almost immediately get 15 answers and thus, produce minimal rep gain from asking ultra-subjective, no-specific-answer questions like this.

Thoughts? Opinions? Feelings? Tyrannosaurus Rex?


based on feedback so far, I am setting the communiy wiki threshold to 15 answers on superuser.com for now

migrated from meta.stackoverflow.com Jul 22 '10 at 17:57

This question came from our discussion, support, and feature requests site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

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    I remember seeing an idea floating around MSO about making a vote-to-wiki option, similar to the vote-to-close functionality. Has that been declined? – gnovice Jul 18 '09 at 5:36
  • The post related to vote-to-wiki option: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5871 – Timothy Carter Jul 18 '09 at 5:37
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    Also vote-to-wiki suggested here meta.stackexchange.com/questions/333#373 – Timothy Carter Jul 18 '09 at 5:38
  • not a fan of vote-to-wiki for reasons I answered in the above – Jeff Atwood Jul 18 '09 at 6:13
  • @Jeff - Is it technically possible to also drop the rep requirement for just flagging a item close as community wiki? 3000 is a long way off for some of us to start voting. – Diago Jul 18 '09 at 7:07
  • Rather than "vote for wiki", I'd love "vote for subjective" -- as I can filter on tags, but I don't want to filter on wiki. I know, with 500 reputation one can retag, but voting might be preferred. – Arjan Jul 22 '09 at 11:01

Personally I never quite understood the logic behind forcing something to community wiki after X amount of posts. I understood the rule on edits, but not on answers. I can see why it would be a useful mechanism at dropping "popular" topics quickly, but at the same time I wonder if the end justifies the means (and whether it will adversely affect legit non-CW questions).

I honestly think it would be better if we had a definite rule in place concerning these types of posts, that way it would send a clear signal to the users to the types of posts should be CW. That way when more people are sure about what action to take, they can flag it immediately for mod attention and we can take care of it that much faster.

Edit: gnovice's comment at the top about possible vote-to-wiki actually sounds like a better solution (not great, but better).

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    +1 for vote to wiki, just allow anyone with more than 100 rep to vot-to-wiki, after 5 votes turn it to a wiki and retroactively remove the rep gain. – waffles Jul 18 '09 at 5:55
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    Sam Saffron: I don't know if I would set a limit that low. One thing you have to remember is the fact that once something goes CW, it can't come back (or at least I have never seen a method even on the moderator side to flip it back). It's not like closing where you can vote to close and reopen indefinitely. – TheTXI Jul 18 '09 at 5:58
  • @TheTXI, then make it reversible with a higher level reps being allowed to vote to unwiki. (which my poor old logviewer question would benefit from). the retroactive rep removal, would be a contentious feature, but I think its required if you want to cut down on these questions – waffles Jul 18 '09 at 6:03
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    what the hell kind of "question" has more than 30 possible answers? Seriously think about that for a minute. The line between "valid question" and "subjective discussion" is quite obvious to me -- the latter has a ZILLION 'answers' – Jeff Atwood Jul 18 '09 at 6:23
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    Sometimes a question may be difficult to answer though... what if it genuinely takes 10 / 15 / 30 / whatever answers before someone comes up with a satisfactory answer? I agree that doing this is probably the lesser of two evils, but to categorically say it cannot happen is a bit dogmatic. – jerryjvl Jul 29 '09 at 2:56
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    "What the hell kind of 'question' has more than 30 possible answers" is the wrong question. The right question is, "How many answers does it take before someone gets the right answer, or one that satisfies the asker? And I think the answer to that is, it depends. – richard Jun 23 '11 at 16:20

I'm all for some general mechanism that discourages questions that lead to never ending discussions, but ten answers is not a good indicator of that type of question.

Consider my question: How do I set up SSH so I don't have to type my password?

It is a specific question with a specific answer that I think is the type of question that should be encouraged. Yet, it is community-wiki because of wrong or incomplete answers.

  • OT, but you should probably downvote wrong answers to avoid confusing future readers... – Shog9 Jul 19 '09 at 0:34
  • I will start to do that. – richardhoskins Jul 19 '09 at 0:41
  • ok so maybe 10 is a little low, and we can adjust it to 15. That's a freakishly large number of answers in my experience, so I'm not sure it's representative. Now if you could point me to a half-dozen other examples, perhaps.. – Jeff Atwood Jul 19 '09 at 9:41
  • The question may be a black swan, but I still feel aggrieved. There are all sorts of things going on in Superuser that may have contributed to the large number of answers. People not being reputable enough to edit or comment on existing answers, for example. – richardhoskins Jul 19 '09 at 14:59
  • I did bump the limit up to 15, as 10 seemed a little low. – Jeff Atwood Jul 22 '09 at 10:10

Good plan - give it a shot. If it works out, you should do this on SO as well...


I definitely think this is a good and needed idea; there are an overwhelming number of subjective questions that should be CW being asked right now. So, I think changing this, at least for now, is a excellent plan. Perhaps it should be revisited in the future and put back to 30 if deemed necessary, but in these early days it definitely seems necessary to me.


I don't like this idea because it could simply be a challenging question in which a lot of people post different answers. What your trying to do to detect the subjective questions to try and prevent vote-harvesting but I really think that answer count is a poor way to do it, getting the community to do so is a better option.

Another way is to try and condition people to make a subjective question as wiki. That’s what I do when I ask a Wiki question and people should make better use of down votes to enforce this behavior.

After all, if it’s unfair for user to get rep via a community wiki question then they should get none. Why does someone who doesn’t make their question as Wiki get 100 rep when those of us who do get 0.

  • I would agree with you that it seems fairer to delete any accumulated rep from a question that subsequently becomes community wiki - otherwise it will encourage hit-and-run questions that are obviously community wiki in the first place – Joe Schmoe Jul 19 '09 at 10:36
  • remember, people can still vote up and down. Don't think a question belongs? Vote it down. Otherwise, you're asking me to give you a gun -- a tool to deny reputation to other users. – Jeff Atwood Jul 22 '09 at 10:58
  • Exactly, What's wrong with this approach. If something is subjective and should be community wiki then let the community decide via voting. If the community thinks it should be wiki, and it isn't, then we can vote it down leaving a community kindly informing the poster to make it a wiki. – Damien Jul 22 '09 at 11:29

If the crew feels the need to reduce these kind of questions (and I agree), then why not adjust the rules and state they're unwanted? And hence close them?

  • They are unwanted. But they keep popping up faster than they can close them. And as found out, normal users are only allowed 10 flags. Which burns up quick on SuperUser. – random Jul 29 '09 at 1:17
  • @random - I think that's where the problem may start. There really doesn't seem to be a wide consensus that these questions are unwanted. We don't have this problem (for the most part) on Stackoverflow because there is a pretty clear statement of what belongs. And basic peer pressure keeps everyone on the same page. The same exact people are on Superuser but I don't see that same cohesion-of-purpose on that site. The most responsible people are still posting the most useless questions that help neither them (they don't really want an answer) nor the site (no useful archive is created). – Robert Cartaino Jul 29 '09 at 16:27

That's dangerous, a malicious group of users could turn almost every post to wiki this way and not even pay the downvote penalties for inadequate answers. Don't automate such non-undoable change based on arbitrary constraints, instead, have a moderator's attention if the answers get above a certain threshold - unless you can provide an AI to make decision based on the contents. Use the power of the community!

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    are you kidding me? The mods and users wouldn't notice 10+ users posting garbage to every question? They'd be IP block banned within the hour. – Jeff Atwood Jul 19 '09 at 9:40
  • How would you know their intend when they post only grade A-B answers, but not crap. – kd304 Jul 19 '09 at 10:13
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    that would take far too much work -- you'd have to post plausible answers to not get flagged and downmodded into oblivion. I suggest you gather a posse and try this if you think you can make it work. Good luck -- you're gonna need it. – Jeff Atwood Jul 22 '09 at 10:59

I really like this idea.

No matter how much you prod and poke users through verbal text that "this or that" should not be done on the site, there will always be those who either ignore those guidelines deliberately and maliciously, or simply through not reading the instructions.

There has to be some kind of enforcement to backup the verbal requests. Unless you have moderators reading every single question all day long, it will have to be done through some kind of automated mechanism.

As Jeff implies, a specific, focused question really can't have a vast number of different answers, so I like this approach.

In the worst case, it means that people don't gain reputation (any further) from answering the question. I don't think that is such a painful thing to trade off against the long term value of the site. It doesn't even stop people answering the question unlike "closing" the question would.

And if the question asker gets 10+ answers to a question, then they are probably going to be reasonably happy anyway. Sure, you could get groups that collude maliciously to wikify questions on purpose, but it should become reasonably obvious when this happening and this is where the moderators will need to step in to take manual action against those users.

I think SuperUser in it's generality more closely approximates what a StackExchange site on a non-technical subject might be like - which I am interested in. So I am keen for some kind of automatic rule enforcement to prevent any future StackExchange site degenerating into a free-for-all when exposed to the wilder and darker sides of the net.


I don't see how the number of answers defines a question as being "wiki." Is that what a wiki is?

The idea of tying two unrelated pieces of functionality together feels like a "code smell," at least in a system design sense. It seems like an attempt to automate away some basic, human functions of site moderation. I feel a similar "uneasiness" about turning questions into wikis because of multiple edits. It ties two pieces of functionality together that are unrelated and the wrong solution to the problem.

Either a question is a wiki or it isn't. But it's a subjective decision, not "automate-able."

If the original poster got it wrong, that's what moderators (or the community) are for. I have a bad feeling that if you try automating the whole process through a mish-mash of algorithms and constraints and database queries, it's going to become a unmaintainable mess and nobodies going to "get it."

This isn't the same thing as tweaking up/down-vote reputation weights to bring balance to the system. This is the basic definitions of what should, and what should not, be on the site.

Random thoughts section:

  • Have a clear statement of what Wikis are for coupled with a clear statement of what kind of questions should (and should not) be on the site (not wikis, but closed outright).
  • Possibly a "needs to be wiki" function when flagging a post.
  • If technically possible, a way to reverse a wiki (back to a question) if someone got it wrong. Then "vote to wiki" could be handled identically as "vote to close."
  • Do we need wikis at all (definitely a random thought). For those rare cases where they work, we're back to "capping max reputation per question."

I think wiki should be rare, anyway.

  • "I have a bad feeling that if you try automating the whole process through a mish-mash of algorithms and constraints.." don't ever work for Google! :0 – Jeff Atwood Jul 29 '09 at 3:20
  • also, this system has been working quite well on SO for about 9 months. If your "question" has 15 - 30 "answers", it is not a specific question. It's a broad discussion. – Jeff Atwood Jul 29 '09 at 3:23
  • True but, then again, trying to human-moderate Google is more analogous to drinking from a firehose. But on your sites, you have more than enough people willing and capable of keeping everything moving smoothly. They just need the guidance, tools, and checks & balances. – Robert Cartaino Jul 29 '09 at 3:30
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    unhealthy to have rep-denial tools in the hands of users who have a vested interest in denying other users rep. The algorithm makes it fair, not "I deem this wiki and therefore you get no rep." – Jeff Atwood Jul 29 '09 at 3:58
  • Hmmm... Unfortunate. I guess I am always looking for that elegant "general theory of everything" philosophy; a solution that is so simple and all-encompassing that I could scribble it on the back of an index card. What you built here with 'Reputation' + 'Badges' + 'wide-spread consensus' comes pretty damn close. – Robert Cartaino Jul 29 '09 at 21:14

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