We're seeing a bunch of List of X questions.

http://webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/353/what-are-some-resources-for-learning-the-ins-and-outs-of-htaccess

http://webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/216/what-are-some-good-resources-for-generating-privacy-policies-and-terms-of-use

http://webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/1965/bulletin-board-software-with-voting-capability-for-each-post

http://webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/2006/most-robust-open-source-php-cms-closed

(I closed this last one as subjective)

These tend to be relatively hot questions, and users gain a lot of reputation for basically stating opinion rather than answering a technical question.

In absence of specific guidance on these questions from our Stack Overflow masters, I would like to establish a site-specific rule for Pro Webmasters that we convert these to Community Wiki when we see them.

What's the community opinion on this?

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3 Answers

You should, of course make any community wiki if they are not.

These are my problems with those types of questions:

  • They quickly become so lengthy that duplicate answers are unavoidable
  • They attract "Thanks!" or "Me too!" answers (as well as SPAM)
  • They detract from more serious questions, where someone might be waiting for some help

That being said, there is some utility value to these questions, as long as they are:

  • Consolidated. All replies get condensed into one big answer, which shows the whole list.
  • Kept current. Links change, go away, companies get bought, it happens.
  • Protected. Once 15 - 20 answers are posted, we need to protect the question to help mitigate SPAM / etc. This means people will need at least 10 reputation to add to them.

After that, its really up to moderators when and if it gets locked. If it becomes a major headache (i.e. makes the flag list frequently), it needs to be locked.

The community (through votes and discussions here) has indicated that they want these types of questions. I think now its just finding a happy medium when it comes to moderating them.

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I think that for now, it might be good to allow them, especially as the community is growing. Closing too many questions might stifle it. And they are useful. That said, I'm in favor of protecting them with a minimum reputation requirement and making them community wikis. I'm not too concerned about spam and at a certain point, the me too posts never get seen anyways because they're buried on the last page. The cream usually rises to the top.

I really like the idea of a series of "Strengths and Weaknesses of X List". We probably have a good idea what a lot of them are going to be already, so why not start them to get the community going and to prevent them being asked at a later point? Just make sure to specify the format and then edit entries to make sure they follow it. One X per answer, list benefits and weaknesses in the comments. We could even keep track of them on the FAQ or a Meta X List that serves as a table of contents for all the obvious questions.

Off the top of my head, I could see the following X Lists being asked:

  • Text Editor
  • JavaScript Framework
  • CMS
  • Forum Software
  • Shopping Cart
  • Payment Gateway
  • Graphics Editor
  • List item
  • SEO Software
  • Analytics Package
  • Community Software
  • Form/Poll Software
  • Ad Server
  • Video Software

The community would probably benefit from resource lists as well:

  • Design
  • Typography
  • CSS
  • HTML
  • XML
  • JavaScript
  • Icons and Graphics

My main argument for allowing them is, they're going to happen anyway and they can be useful, so why not plant them and nurture them so they take the most useful shape?

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These questions are VERY valid and we should REALLY allow them to exist for the following reasons:

.1. These questions usually occur at a very special point in the development cycle: the very beginning. Why does that matter? It matters because once a decision is made, it will carry out through the whole project and will thereafter be supported.

Take the choice of a JS framework, or a BBS or a CMS. Pick the wrong one for your purposes, and thereafter, you will end up with a series of questions and problems that wouldn't exist if the right tools were used.

Besides, a lot of "How do I do X in Y?" questions are answered by "Use Z". It seems a lot more logical to make more efforts into helping people select the right tools in the first place.

.2. These questions can NOT be answered properly through a Google search. Google will give you a list of pretty much every product out there, but the real purpose of these questions is not to get just a list.

The goal is to get feedback and opinions on the various products from people who use these products, and which you trust to some degree or another.

Sure, I can type "bulletin board software" in Google and find 20 bulletin boards, all in less than 5 minutes, but Google won't give me the feedback from existing users and won't give me the possibility of asking specific questions that are of particular interest to me.

Also, people giving the feedback here are people which I would have already some opinion of and which I would trust above random strangers (especially those who have already taught me something valuable in their previous answers or questions.

In a sense, questions like these are an indicator of a true community forming, where people feel involved enough to trust other members' advices over those of complete strangers, implicitly.

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