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Do we have/should we have community wikis?

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Over at Software Development, I've tried to write a self-answered Q&A that addresses the by far most common FAQ of all time in the topics of C and C++ programming.

When posting it on SO, I would have made such a post "community wiki", meaning that I would up all claims & credits for the post and the rep generated by it and let anyone edit it and add further details.

The only benefit of doing so for me as the author, is that I will be able to use the post as a "canonical duplicate" target in the future and close posts pointing at the canonical one. But that might be frowned upon in case I'm partial - it might be regarded as if I use close votes as a way to draw more attention to my own posts.

While what I truly wish for above all, is to have a nice, detailed post that I can clobber down endless FAQ duplicates with. (A bonus if it is better and more detailed than the corresponding post on SO.) I'm certain that similar FAQs exist all across the various Codidact communities.

My questions:

  • Do we have the ability to create community wikis? I can't find anything about it on the site.
  • If we don't have that ability, then should we have it?

I'm particularly interested in scenarios like the one above, to create canonical Q&A that can be used as duplicate targets. And not so much in creating general "good to know" posts/articles/documentation with a wiki separate from Q&A, for the reasons described here.

Why should this post be closed?

10 comments

Also for bonus points: if we can create high quality content here, that is better than the corresponding equivalent post on That Other Network, that gives us a reason to link to the content here, rather than to that other place. We have the advantage of all the lessons learnt from there - the equivalent of my specific example is a fragmented, scattered post with 28 answers over the years, where the top-voted one is quite shallow. Doesn't take much effort to outshine that patchwork. ‭Lundin‭ 20 days ago

I remember this being proposed already, but I can't seem to find it... ‭Dani‭ 20 days ago

We don't have it yet. An "anyone can edit" option for the author is something I'd like to see us do. ("Anyone" to be further clarified; probably means anyone who's gained the Participate Generally ability?) ‭Monica Cellio‭ 20 days ago

@‭Dani‭ There has been various community-specific proposals about adding a separate documentation/wiki category, which is related but still kind of a different thing entirely, like in that link at the bottom of my post. On the electronics site this was added as a separate "Papers" category. https://electrical.codidact.com/categories/35. Which I suppose would be one way to do it, except that category would end up quite spammy if it should contain all canonical dupes. ‭Lundin‭ 20 days ago

Or maybe I'm overreacting & nobody cares about imaginary internet points, so the whole partial thing is a non-issue? I personally stopped caring about them many years ago on SO, once I had unlocked all user moderator privileges. And from what I hear, a new system for moderation privileges unrelated to rep is getting rolled out? ‭Lundin‭ 20 days ago

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4 answers

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I wrote a GH ticket based on this suggestion, with the following expansion:


We should avoid the term "community wiki", which was sometimes confusing on Some Other platform too. If we need a name for the type of post that has this designation, we could call it "freely editable" or "shared resource" or something else.

The author of a post should, at creation time or in an edit, be able to designate a post as having this status. The author shouldn't be able to reverse this setting later, so there should be a suitable warning in the UI.

Setting this status should have the following effects:

  • The post is labelled somehow in the UI as being freely editable. (This might be accomplished by having the System user show up as the "author" or might be explicit. Maybe an icon with an informative tooltip?)

  • Anybody with the Participate Generally ability can edit the post without the edit having to be reviewed. Users without this ability can suggest edits.

  • The post does not contribute to anybody's "post score" computation (for abilities) or reputation.

  • MAYBE: change the license type? I'm not sure what would be suitable here. At the very least, "attribution" seems murkier with this kind of post.

To be determined: Should the post remain "owned" by the creator, or should it become owned by the System user? If the latter, should anybody receive edit notifications? (The author would have, but if it's System... that doesn't work.) One way to allow users easy access to their work, without retaining ownership, would be for System to own the post and for the initial revision to show in the author's actions. (All edits should show up as actions regardless; the initial post is the thing that might get lost if we don't take action.)


The GH issue links back to this meta post, so discussion here will be seen by whoever picks up this request.


I see there is some discussion in comments about a "wiki" category versus editable posts. Communities might also want to have wikis, but I think there are also use cases for canonical Q&A that's part of Q&A. Who can edit is orthogonal to what type of post is this, in my opinion. In a wiki category all posts should have this designation; they'll probably also all be articles, not questions and answers. But there might be canonical answers in Q&A that should, unlike all other Q&A, be broadly editable, so that's why I see this as a post-level designation.

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I agree that we should use another term. "Free for all"? Or maybe just change the author to a special bot? Then let all posts by that bot be freely editable. ‭Lundin‭ 20 days ago

@Lundin on your last point, that's what I had in mind with setting the System user as the owner (in my "to be determined" paragraph). I don't know if there are better ways, but that's a way. ‭Monica Cellio‭ 20 days ago

The author shouldn't be able to reverse this setting later, so there should be a suitable warning in the UI. With the exception that they should be able to reverse the setting if and only if nobody else has edited. For example, OP posts, decides it would be a good "Community Wiki" style article and holds off on updates to see what other people come up with. Nobody else does anything for 3 days, so OP decides to "own it" again and work on perfecting it, based on that feeling of ownership. ‭manassehkatz‭ 20 days ago

@manassehkatz I considered adding that (specifically if there've been no edits). I don't know how much that complicates the implementation (don't count this post for abilities, no do again / move it over to System, no move it back). Maybe only change ownership once there is an edit and the rest is easier? ‭Monica Cellio‭ 20 days ago

It shouldn't complicate things too much. Only the original author would have that option (revert from Community) and easy enough to check if there have been any later edits. Waiting to change ownership until after there is a non-author edit is more complicated and then doesn't show the "Community ownership to people passing by. ‭manassehkatz‭ 20 days ago

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Alternatively, we could just make a policy that it's OK to close vote posts as duplicates even when you are the original author. This was never explicitly forbidden on SE, but sometimes frowned upon.

Maybe code a mechanism where anyone can suggest a duplicate target, even if they are the original author (of the question and/or answer) themselves? But make it so that the actual close vote has to be carried out by another, impartial user. Or maybe a certain kind of flag?

Yet another alternative might be to give questions a certain "FAQ" status (by community consensus) and those questions with that status are always fine as dupe targets regardless of the original author(s) of the Q/A.

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To me the issues isn't so much "dupe targets" as making those particular posts more obvious/accessible. The typical user doesn't do a good job of searching for dupes prior to asking a question. But if they saw an obvious "article" about related topics, then hopefully they would read that before asking their nearly-duplicate question. ‭manassehkatz‭ 20 days ago

Our planned workflow for duplicates is: anyone can propose a duplicate; if the author agrees it's marked (done); otherwise the author is invited to edit or can dispute the duplicate suggestion (this has nothing to do with that). So yes, an author who finds or agrees with a dupe target can just go ahead and mark it as such. Not implemented yet, but that's the plan. ‭Monica Cellio‭ 20 days ago

I have never seen a problem with closing a dupe where the close voter wrote the parent, unless I get the sense that the close voter is just trying to get upvotes on the original because its only a dupe in the most remote sense. ‭Charlie Brumbaugh‭ 19 days ago

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At a high level, given the proposed use-cases of canonical FAQs and Wiki categories, this sounds like a somewhat more generic version of SO's documentation feature. What lessons can we learn from that experiment, and how can we avoid making similar mistakes?


Edit 6 Oct 2020 @ ~18:40 (UTC-5)

Given @‭Mithrandir24601‭'s points (lightly snipped for brevity)

  1. we're putting this functionality in at the start…and 2. … That we're selling ourselves as not just a Q&A site should, I hope, change the expectation of such features

…perhaps it'd be worth exploring the idea of evolving the canonical post into a first-class citizen from what's now essentially a byproduct of duplicate flagging.

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Another use case: resources on Languages & Linguistics. ‭Monica Cellio‭ 20 days ago

This doesn't fully address what you ask here, but I do see a couple of differences: 1. we're putting this functionality in at the start (which should at least help us understand what it is/isn't good for, I hope) and 2. The expectation of someone using SO is that it's a Q&A site, by how they sell themselves. That we're selling ourselves as not just a Q&A site should, I hope, change the expectation of such features ‭Mithrandir24601‭ 19 days ago

@Mithrandir24601 Those are perfectly fair points I hadn't thought of. Might have to make some edits. 🤔 Thanks. ‭ShowMeBillyJo‭ 19 days ago

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I have no real objection if others want a community wiki (or whatever it should be called) post type, but want to point out that these never really worked right on SE. I'm very unlikely to make of such a post type.

I can see how it sounds nice at first glance, but take a look at some real examples. The problem is that multiple authors don't always agree on style, content, presentation order, and any other of the many considerations a single author gives to their work.

These types of many-author posts suffer from the too many cooks in the kitchen problem. The result is usually too confusing or messy than the coherent vision of a single author.

I have had a few of my posts on SE converted to community wiki. None of those were good experiences. Especially when writing a canonical post, I think carefully about presentation order, formatting, how things are explained, what to get into and what not, etc. Others don't know what my design considerations were, don't care, and have different ones anyway. The result was usually adding something distracting I deliberately left out, put in the wrong presentation order, or whatever.

If others think they have a better way of presenting something I wrote, I'd rather they either mention it in a comment and let me decide, or write their own post.

I don't see a problem writing canonical posts that are then used to close duplicates, even if you're the one to suggest the closing. It tends to be the high-rep users that write the canonical posts, since they know what question keep popping up. Those are the people you want writing the canonical posts, and those are the people most likely to notice the duplicates. I don't see a problem here.

I also don't see a problem getting a rep bump from duplicates pointed at your canonical post. You're answering the question, and you did the work to make the answer available. The result is something beneficial to the site, so you should be incentivized to do that.

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I think this might be very specific to the particular community. On SO I've made lots of community wikis and the problem was rather to get others involved, rather than bad edits. Or it might simply be that SO is so vast that posts easily drown there. ‭Lundin‭ 20 days ago

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