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It has been more or less accepted that big-list questions can be useful and are welcome in the site. But I think we should try to define some guidelines on how these questions should be handled by the community.

I can see basically two kinds of approaches:

So, the questions, ¿Should we try to prefer one style over the other? And, if so, ¿which one?

In any case, I think any such question has to be made Community Wiki. First there is no “right” answer, big-list means many answers are expected. Moreover, the answers are likely to change over time (new packages coming making some old obsolete, new online resources showing up some going out). And I say this because the later example is not, yet, CW. (Does anyone has the power to do this yet? Or do we still need a moderator?)

Now, the advantage of “one item per answer” seems that we can discuss and vote answers individually. Which I think has been proven quite useful in the first example, so most common (useful?) answers naturally flow to the top. And it's easy to "amend" new or additional information to each answer as comments.

I also see the appeal of “one answer with all items”, it's all just right there, much less clutter, can be organized much more nicely. For example in the question about on-line resources, Stefan Kottwitz split his answers by Newsgroups, Webforums, FAQS, ... Which is impossible to do with the alternative approach.

Anyway, I think the “one answer with all items” has its problems. First, and that's why it should be CW, for ‘the’ answer there should be no editing etiquette, the only way to add new information is to edit said answer. For example, the answer for the online-resources doesn't mention resources in spanish, if the answer were to be made complete I should be able to add them.

But the problem is then that there is no way to “moderate” (as a community) the answers or the edits made to the “big-answer”. How can we know, from all the individual items, which ones are popular? which ones are more useful? But even worst, what happens if we all go an add all the links for all the (La)TeX online resources out there (the big and the small) in all the languages spoken in the world? Wouldn't just the answer become an useless bloat?

  • 1
    I think that it does need to be an actual moderator to wield the "wiki-hammer". I can't see anything relevant in the tools. – Loop Space Aug 13 '10 at 7:55
  • Indeed, this does seem to be the case. You don't get much power for 2k rep, it seems :-) – Joseph Wright Aug 13 '10 at 15:49
  • I guess posts can automatically become community wiki, for instance when they're edited by at least 5 different users or have got a very high number of replies. Seen on SO. So, the community has the power. :-) – Stefan Kottwitz Aug 17 '10 at 11:40
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Here's a radical suggestion: maybe we should allow both types on our site. This could get quite confusing, but if the "old hands" keep their wits about them and keep a close eye on big-list questions then it might be manageable.

The one-item-per-answer is good for sorting answers so it seems best for when although there is no one answer, each answer could survive as the only answer or where there is some sort of natural competition between the answers. The "which packages" question fits this as it is a bit of a popularity contest. One common characteristic of this is where the question is actually quite focussed (despite being big-list).

The one-answer-to-rule-them-all is good for when the answers complement each other. There's really no way to compare the texample site with the uk tug site, for example, as both do completely different things and Joe TeXer should know about both. In this case, it's more important to know the classification (as in Stefan's answer) than to know what other people think is the best.

Of course, there will be questions that are between the two. But that's where the beauty of accepting an answer comes in to play. By accepting the "one-answer-to-rule-them-all" answer, it stays at the top where it's most useful and the other answers then have a competition for second place.

To work, it would need people to keep a close eye on a question to ensure that it's clear which type of big-list question it is, and to point out the guidelines (CW, accepting the main answer) to the original questioner. But the pay-off is a good resource.

Regarding the example of adding other languages and so forth, the issue of overcrowding an answer is something to think of, but if you added them in their own section, clearly marked, then it would be easy to find and easy to ignore for those that didn't speak that language. If it's well organised, I think that length isn't going to be a problem. If it does, then perhaps there's a better place for it than here and we can just link to that better place.

  • For a question with already one “big-answer”, and if it's a CW, what is the incentive to “compete” for a second place if I can just go and edit the (by de facto already accepted) first answer? (I'm very tempted to go and edit Stefan's answer, but there is this whole editing etiquette that we haven't figured out either.) – Juan A. Navarro Aug 13 '10 at 9:44
  • @Juan A. Navarro: the thing to remember with CW questions is that it is not you who are competing for 2nd place but your answer. Why not have one answer with everything laid out in a nice hierarchical way and then also have all the same information laid out in one-per-answer so that people can vote on it. If appropriate that could be quite useful. With CW questions there is no other incentive than just trying to be as useful as possible. – Loop Space Aug 13 '10 at 10:07
  • I don't see this working in practice, but we'll see, there is an experiment running now. – Juan A. Navarro Aug 13 '10 at 12:41
  • @Juan A. Navarro: if you mean the "resources" question then that doesn't quite count as it isn't CW! – Loop Space Aug 13 '10 at 14:49
  • Yeah, exactly. Everything is wrong :S – Juan A. Navarro Aug 13 '10 at 15:45
  • @Juan A. Navarro: once we have some moderators, we'd be able to hit that one with the wiki-hammer and then it would have a chance of working. – Loop Space Aug 13 '10 at 16:42
  • The resources question has been hit as there's a common aggreement, the question exists since some time and there are many contributions. – Stefan Kottwitz Aug 19 '10 at 13:37
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Another idea that combines what @Andrew Stacey proposed: Have one big accepted answer that contains the good stuff, and the rest could be used as a comment/new suggestions/edits area, one item per post, and could be trimmed periodically when the info is incorporated in the main answer. This way, non-eligible users could also contribute (remember, you need 100 rep for CW edit). There shouldn't be "competition" between the non-accepted answers, but rather serve as a draft of what could be added/improved.

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Moderators, can we now please throw the wiki-hammer on the relevant big-list questions?? :P

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