I ran across the following question on the hot question list: Nice scientific pictures show off

By StackExchange rules, this question is clearly not suitable. It is far too broad. Also, it is a "big list of X" question, which is generally considered inappropriate for the StackExchange format. Yet (at the time of writing) it has 70 upvotes.

Do we follow the standard StackExchange rules on this site? Or are there different rules for this site that make this question suitable on this site? If so, what are those site-specific rules?

I've read How to manage big lists? and What exactly do we believe about Community Wiki posts? but I'm not clear on what the bottom line is nor how this specific question complies with those guidelines.


3 Answers 3


Yes, this site follows different rules than most of the StackExchange sites do. This is given by a particularly specific topic (*TeX systems are very specific) which is mostly used by a particular type of people. So while on StackExchange such questions are in general frowned upon, we believe that these "showcases" provide a good reference for other people, so they have their purpose.

Needed to say, you in general don't want to "showcase" what crazy things people do in C++ for instance, and if you do, it's not on StackOverflow but rather on Programming Puzzles & Code Golf.

Considering the concerned question, the only wrong thing is probably that it is not a community wiki one.

The above should be sort-of a general objective opinion I hope. If you asked me personally, I don't like this one, but I'm not really bothered by its existence.

And I would recommend you settling down around this place a bit more (I've noticed this meta post is your very first post on TeX.SX, so welcome!), I hope you'll find that this place is different, but it is different in a good way.

  • 2
    Thanks for the advice. As far as settling down around this place... understood. I've been using and following this site intermittently for almost 2 years now: I haven't posted any questions or answers myself, but I've read quite a few questions and answers.
    – D.W.
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 2:41
  • @D.W. That's cool! Seeing you have like 90k cumulative SE rep, it probably doesn't make so much sense, but still: You can have a look at our starter guide to familiarize yourself further with our format :D
    – yo'
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 8:30

I think it's important to remember that the 'bigger' StackExchange picture is that each site is a 'community'. On the 'main site' (StackOverflow), the community feeling is very much to avoid list-type questions. A classic example of one we have and I think most people on TeX-sx feel is useful is LaTeX Editors/IDEs. I guess you have to remember that the 'StackExchange rules' are more guidelines, and can't be equally appropriate to all of the network.

On the question you've pointed to, like tohecz I'm not that keen on it but I'm also not seeing it as an issue. So for me this comes down to 'community': I note that lots of people do like it (lots of upvotes), while there is not a strong negative feeling (no close votes, no flags).

  • 10
    Note that the moderators on TeX-sx do much less of the 'enforcing' side of things than on the main site, so without a strong feeling from the community it's unlikely a question will be mod closed. The usual reason for using the 'mod hammer' is when something is very clear and can be hurried along, e.g. massively off-topic questions.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 7:18

As a faculty member who teaches an annual "Technical Writing Using LaTeX" class, I find the "Big List" questions with multiple answers very useful.

  1. Students can quickly be shown a very broad answer or survey to a topic.
  2. The multiple answers in a list are very motivating when I first introduce a topic in LaTeX.
  3. Extremely valuable is the inclusion of MWE for each item which allow the student to get the code and attempt various modifications without being tangled into the details early in the learning process.
  4. The comparative lists (such as IDE, or distributions, or tools) are very valuable when showing students the options available.

The availability of "Big List" Q&A is one of the key items I use to sell students on using this site as a reference when a question occurs. And I do spend time in showing them how to efficiently search the site.

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