So far, we've been closing questions like this one that are looking for, rather than one answer, a "big list" of possibilities, all arguably of the same value.

Certainly the point of the site is to find the answer to a problem. However, in parenting "the" answer often varies a lot from kid to kid. Sometimes you just keep trying solutions until something works.

Thus far, I've been behind the policy of closing "big list" questions, under the assumption that it was needed to maintain a decent signal/noise ratio. However, I've learned that one of the other stack sites I visit has a different policy -- one I think may be worth emulating here on Parents.SE.

When a question's only issue is that it's a "big list" question, it is tagged "big-list" so that those uninterested can ignore if they choose to, and converted to Community Wiki. This policy would facilitate "big list" questions that do have value to the site, without messing with the gamification model or forcing this borderline-ontopic question style on anyone disinterested in it.

Thoughts?

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Related answer on another question: meta.parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/87/… –  cabbey May 14 '11 at 21:48

3 Answers 3

I've been thinking about the tag name and I think we don't actually need any tag at all. We should just convert to community wiki, and that's it. We still need a guideline to determine when it should be a community wiki of course. But why have a tag for it? -- torbengb

This. That's the answer. And the system will handle it for you...

But... Allow me to elaborate... And quote from The FAQ:

Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site [...] avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite __?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use _ for _, what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if __ happened?”
  • [...]

Right away, you should be very, very skeptical toward questions that specifically ask for a big honkin' list instead of... well, answers. List-building is popular, appealing as it does to both bored readers and OCD-sufferers... But rarely is it actually useful. Google will happily give you a big list - no telling which part of that list will actually be useful to you.

So yeah. Your knee-jerk reaction to such a question should be to close it. Close it as a duplicate of an existing, more-focused question, or close it as Not a Real Question. Just shut it down before it runs away on you...

...But on those rare occasions where the "list" is actually something useful as a list, then... Don't do anything. Really, you don't need to. Definitely don't go branding it with meta tags.

If it actually gets a significant number of answers, the system will make it - and all answers - Community Wiki. On most sites, that threshold is 30 answers; on sites that tend to get a lot of list questions, this can be reduced.

But you don't want to be one of those sites, right? You want answers to questions, help for desperate parents searching for answers in the wasteland, water of life for parched souls in search of knowledge, not rambling lists... right?! And so you'll take an axe to thoughtless list questions as they crop up, and then gently guide their authors into asking actual questions...

But... If lists are to be a fundamental part of Parenting, then you'll go post a for the 15-answer CW threshold.

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I propose this solution. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 15 '12 at 9:07

I think this is a good idea, particularly for a site as subjective as this. But there are pitfalls:

For one thing, we need to set a clear limit so this won't degrade into a catch-all basket that legalizes off-topic content.

Also, a large number of our questions are calls for suggestions where there is no single best answer:
- What can I do to encourage my 12 year old son to do more productive things?,
- How can I get my son to stay in bed at bedtime?,
- Do's and dont's for an effective bedtime ritual ...and many more.
Are these "big-list" questions? We need to establish a definition to determine whether a question is a "big-list" issue.

I think the tag name should be more self-explanatory. Perhaps suggestion-box? This would at least hint toward the idea that there can be good suggestions but there's no holy grail, in an attempt to downplay disagreement.

Update:
I've been thinking about the tag name and I think we don't actually need any tag at all. We should just convert to community wiki, and that's it. We still need a guideline to determine when it should be a community wiki of course. But why have a tag for it?

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Seems like a good idea in general. My only concern is this site is especially prone to more-than-one-way-to-do-it answers compared to other SE sites, and it seems like slight rephrasings of the questions might make the difference in whether it is classified as big-list or not. For example, "How can I get my child to eat vegetables?" and "Here is one way I found to get my child to eat vegetables, but I can't use it every meal. What are some other ways?" would garner very similar lists of answers, but only the latter is likely to get tagged big-list.

Maybe a rephrasing edit, or a short wait to see what kind of answers come about is in order? If the list turns out to be very short, or one answer clearly stands out as the answer, it would look a lot more like on topic questions than off.

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"(...) this site is especially prone to more-than-one-way-to-do-it answers compared to other SE sites (...)" - this. Absolutely. –  SQB Jan 17 at 10:22

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