Why was this answer made into a wiki? Should a moderator remove its community wiki status?

  • the answer was made a community wiki, because it essentially copied a previous answer from SFF, and no legwork other then riposting an answer was done.
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 18:25
  • @Himarm Was it intended to be a CW or was the author told to make it one? Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 18:25
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    @Himarm Which has never been a reason to make an answer CW. CW is not and has never been for eschewing the concept of reputation and a huge part of many good answers is quoting external sources. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 18:25
  • 3
    he answered as community wiki on purpose as he felt he shouldnt benefit simply by linking another users work.
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 18:26
  • @Himarm. we even adressed the problem in this question Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 18:29
  • Being "fine" is not the same as an answerer being OK with it.
    – phantom42
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:34
  • @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach The reason is the answer was copy/pasted. The CW makes the answer freely editable if the original source of the answer changes.
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:56
  • @Skooba That's an interesting viewpoint you might want to share in an answer. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:57
  • @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach I posted on the broader discussion on this issue: meta.literature.stackexchange.com/a/530/56
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 20:15
  • 8
    You know, of all the meta questions that could have become heated, it's somehow intensely funny to me that this one did.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:09

5 Answers 5


Should a moderator remove its community wiki status?

No. I would consider this a violation of the author's prerogative. They have the choice to make their answer CW, which affects only their answer; overriding that under normal circumstances would be akin to forcing them to accept an edit - putting their name and image on words they explicitly rejected.

A bit of background: Community Wiki has a long and troubled history on these sites, primarily because of its use in the now long-distant past on questions as a means of allowing otherwise-unsuitable discussions, polls and the like. For a very long time, the system actually forced CW onto posts that attracted either a large number of answers or a large number of edits... But we put that behavior to rest nearly 3 years ago now, leaving the use of CW at the discretion of answer authors in the common case, and moderators for extremely uncommon cases:

An author can still apply the status manually when posting or when editing their own answer, and moderators retain the ability to apply it when they deem it truly necessary (for instance, a question attracting very large numbers of partial answers can be a sign of a topic that wants to be a wiki). For the most part, we’ve turned it back into something that you can choose to use in cases where it lets you work together to create something wonderful: [...]

Much longer background: chimerical moral rights

These sites are a delicate balance between multiple systems and philosophies. The original documentation explained them with this diagram:

a potent cocktail of wiki, blog, forum and... link-sharing thingy

Naturally, this results in a fair bit of conflict between how folks expect things to work and how they actually work - on all sides of the equation. A member used to a traditional online forum might expect to post questions or replies and never update them; a blogger might expect to update their own posts but never see another editor messing with them; a wikian might expect to readily edit anything.

Achieving a harmonious balance of expectations here is critical to the long-term viability of a community.

When the goal of a site is to serve as a repository of information for future readers, a sense of community ownership is needed - we cannot forever hold an individual author responsible for updating or even disseminating information. At the same time, individual ownership provides a great deal of motivation: both the reputation score and the simple ability to point to a profile filled with useful, informative posts are extremely satisfying to many who participate here. So we cannot entirely overlook one in favor of another without either alienating other members of the site or hurting its usefulness.

And in the place where this system sits - in between extremes - there lives an often-overlooked set of concerns, something often referred to in legal areas as "moral rights". As is often the case with concepts that've been codified in law, finding a clear, succinct explanation for these can be difficult; I like this one, which I found on the website of the Australian law firm Epiphany Law in the article, "What Are Moral Rights?"

In contrast, the moral rights recognise the connection between a creator and his or her work. They are concerned with whether the creator has been properly linked with the work and whether the work has been treated with dignity (or at least not in a derogatory way).

Consider for a moment what these sites do with the material that we all write on them: they combine it with the work of others, allow others to modify it, and allow others to take and build upon it. Your beautiful question may be sullied at any time by an answer you find offensive, or advertised on another site dedicated to a topic you find reprehensible; your carefully-crafted answer may be shown next to a sloppy and incorrect one, quoted by someone who misinterprets it. They're still "your" posts, but you've ceded control over how they are used, and this opens you up to situations in which you may find yourself very unhappy with the uses they are put to.

This is a dilemma that we've struggled with for the entire 9+ year history of the network, and the often-subtle underpinning of a great many odd features and unusual rules. To name a few:

  • By default, authors can delete their posts for any reason... But if the post has proven itself useful in some way, or been build on by the work of others, deletion may be prevented or reversed.

  • By default, authors have the final say in what appears in their posts... But if a given edit is deemed necessary to preserve or greatly increase its usefulness, they may be overruled.

  • Authors can delete their account at any time... But we may retain any posts associated with it that have been deemed useful to others.

  • Authors can request that their name be removed from a post at any time. This is actually codified in Section 4(a) of the license to which all participants must agree to post under, though exactly how we implement it can vary.

But among all the features in this system, Community Wiki is by far the strangest and least well-understood.

Hunt the CWumpus

The actual function hasn't changed in years - a post marked as CW differs from a normal post in that they...

  • ...do not contribute to the reputation score of its original author or any subsequent authors.
  • ...do not contribute toward certain badges, including tag badges.
  • ...can be edited without peer review by any member of the site who has earned the edit community wiki privilege.
  • ...are attributed on the question page only to the original author by name, and only as long as that author has contributed a majority of the text in the post. If a subsequent editor achieves a large majority of authorship, their name will be displayed; if no large majority can be attributed to a single author, no name is displayed by default; rather, a link to the revision history containing each author's contribution is displayed.
  • ...never display an author's profile image or other profile statistics on the question page.

The goal of this feature is clearly to bump a given post a little bit further away from the "forum" side of that euler diagram and a little bit closer to the "wiki" side. But what that actually means goes much further than just making it a bit easier for others to edit: there's a very clear de-emphasis of author-ownership, both in how the post is displayed and in how the system treats it. This is made explicit when an author elects to make a post CW:

A few things to note there:

  1. You're giving up explicit ownership. Behind the scenes, your account still "owns" the post (it appears in your profile, you get more weight when approving or rejecting suggested edits, you get notified of comments, you can still delete it). But you don't get ultimate credit for it, either in terms of how it is displayed on the page, or in terms of how the system rewards you for it.
  2. You can't "take it back". Once you've handed over ownership to the community, it's theirs - the status sticks to the post no matter how many subsequent edits you make... Or how few subsequent edits anyone else makes.

Community Wiki got a bum rap for years, mostly because it was forced onto posts by the system or other users. We had good intentions there, but... It was a bad idea and we no longer do that. What remains is actually pretty cool, if you look at it from the perspective of what it enables: authors can symbolically give up ownership of a post at any time.

Note that this clearly isn't a legal action; that pop-up dialog is less than a page long. You retain the copyright to anything you write here. But it does align itself with some of those moral rights we discussed earlier: you get to say - in a public way, totally under your control - that you no longer want sole credit for a given post.

For all of the controversy that has plagued CW over the years, that particular usage has remained remarkably consistent: as far back as I can remember, folks have reached for CW when they didn't feel like taking credit for an answer. Now, sometimes this has seemed a little bit dirty, even manipulative: marking a post CW to avoid getting dinged by downvotes, or to keep your reputation at an even 10K for example. But it's also been used to acknowledge the contributions of others to a FAQ or omnibus answer - even if no one else ever edits, by de-emphasizing the author more focus is put on the words - and attributions - in the post itself.

And on the topic of...


One of the most often-cited criticisms of authors using Community Wiki on answers is that they might do so to shield themselves from the penalty imposed by downvotes. This is almost never valid; in nearly any situation where it would matter, the author is allowed to delete the post at any time, which also immediately refunds any reputation lost to downvotes. In fact, CW makes downvotes on answers free to the voter as well, which can mean a bad answer is more readily downvoted. Moderators and trusted users are not hindered from deleting CW answers, so nothing in the status hinders moderation and may in fact encourage it.

The more subtle concern I think is...

Peer pressure breaking windows

A long, long time ago, when Stack Overflow was young and the rocks were still all red and soft, a few of us got it into our heads that it'd be a great idea to pressure other people into making their posts CW in cases where they were clearly undeserving of reputation.

...we didn't have very good luck with this and eventually gave up. But, the fact remains, we did try. And maybe others would try again, somewhere else where the proverbial rocks are still soft and runny. So, the specter looms whenever CW is brought up.

I sympathize with this. But, ultimately it is harassment that is the problem here, not CW. If, for example, it becomes commonplace for authors to use CW on posts that are mostly quotes, then what harm is there in that if they do so by choice? Either the answers are problematic in the same way that they would be without CW, or they are not problematic; only if the authors are harassed when they do not use CW is there a problem, just as there is a problem when authors are harassed for any other reason.


If an author chooses to use Community Wiki, that's their business - the system has informed them of the consequences and they've made their decision. If you encounter one of those rare situations that demands a wiki answer, especially one where only a wiki answer is appropriate for a given question... Then raise a discussion and get the moderators involved. If you observe harassment, flag it. If you see a bad answer, downvote it; a good one, upvote it. And if you don't see a problem... Don't make one. Each day has sufficient problems as it is.

  • 2
    So when would it be appropriate for moderators to remove CW status from an answer? I mean, presumably mods have that power for a reason, but this answer makes it sound as though an OP's decision to use CW should always be respected. (I'm not trying to make a point here, but asking out of genuine curiosity - I don't think it's a mod power I've ever actually used so far.)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:56
  • If the system has converted an answer to CW, it may be appropriate for a moderator to revoke that, @Rand. You'll never see that happen on this site, so I omitted the link to the guidance for such things, but you can find it on Meta Stack Exchange. A moderator would also need to get involved if someone accidentally clicked the checkbox and didn't intend to make an answer CW - again, this is rare now that we warn people, but you might encouter it here. Outside of that... I guess I could envision some weird abuse scenario involving rage-quits or account hijacking, but I've never seen it.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:59
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    Well... we do force authors to accept constructive, effective edits that improve the post. Because there's a basic principle at play here: whenever anyone posts anything on Stack, that answer doesn't belong to them anymore. The author's will isn't sacrosanct here. Their content becomes a community resource. We still respect it as coming from them, and they get the courtesy of priority if they want to make changes, but... it's still not theirs. Defending the author's CW choice in this way isn't built on stable Stack principles.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 1:00
  • You might want to read the CC-BY-SA license that applies to all posts here, @Emrakul.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 1:02
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    @Shog9 That's sort of my point. CC-BY-SA isn't just a license that applies to content, it's a philosophical principle guiding how users interact with the site. Anyone can freely edit on the Stack, and the author only has say insofar as the original intent is preserved. Unless you mean to suggest that the community wiki option has licensing implications, which... seems a little dubious to me, or at least lacks precedent that I can recall.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 1:04
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    FYI: i'm in the midst of a long conversation with the mods in a private room because this is proving extremely challenging to explain.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 1:51
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    The longer I think about this, the more I think this answer, too, is missing what's going on here, a little bit. I have a lengthy answer that I'm going to mull over a while before posting.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 4:08
  • 1
    I've added a compilation of what we discussed in chat, @Emrakul - see edit.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 4:20
  • @Shog9 I like this edit, and I may forgo posting my own answer. I'm going to need to think more on it.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 4:35

Community wiki policy https://literature.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/community-wiki

When should I make my answers Community Wiki?

  1. When you want to enhance the "wiki" aspect of your post, so that it can be a continually evolving source of good information through repeated editing.

  2. When you feel your post would benefit from less concern about voting affecting the reputation of those participating in it.

This answer appears to fall under both category 1, and 2, a user is linking another users answer, hence being a combined effort, and the user is also not trying to benefit from the situation which seems to fall under category 2.

Also mods should not be simply be un-converting wiki's

Moderators can also choose to convert posts into community wiki mode if they feel it is appropriate for the question or answer, generally after a discussion with the community and affected individuals. Once a post is made community wiki, that mode can only be removed by a moderator under exceptional circumstances.

This case is hardly "exceptional circumstances".

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    All those terrible answers I want to post would definitely benefit from me being less concerned about getting downvotes. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:32
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    @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach the point was, he wasnt posting his own answer, he was posting someone elses answer. so if you feel the OTHER answer deserved downvotes, feel free to follow it back to sff, and downvote it.
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:33
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    I don't think his answer deserves downvotes. But whatever it deserves, he deserves the reputation changes resulting from it, if he wants to or not, since that is how SE works. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:35
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    @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach he deserves to make his post a wiki if he wants to, since that is how SE works....
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:37
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    This appears to be the only answer here that actually considers the specific scenario in which the CW answer was posted. Good work
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 23:27

If it were not for the Community Wiki option I would simply not have bothered posting. The question had been asked and answered 5 years ago with a very good answer elsewhere that was not mine. I have no desire to pretend like I wrote TimK's answer, good or bad, nor do I have any desire to justify it's contents.

I posted my answer on the good-faith assumption that the poster honestly wanted to know the answer and just didn't know there was already one written. I was not attempting to write a "great answer", because IMO there already was one. I was attempting to point the OP at it with enough information that he could decide if it warranted following the link.

  • 6
    That is all nice and well, but what does that have to do with the CW matter? When you quote something you already are not pretending that it's your own work. If you deem it a proper answer to give, then what difference does the Community Wiki make on it? And if you don't want to stand to justify its contents, then you shouldn't have answered it. Community Wiki is not a way to push away the respnsibility for posting a proper answer. Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:07
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    I agree. I shouldn't have answered it. Fixed. Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:47

Apparently the answer under scrutiny was made CW because it drew on an answer from another Stack site, and the answerer wanted to share it without being associated with it for good or for ill.

But community wiki isn't a tool for reputation denial (or for dodging the repercussions of questionable-quality answers) and practically speaking I see no difference between quoting a different Stack and quoting a blog or a book. We'd never expect someone to eschew rep for quoting a blog or a book. The answerer went to the trouble of tracking down the information and sharing it; why shouldn't rep gains should reflect that?

The moderation team is under no obligation to revert the CW in this case, nor are they obligated to leave it be, but I'd lean toward reverting it myself, for reasons which follow.

"Community wiki is like a cheese knife: it is a specialized tool to be used sparingly."

We've talked about posting answers from other sites, and it's pretty clear this isn't cheese.

The intent of community wiki in answers is to help share the burden of solving a question. An incomplete "seed" answer is a stepping stone to a complete solution with help from others[...] Community wiki is for that rare gem of a post that needs true community collaboration.
- "The Future of Community Wiki"

Community wiki used to be massively overused. Changes to the editing system rendered its original purpose largely moot, and there's now a lot of confusion about CW's role in the Stack mechanics. These days there are three basic reasons to use CW:

  • Compiling a canonical reference
  • Consolidating the knowledge of the community
  • Encouraging the ongoing, active maintenance of a changing answer.

Community wiki is for a special scenario, something built not by the expertise of one individual, then improved or iterated on by a few others, but rather something created by the concerted efforts of the community as a whole.
- "Putting the Community back in Wiki"

I don't see this particular answer needing CW to make it "easier to edit and maintain by a wider group of users," so I don't see any reason for it to be a community wiki. Community wiki is a tool with a specific set of uses, and CW rollbacks are left to mod discretion. One of the responsibilities of our moderators is to help the community use the right tools for the job at hand.

The ideal moderator does as little as possible. But those little actions may be powerful and highly concentrated.
- "A Theory of Moderation," which is often not read all the way through.

As for the answer itself--it's not very good by lit.se standards, because it was written for a different site with different priorities. And the question itself is under a tag whose implementation is still being debated, so quality there is... in flux, I suppose we could say. I think this is a good example of why we should treat quotes from other Stacks the same as we would any other source: citing a source is great, but it can't stand on its own. We need to bring in our own expertise and tailor the answer to meet the expectations of our own Stack.

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    If an answer was needlessly marked as a community wiki, should a mod undo that?
    – amaranth
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 22:11
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    @amaranth "This is pretty much up to mod discretion." (Though the immediate context of that quote is when somebody's flagged it to be removed, which is admittedly a bit different from our situation.) I take a "broken windows" approach to such issues, myself: there's so much confusion over what CW is for that I think it's important to curate it pretty aggressively in order to avoid providing poor examples for others.
    – BESW
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 22:22
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    If y'all want to avoid poor examples, stop fixating on the CW aspect here and consider the (poor) quality of the question and (quoted) answer.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 23:30
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    @Shog9 That's an excellent point, but this question is about CW while the subject of reading-order questions is being discussed elsewhere. Would it really be advantageous to mix 'em together so important reading-order discussion is buried in other questions?
    – BESW
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 23:37
  • I don't think they're inseparable. The answer is of good quality by the standards of a different community, but clearly sub-par by this ones'... It seems obvious that the author was setting this up as sort of a benchmark, explicitly putting someone else's work in this context for the purpose of challenging this community. Given the question here is "why", I don't think that can be ignored. Or, yknow, someone could just ask the author.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 23:45
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    @Shog9 I'd be curious to see an answer by you exploring why it's "obvious" that's the answerer's purpose. Not saying I disagree, just that I can't see it so clearly. Because the answerer was asked, and did answer. Which I mention in my answer here. As does Hamlet in his. And several of the comments on this page do too. As far as I can tell his stated reason is not about establishing precedent. So again, I'd love to see you share your insight with the community because we seem to be missing something you see clearly. Are there deleted comments I'm unable to see which clear it up?
    – BESW
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 23:52
  • I'm on a phone; read himarms answer, which mostly just quotes the help center.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 23:59
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    I have read Himarm's answer repeatedly, and again after you began commenting. I don't see where it addresses your concerns about the quality of the posts or the intent of the answerer to set some kind of benchmark. And if this is about "the question here is 'why,'" it doesn't offer any support for its claims about the intent either.
    – BESW
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:05
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    @Shog9 I'm stepping out of my mod comfort zone a little here, but I've removed your latest comment, because if it came from a regular user, I would have deleted it for being generally abrasive. While I do understand the opinion you're expressing and find it potentially of value, I don't think it's being expressed here in a way that's productive to community discussion, especially from one of the lead community managers.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:32
  • For reference: here is our most recent discussion about reading order questions. I'm not entirely sure where the downvotes to the question are coming from: is it because the question is poorly researched, or is it because people feel that it doesn't meet the requirements established in the meta post linked above? I'm going to write a comment on the question and try to get a sense of where the downvotes are coming from. However, I think that the question and the answer are two separate issues.
    – user111
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:37
  • That's fine, @Emrakul; I apologize for my tone - I didn't come across this answer until I was AFK, and wasn't sure when I'd be back. I'm home now, and I'll write an answer. For the record though, I consider this extremely misguided advice and would strongly encourage the moderator team here to disregard it.
    – Shog9
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:44
  • @Shog9 Thanks. While I think this answer has merits, I'm open to the idea that it may be mistaken, and I look forward to reading your answer as well.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 0:46

I don't think it's appropriate to use community wikis unless the idea is for the answer to be easily editable. As Cahir Mawr Dyffryn æp Ceallach points out, community wikis are not a "I don't want reputation" feature.

Members of this site post answers that cite a single webpage as a source all the time. As far as I can tell, community wikis have not been used in any of these instances. There shouldn't be anything different about citing a Stack Exchange webpage as opposed to a regular webpage.

I removed the community wiki status from the answer in question, as per the consensus in this question.

Remember: different Stack Exchange sites have different standards for answers. If someone asks a question on this Stack Exchange site, that means that they want our answers, not answers from another site. By all means, cite and quote other Stack Exchange sites like you would cite and quote any other source. But don't just cross-post content just for the sake of cross posting it.

If you feel uncomfortable posting an answer because it just cites one source, then maybe don't post the answer at all. If the question is easily googleable and shows no research effort, you can always downvote it.

  • 8
    That may be, but I don't feel comfortable with the idea of a mod removing a community wiki status that the poster felt was needed.
    – muru
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:11
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    uh, afaik even if its "stupid" the user has the right to use comunity wiki for any answer.
    – Himarm
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:24
  • 8
    Well, in pretty much the same way he has a right to post a comment as an answer. That is...a right to do so but not much of a right to complain when it's undone for being against proper use of the site. "Authorial control" keeps authorial only as long as it's not misusing the site. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:26
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    FYI I'm going to come back to this post in a day and see what the consensus is. If people disagree with me then I'll reverse my decision. I probably should have waited for longer to see what the community consensus was before acting, my apologies, it's my third day being a moderator.
    – user111
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:38
  • 1
    @Hamlet as Himarm posted I think this goes SE policy on wikis. I do not see this an "exceptional circumstance".
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:52

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