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This answer was originally made "Community Wiki" (CW) by the OP when he posted it and the CW status was removed by a moderator recently to reward the OP. I disagree with this action, especially because it was done without any form of community consensus and moderators should not be arbiters of who "deserves" reputation — especially not with tools available only to them.

I'd like to make a few points, with explanations, stating my objection and would like to have a discussion on this issue. I do realize it is quite long, but please do read it entirely or at least point 3. Note that because of this bug, the fact that it was once CW does not appear in the revision history nor does it state who removed it.


1. The question (and all answers) should ideally be CW

This is a classic "List of good X" question, which has historically (on other SE sites) elicited multiple responses (because everybody has an opinion of what's good). Going by precedent on nearly all sites in the network, the question should've been CW, but it is understandable that it wasn't because it was asked during the first hour of private beta and pro-tem mods weren't appointed yet.

Don't get me wrong — I do not believe in taking away anyone's rep because it was a "soft question". One person's soft question is another's hard work. But questions that have the potential to get bumped to the front page frequently because of the nature of the question (even if they don't actually get bumped all that much) have always been made CW — e.g. 1, 2 and 3 (and a supporting comment by another mod, also the OP of the question in discussion).

In this case, the OP of the answer chose to make his answer CW so that it can be edited by anybody with as little as 100 rep (2000 required in a graduated site to edit a non-CW post) and that should not have been changed unilaterally.

2. The answer would have been CW in any case

Had the OP not originally made it CW, the system would've automatically converted it

  • due to being edited more than 10 times by the OP (now at about 110 edits by the OP)
  • due to being edited by more than 5 users (total 6).

Now since a moderator removed the CW, it will never be converted to CW by the system, even if it is edited a million times and is a permanent fixture on the front page. Regardless of what one's views are of the CW system (I don't like it either), it is something that we have to work with and I don't think circumventing it in this manner is correct.

From Jeff Atwood's answer on removing CW (emphasis mine):

In general, we feel the current automatic "force community wiki" thresholds are correct:

  • after 30 answers (15 on super user and programmers) are added to a question
  • after a post is edited by more than 5 different users
  • after a post is edited by the owner 10 distinct times

However, if you feel your post has been unfairly converted to community wiki and deserves special treatment, you can flag it for moderator attention and plea your case to a community moderator.

I'm not aware of any precedent anywhere with moderators arbitrarily removing CW. I think it is fair to interpret "unfairly" in the sense of, for example, 5 users making small typo fixes here and there with none of them going the whole mile and fixing the entire post, thereby making it CW for no reason.

3. Moderators should not be arbiters of who "deserves" reputation

I've been told the CW was removed because the OP deserved his rep. This is the primary reason I object to this change — a moderator's job is not to judge the quality of an answer and how much rep a person "deserves", especially not with tools available only to them. I've also, in the past, opposed any form of yardstick for how much rep a post deserves — it is what it is. There are several excellent answers on this site that have turned into CW because the user constantly edited it to improve it. Two examples that jump to my mind are:

and there are a few more by Leonid and Oleksandr that are very close to the tipping point. I would love for these to be un-CWed because there is no "community" effort here, just one person's. Alas, that is a slippery road to go down because what do you do for a post that doesn't "deserve" it? You end up with a mess and having to tell someone that their post didn't cut it. That simply is not a moderator's job.

4. If you feel a post deserves it, spend your own rep — use the bounty system

As I mentioned in my other meta answer, the system provides alternate ways for users to show appreciation for someone's efforts, namely the bounty system. Anyone with at least 75 rep can place a bounty from 50 to 500 (in steps of 50) to reward an answer. I gave the OP of the answer a modest bounty of +100 (which was half of what I had gotten for my answer on that post at that time) to show my appreciation for his efforts.

If the moderator who made the change wished to give them some "deserved" rep, they should've placed a bounty for how much ever rep they were willing to give instead of doing it in ways not accessible to normal users. At the very least, this should've been discussed on meta, since as I understand it was not unanimous (I would've opposed it and made the same points as above for not doing it).


In closing, I do not think this was done with the explicit intention of circumventing the system, but I do think that the consequences of this action, especially with the precedence it sets weren't thought through well enough. I would recommend that the action either be reversed, or the question and all answers be made CW as is normally done (preferable). Note that even if converted to CW now, the OP will get to keep the rep gained from the earlier un-CWing. I don't think anything needs to be done about it and the experience here can serve as a guideline for future decisions.

I would like to hear what others think of this.

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    Your points are strong. I only want to add that I think the mod acted with the better intentions. I also think the referred post is an outstanding piece of work that may help many people, and many times I thought of proposing its contents being linked on the site's faq mathematica.stackexchange.com/faq – Dr. belisarius Jun 25 '12 at 1:16
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    I agree with this. I have felt similarly myself, and there is a flag in the history to that effect for those who can see it. Given your past experience and the compelling points that you've made, I am going to convert the post to CW. – Mr.Wizard Jun 25 '12 at 1:28
  • @belisarius I agree, and I mentioned it in my closing paragraph (and also why I didn't name the mod and kept it general, lest people jump to conclusions). This probably is a conundrum for many and is a delicate issue, given how different people value rep points, but I think in the long run, this will be the course of least friction. Faysal's answer is truly an outstanding effort and I too think it should go in the faq. You should propose it here – rm -rf Jun 25 '12 at 1:36
  • @Mr.Wizard Thanks for fixing the link :) – rm -rf Jun 25 '12 at 1:38
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    @R.M Done. These slippery facets of the site policy are very difficult to set up to the taste of everyone. When turning one of my answers into CW while trying to improve it I always feel a strange tickling :D – Dr. belisarius Jun 25 '12 at 1:51
  • Better, I'll clean up now. – rcollyer Jun 25 '12 at 2:15
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    Just read this today - a bit late, but thanks for the careful weighing of issues. I personally have to admit I didn't know that CW status can be forced on you until it happened to me by accident... but I agree with your assessment that it's not worth trying to decide when to make exceptions. – Jens Jun 30 '12 at 3:45
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Thank you for bringing this up.

I won't mince words; if it weren't already apparent, I am the OP of the question in, uhurm, question. I would not have minded my post being CW, but I found it problematic/troublesome that the answers would inherit this property from my question. That being said, I did not fully consider the points now being brought up, and for that, I am very sorry for not having exercised sufficient prudence. I had good intentions in mind, but you know what they say about "the road to hell"...

In any event, I agree with Mr. Wizard's decision to finally make it a, to borrow from the idioms of math.SE, a "credit-waived" post.

In short, thanks for setting it CW, and sorry for any troubles caused by my actions.

Cordially,

  • No worries :) I don't doubt your intentions and my primary point wasn't even about the question being CW (my flag was declined months ago and I respected the mod's decision), but rather removing it from an answer that was explicitly marked by the OP (i.e., didn't inherit from the question). In any case, thanks for your answer — I appreciate it! :) – rm -rf Jun 25 '12 at 4:30
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While I believe and the community generally agrees, that moderators should not remove wiki from posts on their own to "reward" users (which was the point of this question), we occasionally get flags from users asking to remove CW status from posts that got kicked into CW. The question talked about what a moderator shouldn't do, but we also need an acceptable way to work around the current system (which most users dislike), to handle the genuine requests that come from the community.

So I propose the following set of guidelines that, if acceptable, will form our policy in handling such requests. I've tried to give reasonings alongside each point. Please vote up if you agree, down if you disagree and leave a comment if you have a better suggestion (or if you disagree with something, even if you don't have an alternative).

  1. The request to un-CW must come from the post owner. This is mainly to ensure that the OP explicitly desires un-CWing. If they don't really care that it is CW or worry about the rep, or actually prefer it to be CW, there is no reason for anyone else to care. You can still vote up/vote down/accept/comment/edit/flag as usual, so nothing changes. If you come across a post that has been CW'ed, please leave a comment to the owner directing them to this question and ask them to flag if they want.

  2. Assuming point 1 holds true, CW will be removed only if

    • the revisions are non-trivial. In other words, don't make 10 different typo fixes/retags or other trivial edits which repeatedly bump the question. The edits must generally be substantial and add content/clarify/improve/etc. Of course, minor edits are not fully unavoidable, so if any, they must be few in number.
    • the editors' (i.e. non post owners) revisions do not contribute significantly to the meat of the post. In other words, if the post it is not really collaborative, and the external edits are mostly for formatting/typos/image upload/etc. and not for content, CW will be removed. If not, it stays.
    • it was not made wiki explicitly by the post owner. This is to avoid situations like the one in the question and to not allow CW to be used to test the waters (i.e., post something, wait to see how it is received and then un-wiki with permanent no-wiki status). Exceptions will be made for accidental CW (answers only) if flagged reasonably soon.
  3. Post will be made CW again if the un-CW status is abused. This is because once a moderator removes CW from a post, it will never be made CW again by the system (no matter how many more edits or how many more users edit). I don't expect anyone here to do this, but it is also not unheard of (on Stack Overflow). So if anyone sees any such behaviour, please flag.

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    One comment; sometimes I'm having a particularly bad day at spelling and/or typing and I make a lot of errors. Though I try to fix all that I see I have before found myself making several edits in a row, yet more than five minutes apart, as recognition slowly dawns on me. This could contribute to auto CW conversion. I would like to see allowance for such things, assuming it isn't a pattern. – Mr.Wizard Mar 11 '13 at 3:45
  • @Mr.Wizard Certainly, and I think I already covered that with " Of course, minor edits are not fully unavoidable, so if any, they must be few in number." (few in number referring to number of revisions, not individual edits within them). By that I generally mean "not all the edits that contributed to the CW are typo fixes" – rm -rf Mar 11 '13 at 4:17
  • A fine compromise which removes most of the CW problems. – Sjoerd C. de Vries Mar 11 '13 at 6:33
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    Mostly agreed. One corner case which has led to my raising a flag for another user's post: if the user is new, they need the reputation points more than most and probably won't be aware of this hidden pitfall of editing many times; moreover, they're unlikely to think to raise a flag to undo it. Regardless of the points situation, CW is meant to be an open invitation for anyone to edit the post and IMO this is not what was intended in the vast majority of cases where it's applied. Many OP's edits do not imply that others should feel free to substantially change or completely rewrite a post. – Oleksandr R. Mar 11 '13 at 9:42

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