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Community Wikis (CWs) seem to be an often misunderstood feature on Stack Exchange in general. For instance, I'm often seeing them used to avoid gaining reputation when the author feels they don't deserve it for whatever reason, even though that is not at all their purpose. The problem doesn't get any easier on PPCG, where the general CW guidelines from SE don't necessarily apply due to the different format of answers. One example that I'm occasionally seeing is people making an invalid answer CW instead of deleting (probably with the reasoning that "if I don't get rep, it doesn't need to be valid"). The original intent of CW is to have answers where the author is not able to provide the full content but needs the help others to complete it, and lets them edit it easily.

I think it would be good if we had a discussion about how CW should be used on PPCG, both as a guide to point users to, and also for us moderators to see how the community would like to see us handle cases where CW has been used inappropriately.

Some common cases that come to mind:

  • I improve someone else's answer and offer the changes to them in a comment. However, they refuse to include it for whatever reason (usually because they find that the change is too substantial), so I post the new solution myself.
  • I port someone else's answer to another language and post it myself.
  • Someone ports my answer to another language and offers to let me post it.
  • Someone suggests improvements to my answer and I include them.
  • Several users solve a challenge together in chat. One of them posts it.
  • I've found a competitive solution to a challenge elsewhere on the internet and would like to post it for completeness' sake (giving due credit).

Should CW be used in any of those cases? In none of them? Are there other factors it depends on? Are there other use cases for CW on PPCG?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for bringing this up! I think this is an important discussion to have, especially since CW doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a non-Q&A site. I have no idea what the best use of them is. One thing I will say for sure though, is that when someone comments on an answer with golfing improvements, this should always be assumed to be free advice. (No need for CW in this case.) Otherwise, they wouldn't have left the comment. \$\endgroup\$ – DJMcMayhem Jul 28 '16 at 15:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ xnor created this old CW answer, because they found a short mathematical solution (a polynomial mod 7) and wanted to let others port it to as many languages as possible. I think that's a valid use case. \$\endgroup\$ – Zgarb Jul 28 '16 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ One case that I've seen fairly often has been if the poster sources the code/algorithm from elsewhere. That seems a legitimate use case (providing that the source licensing allows it). \$\endgroup\$ – AdmBorkBork Jul 28 '16 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zgarb I agree that CW is a good idea for such a post, but I'm not 100% sure such a post is a good idea in the first place. For a start it messes with leaderboards (which weren't a thing at the time, but where I still have hope that we might one day have software support for these). The different languages could just as well go in separate answers, giving credit to xnor's original solution. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Jul 28 '16 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimmyD Ah that's an important case I forgot to mention. Even then I'm not sure CW is appropriate. When you answer a question on SO that is based heavily on an external source like a blog post that covers the topic, or the language docs, (while giving credit) you still wouldn't make it CW, I think? \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Jul 28 '16 at 16:13
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Community wiki is not a rep waiver

I've mentioned that from time to time in the past.

Community wiki doesn't just mean that you cannot earn rep from a post. Yes, it does have that side effect, but the community wiki option is for posts that can be edited by anyone without worrying about post ownership. Edits that are usually frowned upon – and rejected when suggested – such as editing the code in an answer, are not only tolerated but welcomed in the case of a community wiki post. Making your answer community wiki means that everyone should feel free to improve the post; even users with as little 100 reputation won't have to get their edits approved.

This feature was introduced back when Stack Overflow was very different. List-of questions have been off-topic for a long time now, suggested edits have been implemented, and community wiki rarely makes sense nowadays. And while community wiki works as a rep waiver, it shouldn't be used as one. Should the community wiki police be shut down? is a post on Mother Meta from 2009, yet I still see the occasional comment (or flag) stating that a post should be community wiki for non-wiki reasons.

I improve someone else's answer and offer the changes to them in a comment. However, they refuse to include it for whatever reason (usually because they find that the change is too substantial), so I post the new solution myself.

Just post it yourself, but don't make it a wiki. It is still your post. It's based on someone else's, but you can (and should) address that in the post, giving credit where credit is due. If others don't think the improvement is interesting enough, they won't upvote. Personally, I care much more about upvotes than reputation.

I port someone else's answer to another language and post it myself.

See above. The implementation is your work.

Someone ports my answer to another language and offers to let me post it.

The comment suggests that the poster is OK with you posting the port, so either do it – and, of course, credit him – or politely decline and let him post the answer himself.

Someone suggests improvements to my answer and I include them.

I think that hasn't even come up in the wild. I've edited countless suggestions into my posts (again, with credit) without making them community wiki.

Several users solve a challenge together in chat. One of them posts it.

That's the closest one to the intended use of community wikis. Still, this post is the work of a few collaborators, not the entire community, so even in this case, I wouldn't make it a wiki.

I've found a competitive solution to a challenge elsewhere on the internet and would like to post it for completeness' sake (giving due credit).

That's done on other SE sites all the time, and nobody marks these answers as community wiki, even if they contain little more than a quote from a blog post.

You may not have written the code yourself, but finding it can be just as difficult. Also, this is only slightly different from finding a language that happens to have the solution as a built-in, or from using a freely available BF generator to create a constant output.

Tips questions

We've discussed that before and I agree with the reached consensus.

The generic tips for golfing in X posts have a wiki-like list-of nature, but the answers should preferably be limited to one tip per post (so the good tips rise to the top when sorting by votes), meaning that they aren't collaboration efforts and should therefore not be community wiki.

Making the questions themselves community wiki might make sense, but it's not worth the trouble since this would automatically wiki all newly posted answers, and thus require moderator intervention to unwiki them.

So when does community wiki make sense?

99 times out of 100, it doesn't. Off the top of my head, one could create an answer to Showcase your language one vote at a time where others should feel free to add snippets of their own.

Can I make my answer community wiki

Of course! It's your answer. Before you wiki it, anyway...

Note that by making your answer community wiki, you essentially give up ownership and invite the entire community to improve it.

Finally, if you have posted a community wiki answer for whatever reason and want to unwiki it, please feel free to flag it for moderator attention.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an excellent answer, though I disagree on the collaboration bit. Unless we get support for collaborative answers, where all collaborators receive reputation for their work on the solution, CW is a viable solution, especially if there have been a large number of collaborators (such as on the Tetris in GoL challenge) and they are more interested in further collaboration and improving the solution than gaining rep. \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Jul 28 '16 at 18:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mego Just because we can't share the reputation equally between everyone, doesn't mean no one should get any rep for the work at all. Chances are there'll be another time where you collaborate with those people and then someone else can post it. I'm occasionally golfing answers together with Sp3000 and roughly taking turns with posting works out very well. I've also participated in much more large-scale collaborative answers in the past, and I'd rather see one of the authors get the rep for the hard work than no one. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Ender Jul 28 '16 at 18:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mego It's also worth noting that CW only affects rep. All other benefits (including some badges that are much more difficult to earn than the rep) will still be awarded to the nominal author. \$\endgroup\$ – Dennis Jul 28 '16 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MartinEnder I would say it depended on the collaborators. If the collaborators on the Tetris project decided to make the solution post CW to encourage further collaboration from the community, that would be fine, since that is actually the point of CW. \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Jul 28 '16 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ The the tetris challenge in particular, I think the opposite is appropriate. I wouldn't be against having the answer split up across several posters so that they can each get rep. \$\endgroup\$ – DJMcMayhem Jul 28 '16 at 23:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DrGreenEggsandIronMan That's another possibility. Once we actually have a working solution, we'll have to discuss how we're going to post it. \$\endgroup\$ – Mego Aug 1 '16 at 0:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would suggest degenderizing the eighth paragraph. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathan Frech Aug 6 '18 at 4:33

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