I recently asked this question and I got downvoted and hated and closed into oblivion. I dident even use the 'B' word! I simply asked for people to give one recommendation per answer so people could upvote and talk about each recommendation easier.

What gives?

An update: I am more confused then when I started. I have spent far more time on this then the simple(and extremely useful) question deserved. And I still dont have an answer.

  • 1
    You seem to be confusing "helpful advice" with "hatred". :)
    – Mana
    Dec 22, 2010 at 19:21
  • I say it half sarcastically. I was extremely surprised to see all the 'advice'. I come from SO(as I assume most), and they (at leased used to) use the One Per Answer. For example, even the one answer I got was voted down, though nobody comment why the seemingly excellent answer was bad. Dec 22, 2010 at 19:22
  • 1
    So YOU are the reason I got like a gazillion notifications about chat in my stackexchange inbox!
    – Oak
    Dec 22, 2010 at 19:36
  • Yup, it took me a little bit to figure out what was going on. Dec 22, 2010 at 19:57
  • Reading your latest comment on the question in question... if your goal is just to find out what the community likes, ask it in chat. We're not a discussion forum, and if your interest is only on what we like, then the main Q&A is not the place to ask discussion polls. It's a place for authoritative Q&A.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Dec 22, 2010 at 21:14

3 Answers 3


We don't technically have a policy on this. I'm of the opinion that it should be discouraged when possible, and should not be encouraged at any point. This is how we handle our objective lists, after all - when someone asks for a list of weapons, we don't list each weapon individually.

One-per-answer is not bad because of game-rec. Nor is game-rec bad because of one-per-answer. It's more of a coincidental issue.

This is an old post, but I'd like to point to a Cooking post by Aaronut which reflects some of the thoughts about one-per-answer versus other forms of list building. In essence, it explains the different approaches to lists, and some basic concepts of why one-per-answer is something to not be encouraged and ideally should be discouraged. I will quote some bullet points still relevant regarding the issues with one-per-answer (the final is less an issue now that CW has been changed).

• It unconsciously ascribes ulterior motives to the question author, which is unfair;
• It does not prevent badge farming, which is still a problem;
• It ignores more conventional incentives for over-participation - socializing and herding;
• Voting patterns suffer from chronological bias (oldest answers are typically favoured);
• Pagination makes a large number of answers incredibly difficult to read;
• Once a certain momentum is reached, answers become heavily duplicated due to the above;

Badge farming isn't as much an issue in my opinion, but the other points are some of the large issues with it. Namely, that it leads to a lot of answers which has issues with duplication and readability, and that voting is drastically different. I'd like to add two more points to it.

  • It conflicts with the otherwise solveable nature of a question. One big thing about the site is the availability of an accepted answer. When your answer pool consists of a bunch of equally correct answers that really have no reason to have one accepted over another (as a list of useful apps may well be), then it leaves us with an eternally open question.

  • Voting is on the scale of the whole site, not individual questions, but one-per-answer encourages treatment like the other. When you think of it conceptually, one-per-answer sounds cool because users can rank them in relation to each other. What people always forget is that votes are measured for the entire site - if something is rated a 34 to put it at the top of the list, it also ends up dwarfing 70% of the objectively-voted answers on the site.

One can mitigate many of these issues by having one large answer that contains all of the options instead of individual ones. This gives you something to authoritatively pin to the top of the question, and also serves to help keep things on one page and avoid duplication. Moreover, this means that when you see a list that gets 30 upvotes, it is more likely because it's actually a good list, rather than it is a random app that people happen to like.

Whether the big answer is Community Wiki or not depends on the question's needs. If someone can build a comprehensive list on their own, which is more likely with finite lists, then Community Wiki is largely unnecessary. But if it's something that needs everyone to build on, as most resource lists would be, then it would be better off as Community Wiki to aid in that endeavor.

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    yes, this is the "give me a recipe for baking cookies" problem. Individual answers of "use sugar!" and "use flour!" and "add butter!" are terrible compared to "here's how I baked cookies last and how they turned out.." Dec 23, 2010 at 1:01

One-per-answer theoretically works. However, it doesn't.

This is a Dilbert comic on the SO question about programmer comics. How meta.

Here's a few reasons why.

  • Adding a new item means a new answer, which bumps the question to the top of the homepage. This artificially inflates the question's activity. This paves the away to all kinds of cool and rightfully rare badges like "Stellar question", which encourage more questions of the same kind to be posted. In the meantime, real questions are neglected and fight for some homepage time trying to get answered.
  • It only works for relatively short lists. Once an answer drops off the second screenful, it will be voted on by only a small fraction of people. Once pagination ensues, new answers will be simply neglected.
  • There is no meaningful way of accepting an answer.
  • You don't vote up to reward a good answer, you vote up to affect the sort order of answers.
  • There is no CW for questions — which has been removed because, essentially, one-per-answer is bad.
  • oh, I was wondering what happened to cw. Anyways, thanks for the cartoon. Dec 26, 2010 at 0:43
  • 1
    Thanks, that was helpful. I was always a supporter of OPA, but I see your point now.
    – Cort
    Dec 29, 2010 at 17:15

"One thing per answer" strikes a bit of a nerve around here. This is mostly because many of our users with powers are staunchly against the "game recommendation" or "thing recommendation" category of answers (me included), and the "one thing per answer" idea is common among game rec questions. One thing per answer questions truly lead to counter-productive things in the Stack Exchange system (which has I think been covered by Jeff Atwood, etc).

For what it's worth, I think the closing of your question was unjustified and reactionary when a simple edit to remove the "one thing per answer" suggestion leaves a question that does have merit.

To clarify my opinion: "Which external app is the best?" is bad; "List all external apps" is also bad; but "Which external apps are you using and finding useful?" isn't bad when there is no other resource for that information.

  • And "Where can I find an up to date and well-maintained listing of external apps?" would be best. Dec 22, 2010 at 19:48
  • Yes, I definitely agree, but I think in this case no good listing exists although this is the closest I've found: die2nite.wikia.com/wiki/External_Sites
    – JavadocMD
    Dec 22, 2010 at 19:58
  • Yea, I havent found any good lists. Die2Nite really doesent have a proper wiki. Dec 22, 2010 at 20:27

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