We tried to discuss this question once before, but it devolved into a discussion of what questions should be allowed and how people were using CW; so I'd like to refocus on this topic once again.

You can find the previous discussion here: community wiki needs to be explained better

I understand the philosophically it is to allow multiple people to contribute to a single answer, and the reality has been people have used it to try and sneak in questions they know would otherwise be closed. Is this the use case? Is CW just a tool for keeping borderline questions around?

Frequently there will be a question on strategy where someone will make a good point, but not a complete one. Instead of converting that answer to CW, the standard behavior has been to supply a more complete answer, or include it in comments. Would this be the more appropriate case for CW?

I suppose the cases I would assume CW would be used, its not (this is community behavior), and in the cases where it is being used, don't seem in line with the philosophy.

Perhaps I just don't understand... What is the Use Case for Community Wiki?

1 Answer 1


The essence of Community Wiki is not the lack of reputation, but in the two other components: the lack of authorship and the ease of editing.

Anyone with really high reputation can edit any post, but few people will actually add extra content to other people's answers. This is because it's still someone else's answer, and it would feel rude and mis-attributing. So people stick with comments to suggest fixes, so that the author can improve their answer.

When you mark a post as Community Wiki, you aren't just saying that "people can edit this". For answers, you are inviting people to work off of what you have started, and to put their contributions in directly. For questions, you are inviting people to reshape your question into what will help the site the most. The basic essence is a post or posts "for the community, by the community". I'll illustrate this with a perfect sample of the first use case.

  • When you don't have a complete answer but want something to start off for others.
  • Because it is a lot easier for people to find information within a single post than having to surf through pages and pages of 30 answers each, it is useful when there is a lot of content that needs to be collected from a lot of users.

Community Wiki is more likely to see use in questions on the Meta site. And, because reputation is largely irrelevant within the scope of the Meta site, the only point of Community Wiki is the ease of access for editing.

The main use case for questions is when you are asking a question that is really in the interest of the whole community, not merely the individual asking it. Primarily, these will be frequently-asked-questions, or questions scoped to building our community. By making them Community Wiki, you open up the question to be revised for people to shape it into what people actually want answers to.

So what about that other usage of Community Wiki that people see, which is "Allowing borderline questions"? This is not so much a proper usage as it is a workaround. It's basically taxing what available resources we have to support borderline cases. This is not unlike how post votes on Meta are leveraged for indicating agreement instead of how useful a post is.

Is it using the system the way it was intended? Not really, but it's what we have to work with. The basic point is that if the question is something that does fit on the site, but for which it is more likely to attract votes for popularity than for usefulness/topicality, then you use Community Wiki to leverage its lack of reputation.

[This is pending a bit of a rewrite]

  • 1
    So the proper use case would be more in line with making Answers community wiki more than questions.
    – tzenes
    Aug 18, 2010 at 2:43
  • So what do we do with the questions that are CW, but simply aren't good enough too keep open (and garner more rep)
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 18, 2010 at 7:51
  • @Ivo Community Wiki and being closed/open are completely independent concepts and should be addressed as such. Turning a borderline question into Community Wiki shouldn't be done to "keep a question open", it should be to "allow the question to function within the system". If the question is too subjective anyway, then it should be dealt with no differently than if it was not CW.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Aug 18, 2010 at 12:31
  • @tzenes I can think of a lot more use cases for answers being Community Wiki than for questions. I don't really know of any, besides the workaround utility, that would be necessary for questions on a Gaming site.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Aug 18, 2010 at 12:45
  • 1
    the only use case I can think of for Questions is to force answers to be CW.
    – tzenes
    Aug 18, 2010 at 15:41

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