Do we want to allow questions that are effectively "lists of things"? There have been a number of these questions, for example:

StackOverflow doesn't allow these sort of questions, but vi.SE isn't SO. What do we want for vi.SE?

See also: Do we want questions for tutorials?, What do we do about software recommendation questions?

4 Answers 4


StackOverflow doesn't allow these sort of questions, but vi.SE isn't SO.

You keep using this argument, but we're still a Stack Exchange question & answer site. As I mentioned in chat, there's a point where you're simply stepping outside of the boundaries of what defines a Stack Exchange site in the first place.

Furthermore, as I also mentioned in chat, you seem to be using the fact that vi.SE is a smaller community as an argument to support broader questions. This really seems like just ignoring the problem until it actually becomes serious, which doesn't feel healthy to me for a community in the long term.

However, even though I've been very adamantly against "big-list" questions since the beginning of the site, I'd be willing to reconsider my position on this if you can answer the following:

  • How will you handle the fact that these types of questions tend to outdate extremely quickly? You've mentioned that you'll help maintain them, but how exactly do you plan to do this?

  • What would be your stance on link-only/plugin-only answers, and the fact that these questions will attract quite a few of them?

  • Where do we draw the line? At what point does a question become just as bad and overly broad as, for example, "what is a list of ex commands and what they do?"

  • These questions are often highly opinion-based. In a similar vein to the previous question, how much so should they be allowed to be? For example, "what is your favorite colorscheme?" or "which key command do you like the most?" are obviously off-topic, but again, where is the line drawn?


I'd like to suggest that we consider that "list of things" is a terrible metric and not something we should base any kind of policy on. In a sense, any question on a site that can get more than one answer to it, is a list of solutions to that problem. There are also questions which are quite compact, but the answer just happens to be a list. When you start bridging policies on such loose terminology as "list of things", it cascades into a nightmare of people closing legitimate questions because they can in some fashion associate the term "list" with it.

I started to hint towards this direction in my most recent meta answer here, but you've got existing tools in the system that already protect against bad apples of this orchard without needing to create additional policy for them. Not even needing to reword the question with edits, frame them in the context of the intended problem to solve. In many cases, these questions are poor questions at heart because they're usually too broadly scoped to allow for meaningful and useful answers. That's what we want to provide, after all - the goal of the community is to be an outstanding resource for readers that helps where other places fail, and that comes from the strength of the answers we can provide. This isn't about this "single definitive answer" term that some people have used, that's irrelevant. Questions and Answers have a scope that works, and we as a network benefit by keeping these pairs in that small scope.

Let's take one of your examples. "What would be the most useful online vim resources", the problem underneath asks basically for everything on the net that can be useful. This can be hit from two directions - it's too unclear to produce meaningful answers since there's no proper metric for the resources, and it's too broad to produce meaningful answers because it is trying to contain way too many potential tasks (learning tutorials, plugins for productivity, reference materials, etc.) within a single question. Scope is about the meaningfulness of the quantity, not the absolute numeric size. Most of the other examples given can be similarly addressed as being too broad or too unclear to produce meaningful content.

You can avoid all these concerns about special taggings or needing Community Wiki (which you usually will not need) by simply avoiding creating an atmosphere that encourages this kind of scenario. Don't shape questions towards being things that you need to provide excess maintenance over the years, don't shape them in ways that cause votes to skew against the actual contributory content of the answer. Judge on the merits of the underlying problem and use that to determine how to handle the question. If you start to see patterns based on that, then you can start working on explicit policies. Until then, that first line of defense, our extant universal policies against material that is too broad to be useful or is too unclear to produce useful answers or otherwise off-topic, that should be able to handle these.

If you find some kind of "list" that you can't seem to close under these reasons, think for a moment if it really does need to be closed. Can the underlying problem and its solution actually be a helpful resource for the community? If that scope is something that works for the community, then it starts to speak towards something that probably can be kept.


The problem on SO is that you can have a humongous number of these questions, for example:

  • How do I start programming C?
  • How do I learn to program C on ARM?
  • Tips for programming C on 16-bit micro-controllers?
  • Tip & Tutorials for using file operations in C?
  • Tutorials for programming C on Linux
  • Tutorials for programming C on Windows
  • Are there tutorials for using glib?
  • Are there tutorials for using libX11?
  • Are there tutorials for programming USB hardware?

... and so forth ... We can repeat this for every programming language, library, VCS system, text editor, and combinations of those.
SO already has a large influx of questions, and these questions could become a significant part of the total questions on SO.

StackOverflow does have some of this information by the way, but on the tag wiki; see: c for example.

However, vi.SE is different

This site has a much smaller scope: vi, vim, and other vi-like text editors , there are only a limited number of "getting started" and "tutorial lists"-type of questions that one can ask; and they won't overwhelm the other ('normal') questions.

We could, perhaps, put some of that information in the tag wiki, like SO does, but the tags and are blacklisted . In addition, the tag wiki isn't very visible.

Many other SE sites with a more limited scope allow these sort of questions; I did a quick 5-minute search of a few random sites, and came up with:

Most of these question & answers are useful. For example, a list resources for learning VimScript can be very helpful; vi.SE can function as a editor or filter to show the best resources, which will be very helpful especially for beginners. On other topics, such as a list for all pluginmanagers, we can even be comprehensive; we can offer a list of all plugin managers, and clearly describe the differences between them.

So to sum up, yes, I think that allowing slightly more broader questions should be fine. In fact, it's one of the added values that vi.SE can deliver vs. StackOverflow.

I propose we allow these questions, provided they are:

  • Avoid if possible for plugin recommendations and the like; these questions can almost always be phrased in a way that doesn't ask for an off-site resource (eg. 'How do I manage plugins in Vim' instead of 'What plugin managers are there?')
  • Must be on-topic (for example, Vim mode in browsers [on hold] isn't)
  • They are Community wiki; as this allows editing by everyone. This help to prevent them from going out of date.
  • Are maintained; it takes some amount of continues effort to maintain the answers to these questions (to be clear: I will help maintaining these questions, and have faith there will be other people doing this as well).
  • Are tagged as or , or perhaps another tag.

I am opposed to this idea on the grounds that it will permit softball questions that are generally considered bad for StackExchange sites as a whole.

I'm very concerned about the type of questions we get here, because (I assume) we have to show that we're hosting questions that are sufficiently different from those already allowed on StackOverflow and SuperUser and the like. List-of-things questions in particular bolster the perception of acceptability for "just link to a plugin" answers, which I think will more or less kill us as a site. It's also really hard to draw the line between what is an acceptable list-of question and what isn't, as Doorknob mentions.

It's true that permitting list-of-things questions would provide a way to differentiate this site from others, but I'm not entirely convinced that such a differentiation (encouraging questions StackExchange generally considers "bad") would really help our case.

It's also true that the site policy can change over time. However, in my experience it's much easier if the way that policy changes is to become more open over time rather than less, thus defaulting to a position of "not allowing" them and later on considering whether to change that decision would be my preference. It's a lot of tedious work for the community to become more restrictive over time.

That said, I do agree with all the restrictions outlined in Carpetsmoker's post: community-wiki, no "link me a plugin," et cetera. I think those are reasonable guidelines regardless of if/when this site opts to allow list-of questions.

  • "List-of-things questions in particular bolster the perception of acceptability for "just link to a plugin" answer" -> To be clear, I am not at all in favour for those kinds of answers on 'How do I do foo'-type of questions, these should be expanded or deleted as link-only answer. What I'm talking about is a limited number of "list-of-things questions". Feb 6, 2015 at 19:02
  • "in my experience it's much easier if the way that policy changes is to become more open over time rather than less, thus defaulting to a position of "not allowing" them and later on considering whether to change that decision would be my preference" -> I think this is a good point. Feb 6, 2015 at 19:02

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