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Note that this is not a discussion over whether catalogue questions are on-topic

Questions like What are the syntax options for implementing a ternary "if" operator? and What operations are common in stack-based languages? are prone to having a multitude of valid answers. Such questions are "catalogue" questions, and have the potential to be flooded with too many answers. What's the default way these should be handled - should all answers be edited into a single answer or should individual answers be posted?

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  • $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Should we discourage big list-style answers to questions? $\endgroup$
    – Adám
    May 17, 2023 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Adám no - that's whether list style questions should be allowed. This question is about whether list style questions should have their answers merged into a single answer or all posted separately. $\endgroup$
    – lyxal Mod
    May 17, 2023 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ @lyxal, perhaps change the Title to something like "For Catalogue Questions, should all answers be edited into a single answer?". $\endgroup$ May 17, 2023 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ quoting from Michael Homer in their answer to "Policy on multiple answers by the same user": "Sometimes those questions could also admit a summary answer addressing the whole possibility space at once briefly, and that should often be fine (unless it's infeasible to cover the scope in that way). The existence of one of these answers shouldn't itself rule out one of the substantive individual ones, or vice-versa. Some questions do invite this comprehensive approach, and perhaps more should do." I leave Michael to write an answer post here. $\endgroup$
    – starball
    May 24, 2023 at 20:36

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No!

In fact, the exact opposite should be done. All options should be distinct answers so they can be voted on independently. Using one big list answer reduces the reward for adding quality contributions, and removes the quality control built in to our site.

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    $\begingroup$ What about in the case of the answer here? There's 14 items there - should they be 14 individual answers? $\endgroup$
    – lyxal Mod
    May 17, 2023 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @lyxal I think for really long list questions like that, grouping similar answers is fine. That question could also arguably be considered less about the individual items (like a catalog question), and more about which of a known set should be included in a single cohesive list (to be compared with other cohesive lists). $\endgroup$ May 17, 2023 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ "Using one big list answer reduces the reward for adding quality contributions, and removes the quality control built in to our site." - would you mind elaborating? I don't follow. $\endgroup$
    – starball
    May 24, 2023 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ @starball the idea is that if there are proposed entries for the list that are bad, the voting mechanism can signal that this specific entry is bad in some way. $\endgroup$ May 24, 2023 at 22:53
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In the sense of actually copy-pasting individuals' answers and compiling them all into a single post, no. I don't see a point in that. It would be an editing maintenance burden (if anyone wants to keep things in sync), be devoid of any originality, and subvert the voting system for answer posts that are intended to compete with each other.


In the sense of creating a community wiki, and forcing everyone to write their answers in that, that would just be clownery (silliness) (did I just make up a word?). It would generally go against the core design of Stack Exchange. Perhaps in some very very specific circumstances perhaps, but I can't think of any off the top of my head right now.


But if someone takes it upon themselves to compile an answer that is comprehensive and covers ideas that they think are useful from other answers, I think that's fine, as long as they either paraphrase and/or summarize instead of full-verbatim-pasting. See also the rules for referencing material written by others. If that person doesn't add anything of their own to such an answer post, I'd smile upon them for making that post Community Wiki, but I think they'd be in their place not to either, given that they spent the effort to compile useful information (as long as they follow the referencing rules).

I think that can be useful for questions where there are answers that cover different non-overlapping information and go into depth. (see also my answer to "Policy on multiple answers by the same user" and my answer to "What should be the quality standards for list-style questions?").


There's another interpretation of what you're suggesting, which is to compile links to other posts in some sort of "objective / unbiased" sort order.

Stack Exchange isn't really meant for the questions where there are non-overlapping answers that aren't intended to compete with each other at being the "best answer", and each going into depth, but as I've tried to explain in the answer posts I've linked above, I think that could be practical and a "lesser evil" for the purposes of this site in some cases.

Logistically speaking, there are a couple ways to go about this.

  • If it's just basically a list of links with description text, then you can do it as a table of contents in the question post, and choose some sort of objective sorting order (such as alphabetical, or by creation date / reverse creation date).

  • You could also make it as an answer post and link to it in the question, but I'd only be happy with this if that answer post is Community Wiki (which itself is a good thing, because then more people can edit it easier.

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Don't bother. Just close the question. It's not a matter of being “on-topic”, it's a matter of suitability for the site's format. Stack Exchange has a question and answer format where each answer receives votes independently. This makes it fundamentally unsuited for polling, which is what happens with catalogue questions (classically called “list questions”). This is a phenomenon which many Stack Exchange sites have struggled with, always eventually coming to the conclusion that such questions are bad (if the site hasn't already failed).

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Another arguement to not edit into a single answer is rep. Who gets the rep for this mega-answer. The people who came up with each idea deserve the rep gain/loss for there idea but there idea only

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    $\begingroup$ To alleviate this, the answer could be made community wiki. $\endgroup$
    – Isaiah
    May 24, 2023 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't solve the last sentence @Isaiah $\endgroup$ May 24, 2023 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ "Doesn't solve the last sentence" - the existence of a community wiki pointing to other answers does not in any way prevent users with voting privileges from voting on the linked answers. $\endgroup$
    – starball
    May 24, 2023 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ "The people who came up with each idea deserve the rep gain/loss for there idea but there idea only" CW dont have rep and also are supposed ot be rather rare @starball $\endgroup$ May 24, 2023 at 23:50

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