I'd like to clarify some things regarding the Community Wiki Standard and elaborate on what constitutes a good question on Musical Practice & Performance (or Musicians, if you prefer the proposed name). The main part is in the "answer" below.

I have recently made some poor questions CW when I should not have. I'm sorry for the confusion. Since then I've chatted with several of the moderators from other StackExchange sites and our own, and this post is the result.


How Will this Affect Me?


Some questions will be closed. Most of them already feature comments discussing their problems. I will try to provide more detail when they are closed and link back to this post.

If your question is one of the affected ones, I encourage you to re-write it. Most of them can be fixed by turning them into a "How can I solve my problem?" question and providing details. If it can't, why not ask your question in the chatroom?

In the future when you come across a bad question, edit it to be better if you can. Don't alter the asker's intended meaning, though; if the question needs to be significantly changed, leave a polite comment explaining it to the asker. Don't be afraid to use your close votes where appropriate, if you have them. If you don't, you can flag the question for moderator attention when you think it's warranted (don't go too crazy).

If you disagree with any portion of this, I encourage you to bring it up in the chatroom. I am there frequently, as are other moderators. Nothing is set in stone, of course, but by and large this reflects the consensus of the community and the moderation team. We're not doing this to punish anyone. Stack Exchange is a platform for high-quality questions and answers, and relies on the expertise of its users. We're trying to cultivate that kind of community.

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Community Wiki


Please refer to this post for my description of Community Wiki. In summary, CW is for making wikis, not for allowing otherwise unacceptable questions.


Some Questions Are Bad, Mmkay?


The post linked above establishes that Community Wiki should not be used on opinions, recommendations, or list questions. Are these questions acceptable at all? The answer is sometimes. Below are some guidelines.


Opinions


As a general rule, questions should not solicit opinions. They should solicit facts. This is not to say that answers cannot contain opinions!

For example, this is bad:

I think I should learn more about harmony so I can write better songs. What do you think?

But this is good:

I am considering learning more about harmony to improve my song writing. In what ways can studying harmony help me as a songwriter? Has anyone experienced a change in their composition after studying harmony, and can you explain what changed and why?

In the first question, no one really knows what you're looking for. You're just asking to get answers that say "You should totally learn harmony :)" instead of actual useful information.

The answers to the second question will still have opinions, but with a twist: "You should totally learn harmony, because...". What follows will, hopefully, consist of facts (which can be objectively evaluated) stemming from the answerer's knowledge and experience.

If you truly just want general ideas thrown around, try heading over to the chatroom. But answers on the site should have facts so you know whose opinion to value! And questions should be constructed purposefully to bring out this kind of answer.


Summary

Questioners, ask detailed questions requesting facts. Answerers, provide detailed answers where your opinion is backed up with fact.


Recommendations


Generally speaking, recommendations in answers should be treated like opinions in answers: make sure you add facts. Tell the asker why you recommend something with cold, hard facts (more than just "because I like it"). Questions can be a bit different, though.

If your question starts with "What is a good" or "What is the best", stop right there. You may have found yourself writing a bad question. Consider the shopping recommendation:

What's the best guitar to buy for playing rock songs?

There's a whole bunch more information we need, here, including the following:

  • What's your budget?
  • Where do you live?
  • Are you willing to buy online?
  • What subset of rock music are you interested in playing?
  • Do you want to look cool or just sound good?

And on and on. Providing that much detail in a question, some of it personal, is a bit ridiculous. And once you did, the question would be too localized! The answers would apply only to you and be largely useless for anyone else. Fortunately, there's a much better question you can ask:

How can I evaluate whether a guitar is good for playing rock songs?

The answers to that question should be useful to anyone wanting to play rock songs, and the ideal answer would discuss many aspects of what affects a guitar's sound and the like.

It's important to note that almost all of the problems with shopping recommendations apply to all recommendations. Whether it's free or something you don't shop for at all, you should be asking "How can I solve my problem?" and not "What's the best X?" From the FAQ:

If your motivation for asking the question is "I would like to participate in a discussion about ______", then you should not be asking here.
If your motivation is "I would like others to explain ______ to me", then you are probably OK.


Lists


List questions are generally just recommendations in disguise. A bad disguise. List questions generally take the form "What are some X?" or "What is a good resource for Y?"

List questions are so-called because they result in the answers being an itemized list. Often they'll receive 10 or more one-line answers that have no explanation. If you find that useful, that's up to you. But it is certainly not useful to the community as a whole.

As with all questions, there should be clear, specific criteria for evaluating answers. Do not ask for a good resource. Ask for a resource that provides exactly what you're looking for. Better yet, as above, ask how to solve your problem! For example, don't ask the following:

Is there a website where I can learn advanced harmony?

That will get you terrible answers -- "Yes" or a link with little explanation. Instead, you should ask:

Having learned basic harmony theory via [method], how can I learn more advanced concepts I haven't covered? Ideally I would like to learn [topic] and be able to do [something] by the end, and I'd like something I can do in my own time.

Someone might well answer that second question with a link to a website, but they will be encouraged to go further. A good answer would address your specific concerns and provide alternatives that you may not have considered.

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We have provided some additional guidance at the blog:

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/08/the-future-of-community-wiki/

TL;DR version

Most of the time, you should be asking yourself “How can I improve this post so that community wiki isn’t needed?” Community wiki is like a cheese knife: it is a specialized tool to be used sparingly, and only in very specific circumstances.

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