As of now we have several questions discussing what to do with list of X and games-rec questions:

Here's a summary of all that has been said before (and was upvoted):

My conclusion: all list questions should be closed unless they pass these strict guidelines.

This means a lot of questions will be closed and hearts will be broken, but we can't please everyone when trying to achieve our goal of becoming the resource for high quality gaming question. It's also generally better to close a question first and to discuss reopening later, than doing it the other way around.

It may be harsh, but at least zero-tolerance is very clear and unambiguous. I'd much rather see a meta discussion for reopening a list question, than having endless discussion on which to close and which to keep open.

I would also like to quote Grace Note, because it perfectly sums up what I believe this site should be all about:

Which is what divides questions and discussions/polls - the former is interested in the content that provides a solution, while the latter is interested in the people who produce that content. There is no expertise when it comes to the latter - it takes absolutely no prior knowledge to cast opinions.

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So, how many votes are enough? Should we have yes/no answers, and take the majority there? –  Macha Aug 4 '10 at 21:03
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In related news, check out this study from badp. More reason that we should start nixing the whole lot of them, and soon. –  Grace Note Aug 6 '10 at 18:27
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What i guess is really frustrating is that people are refusing to let these in on the grounds that "it would dilute the site". Explain to me exactly how this question, this question, or this question direly threatens the integrity of the community, please. –  RCIX Aug 6 '10 at 23:30
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I know, i know, i know, people try to use it to claim that even more questions of that kind should be asked. To put it bluntly, if we can't have at least a reasonable level of discussion about gaming stuff on this site, then i'll leave. Who's with me? –  RCIX Aug 6 '10 at 23:35
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I'd wonder if the general gaming community might be interested in a different approach than the general programming community. –  Mechko Aug 7 '10 at 1:03
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@RCIX I'll direct you to the other discussion on this topic: meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/799/… –  tzenes Aug 7 '10 at 23:20
    
@Mechko, I love off-topic discussion as much (no actually way more) than the next person, but I think our new third place is the place for that. Not the Q&A site –  Ivo Flipse Aug 8 '10 at 9:55
    
@Ivo: I agree with @Mechko, and the third place is chat. You may create a separate room for lists, and yet it would not be sorted in any useful manner. Instead of chat one could as well use any overcrowded, noisy, troll-infested forum. Gaming is definitely not programming, especially it is about spare time leisure. I understand that any distraction at SO is dreadful because it's intended for use at work, but gaming is not work. Or shouldn't be. The SE engine is powerful and shouldn't be restricted in it's use. Imagine CERN would have restricted the internet for scientific purposes only. –  Zommuter Aug 9 '10 at 8:30
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@Tobias: good point, but then the SE engine simply isn't suited for our current form of lists. Furthermore, there are better websites for these things and we shouldn't be trying to do everything (especially if we suck at it) –  Ivo Flipse Aug 10 '10 at 18:24
    
@Ivo Flipse: Who said we'd suck at it? The SO community is the greatest so far –  Zommuter Aug 11 '10 at 8:07
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@Tobias: I say we suck at list questions, because our interface isn't suited for it. After the first page, new answer get lost out of sight, people can upvote whatever number of answers they want etc... –  Ivo Flipse Aug 12 '10 at 7:27
    
@Ivo: ok, that makes sense, didn't see it that way –  Zommuter Aug 12 '10 at 11:47
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2 Answers

I think the major flaw in list questions is not only the size, but the approach that we take. I completely disagree with the popular approach of "one-per-answer" polling for list questions. I know, everyone loves the fun of the rating system that you can simulate with votes. However, I believe it is that which ruins list questions, because it is what highlights the subjective and inconclusive nature of list questions.

If we take into account what it means to be a valid question, the answer is one that provides a conclusive solution - it ends the question. If we take into account what it means to be a list question, it means that the answer is a list. If you are providing a single item per answer, then while the set of answers will create a list, no single answer will actually provide a conclusive answer. And while downvotes will often siphon out the off-topic elements in the list, what use are upvotes for but to express simple "like" of a game rather than actual "usefulness" of the answer? Technically, all answers which are on-topic are "useful" because they actually provide elements that the question is looking for. But it's unfocused.

I've proposed this before in comments, so now I'm going to propose this as an answer. This is not a complete solution, but merely an integral part of the formula which I believe is necessary for an acceptable list. There are other elements necessary, such as the scope that we still need to define more clearly.


Instead of taking this poll approach, let's use Community Wiki in a wise fashion. Instead of listing one game/software/item per answer, let's have one big answer with a low barrier of entry that people can enter the aggregate data into. And ideally, the answer gets accepted.

Pros

  • The answer provides a conclusion to the question.
  • Provided someone besides the question author posted that answer, accepting it will float all contributions to the top.
  • People will be able to find the complete list in one answer rather than having to surf through pages and pages of 30 answers each.
  • Items are easier to look at side-by-side.
  • Community Wiki means that it is easier for lots of people to contribute to the list. The goal here is maintainability, not avoiding reputation.
  • Duplication is easier to handle because it only requires edit privileges rather than deletion.
  • No need to wait for a moderator to put Protected status on the question in order to block it from junk and noise, because CW edit requirement is much higher than 10.
  • It resembles the objective list questions that get asked every now and then, which also have their lists in one answer. Note that those don't have to be CW because those don't have to be maintained over time or constructed by multiple users.

Cons

  • It needs to be maintained, whose job is that going to be?

    • This is a non-issue in my eyes, but someone will bring it up. Maintenance is exactly the same as if the question was in one-per-answer format. We rely on the community, people just add things when they think of them. With CW, you don't need to have some singular group or entity responsible for the upkeep.
  • People don't get to rate individual answers.

    • This depends on whether you value singular items in the list, or the list as a whole.
  • It's difficult to add details to the items in the list.

    • My first thought is that outside of gaming recommendations, most lists can have their items described in one or two lines. Highlighting the key points is generally more useful for comparison. Short enough lists can even include a summary about how the items compare to each other. Linking will also be your best friend for providing additional information.

    • My second, and more hesitant thought, is that one could possibly post a separate answer to highlight individual items with more detail. These would be linked from the main answer, providing basically a sort of index. This allows a lot of detail, and even enables the rating system if people like it while not sacrificing the accepted answer's ability to dock and contain everything.

Comments on this suggestion are more than welcome.

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We could try it out in one of the current list of x questions to see how it works. I agree it should be a different person who answers the aggregated answer for it to flow to the top, so if this doesn't happen we'll need to delete the answer and create one new ourselves (mods) –  jmfsg Aug 9 '10 at 14:41
    
People with not enough reputation to edit a CW post, could post new answers, which would be deleted when another person added the answer to the aggregated-list-answer -- If a mod didn't do that, the person that did could flag the answer for us to delete –  jmfsg Aug 9 '10 at 14:42
    
I think it's a nice middle ground, nice idea to at least try out –  jmfsg Aug 9 '10 at 14:43
    
@Juan I am not opposed to trying this, but I think we'll find in the long run it does more harm than good. –  tzenes Aug 9 '10 at 17:14
    
I'm not suggesting this as a gateway to allow all list questions. If anything, I consider it more of a filter. Not every kind of list works well in this approach, and that is very much intended. We are a Q&A site, after all, not just some "general Gaming site" - we're designed for that and that's where our focus comes in. I can only see what I can see - what are the effects this would have that would make our situation worse than it has been, @tzenes? –  Grace Note Aug 9 '10 at 17:36
    
@Grace I don't think it'll make things worse than status quo, which is why I'm willing to try, but I think it won't do any better. I think list questions in general are harmful and this will continue to promote their existence. I don't think it will hurt worse, so I'm willing to try. –  tzenes Aug 9 '10 at 18:14
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I think this compromise is worth trying. I believe without any list questions this site will eventually run dry. There is obviously not enough support for a more liberal approach so this compromise is the next best thing for me. –  Kempeth Aug 10 '10 at 11:26
    
The thing is, when I see a high voted answer I know that many people support it. For example, if I see a high voted game recommendation in a [game-rec] answer, I know many others share the opinion that it is a quality recommendation, and maybe I should also take a look. If we rely on only 1 answer, though, then an opinion that only one person shares gets as much attention and importance as an opinion that many share. I mean sure, that's how it works on wikis, but it basically throws the voting system out of the window, and I don't agree this is then more useful to users. –  Oak Aug 10 '10 at 12:33
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And to clarify my previous comment, if I were the one asking the question, both a one-per-answer and a single answer with a complete list will be nice, but a one-per-answer approach will be more useful for me because the power of the community is also used for ranking the suggestions. –  Oak Aug 10 '10 at 12:35
    
I have a different suggestion. What if game-rec's were allowed under the premise that they had to have a bounty of (say) 500 rep. It would prevent new users from asking game-recs. It would decrease the number of game rec's that could be asked. And the person asking would have to select one as the "best" answer. –  tzenes Aug 12 '10 at 7:21
    
@tzenes An interesting idea that would reduce the quantity, but terribly difficult to enforce. If we tie it to the tag, all you need to do is not tag it as such. Tying it to the text is also not a good idea because of the myriad of ways to phrase game recommendations, namely ways that never even mention recommendations. We would need an active "game-rec" police to keep watch for these, and I don't think either side of this debate wants that. –  Grace Note Aug 12 '10 at 12:09
    
@Grace Actually I think any solution other than "leave them alone," is going to require a level of moderation. The hope would be that this would require less, as people became familiar with the practice. New game-recs would be closed with a link to a part in the FAQ which discussed it (any of the proposed systems require this). What's more the tag can have a warning (similar to the subjective warning). Finally, existing game-rec would all have the same form (500 rep bounties) so anyone pointing to them would see them. The only real downside is people complaining about the policy... –  tzenes Aug 12 '10 at 15:20
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Edit: If you disagree please post a comment to promote discussion.

I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss the subject of [game-rec] questions. I realize there are a number of topics on this issue with diverse responses (one even linked by Ivo here) and that I've responded in some, but I believe we need to come to consensus on this issue and that this is the best thread to do it in.

On the subject of [game-rec]; I am aware they are popular, certainly I have enjoyed some, but I strongly believe that gaming.se is not a good place for them. I find that they are detrimental to the community. Additionally, I believe that the stackexchange engine is a poor engine for providing these recommendations (I'll suggest a better alternative to emphasis this point later).

To address this, let us first consider why people think that gaming.se is a good place for these sorts of questions. Recommendations are a sign that people believe that the community is of high quality and thus the asker values our opinion. Additionally, the form of the stackexchange questions (Question followed by a series of answers which the community votes on) seems useful as good or bad recommendations can easily be identified by the voting. Finally, the presence of the "community wiki" seems a tacit approval to questions which do not have a single answer (as recommendations do not).

I've discussed why I believe that these questions are harmful in another thread; and even why they encourage further harmful behavior. I realize this may be considered a bit of a "slippery slope" argument but considering the rise of arguments like RCIX's it seems more and more present. To quote Grace:

Your "loophole" for getting the question in is exactly the kind of reasoning which has made me come to dislike recommendation questions. Speaking on substance, it is no different than other questions asking for a list of games with a specific feature, like, say, a certain style of costume design.

If we consider questions on their own merit, we see that there is little value beyond any other sort of list question. As we seem opposed to those as polls or "favorite," I see no reason that [game-rec] should be given special treatment.

The purpose of our site is to gather people of expert quality in the field of gaming to answer hard questions in that field. These people are drawn to questions of high detail on topic the experts on interested in. By comparison polls, favorites lists, and even game recommendations do not fall into that category. What's worse, the prevalence of [game-rec] questions makes the site seem of even lower quality. The result is detrimental to the continuing existence of this community.

To further supplement this discussion I'd like to posit that the stack exchange engine is not an ideally designed resource for game recommendations. Instead, using the stack exchange engine for this purpose is the equivalent of using a forum as a QA engine, and we all know how effective that is.

An ideal website for gaming recommendations will take into the account the following:

  1. the ability to rank suggestions (as SE does)
  2. the ability to discuss suggestions (which SE does poorly through comments)
  3. knowledge of the person asking (which SE does not support)
  4. the ability to identify specific traits in games (which SE does not support)
  5. the ability to contribute which suggests were successful (which SE does poorly as there maybe more than one answer)

From this list we can see that the stackexchange engine only supports a subset of the necessary features, and most of those poorly. What's worse, feature #3 is the most desirable feature (and not supported). Instead let us derive a website which would support these features. Consider a website which allowed you to identify which games you liked, ranked them, and allowed people to tag features of games. Such a site would allow for quick and easy identification based on specific traits. Additionally, user data could be analysed for automatic suggestions. Finally, people would be able to comment on which games where like others with a simple voting system to help people identify which suggestions were good or bad.

As you can see even this elementary example is vastly superior to stackexchange for this purpose. It draws on elements of websites like Amazon.com and Netflix.com which uses user rankings to make suggestions and get a "feel" for what users would like. A social version of this would allow other users to get that "feel" quickly and easily and thus increase the effectiveness of their recommendations. Without the ability to get the "feel" the recommendations are little more than guesses. It is this reason, above all others, why game-rec questions are such a bad decision on gaming.se. The resulting answers have little merit beyond listing highly ranked games in the same genre (which other sites already do effectively).

If gaming.se is to survive and become a successful community of experts, I do not believe that game recommendations have any place.

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I don't see why we can't pick a middle ground (like Grace Note said), and allow some lists, but not go open season on them. A non programming type SE (especially one about gaming), is naturally going to have more discussion, and stifling that could very well drive off a lot of community. That's why i'm so opposed to shutting down anything with even a hint of subjectivity. –  RCIX Aug 8 '10 at 23:32
    
@RCIX I've already mentioned why any promote more as well as sour the opinion of people who we'd otherwise want. The major difference between the programming community and the gaming community is that the gaming community is much larger and has a much lower average expertise. This is why it is MORE important to stifle this kind of discussion. If we look at any of the top gaming sites (Elitistjerks.com teamliquid.com) we see an almost Draconian moderation. Yet these are where the experts are. Stifling discussion is necessary to gain community, otherwise we end up like EpicAdvice.com –  tzenes Aug 8 '10 at 23:42
    
I don't understand what you mean by "3. knowledge of the person asking". Could you clarify? –  Kempeth Aug 10 '10 at 11:36
    
I see more lightweight questions like game-rec as an essential part for the continued survival of this site. I'm not disputing that SE isn't perfect but I'm sure it could adapt in time. -- If you need lots of food, do you prefer going to 20 different specialist shops or one big one? There are plenty of communities out there that answer everything about gaming. We can draw people in from there by providing better answers but we won't keep them if they have to go back to their old community for every second question... –  Kempeth Aug 10 '10 at 11:46
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@Kempeth I would argue the failure of said communities can be traced by to their trying to handle "everything." As a consumer, a "1 Stop Shop" is a useful thing, but as a specialist its less desirable. Remember we are trying to accrue experts. As long as we have the experts, the other people come. If we look at the few gaming information sites that are successful they highly specialize. Compare EpicAdvice.com to ElitistJerks.com or Teamliquid.net to Zergoverflow.com. Specializing has made these sites good resources. –  tzenes Aug 10 '10 at 19:08
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