List questions often pop up to poll people for their opinion on "the best [resource]".

What is the best book on lindworms?
What can I feed my unicorn?

A more recent and practical example is:
What are some good resources for keeping track of pet food recalls? (this is the first version before edits were made to it)

While I think that some lists on some resources might be a nice to have (maybe as CW) how do we want to handle this type of question in general?


4 Answers 4


List questions are a bad fit for SE. However, some list questions are merely poor formations that can be redeemed.

In the food-recall example cited here, an edit to turn it from "what resources are there?" to "how do I find out about?" changed it to not being a list question. It also allowed for answers that aren't about lists at all -- for example, using Google alerts instead of relying on specific web sites.

When possible we should edit to improve questions of this type.

  • 1
    Agreed, improving questions is always preferable.
    – Baarn
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 20:39
  • 2
    I immediately favorite-d the question as it currently stands, "How can I keep track of pet-food recalls?" and THEN I noticed the controversy. I feel a question like that is important to have answers to, even if they are malleable over time.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 20:43

List question are mis-fit for Stack Exchange and are often closed as too broad.

In the case of the linked question, the edit suggested is appropraite and tends narrow the scope of the question. If that edit hadn't been made, I'm pretty sure the question would have been closed


This post is in response to Should we allow shopping or product species recommendation questions?, which was literally just closed as a duplicate of this one, right before I was about to hit post.

Here is the post in its current form, for reference purposes:

Cats have some surprisingly subtle nuances in the ways that they express themselves. From the way they hold their tail, to how they make eye contact, or even how loudly they meow, there are a wide variety of means of communication.

Is there a research-based book anyone could recommend that explains cat social interactions and communication in depth?

The bottom line is that Stack Exchange sites are expert sites. That means that the people coming to this site need an expert answer. If a user asks a question where the answer is to link to some other expert resource, then we've failed in our mission to make the Internet a better place.

When pet owners have a specific problem and they want to search for it on Google, they want to find the answer. This question won't do that. It instead just regurgitates some information that most people can already find out by buying the book on Amazon and spending days reading through it hoping that it might answer the question. That's not what Stack Exchange is here for.

Pets Stack Exchange is here to make sure that person gets an answer for the reason their cat growls at them when they pet him while he's eating, but only when eating Meow Mix.

Overly broad questions do our site a great disservice because there's so much more content that can be generated here based on that one idea of cat behaviors. What specific behavior are you most curious about? Instead, edit the question and focus on that. Give our community a chance to become the experts and also allow for more questions about cat behavior to appear. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of more specific questions and answers that can be compiled right here that will help those Googlers find answers and cement pets.stackexchange.com in their minds as the final place to go to get at those answers.

Lastly, we're in the private beta, which is the most critical, most defining period of a Stack Exchange site. When this goes public, we want veterinarians, animal behaviorists, animal caretakers, and other experts to look at this site as a serious place where their expertise can provide value. If it looks like a place for just the mildly curious, we may find ourselves without people who can answer the really tough questions, forcing Googlers to simply go elsewhere to find expert answers to their Pet questions. Hope this helps!


One solution for list questions that is advocated on a lot of SE sites is to collate these sorts of lists into entries in the FAQ or the corresponding tag wikis. The tag wiki for pretty much any programming language on StackOverflow (e.g. Java) is usually a pretty impressive example of providing a lot of information, links and other resources that wouldn't be covered under any acceptable question on the site itself.

I propose to actively close list questions but encourage people to provide any answers as part of the corresponding tag wiki or an FAQ entry.

  • Agreed, as we grow people can write up wiki edits
    – user87
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 21:50
  • I don't think people realize this is a feature of SE
    – user87
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 21:50
  • 1
    @Skippy I know, it's a severely underrated and unknown feature of SE, which is why I think every closed list question should refer people to a corresponding tag wiki or FAQ entry. But that means we'll have to fill them before linking to them, so it's up to us to make sure this happens. On the plus side, it eliminates the discussion about list questions while still helping people with their problems.
    – ThomasH
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 21:53
  • @Skippy I hadn't noted the down vote. Anyone want to explain why? It's a common practice and suggestion on most SE sites.
    – ThomasH
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 22:10

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