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Anyone who's been on travel.SE for a while knows we don't like list questions.

I thought it was established Stack Exchange policy that "list questions are bad".

But I was on another site (linguistics) where I found a list question that nobody brought up this point against so I went over to Meta Stack Overflow and asked where I could get some words on the official stance to quote at them...

Well I didn't really find anything! It's looking like it's just us here and not Stack Exchange generally that dislikes list questions.

So where did we get this idea from? Have we been too harsh on list questions?

The closest I can find is about subjective questions. Everybody agrees those are bad, and they do tend to generate many answers, but they're not exactly the same thing as "list questions", they just happen to cross over to a small degree.

  • I put it in the FAQ back in last November, but the reason for it has been lost to history as far as I can tell. I also believed it to be SE policy. Perhaps from a post from Joel or something? – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Sep 24 '12 at 6:11
  • I hunted for Joel posts and asked the folks at Meta to help me find one. They only came up with the "good subjective / bad subjective" and "let's go shopping" posts. I'm starting to think it started with subjective questions and grew into something of a separate rule, perhaps under early influence of Dori while we were a baby site? – hippietrail Sep 24 '12 at 6:13
  • Quite possibly. Although this has come up a few times. I refer people to Ankur's definitive post on the subject, I think all of which I pretty much agree with, and which makes the most sense for Travel.SE. It's not about it being a list question or not, but what you're asking for as an answer. – Mark Mayo Supports Monica Sep 24 '12 at 6:15
  • Yes I didn't refer to that question in my Meta question on SO because I was looking for higher order rules from all Stack Exchange in case we may have in our haste to grow made up some rules of our own that the rest of the network didn't need. Or at least mutated them or exaggerated them etc. – hippietrail Sep 24 '12 at 6:18
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    I also always thought that this is a SE rule. – RoflcoptrException Sep 24 '12 at 7:28
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This has already been discussed on MSO under What about list questions. We had our own discussion on what constitutes a list question here and I included this part of an answer from Shog9, a StackExchange moderator (emphasis mine):

I'm starting to get really tired of seeing these "list question" discussions come up... "List question" covers a lot of not-very-related question types, and usually ends up confusing someone who sees the discussion and thinks, "But what if the answer to my question just happens to be... a list?"

There is some very specific guidance in the FAQ on every site... ... The first three of those tend to result in lists. But... that's more of a symptom of an underlying problem, aptly noted by Gilles in his answer: these are "questions" that don't really have answers.

Stop fixating on lists. Avoid questions that aren't really questions.

This is why the community and/or the moderators take a call on two counts that can make a question not suitable for the site. I wanted to repeat this here, just to reinforce WHY they are bad and what the main criteria is:

  • Not constructive: "As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion."
  • Not a real question: "It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form."

It may have started off as an influence from one of the early StackExchange moderators on this site, but after the previous discussion on our meta, the FAQ was updated to this:

eliciting list-style answers, suggestions or recommendations on a topic or place (unless VERY specific criteria is listed)

So even in our FAQ we don't prohibit list-style answers, we simply give that as a guideline because on a travel site, list-style answer typically fall foul of being 'not constructive' or 'not a real question'.

4

The Travel.SE is the site where it's quite likely, that a correct and valuable answer will be a list-answer, even if the question isn't a typical list-question.

Example:

Is there any public transport between X and Y? I couldn't find anything on Internet

Answer:

Actually, you can get from X to Y using A, B, C and D. Those are local transport companies that simple doesn't have internet pages

Please note, that in that case there's no difference between is there any? and what are?. The second, however, is in danger of being closed as list question.

Please just use common sense when closing as too broad. A list question isn't too broad as long as it can be answered with single, reasonably short post. Question about all musea in Berlin is too broad because it's reasonable to expect there are a lot of them (which is true). But question what musea there are in Mestia (Georgia) isn't too broad because it's a small town where you don't expect to be more than a few (if any).

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    I agree with you but I can't understand some of your English in the first line. "likely" means "probably". But even if you meant "like" I still can't make sense of it. – hippietrail Feb 27 '14 at 7:42
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After reading the question and the answer above, I'm left with the impression that list questions are fine - something I agree with, because most interesting questions tend to not have a black&white answer.

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protected by Mark Mayo Supports Monica Feb 24 '14 at 5:31

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