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Related: Why are people answering list questions?

Different StackExchange sites have taken different stances on what are commonly referred to as "list questions". I think it's important that we establish this site's guidelines as early as possible.

What should this site's guideline be?

  • 2
    Only a handful of sites accept "big list" questions, with questionable results. The norm is to discourage them. Not so much because they are bad questions, but because they don't really work within the confines of a Q&A platform. – yannis Apr 30 '15 at 12:48
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/139618/… – durron597 May 5 '15 at 13:26
  • Please avoid re-asking the same questions. meta.mythology.stackexchange.com/a/47/61 – James May 20 '15 at 4:05
  • @James - Did I not point out that the question you referenced was related in my first sentence? While the questions are related to each other, they are not duplicates. – David Stratton May 20 '15 at 4:10
  • possible duplicate of Why isn't this "list question" closed? – user62 Jun 2 '15 at 0:38
  • @Christofian - Not that it really matters to me, but this question was posted over a month before you asked the other one, so if this one was first, how is it a duplicate of one you posted two days ago? Don't you have it backwards? – David Stratton Jun 2 '15 at 2:54
  • Actually, scratch that, it does matter to me. I take a bit of pride in helping to formulate the guidelines while the site was in private beta. This question helped formulate the guideline, not the new one, and I'd argue that this one should remain open as it was first, and the principles brought up accepted as current site guidelines. – David Stratton Jun 2 '15 at 3:12
  • @DavidStratton meta.mythology.stackexchange.com/questions/251/… (the policy on list questions seems to have changed). I personally think that the guidelines in your answer should be the real guidelines, but since they aren't, then there should only be one meta post so there is less confusion. – user62 Jun 2 '15 at 14:26
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The guideline should be:

No list questions.

They don't suit the SE style, which works at its best with direct questions and answers.

There will be times when a question may have multiple answers. These aren't necessarily pure list questions, so an element of common sense is required.

  • I would just elaborate that list question don't really teach people much about mythology. At best, people just learn that there's a lot of gods with x characteristic, which isn't interesting. – user62 Apr 30 '15 at 22:13
  • @Christofian this is true, however one could imagine that in theory such questions could trigger reflections on the symbolism of that characteristic or a reflection on comparative mythology. But indeed in itself its interest would be limited. – plannapus May 1 '15 at 9:14
  • Again...lists are not inherently bad. meta.mythology.stackexchange.com/a/47/61 – James May 20 '15 at 4:05
  • @Christofian Shouldn't the value (how interesting) of the question and answer be determined by the OP and not anyone else? – James May 20 '15 at 4:07
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A good example would be "What Greek deities had domain in the water?" Listing every single deity and god would makeup the entire page. List questions like "What are the similarities between Greek and Roman mythology?" would also fit in this category.

Narrow it down to what you really need to know, like "Is there a Roman counterpart to Hermes?"

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Depends on what you consider a "list" question.

The reason list questions are usually frowned on isn't due to some mythical "list" qualities, but because many list questions have properties that make them inappropriate for SE format.

  • Some produce many answers none of which is "correcter" than another.

  • Some can't even produce a canonical answer since you can always add to a list

  • Some simply have list so big as to be outside the scope of SE post.

  • Some duplicate existing lists (Wikipedia, TVTropes, whatnot).

As such, we should not ban questions for being "list" per se, but instead allow/disallow based on whether they are good fit for se. As such:


  • If a list is designed to be compact, end-ful (easy to exaust) and unlikely to attract a slew of extra "oh! Add this to the list" answers, it should be on-topic.

    • "Who are all the mortals who successfully journeyed to and from Hades?" (I expect the list to be pretty short)

    • "Who were all the mortal women who consensually had romantic affiliation with Zeus?" (I'm expecting the answer to this one to be an empty set. If I'm wrong in the size, this is a bad example)

  • If a list is the opposite (endless possible valid answers, none of which is more "correct" than another) it should be off-topic.

  • If a list is easily research-able somewhere, even if it's on-topic it should be down-voted harshly as lacking research effort ("What are all the 12 heroic deeds performed by Heracles?")

  • A required feature is clarity of criteria - if you have to argue extensively whether many items do or don't belong on the list, it wasn't a good question.

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