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How should we feel about list questions? For example, there's already How can I protect equipment against a lightning strike? which seems to beg for incomplete answers at best (because I doubt anyone is going to sit down and list everything one can do to protect their radio equipment against lightning strike in a single answer), and is a shopping recommendation question at worst. In fact, there's already an answer on it that takes it from a shopping recommendation point of view.

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No. Q&A is not the right format for list questions.

To quote the relevant part from this answer on Meta.SO

Generally, those questions are infinite, as a new answer could always be added; they also tend to be subjective. As such, those questions should not be asked, basing on what written in the FAQ.

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    $\begingroup$ Correct answer, but the lightning protection question is not necessarily a list question. There is only a finite amount of possible answers and a clear consensus that the only sure way is to unplug your rig. This question also has safety significance. $\endgroup$ – jkj Oct 23 '13 at 19:44
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I don't think it's possible to completely ban "list questions" simply because the potential meaning of "list question" is so broad as to cover a lot of things that probably could get quite a useful response out of the Q&A format. (You could ban a narrow definition, e.g. questions that specifically ask for a list, but that only affects a small subset of questions.)

If you restrict questions to only those which have a single empirically correct answer you tend to wind up with a site that ignores practice and focuses solely on theory, because only in theory do you really ever wind up with one clear "right" answer.

I think it would be better to focus on creating a community that avoids list answers and leaving the focus on questions to be whether or not they are too broad.

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  • $\begingroup$ List questions are generally considered to be "too broad" on Stack Exchange. And it seems to work pretty well on other sites, including what I think we should consider our sister site Electrical Engineering. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 23 '13 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I'm just saying that there's going to be some subjective judgment that goes into what a "list question" is (just as there is for broadness). Otherwise, I totally agree. $\endgroup$ – Amber Oct 23 '13 at 16:21
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If have seen many list questions and answers on other SE site that worked and keep on working very well. Here is a nice example: "Comprehensive list of tools that simplify the generation of LaTeX tables." For this reason, I am a fierce proponent of open-ended list questions.

Not all useful information in the world can be poured into closed-form answers.

Furthermore, the idea of constantly editing to improve existing answers and adding new and better answers forms an inherent part of the philosophy of SE.

Examples as the one above demonstrate that this does not need to end in chaos as long as the question contains orchestrating instructions. A little editing of the original question by experienced SE users may help in such cases.

Finally, a topic as ham radio inherently generates less questions and answers than a broad SE topic such as, for example, computer system administration. It is not so (yet?) that our gear spits out error messages one after the other. SE as a company has not yet entirely grasped this inherent difference. See also "Is Stack Exchange vetting historically biased towards topics about syntax and semantics?" Therefore, it is in our interest to allow list questions and answers in order to pass our public beta minimum traffic requirements.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Not all useful information in the world can be poured into closed-form answers." -- The goal of StackExchange is not to index all useful information in the world. $\endgroup$ – Amber Nov 28 '13 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Amber You are logically inverting my statement. I did not say that our goal is to index all useful information in the world. $\endgroup$ – on4aa Nov 28 '13 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't say you said that. However, there's not much reason to mention a fact about "not all useful information" if the implication isn't that we need to do something for all useful information. $\endgroup$ – Amber Nov 28 '13 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ Furthermore, no, we are not going to adjust our question vetting process simply to pass traffic requirements. That defeats the spirit of the requirements, not to mention working at cross purposes to many of the other requirements aside from traffic. $\endgroup$ – Amber Nov 28 '13 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Amber If you would read the above-referenced meta discussion carefully, it is neither you nor I but SE as a company that does the vetting between SE proposals and betas... $\endgroup$ – on4aa Nov 28 '13 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ I'm referring to the process of vetting questions, not sites. $\endgroup$ – Amber Nov 28 '13 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ In this specific case, the instructions in the question would lead to a situation where the number of answers does indeed grow unbounded pretty much until Ethernet falls out of favor, and it won't necessarily help with the stated goal because there are many ways other than an Ethernet port to accomplish remote control and operation of a transceiver. A 1 ½ years old question on another site does not necessarily make the practice more appropriate. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 29 '13 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ For one thing, on what criteria would people vote on answers ("yes, this model really does feature an Ethernet port"?), and on what criteria will you pick the answer to accept? I know myself that it isn't always easy to pick a single answer to accept, but in this case, one answer cannot possibly be more useful than the others. If I'm looking for a piece of equipment (ham-related or not) with a specific feature, I'll either use a favorite search engine to try to locate it, or ask a retailer which models may be of interest to me and then investigate those further. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 29 '13 at 8:26

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