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There is nothing in our What topics can I ask about? that outlaws list questions. There is nothing in our What types of questions should I avoid asking? that outlaws list questions. In his post Real Questions Have Answers, stackexchange co-founder Jeff Attwood states:

Constructive subjective questions:

    inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.
    tend to have long, not short, answers.
    have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.
    invite sharing experiences over opinions.
    insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.
    are more than just mindless social fun.

He elaborates to say that he would not recommend closing all poll questions but only "chatty, open-ended questions [that] diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page."

I would propose the following policy for considering list-type (or other possibly subjective) questions (continually edited per comments below).

Constructive subjective questions are welcome on Movies & TV S/E. Constructive subjective questions:

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone
  • elicit answers that can be backed up with facts and references
  • have the potential to add to someone's enjoyment of a movie or TV show
  • are not open-ended or hypothetical
  • are likely to result in a possible "best answer" though multiple answers may equally contribute to answering the question

Questions that are likely to elicit a list of opinions that are not backed up by facts or references will be placed on hold until they are edited to be more useful to the community.

Examples:

Not a good match for this site: Who is the best actor of all time? (opinion)

A better match: The film 8 Mile about rapper Eminem is said to be semi-autobiographical. Which parts of the film are factually accurate?

Not a good match for this site: How is the color red used symbolically in films? (too open-ended)

A better match: Birds show up in a lot of Hitchcock films. What do they symbolize?

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    I don't see what long answers has to do with list questions. The reason why stacks are against list questions is because they are usually not finite and even when they are, there is often no one right answer as multiple answers can each be considered correct. – coleopterist Oct 3 '13 at 17:42
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    @coleopterist I think what Jeff was aiming at by "long" was that we don't want answers like "X was a better biographical film than Y." A better answer would be longer and would explain how X was more accurate or cinematographically better. Perhaps there is a better word than "long." Or maybe we don't need to address length at all. Taking that on board... editing suggested policy. – MJ6 Oct 3 '13 at 19:50
  • I support your proposal to chnage in policy based on the format you presented. However the point- experiences over opinions perplexes me. How is that possible? Someone might answer to a question, which simply asks in a complicated manner that Which movie is almost like X, by saying his experience like I have seen Y and it ocurred to me that Y is almost same to X. So this is on one hand sharing an experience but on the other hand giving an opinion! – Mistu4u Oct 4 '13 at 10:41
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    I think that it'll be helpful to include a few examples that illustrate what would be on-topic and what would not. – coleopterist Oct 4 '13 at 15:52
  • @Mistu4u Perhaps that bullet point isn't as applicable to movies S/E as other stack sites. I will remove it and see how people feel about it. – MJ6 Oct 4 '13 at 21:43
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First of all, thanks for the hopefully fruitful question. This topic waits to be adressed for a long time in a referential meta discussion, and I for myself have deferred to think more thoroughly about it for too long, I admit.

While I have more or less eagerly tried to close-vote list questions in the past, my view on them tends to soften more and more, especially in light of some of the IMHO better examples of list (or even "recommendation") questions we had recently (and my growing aversion to other kinds of definitely answerable questions, like ID and trivia stuff):

Especially since some of them might be rephrasable into the "have there ever been..." kind:

(Those examples might not be perfect (and neither do I regard them all as very good) and I didn't bother to search the whole day, but they provide at least some variety of the general category, I think.)

Of course if we allow list or even recommendation questions, there has to be a good load of (unfortunately not automatable nor completely objectifiable) quality control by the community, but like you I tend to think they might be possible. I more or less agree with the guidelines you present in your question (as well as the examples). Especially the last two bullet points help to fit them into SE's Q&A framework.

But speaking as someone who often tends to answer more based on common sense than elaborate research I wouldn't lay too much emphasis on "facts and references". Of course absolutely not because those are bad things, but because a well reasoned but otherwise unbacked "subjective" answer can work well, too, if providing good and to some degree objective and reasonable arguments.


So to sum up, I think loosening the policy on list (and recommendation) questions might add some good contributions to this site if they aren't too broad, subjective, or downright trivial (which is again a difficult decision on its own). And while this would require much more control and softer assessment by the community, your proposed guidelines are a very good idea (and might even be added into the help center in this or a similar form once the decision is made).

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Lists have always been a fun topic for us (and SE as a whole).

In general, the examples you give are actually really what I would expect from a question that can be answered with thought and explanation.

I think those 2 words are the key to this whole argument.

If you can just slap together a bulleted list and call the question answered, the question itself is a failure. It provoked no thought, other than what to Google, and did not require an explanation as to why these items need to be on the bulleted list.

However, if your answer is just one of many that has a good explanation with some thought behind it, that is different than the rest of the answers, then we have a contender for a good "list" question.

I've noticed over time that we can argue that almost any question can be considered a "listy" question. Its typically a question that doesn't exactly have one correct answer, but multiple interpretations. But the one key difference that this tag brings to the table is the thought behind the answer and the explanation that the user brings to their thought that invokes the kind of appreciation that we all want from this site.

Notice how I'm hammering those words in your head pretty damn obviously :D?


To sum up, I'm not against lists in every incarnation but to site 2 recent examples:

Film about handling sadness

I recently closed this question as a dupe of our recommendation cannonical. I believe that this question, while well thought out and the answers are actually pretty good, dives essentially into a "I like this movie, is there more of it and what?".

However!!!

If rephrased properly, it can actually be a good analysis piece about this topic.

To contrast:

Protagonists & Daughters

This can be interpreted first glance as a listy question, but beyond asking "Is there more? It asks the all-important part that evokes thought and requires explanation of "Why is this a thing?"

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Despite that one question which I fixed later, I'm against list questions, mostly because they tend to fall into this off-topic category:

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”

As unless someone puts in serious research effort very quickly, there will be dozens of answers naming single movies and no way to say which is better other than the amount of movies named or how much the asker likes the movies named.

It's not guaranteed to happen, but I think most people will recognise this pattern on the List questions:

  1. Somebody (or multiple people) attempt to be the fastest gun in the west and posts a single movie they know which matches the criteria
  2. Somebody posts a long, basically authoritative answer which includes dozens of matches.
  3. The second answer draws enough upvotes to get the question on the Hot Network Questions list
  4. The question becomes flooded with new and unregistered users posting single examples which weren't mentioned in the others (or occasionally they are duplicates)

In the end, I think if we're going to allow such questions, we should make them community wikis and amalgamate every answer into a single, completely authoritative list we all maintain.


Another reason I'm against such things is the duplication issue:

Trivia questions are off-topic; we're not trying to duplicate IMDB.

Lists are everywhere! If you want a list of media about a certain topic, there's IMDb keywords and TVTropes (Not limited to TV, despite the name) which have far more detail than we could feasibly achieve. Considering this is how people will research movies to put as answers to these questions, there's no real reason to duplicate it, especially as we have the FAQ question on the matter.

  • Interesting points. This is certainly an occuring pattern that needs to be adressed. But I don't agree so much with the last point, since we would definitely need to care for not entertaining simple trivia list questions, but this doesn't have to do so much with the problem of list questions, but with trivia questions in general. This might even help with the first problem, since a proper list question would not entertain stupid example answers, or those answers are then just, well, bad answers. I agree, it might become a quality assurance nightmare, but it could work. – Napoleon Wilson Aug 16 '14 at 11:18
  • That being said, Community Wiki is never ever a good idea for reasonable questions. – Napoleon Wilson Aug 16 '14 at 11:19

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