Right, so my previous question on cognitive science experiments garnered something of a mixed reception, and the question I have in mind may be even more controversial still, as it is directly asking for a list.

Such 'list questions' have proven to be among the most popular and useful on other SE sites and I believe the same could be true here. I also do not think, given the categorical imperative embedded in the title, that this will linger unanswered as did my previous question.

I envisage the question being community-wiki and tagged [big-list]- and also with answers limited to one experiment per answer, in accordance with SE norms. Answers would be encouraged to give a clear account of the experiment itself, and 'extra brownie points' would be awarded for those that add philosophical insights gained through said experiment.

I think this could be a valuable and interesting resource, and could, as big-list questions are apt to do, bring together the community at a time when the beta's metrics are foundering. Thoughts?


The problem with your example is that Math Overflow is not a Stack Exchange site. That is, it's not run by the same people who run the other sites on the Stack Exchange network. It is a relic of an earlier failed venture, now known as "Stack Exchange 1.0", where our Q&A technology was licensed to other people who wanted to run sites in the style of Stack Exchange sites, but promised to do so without any official ties to Stack Exchange or any of the other sites on its network.

Math Overflow is run by a completely different set of people, and not subject to any of the same rules or community norms that the Stack Exchange 2.0 sites (those are sites like this one, created through the new process on Area 51) follow.

On official Stack Exchange sites, we've found through trial and error that "big list"-style questions just don't work. They are not a good fit on a focused question and answer site. Yes, they are very popular with the community, but they have a very real broken windows effect that we simply can't afford to allow.

The FAQ does cover this explicitly where it lays out the types of questions one should not ask:

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite _____________ ?”
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use _____________ for _____________ , what do you use?”
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if _____________ happened?”
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: “_____________ sucks, am I right?”

Your proposed question ("experiments in cognitive science that every philosopher ought to know") falls into at least 2 or 3 of the above categories. Even if every answer to that question isn't equally valid, it would be very difficult to come to a consensus on which experiments actually are those that every philosopher should know about. That teeters quickly over into "extended discussion" territory, which is something that we try very hard to avoid. If the question sounds more like a "poll" than a question, then it is not a good fit for our site.

I said before that I don't think there's anything wrong with the previous specific question that you asked. If you have more questions of this nature, then I encourage you to ask them. Try to make sure that they're grounded as much as possible in the study of philosophy, and if they're not, one of the moderators (or other experienced community members) will do their best to try and help you reformulate the question.

But what you propose is not a good solution, even if it were to bring more traffic, because it is not the type of traffic that we wish to encourage.

  • While I fundamentally disagree, both that this question is explicitly forbidden in the FAQ quote above, and that this question would be bad for the site (given that it does have an answer- albeit one more easily dealt with in small chunks, than by a single massive answer- and has strict criteria for dismissing silly answers), I accept that, if across the board on SE 2.0 sites such big-list questions are strictly forbidden, this question will stand no chance. I may just wait for more input before I accept the premise of the conditional, though. Jul 26 '11 at 14:36
  • Such questions are certainly frowned upon, but they are not completely unheard of. math.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/big-list is the set of big-list questions over at math.stackexchange. But I'm very active there, and we frequently kill those questions. Jul 26 '11 at 17:54
  • 1
    @mixedmath: Weird. My experience is that those questions get closed and/or deleted within 5 minutes. Granted that's primarily on Stack Overflow, which can't afford to be as lenient about enforcing the rules as some of the smaller sites, but that seems to be the general spirit among community moderators on all of the SE sites. I'm surprised to see a sanctioned tag for that purpose. I'm not in favor of this; it opens up the flood gates to something that is difficult to control and explain away. We'll start getting a bunch of people creating these questions and asking here why they were closed.
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 26 '11 at 23:39
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/98334/… (Robert's answer talks specifically about "Big List" questions.)
    – Cody Gray
    Jul 26 '11 at 23:53
  • @Cody: I agree, I am not in favor of it here either. Were math not so large and established, I bet it would be a bad thing there as well. Jul 27 '11 at 0:51

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