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For a lot of questions, there are frequently existing books/stories/movies/games that explore the theme that the question asks. A question on AI souls trapped in VR hells recently led me to mention Surface Detail by Ian Banks. Another question about gods competing for attention of worshipers led me to mention Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. These are just two recent examples.

What I often find is that for any given (good) question, we'll get several answers, and many will harken back to a particular existing story that answered the question in a particular way or deeply explored a given topic.

It makes me think that in addition to the answers section of the question, it would be useful to just have a list of "existing stories on this question" that people could contribute to, separate from writing up a full answer. Too often the useful citations are embedded in answers that don't bubble up to the top, or they're scattered around through many different answers.

  1. Do others agree with me that somehow promoting a list of "Existing source material" in the forum would be useful?
  2. (If "yes" to Q1) Would it be appropriate to start a practice of editing the original question to put as section of "Existing Source Material" at the end of the question as such things get mentioned in answers or comments?
  3. (If "yes" to Q1) Is there any way to modify the site to have a more formal way of recording such citations?
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Do others agree with me that somehow promoting a list of "Existing source material" in the forum would be useful?

Yes. Providing a central resource that is valuable to supporting the question with existing or similar material can be helpful, especially considering the expected brevity of the SE's Q&A format.

Would it be appropriate to start a practice of editing the original question to put as section of "Existing Source Material" at the end of the question as such things get mentioned in answers or comments?

No. The question is for the question, not for just anyone to blithely edit to add links to similar material that is not relevant to the question that was asked. If the questioner wants to link to the similar material, fine, but I don't think we should be encouraging other users to make superfluous changes to the question.

Instead, I would suggest creating a community wiki answer and denote it as dedicated to providing links/references to existing source material. This leaves it open to everyone to freely edit without attributing any reputation gain/loss to one user.

Is there any way to modify the site to have a more formal way of recording such citations?

It doesn't need to be modified. I would consider the community wiki answer (see above) to be a perfectly reasonable response to this problem.


There is an example community wiki answer (to this question) here.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you perhaps create an example on some question somewhere that would provide an example? I'm not seeing how that would work. Perhaps you could create a wiki entry for this question and show how you would link it? $\endgroup$ – SRM Nov 26 '16 at 5:25
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My opinions: Yes, yes, unlikely. I think a list of further reading would be good. Obviously still site your sources in your answer but having a list of collated sources/extra reading would be good. Putting the list in the question seems like the most sensible way to have it always appear at the top of the page. I really doubt that the stack exchange people will add this to the site though. You can put in a feature request on main meta but I don't think it will get anywhere.

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This is an example community wiki answer in response to SRM's request using SRM's questions on the main site.

  1. Effect of impact of a pure gas comet
  2. Feasibility of ocean-spanning railroads
  3. Does the probable heat of nanotech universal constructors make it infeasible in home environments?
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    $\begingroup$ So, I was meaning to post on this back when you made it, but Thanksgiving got in the way. Where is the community wiki? I do not know what this actually is or how this answer that you've posted relates to it. What am I missing? $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 23 '17 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM This is the community wiki. In the lower right corner, above my user name, it says "community wiki". It means that anyone can edit it without attributing any reputation gain/loss to any user. I believe the username displayed belongs to the last user to create/edit the post. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 23 '17 at 3:29
  • $\begingroup$ Ah. Neat. I'll have to look into how to add a community wiki answer. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 23 '17 at 4:04
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM When you create an answer (or edit your own), there's a checkbox in the lower right corner to make the answer a community wiki. Only a diamond mod can undo that selection. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 23 '17 at 4:06
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No. No. Unknown, wiki isn't solution(but maybe)

The reason is ethics of answering the question - If the writing of answer using those sources is not worth your efforts, why should it be worth someone else's efforts? Especially considering the fact, that most likely you are more familiar with those sources and other (who didn't get those association as you did) probably is not familiar with those sources(at least not enough to apply them in answers) and to use them he should not only do the job you have refused to do but also to read the sources?

Sure we are one click from everything, but time is a valuable thing, especially when one is one click from pornhub or youtube or from writing its own answer using his own material which he is more familiar with.

Choosing to recommend some literature or some sources if you choose so is fine in comments, and one who would like to maybe(not likely) may use your tips. For OP it is less useful, especially recommending sources of big enough volume, maximum you may realistically expect one will to read is one page if the topic is really interesting for the person.

Leaving just titles it is one step from answering each time you should google that, you should read the wiki.

Writing answer implies to show how those materials are related, and better by citing those places which are related, or by annotation. It is one of the reasons why answers consisting of links are not supra answers.

Would we work in the same company, or team and would we share the profit and would our task more long lasting (not 3-5-10 hours) then it would make sense.

Leave a comment, it might influence someone's thinking, or write the answer.

Why wiki isn't the solution - it is not on top. The information will have no fixed place(I sort answers in chronological order), is too bulky for the task considering how little and unimportant are results.

What I would like it more efficient system for pointing similar questions. It kinda reassemblies your proposition but instead of using information all way around of the world of information, restrict it to information of the site. Because duplicate closing is too heavy in consequences.

The only questions which could benefit from wiki, are questions, not all but those which try to be like it is described by the tag, not all and not in all cases, and not in the way to leave information, but overcome comments restrictions to exchange information for the answers which may take few days week to write, in case if someone is ready to collaborate(unlikely).

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  • $\begingroup$ Plenty of questions already have good, even accepted, answers. A lot of times, I'm adding a comment that shows a story that has that answer in use, for further exploration. This is not intended as a way out of answering. It's more adding citations and "for further learning on this topic..." $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 27 '17 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM leaving a comment is good, I usually read comments to interesting answers and comments is a way to go, because the information you place is there where it's needed. You might edit the answer to add a reference if you think it is so important and it corresponds to the style of the answer(answer have reference to some materials). Having this information as a separate entity which is on the same informational level as answers will make it one step away from the place where it would be consumed in another case. Maybe comments are not the cutest way, but ... $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jan 27 '17 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ Your comment, @MolbOrg, basically reiterates my question about the appropriateness of editing other people's content to add such refs. $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 27 '17 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM In some situations, why not, especially if the answer already contains reference sections (rare but, some times, a case). If it is improvement of the answer, not just subjective wish to edit something to one's liking then no problem. Basicaly, just do and see the reaction, if they do not like that they will roll your edits out, those who care. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jan 27 '17 at 21:56
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Do others agree with me that somehow promoting a list of "Existing source material" in the forum would be useful? (If "yes" to Q1) Would it be appropriate to start a practice of editing the original question to put as section of "Existing Source Material" at the end of the question as such things get mentioned in answers or comments? (If "yes" to Q1) Is there any way to modify the site to have a more formal way of recording such citations?

Q1: yes

Q2: probably yes, unless people start adding low-quality citations. (I think the citations should be readable, right there with the question.)

Q3: I'm new here; no clue.
It's possible the community wiki might serve this purpose, but IMHO the wiki here is not that intuitive to use. (Am I alone in finding the wiki functionality underwhelming?)

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  • $\begingroup$ No, you're not alone. :-) $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 23 '17 at 3:18

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