Similar to this question: The Issue with Multiple Answers, but instead of cherry-picking parts of the answers you agree/disagree with, I'm asking about an answer that is basically a kitchen sink list of short unrelated answers. I hunted the meta-discussions and the FAQ, but the related topics I found tend to blame the question as "too broad". However there seems to be a consensus that unrelated answers should be separate answers, and that short one-sentence answers are not proper answers.

An example kitchen sink list answer to the question "How to explain human life expectancy increase?" is here, which includes curing 3 separate and unrelated chronic diseases: cancer, Alzhiemer's, and heart disease, discovering a new energy source, ending famine and war, solving air pollution, and discovering a cure for aging. As worded, only one of the co-answers progress logically (a new energy source leads to less air pollution), and a few progress at least tenuously (energy source leads to end of famine and war, although that could be debated), but curing all top chronic diseases and another unrelated medical breakthrough – none of which are more than a single sentence – seems to render community voting almost irrelevant. One answer to a related meta-discussion suggests upvoting if you like SOME of the answer, hence a kitchen sink list may be a strategy to gain votes (my example is the most upvoted answer for that question by a large margin).

When I commented that the answer seemed "too broad", I was accused by the author of plagiarizing an item from his list! As I recall, my answer actually took time to write since I was attempting to follow the guidelines with helpful info and link, but had I dashed off a simple sentence with little or no explanation my entry might have been posted first too. Clearly my comment made the author feel threatened and wasn't seen as constructive. Rather than indulge a flame war I post it here.

I don't see WB as a competition for "first answer with the most options", so this insult just made me laugh, but this issue is not specifically covered in the FAQ. It may be a downside of the point-scoring system – the "quantity" of a kitchen sink list might seem better than a detailed "quality" answer, but it's inconsistent with the way questions are judged, and it doesn't seem to be compatible with most of the official statements about what makes a proper answer.

I leave it for you to consider, as my involvement here has waned and I find I am not as invested as I once was, partly due to the odd ego-wrangling and somewhat arbitrary point system that imho creates an artificial "score" that becomes its own goal.

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    $\begingroup$ So, my thought process goes like: I think this specific question should be reworded to something along the lines of "single most effective way to increase life expectancy". Oh wait, hang on - that's not really Worldbuilding, is it? Is this question even on topic? $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Oct 21 '17 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithrandir24601 I noticed there seems to be a "blame the question" trend in similar meta discussions I found, but you're right: a second answer in that thread is another kitchen sink list that might be summarized as "health and lifestyle choices" plus some oddballs added on (war, equality, education)…. Still if the rule is there should be only ONE question, doesn't it follow there should be ONE answer – or at least a multi-answer should reasonably progress or tie together? …Your comment helps me understand why broad questions are unanswerable. $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Oct 21 '17 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ There are no simple answers to an issue like this. Even a single focused question can be concerned with a multifactorial topic. This will generate a plenitude of answers which may be wildly divergent including kitchen-sink lists. I'm not sure whether list answers are good or bad per se. I do understand & sympathize with your disengagement. You identify institutional & personality factors that work in favour of WB. I hope you're not lost to us irrevocably, That would be sad. $\endgroup$ – a4android Oct 24 '17 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ "When I commented that the answer seemed "too broad", I was accused by the author of plagiarizing an item from his list!". No you were not. I said that — when making a list — it may possibly be considered poor form to take items from other people's answers and incorporating them in the list, since duplicating answers is usually frowned upon on SE in general. So if anything I pointed the finger at myself as a possible — albeit unintentional — infringer there. Hence making yourself out to be some sort of victim of injustice here is entirely unwarranted. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 26 '17 at 7:25
  • $\begingroup$ "Clearly my comment made the author feel threatened". I advice against such judgments. Trying second-guess people's motivations for answering is an inherently imprecise affair and comes with a high risk of getting it wrong (as is the case here). Read what is written and judge by what is openly said rather than what you imagine the person is thinking. As for "ego-wrangling"... leading by example is an admirable and appreciated way to proceed there. Keeping one's own ego in check while displaying patience with other people's ego is the SE way. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 26 '17 at 7:40

Realistically, there is a component here that justifies blaming the question. Fishing for ideas is not how Stack Exchange was ever intended to work. This is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. Therefore, the more discussion invited by a question the more likely it should be closed as too broad or primarily opinion-based.

Having said that...

Answers (and I'm one who does this) that list many aspects are (obviously IMHO...) well thought-out answers that try to cover all the aspects that might bound the question. Such an answer can be very valuable to the OP as it may expose ideas for both limitation and expansion that were beforehand not considered by the OP. In some cases, answers such as these have lead the OP to edit their question to narrow the focus (always a good thing) because they didn't realize the extent of their question — and that extent could not have been expressed in the highly limited confines of a comment.

So, I'm not personally worried about kitchen-sink answers.

I do think our (primarily) younger users often don't realize that at the time they posted their kitchen sink, another answer was being created without regard or knowledge of the first. Thus, the complaint of plagiarism is actually unfounded. C'est la Vie. They'll figure it out when it happens to them.


Permit me to disagree with your premise. I believe that these "list of unrelated answers" answers are appropriate and good. Here's why...

OP is asking "How can I get X?" where X is expanded lifespan, or angels fighting on foot, or aliens coming back for a second fight, or who knows what.

Well, there likely are several ways to get what OP wants. Mutually exclusive ways. Best to list them out, and let voters/OP/fate sort them out.

Now you could blame the question and insist that OP sketch out his theory and say "Is this feasible, yes or no dammit" but ... c'mon. Where's the fun in that? Also, if OP were as certain as all that, he would be less likely to come here for help.

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    $\begingroup$ There are many instances (FAQ, meta-answers) stating a single sentence is not a proper answer. Here we have a list of answers, only one of which gets more than a sentence. The rest are bare bones at best. Can you explain how they are "appropriate and good" answers? In contrast, another answer in the same thread is also a list, but adds detail (a paragraph) to each item in the list. My "premise" is not that an answer has multiple components, but that there is almost no attempt to flesh flesh out the unrelated items beyond simply forming a complete sentence. $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Oct 23 '17 at 1:45
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    $\begingroup$ "Best to list them out, and let voters/OP/fate sort them out." Kitchen sink answers make voting irrelevant. As already stated. The items in the kitchen sink are random and unrelated, there is no common thread that interrelates them. There is no way to determine WHICH item(s) on the list is getting a vote. This is the issue. The best way I can state it is the answer is "too broad", but particularly in this case all but one of the items are too thin to stand on their own. The only fleshed-out answer is "energy supply", which is debatable but is that what members voted for? Impossible to tell. $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Oct 23 '17 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ @wetcircuit for what it's worth, I'll suggest that we trust the votes. In the "extending lifespan" example... The community liked the list by a ratio of nearly 4:1 over the next answer in line. Let me state it more clearly: The community likes list-based answers. Maybe it's laziness; maybe people like the ferment of ideas; maybe people like bullet points. I like getting multiple options, and upvote for it. If I'm reading a Q&A page I'm not too interested in which answer has most votes, I just want the ideas. $\endgroup$ – akaioi Oct 23 '17 at 2:38
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with that @wetcircuit's saying, and I recall many answers that contained multiple solutions that weren't well-received. So . . . I wouldn't say that the example is answer is representative of the community's desire. Plus, there's the HNQ effect, so most of the voters for that answer probably aren't regular participants here. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Oct 23 '17 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 to be fair, that last is a bit of supposition, yes? (One has to wonder if there's a way to track HNQ-introduced votes; a cursory glance at the VoteTypes table suggests not) If there is a mix of good and bad reception of multi-solution answers, mightn't that suggest that the reception of such is orthogonal to whether it's a list answer or not? In which case it's just like any other answer, and stands or falls on its merits. $\endgroup$ – akaioi Oct 23 '17 at 20:10

Honestly, I do not see a problem with answers listing more than one option. In fact, I prefer those answers for several reasons:

  1. they give several perspectives on the same issue;
  2. they can highlight something that I have missed or forgotten about;
  3. they give me options to choose from;
  4. if formatted well, they are much easier to read.

I do understand your frustration with the fact that your answer has not ended as the top one. You spent some time working on it. But so did those people who made lists of options.

I also understand your complaint that those lists do not go into details. They do not. However, you can always ask for an elaboration on a specific point. People will be happy to provide it.

You might consider one more thing. Your answer is a bit more detailed than others. However, it was not really helpful or particularly interesting for me personally. I already know a lot about telomeres and existing approaches to using them in treating ageing. Your answer does not provide me with anything new. It does not even have links to articles or scientific research that would be interesting for me to read. It is not your fault. I am not your audience.

MichaelK's answer doesn't go into details but it got me interested. His Polywell nuclear fusion is something that I could use in my own work. Moreover, I am not upset that he doesn't elaborate on it. I can always use Google to find additional information. It is just me, but I am not looking for definite answers. I am looking for ideas and pointers in a right direction.

On a slightly irrelevant note, I think that you are way too obsessed with votes. Are you here to collect reputation and badges or to share and find information?

  • $\begingroup$ LOL that ignores everything I wrote to play amateur psychiatrist. Maybe address what I actually wrote above? ONCE AGAIN there are a lot of answers that are NOT actually answers, but mostly unrelated single sentences with no explanation – alone each is a poor-quality answer (except the energy). The question is: does a kitchen sink list of 5-7 low-quality answers add up to 1 good answer. it seems inconsistent with the strong policing of "too broad" questions, but whatever. I guess I am just jealous and obsessed with points??? Don't know where you got that from. Nothing I said. LOL $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Oct 23 '17 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ @wetcircuit, yes, those answers are good answers. Please refer to the first paragraph of my answer for the clarification. $\endgroup$ – Olga Oct 23 '17 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ This is the best answer imo. It's more about good information than trying to get points $\endgroup$ – user41674 Oct 24 '17 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @wetcircuit Use your votes to cast your opinion about whether you think an answer is good or bad. That is what the votes are there for. Just remember that saying "that is a poor-quality answer" always comes with the qualifier "...in my opinion". That is OK, you are perfectly allowed to think that and difference in opinion makes SE strong and valuable. Just watch out so you do not fall into the mindset "This is not opinion, this is objective fact" because then you are on thin ice. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 26 '17 at 8:17

Answers can't be Too Broad, only questions. It is quite permissible to answer a question more broadly than the question requires. In some cases, that can make for an excellent answer.

That said, quantity does not beat quality here. A bunch of junk is a bunch of junk. At least one of the answers should address the question directly and well.

Bad example

You want blue stuff? Add sapphires. Same thing for

  • Red and rubies.
  • Yellow and topazes.
  • Green and emeralds.
  • Clear and diamonds.

This is bad because it doesn't explain how to add sapphires nor how to control the shade of blue or anything. It's basically a one line answer with added fluff.

Good example

You can produce any color of the rainbow. As explained source, you can control the shade by grinding up the appropriate color of gem and mixing it with (chemical) and then coating the (whatever) with it.

Some common recipes, starting with blue:

Assuming the link, (chemical), (whatever), and ... are given real values rather than my placeholders, this could be a strong answer. It's broader than the question, but it provides a direct response to the original question asked.


Looking specifically at the single answer you note, while I personally find that answer defective, there are reasons to cover multiple areas.

The original question is basically, how do I get from a life expectancy at birth of around 80 years to a life expectancy of 250? And the issue is that you don't actually do that with a single thing. The closest to an answer to that is the telomeres concept. In fact, my dislike of that answer is that it is basically one line of "maybe telomere repair" and mostly focuses on reducing air pollution. Yet even if we eliminated air pollution, we would not move life expectancy to even 100, much less 250.

The answer also fails to explain how to make telomere repair provide a gradual increase from current life expectancy to 250 years. Why did it stop at 250 years? Why not infinite?

So personally, I think that answer sucks. But I don't think the problem is that it was "too broad". The problem is that it is overly tied to a single issue that is currently topical. Air pollution is a current concern. But in the context of the question, it is practically a non-entity. The rest of the answer is "too shallow".

Note that I also have the same criticism of your answer. It provides more explanation about what telomeres are (good), but it doesn't explain how genetically engineered food is going to fix them. I'd expect something more like a retrovirus or nanobots. And again, it doesn't explain why telomere repair gets us 250 years and not 500, a 1000, or a million.

  • $\begingroup$ 2 issues: cure, distribution. GMO grain/rice was my delivery method suggestion because it needs to be worldwide. A virus or engineered mosquito could deliver it, but a better idea is to make the telomere breakthrough a commercial product PerpetuaMeat™, and human longevity is an unintended consequence of shifting from eating animals to vat-grown meat protein…. But I'm not writing his story for him. Another telomere idea would be for cloning artificial limbs, organs – but I don't see it leaving the sphere of the super-rich. A food source seems the only way in his timeframe. $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Oct 30 '17 at 17:36

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