Did we ever achieve consensus on the List issue?

I was thinking about asking a question in line with Ubiquitous's suggestion on the previous meta discussion.

Something along the lines of

What textbooks should people read before posting here?

Given our standard that questions should not be answerable by a cursory review of an undergraduate text, what are some books we could point new users to?

So my question becomes, where does that belong, Meta, Main, or Somewhere Else?

My thought would be on main with one suggestion per answer, to provide maximum exposure.

I could equally argue it belongs on Meta, since it's about the site itself and unlikely to produce an accepted answer (though we could have a community wiki accepted answer comprised of the top ten voted answers if we were getting creative).

Energy Numbers had previously suggested tag wikis, but I think those are less likely to be seen by an average user, and they don't encourage voting on individual suggestions.


I think they have a place on main too. I suggest we enforce the following rules to keep the lists useful:

  • Strictly one suggestion per answer. This allows voting on each suggestion.
  • Standardise formatting for each suggestion. This list is easy to browse because all information is in the same place in each answer. Reference lists should provide full bibliographic information.
  • Questions must be fairly specific. Lists like "What are good economics books?" are likely to be too long and general to be useful to most. "What books can be used to learn graduate-level applied time-series econometrics?" is much more likely to attract a combination of interesting answer and interested readers.
  • Questions should invite as little subjectivity as possible. Better to ask "What books can be used to learn graduate-level applied time-series econometrics?" and let the votes do the talking than to ask "What are good books from which to learn graduate-level applied time-series econometrics?" and invite subjectivity in the choice of responses.

I also wonder if we shouldn't ask that people make their answers community wikis so that they can be kept updated as books get new editions, working papers get published, software gets new versions, etc.

As a separate, but related issue, I do think that we should have a list of resources for newbies somewhere on meta. Possibly in the welcome thread. Maybe with a gentle suggestion of some other places to look if they have a simple homework question.


My suggestion is to let them in main. They are tremendously useful. List questions are banned in stackoverflow but I believe the main reason is that they pertain software and so their answers have, by necessity, a short shelf life.

  • $\begingroup$ (+1) Good point about the "shelf-life" being different from discipline to discipline. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Dec 8 '14 at 9:22

A "Big list" question has no objectively right answer. It's a great question for a wiki or a forum, but not for a Q&A site.

I can see a place for it on meta, as a FAQ: if the meta question is: "I have a basic reference question, where should I ask it?", then we could point people to books or other websites, for questions that aren't suitable on main.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How about if the question is "What books can be used to learn graduate-level microeconomics?" Isn't Mas-Colell, Whinston, and Green then an objectively correct answer? $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Dec 5 '14 at 14:52

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .