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The question Which scientists (mathematicians, philosophers) who voluntarily served Nazi had large contributions to human knowledge? seems like it is requiring a list of notable Nazi scientists (the question also seems opinion-based) - my question is, do we allow big list questions or put them on hold (for being at least 'too broad'), with the advice for the questioner to refine the topic?

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    $\begingroup$ In my opinion (and experience with other SE sites), yes, they should be placed on hold. Such questions don't work well in the SE format. $\endgroup$ – Wooble Oct 29 '14 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ I second Wooble's comment. $\endgroup$ – Danu Oct 29 '14 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps, depending on the calibre of the answers - the answers are put on hold, but not necessarily deleted. $\endgroup$ – user22 Nov 9 '14 at 9:02
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To formalize the comments, yes, big list questions should be put on hold. They really don't work with this format at all. They are especially problematic in the definition stages of private and public Beta. We are trying to recruit real experts in the history of science. Big list questions attract more pop-history answers, and will not attracts the experts we want/need. If we ask a lot of big list questions during Beta, we will continue to get a lot of big list questions for the lifetime of the site.

That particular question could be narrowed by asking about specific scientists. Heisenberg, for example, is particularly controversial. Mengele is known to have carried out experiments we now regard as inhumane; what was his thought process at the time? And so on. I suspect that any big list question we would want to keep could be narrowed to specific examples in a similar fashion.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree with you, except on the conclusion. I believe we should allow them in beta, to make sure we can't find a suitable way to answer them. $\endgroup$ – VicAche Oct 29 '14 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ The real question is how to distinguish list questions from big list questions. List questions with narrowly crafted criteria that are hard to search for have been well received, and do not produce many answers, e.g. hsm.stackexchange.com/questions/256/…. In some cases it is clear that the list is too big but there are borderline cases. $\endgroup$ – Conifold Jun 2 '15 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ It is also sometimes possible to edit a big list question to shorten the list considerably while preserving the OP intent, but if a question is already placed on hold it becomes a death knell, at least on hsm. So I would suggest to wait a couple of days before such a question is placed on hold to let users who do not visit every day to possibly narrow it. I know that theoretically the OP can simply ask a new question, but unfortunately some new users see hold as a personal affront to them, and simply disappear instead. And we do need to attract more questions. $\endgroup$ – Conifold Jun 2 '15 at 2:30
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I disagree. First of all, on other SE sites, list questions are not put on hold automatically just because they are list questions. For example on MO, which among SE sites has the largest proportion of professionals. They even have a special tag for list questions. And some lists are very interesting and useful.

Just out of curiosity, go to MO, click on Tags, and type "big-list". You will see quite a few interesting and useful list questions.

I agree that the list question cited in this question is not a good one. But there are also interesting list questions, to which reasonable answers can be given, like this one, for example:

Famous Scientific Conflicts and Controversies

Speaking of pop-history answers and questions, there are indeed too many of them on this site, and I see very few questions which could be asked by "experts in history of science". Also from the vote statistics, I can conclude that there are really very few people here who appreciate serious history of science, while pop-history questions and answers get many votes.

But I don't think that the reason for this is in the "list questions".

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    $\begingroup$ "which among SE sites has the largest proportion of professionals" source? $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 25 '14 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ Source? My own experience. You are also on MO (if you are the same quid), so you probably know what I am talking about. $\endgroup$ – Alexandre Eremenko Nov 25 '14 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ So you have knowledge on all the 100+ SE sites? Impressive. :-) Yes, I know MO. The profile page links all accounts. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 25 '14 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexandreEremenko I wrote that question during private beta and when I was an active member, this site is not MO, but are finding its own way - it was just one of my attempts to help define what is, and what is not wanted fo this site. $\endgroup$ – user22 Nov 25 '14 at 22:42

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