The refers to the question If 30% of global military spending for the next 30 years were instead spent on an "intelligent life" backup colony, where should we site it and why? [closed].

The question initially went through several iterations. Initially it defined a broader set of existential threats. In the earliest comments, one commenter said...

Please pick a threat and pick a plan and then ask specific questions about that plan (after checking that they haven't already been asked on this site).

... so it was focused on the AI threat specifically. Several other constraints we introdued as well.

But then later an answer said...

Option 1: Make the problem match your solution If you want to make a believable story about a Plan B habitat, change the apocalypses to something that makes the Earth uninhabitable, but is confined to the Earth like a comet, megavolcano, global warming, nuclear war, etc.

Also the question is very focused on the question of where to site the backup colony. But nevertheless it received two "frame challenge" answers along the lines of "What's the point? The AI will find and kill us where ever we go.". One of those answers received 25 upvotes. This suggests that by over-focusing the question we just encourage people to ignore its constraints and say whatever they want to say - and that the community is apparently fine with that. I don't think that making the question more focused will have the effect of making the answers more focused - if that's what we are going for here.

I don't believe that closing a question three days after it has been posted is an action that should be taken likely - especially when it and its answers have collectively garnered almost 100 upvotes. Refining the question might make sense, but this also has to be done very carefully since any changes could negatively impact the quality of the existing answers.

Closing the question for a canned generic reason just creates a situation where the OP is faced with the difficult challenge of guessing what the person(s) who closed it wanted done to improve it and risking changes that would damage perfectly good answers to the original question.

I suggest that we un-close the question and then discuss what can or should be done to improve it in this Meta post.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "This suggests that by over-focusing the question we just encourage people to ignore its constraints and say whatever they want to say" counterpoint: the focus was just bad. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Jan 12 at 6:56

3 Answers 3



Since you're still pretty new to Worldbuilding.SE, I'm just going to recommend that the question you're asking here is perfectly suited for our Sandbox! Technically, Meta is for questions about the culture, rules, local policies, functioning, etc of the Worldbuilding forum. Questions about improving your own questions should be entered into the Sandbox.


  1. You get one-on-help by members who actually want to help you learn how to write good quality questions or to help you learn how to improve your skills.
  2. You won't have to worry about the problems of question closure, the inability to really edit a question after it's gotten answers, etc.
  3. You can get some clarity on your question while the question is in "pause mode". I saw that your query underwent many edits, has many comments and many discussions and has many answers some of which may or may not be invalidated by later edits you made. This kind of situation can be stressful for new members, and sometimes they leave the community in a huff because they think we're mean. In reality, the Sandbox can help you avoid common newbie errors and misconceptions.

I was not one of the close voters, but I think it should've been closed and revised for a reason different than the stated.

The Q is just fundamentally unsuitable for the "one best answer" rubric. The Q gives budget & technology constraints, no problem there, but then asks about something that is left unconstrained. A location.

It's like asking the question "you're given 100 million dollars and Earth is your domain, where to build the best zombie apocalypse shelter?" It's anyone's guess and not totally clear why one location beats another.

I hope someone else gives a more comprehensive answer to your meta question though because I think it should be possible to frame a similar question under SE's framework.


I just read your question for the first time

And it should have been closed and should remain closed. You're not asking about a rule of your world, you're asking about the plot of your story. Yes, you're trying to couch the question in terms of details... but it's still a matter of narrative necessity.

There is no such thing as a single, objective, aka "perfect" location. Every one will have pros and cons... and that's the reason the question is story-based. Which location is "best" is the one that best suits your story. It's not an issue of rules.

Worldbuilding rules govern things like the technology to get to the location, the technology to build the infrastructure, even the political infrastructure within which you create the climate leading to the nead for your location.

And that's a good example: the difference between the political climate and the political infrastructure. We can help you build your political system. We will not help you explain how that system is used to bring about the crisis. That's storybuilding.

In like manner, we can help you define the technologies you need to create your backup base. But we will not help you choose where to put it. That's storybuilding.

In this regard I disagree with why your question was closed. I can see the ambiguity of the selection process, so I can see the logic that lead to the "Needs More Focus" choice. But in reality, it should have been closed as Too Story-Based, a specialized VTC sub-reason of Opinion-Based, or closed as Not About Worldbuilding per the Help Center, which prohibits open-ended questions. (See the difference between questions that ask for a finite list of things vs. an infinite list of things.)

So, how can a question like this be asked?

You need to make your choice. We won't make it for you. Choose a space station or Mars or the Mponeng gold mine... make the choice, and we can help you with the worldbuilding "rules" that rationalize that choice.

But asking us to hand you a list of options with the associated strengths and weaknesses so you can make a story choice... that's the kind of brainstorming we discourage in the Help Center.

And for the record...

  1. Popularity has never been a valid reason to keep a question open. Just because there's a lot of people who don't know the rules or refuse to abide by the rules doesn't mean you have a credible question.

  2. Closure is not a punishment. Its purpose is to give you time to edit your question and bring it into conformance with the rules. The real error here is that it wasn't closed within minutes of you asking it.

  3. Stack Exchange advocates for rapid closure — the faster the better. It does this because it wants to be a repository of quality questions and answers useful to as many as possible. The fact that you want your question answered doesn't matter to Stack Exchange, which would rather see your question closed until perfected.

  4. Stack Exchange is not like Quora, Reddit, or many other forums which are more discussion-based and/or a free-for-all that lets any question be asked for any reason with any consequence. Stack Exchange is highly regimented. Some questions simply don't belong here.

Having said all that...

We really do want to help you build your world. It's a lot of fun and we have a worldwide community of incredibly imaginative and well-informed people. All we ask is that you abide by the rules. We created a sandbox to helpyou achieve that goal — and it's linked in the Help Center.

  • $\begingroup$ To clarify, the plot is 1) AI near-miss happens, 2) There is agreement to spend big on a solution, 3) Then debate on the best solution occurs, 4) Colonize Venus wins, 5) Earth colonizes Venus with solar powered aircraft. I'm looking for help with (3). I want the debate about alternatives to be as realistic as possible, so I need some creative and well-supported counter proposals. It is the brainstorming and exchange of perspectives from the proponents of different ideas that I'd like the community to help me with. $\endgroup$
    – phil1008
    Commented Jan 21 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ @phil1008 (3) is off-topic storybuilding. Per the help center, "When asking questions keep in mind that the goal of the site is to help you build your world, not to tell your story." (No emphasis added.) Per the tour, "This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum." So debates are off-topic. Frankly, the quest for "as realistic as possible" is irrelevant if you're not educationally competent to judge whether or not an answer meets that criteria (if you are, why are you asking?) and finally, from the help center, (*Continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 22 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ ... "If you are looking for discussion, brainstorming, or an overall process rather than specific questions and answers, the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange might not be a good place for your question." That's a really polite statement when the reality is that discussion is prohibited anywhere but in Worldbuilding Chat and brainstorming is so limited that it might as well be prohibited. In short... if those are your expectations, you're in the wrong place. And that's why your question should have been closed and should remain closed. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 22 at 0:27

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