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@HDE226868 has agreed to help us update the Help Center pages. I believe it's time for a fairly thorough review of what we want for the next stage in the Stack's lifespan. It's an opportunity we're not going to get very often. Consequently, the process will be intentionally time-consuming with each "phase" of the discussion taking 2-4 weeks.

This is the kick-off for the effort and I'd love to have as many of our users as we can join in. Heck, it might be against policy, but I have no problem suggesting that the following comment be pasted to questions and answers of users (arbitrarily) 10,000 rep and higher. (Others will see the link and join us, which is great! But we need to draw a line or we'll be posting this in millions of places.)

The Community is starting the process of updating our Tour and primary Help Center page. This will include policy decisions and it's a great opportunity to help us define the next stage of [worldbuilding.se]. Please join us at [this Meta page](https://worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/10334/40609) and share your thoughts. Thanks!

What is the 100,000 foot view?

  • There are things we can't do.
  • There are things we can do.
  • There are things we can do if we're clever.

What can we edit?

We can edit...

  1. Some of the Tour (it's not very flexible).
  2. Some aspects of the front page (which is even less flexible).
  3. The What topics can I ask about here? page.

Basically, we have one page to work with. The relevant movie quote is, "We've got to find a way to make this... fit into the hole for this... using nothing but that."

Request for High-Level Section Ideas

Today the "What topics can I ask about here?" page has the following general sections:

INTRODUCTION

  • Who we serve.
  • What "worldbuilding" means to us.
  • What worldbuilding vs. storybuilding (one sentence).
  • No character decisions here (specialized storybuilding).

ASKING QUESTIONS

  • What, why, how, and research.
  • Sample topics (really old question examples).
  • Another we-don't-do-storybuilding sentence.
  • How to ask about events.

SITE RESOURCES

  • The Sandbox
  • The Perfect Question checklist
  • Real-World Questions
  • More "how to ask about events"

THE SMALL PRINT

  • Specific & answerable, good/bad subjective
  • Flagging questions

My Proposed Goals...

  1. At this point in time, everything is up for grabs. However, I believe it makes more sense to start from the top and work down. That page needs to be clean, clear, and preferably short. That means it's ultimately going to be a bullet list of concepts with brief statements and links to Meta pages that explain all the gory details.

  2. Which means we need to be careful which rabbits to chase. We'll be compromising across a lot of opinions with the goal of setting up a help center page we can be proud of for the next 7-8 years. If any of us nudges another with a comment like, "that's a discussion for later," we need to be ready to take a step back.

Therefore, this first discussion is...

What are the high-level sections that this page should have including a description of their content and, if appropriate, examples?

Please post answers with ONE PROPOSED SECTION PER ANSWER. That way comment discussions can be focused. Remember, there are things we can do if we're clever, meaning the Help Center is authoritative so long as it links to the necessary policy pages, which I think also need to be looked at. But, one thing at a time.

One more thing. This is the first step in a somewhat complicated process. If you think this is the wrong first step, don't be shy... post and answer and explain why we should be focusing somewhere else first. I've been in business meetings where the first day was spent figuring out where to start. Relevant book quote, "A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct."

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    $\begingroup$ Incidentally, I think the sandbox is a symptom of the problem of Worldbuilding. "Worldbuilding: the stack with rules so contrary, arbitrary and up for interpretation, that the only way to know if your question is okay is to ask it in a sandbox so people can tell you if it's okay to ask it." If we had better rules, more clearly defined, we would not need a "sandbox". What other sites do? (I did a spotcheck. I could not find any other site that felt it needed a meta sandbox just so people could get their questions approved for asking. Tis a silly place.) $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Feb 14 at 0:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB This is the first post of a process that will take several months at least to complete. If, in the course of that effort, you can find a way of dealing with the Stack Exchange-mandated "Opinion-Based" close reason without resorting to the use of a Sandbox, we'll be glad to entertain your ideas. Some of the problems have nothing at all to do with our policies or culture. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 15 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ @JamieB Also... Math has a sandboxRPG prefers independent meta posts after-the-fact and there's CodegolfCS EdInterpersonal SkillsIslamPoliticsPuzzling. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 15 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB So... what symptom do all those site have in common with us that they also need sandboxes? Other than it's a convenient way to help new users acclimate to Stack Exchange, not just the individual sites, I mean. Maybe they're all silly, too. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 15 at 2:55
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Sandbox for Math clearly says it's for drafting complex problems. Not because they might get voted closed, but because the user may want to do multiple revisions before finalizing a post. Very different reason than here. RPG specifically says "no sandbox". Codegolf is for posting challenges and people want to refine their challenges. I guess the short version is those sandboxes are a friendly aid for the community. Our sandbox is more of a bludgeon. "Use this or else we might find some infraction and close your question and you'll never guess what our declared infraction might be." $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Feb 19 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB Is there real value to this debate? Perfect equations, perfect challenges, I mentioned RPG went another way..., perfect questions.... What's the difference between their friendly aid and our friendly aid? Frankly, shame on you for asserting that an honest effort to help people learn how to use the site is a punishment, no matter what you, personally, think of its rules or moderation. Here we are at the beginning of an equally honest effort to recraft the site's culture... and you're whining. You're welcome, BTW, and even invited to help, but I hope for less whining. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 19 at 19:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Math's sandbox is a friendly aid. Literally a favor to the community, to cover a weakness in the SE interface -- the drafting of difficult questions that may require multiple edits to get right. Your WB sandbox presents itself as a courtroom where you may sit in judgement of people's posts, telling them if they have permission to use the real site. That's not a friendly aid. Better defined rules -- and an aim to be a friendlier, more productive Stack -- would make that room unnecessary. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Feb 21 at 6:02
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB "My" sandbox? I didn't create the sandbox, I'm just the latest caretaker. It's been around much longer than I've been a member of the community. Historical links exist on the sandbox page. You're wrong too often to be taken seriously. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 21 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB I have no desire to be a moderator - and by "other users" you primarily mean yourself. We celebrate free speech here, but to be honest, if you can't positively contribute to a better world. Have the courtesy to be silent. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 27 at 20:37

6 Answers 6

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Creativity vs Science Lite


Somewhere in this discussion and definitely in the who we are / what we do sections, we really need to stress that worldbuilding is a creative endeavour and that we encourage questions that demonstrate creativity and also elicit creative responses.


We must stress that we are NOT physics.lite.se and that questions and answers do not have to couched in terms of real world science or follow the realist school.


Unfortunately, WB.SE has morphed quite a bit since its inception. To quote Separatrix from a recent response here:

WB has changed, a lot, several times. The stack I joined isn't the one you joined, I was already fading out as you became active. The stack as it is now isn't that one either. I miss the one I joined, but that's long gone. Fundamentally most of the questions when I started were either story based or opinion based requiring creative solutions. Everything is now much stricter, it's more about maths problems that can be solved, heading for "I can't be bothered to categorise this properly for another stack" questions rather than the considerably more creative place it used to be. (Separatrix)


I would like to focus on this aspect: story based or opinion based requiring creative solutions. This alone is why I joined and stayed and remained active. If this place continues on the path to convergence with the science forums and continues to push away the creative aspects of the art, then there's no longer any use for this forum.


Here is a good example question: Determining the qualities of a quill based on the qualities of the bird. This is a worldbuilding question that, as I read it, touches potentially on in world natural philosophy / science; in world folklore & culture; in world magic and underlying principles. In the comments we find many typically "science lite" complaints:

What makes you think flamingos eat microbes? Seeing as how these birds are nominally able to fly, why would you think their feathers would be different from those of other wading birds? (Eg. flamingos.)

Using quills for writing with ink on paper was a strictly European thing, limited in time from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period. In the Antiquity, they used reed pens, and reed pens continued to be used in the Islamic world throughout the period when Christian Europe used feather quills. Goose, swan, and chicken quills worked just fine and were interchangeable. The only requirement was for the primary flight feathers to be large enough; even the feathers of large crows or ravens worked all right. There were no major material differences.

I guess that the difference between the Classical Antiquity and the Islamic world where they used reed pens on one hand, and Christian Europe where they used quill pens on the other, is the lack of suitable reeds in colder climates... For the same reason nobody has tried flamingo quills -- there are few place with flamingoes but no reeds.

It took me no time at all using Google to discover a great variety of bird primary feathers were used as quill pens and that Ostriches prove that a quill pen could be made from the primary feathers of a flightless bird. Research is mandatory.


Another query: Is there a way to offset the damage caused by breaking cosmic strings?

Cosmic string are nothing more than fictional objects devised by some people who cannot even agree on a way to verify their theories. You can build all and nothing on them.

Do you know that the amplitude of gravitational wave wanes quickly due to geometrical spreading but I will need to check if it also experiences attenuation.


These kinds of comments seem somewhat to considerably unhelpful in a creative sense. For the first question, we note that the OP did not ask for materials science or physics or biology; so we are not dealing with a sciency answer. If anything, the wording of some quality of the bird leads to a particular quality of the quill leads one naturally to consider a more esoteric, more philosophical answer. And since the OP is specifically not asking for a scientific answer, clearly, the answer needs to be more creative in nature. For the second question, the OP touches on highly theoretical things that may or may not exist and technologies we probably won't reach within the next millennium. But you know what, who cares!? It's science fiction! It's a creative endeavour!


These are questions of classic worldbuilding. The questions' wording and the expectations allude to a creative approach. Scientifically speaking, none of the fictional bird's description really has any bearing on what kind of quill can be made from it; for in the real world, I can make a quill pen out of any feather! For the other one, I doubt anyone has a clue what could really work in a situation like that.


Classic worldbuilding is, first and foremost, a creative endeavour. Comments about whether or not flamingos eat microbes is not only unhelpful, but also completely off the topic. Irrelevant. Comments focusing on where, geographically in the real world, quill pens were used are also unhelpful. Irrelevant. The only helpful comment was the one about research. Yes, research is mandatory, but this doesn't read as the kind of question where the OP needs to demonstrate a PhD in ornithology to ask a question about a fictional bird and the kind of quills that might be made from it.


If the OP were focused on microbes, then the question should be asked in BIOLOGY.SE; if the OP were focused on quill usage, then it should be asked in HISTORY.SE. But no, the OP asked here, in WB.SE, because a different kind of answer is needed. A more creative solution for a more creative query.


To that end, we really need to come to some sort of consensus on what "story based" means in this context, and also what "opinion based" means. And we also need to unshackle ourselves from becoming too rulebound. We are becoming SCIENCE.LITE.SE, and that is not where we should be!


Criticisms and Considerations: (to follow shortly...)

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, there is also a writing stack exchange that I frequently see suggested as an alternative place to post opinion based questions, I'm not entirely sure how valid a suggestion that is for some of those I've seen that suggested on but there is clearly the same desire (as you express here to differentiate WBSE from all the science SEs) among some to differentiate WBSE from WSE, it may be a matter of balance, I don't pretend to be certain where that balance might be though. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Feb 7 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore Writing still doesn't take story suggestions/prompts. See New rule on what to write questions and in general the on-topic page in their help centre. The stack is mostly about the writing process. Helping writers how to write not what to write. They might dip into the actual text in terms of style or similar but for the majority of cases, it's not where story questions should go. There is thus extremely small overlap between WB and Writing. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Feb 7 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ OK, getting back on topic > there can be a very thin line between "story based or opinion based requiring creative solutions" and writing their story and character choices for them (which I don't think we want to do?), but I have seen "opinion based VTC" used a little too enthusiastically (or so I thought) on questions I thought were OK, so perhaps you could expand with more detail on where you would like to see the line drawn / maybe how you think the rules or advice for opinion based etc should be worded? I think we might need that to move your topic on in any way. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Feb 7 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ [ponders] let me put that (perhaps) a little more clearly .. what parts of the guidance and advice in the help pages (etc) do you think cause the problem you think exists and how would you change them to solve the problem? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Feb 7 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ Obviously, I'm not suggesting we write a user's story. But we do have a problem with closing questions for being "opinion based" simply because it doesn't fit with real world reality. That's great for Physics.SE, not great for WB.SE. As for story based, we really need to be less fearful of good story based questions. Clearly, "here are two things, which should my character choose" is a bad question. But "hey, I'm 10k words into this magicoscientific fantasy, worldbuilding and narrative are interfacing, but I'm having a difficulty seeing how to get the plot mvoed from (cont) $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 8 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ (cont) set up to conclusion" is a much better question for us. it brings us back to the more robust creativity of the past rather than shoulder-shrugging dismissal of the present. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 8 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ Yep, but that's still just an observation and description of what's happening that you'd like to see change, what's the cause? why are we doing it? pull up the "story based" text and the advice for using it blurb and have a read through it, what in the current wording is the cause and how might we change it to better accommodate what you think we should be doing, what's the cause and how do we fix it? without that we're just moaning to no useful effect ;) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Feb 8 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore I think the perfect niche for Worldbuilding would be solving particular problems with a story, or world-mechanics ("why does my wizard use a staff") even if it requires brainstorming, which leaves Writing for questions that are rather more specifically about the actual act of writing (rules, best practices, style guides, etc) and the science exchanges can handle the strict science questions. I do think that brainstorming specific scenarios is the only sensible niche that Worldbuilding has available to occupy. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Feb 14 at 0:46
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB -- Good point there! I have always disliked "opinion based" as a closure reason; have long disliked our disdain for "story based" questions and am rapidly becoming disenchanted with the whole "brainstorming" thing. Brainstorming and opinions are pretty much what we do! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 14 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore --- Being rude is never the way to go. You just shut people off and demonstrate that you never had a point in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 14 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ I'm all for this and believe we can do it, but I wonder if it makes sense to invite people to shy away from "all things fictional must be made factual" questions. Do you believe that's a reasonable request? This is likely to be the last issue addressed in all this because it's the stickiest: Too Story-Based; Opinion-Based; Real World Questions; Help Me Engineer My Fantasy; I'm Suffering Writer's Block; High Concept Questions; and more. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 19 at 3:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore -- I am going to get to your points! It's just going to take me a bit! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 22 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ Agree that opinion-based and brainstorming questions should be permitted. You are right that this is the major purpose of worldbuilding. Disagree with anything anti-science. If you want to relate the feathers of the bird to the bird, that is a science question, specifically biology, and science-based responses would be as helpful as other perspectives. Most people ask questions about what would make sense in their world, and often the best, or a good way to decide what makes sense is to go to science. Science-based answers can live alongside others. (and science answers CAN BE creative) $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Mar 5 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the majority of questions right now are asking for some science-based sanity check. Look at the front page and that's what you see. Dyson spheres, gravitational waves, mountain formation, climate. There's even one guy trying to hire someone for money to help with science advice! Most authors don't have a problem thinking up fantastical scenarios on their own, but they are concerned about accidentally writing something that would go against science, and that's why they use this place. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Mar 5 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I don't disagree with you... it's the querents who disagree with you. They're out watching shows like The Expanse and Interstellar and, lacking a college education in hard science, are walking away believing the marketing for the shows and assuming that any flight of fancy can be expressed in terms of known science - if they can just find the right person to do that for them. It's insane, but after nearly two years of watching what I hoped was just a fad build in momentum, I can't but assume that we have a long row to hoe. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 17 at 1:16
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Story in questions

  • Is storybuilding part of WBSE?
  • can I ask about my story? (e.g. let people do a internal consistency check on my story)
  • can I give story details to explain something in my question?
    you can give a "story goal" (e.g. how can my merfolk sink this ship) you want to achieve but you are missing the in world way to that goal.
  • what can I do if my question was closed as "to story based"?

Goal of the section

My goal would be to have a section people can point to when discussing whether a question should be closed as "to story based" and also for new members to check the rules about this specific (and often controverse) topic before (or after) asking a question.

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Worldbuilding Stack Resources

The Stack provides a number of resources to help you with your worldbuilding. Please consider reviewing these resources before asking a question.

  • Worldbuilding Meta is where you can ask and learn about how Stack Exchange works, Stack policies, and Stack culture. You need one reputation point to enter Meta. Thus it is accessible to every registered account.

  • We provide a list of worldbuilding resources with a large list of links to worldbuilding tools and help.

  • We've created a checklist for new questions that is the best place to start before you ask your first question. We have also provided a catalog of question types that identify the types of question we answer and those we don't.

  • We have a new question sandbox where you can test a question before posting it on Main. This is a great way to learn about how to ask questions and how Stack Exchange's rules and the Stack policies affect questions.

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    $\begingroup$ Might be time to nominate someone or a team to check all the W/B resources to ensure no broken links etc.. I'm game. (If you're not already on the case that is) $\endgroup$ Feb 6 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ Who or what is the Main site? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 6 at 20:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Don't users start with 1 reputation, with the tour page giving a badge? $\endgroup$
    – Jakav
    Feb 7 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ I am fairly sure that the system starts with 1, and it is very hard to get to 0: you'd need to get a single accepted answer (15) which then has 8 downvotes (-16). $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Feb 7 at 10:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Trish it's impossible to get below 1. If you have, say, 3 reputation and for whatever reason get rep reduction < -2 then you still only go down to 1. There is no zero, nor negative reputation a user can have. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Feb 7 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Jakav correct. The tour only gives the Informed badge. That does not change anything for the account. At best if somebody posts something off-topic and they don't have the badge, they can be directed to the tour page (comment magic link: [tour]) as to inform themselves what the site's model is. Also a note: on some other stacks, the rep requirement for participating in meta is higher. Not a lot higher but just to stop brand new accounts. On SO it's 5 rep, for example. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Feb 7 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Escapeddentalpatient. I'm delighted with your enthusiasm. Though we're not quite ready for that yet, it'll be a big enough task that the help will be greatly appreciated. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 7 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP If you're reading this comment, you're currently in Meta, distinguished by a grayscale color scheme. Main is the site where actual worldbuilding questions are asked, distinguished by its somewhat orangey color scheme. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 7 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Jakav I'm not entirely sure. It's been a very long time since I was a new user. Now that you have me thinking about it, the tour gets you a badge, not reputation. I'll update that later today. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 7 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ Oh yes I know that I am on Meta. But somebody who is reading the proposed text for the first time has no idea what you are speaking of. Might be a good idea to explain what is what before referring to them as if they were known entities. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 7 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for the insight. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 7 at 19:41
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I don't have a formal write up for this, but I would like to see more specific resources for people with moderator privileges about what to do in common situations. We are given privileges, and there are instructions about their mechanics, but little training in their daily use. I think this leads to divergent ideas about how to use those privileges, something I am definitely guilty of.

I'll start with a sketch of one that's been on my mind.

How to vote-to-close constructively

I find it off-putting to see close votes for "Needs Details Or Clarity" or "Opinion Based" (always an odd one here) or "Needs More Focus" with no explanations. The questioner should have the opportunity to adjust their question, but how can they with only a vague idea what the problem is?

As much as we hope they would, people cannot be expected to study the Tour and Help Center before asking. And one can never assume the VTC reason is obvious. Rather than expecting people to know all the rules or read our minds, we should focus on correction and education.

This could include...

A linkable reference of common close reasons and their remedies

For each specific type of reason for closing, we could have a page discussing it, and suggestions for how the question could be fixed. VTCers would be encouraged to add a comment linking to the appropriate page.

This would be mentioned in the help pages about closing.

This could be as simple as specially tagged meta questions. For example, I frequently reference What is the XY Problem? on Stack Overflow.

This allows everyone to pool their efforts into building a collective reference of both very specific close reasons, and also their specific solutions. Rather than asking each VTCer to write a big explanation, they can link to the reference making it as easy as possible to provide clarity and instruction.

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    $\begingroup$ These are good ideas and some of it has been worked on. For example, we have a catalog of question types, but until now, we've had no ability to get it into the help center. To be honest, this is our chance to link from the help center to editable meta pages where we can more easily control the pages and keep policies up to date. We've been lacking that. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 13 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Agreed. Doesn't matter how much helpful content exists if people don't know to go looking for it. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Feb 16 at 0:26
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Site-Specific Policies

Every Stack is a little different. These differences are often reflected in the site's policies. Below is a short list of the most important policies. You can find a complete list by clicking here.

  • We do not answer questions about 3rd party or commercial worlds. [1]

  • We accept real-world questions with a worldbuilding context. [2], [5]

  • We do not accept brainstorming or idea-generation questions. [3]

  • We do not accept questions about character or organizational decisions or choices. [4]

  • We allow answers that address problems with the question. Such answers are called Frame Challenges and must contain specific types of information to be valid.

  • We do not accept questions presenting a seemingly small or minor change with a request for evaluations of broad consequences (e.g., "if Hitler died of pneumonia one year earlier, how would that have affected World War II?"). We call these high concept questions.


NOTE: I'm using some existing policies (and two that aren't...) to demonstrate the proposed section. I expect some policies may change as a result of this effort. I believe the specifics of what should be here is a discussion for later.

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  • $\begingroup$ When we removed the custom close option for idea generation all the discussion around removing it was because it was covered by other existing close reasons. Idea generation was still not permitted after the change. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Feb 6 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings I'm sure you're right and maybe raw idea generation should still be off-topic, but that's a discussion for later when we ask ourselves which, if any, of our policies should be modified. Today I'm just using it as a placeholder to exemplify the need for the section. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 6 at 4:14
  • $\begingroup$ "We accept real-world questions", caveat, providing there's Worldbuilding context. $\endgroup$ Feb 6 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Escapeddentalpatient. I had forgotten all about that post! One of my goals with this is to start linking all the relevant policy posts so we don't have to remember everything. Thanks for bringing that up. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 6 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ Bullet 4: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3300/49 - our "too story based" policy. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Feb 7 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ "You can find a complete list by clicking here." the link just leads to the main page. Is that intended to be a placeholder for something else? Or is the link wrong? $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Feb 7 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Trish I didn't include that in this example intentionally. I expect we'll have a rigorous discussion of what "too story-based" means in the future. Please remember that this first effort is focusing on major divisions (although I'm not surprised that folks want to jump into the details). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 7 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ That's because a landing page listing all our policies doesn't yet exist. At this time policies are considered "in review." Please remember that this first post's intent is to review major divisions on the help center page. To use that page efficiently, we will need to link out to Meta pages that deal with the main section in more detail. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 7 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I was just checking if it was intentional or an accidental omission. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Feb 7 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ That would be worth a note then - that "TSB" might need a revamp. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Feb 7 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ I notice there's a lot of "we DO NOT accept questions..." but only one "we DO accept questions...". I think we need more positive guidance on what to is good to ask. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Feb 10 at 20:54
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Don't waste your time.

The Stack Exchange model of curation and moderation is predicated on small communities where the majority of members understand and share that community's rules and goals. Because of this, compliance is high, community participation in curation is high, and active moderation is rarely required since the community is self-policing.

As the various sites in the SE network have grown in user count, this model has very obviously begun to fail. Few of the new users are interested in becoming part of the community by e.g. reading the help pages; they don't care about such things as "rules" because each one is a special snowflake who expects their question to be answered. Over time the ratio of curators:users thus decays to the point that the workload on the remaining curators becomes such that many cease curating. This leads to more work for fewer curators, which accentuates burnout, which creates a negative loop whereby curation activities ultimately cease because nobody is interested in dealing with the torrent of rule violations that non-compliant users call "questions".

This could be overcome if Stack Exchange moderators had the ability to unilaterally remove content they believe violates site policy - but they very crucially lack that ability. In contrast, moderation in pretty much every other community on the web grants that sort of ability. Guess which of these two models has been around since the invention of the internet because it works? I'll give you a clue, it's not Stack Exchange's one.

So yeah, you and the mod team can go ahead and bail a few cupfuls of water out the side of this particular site-boat by updating the help pages. But when you have hundreds of new users throwing cupfuls of water in the other side, what exactly do you expect is ultimately going to happen to the boat?

For anyone who thinks I'm being unduly negative or doom-and-gloomy... I've experienced this on Stack Overflow, where I estimate that currently at least a third of the questions are unfettered garbage, and that percentage is trending swiftly upwards. Is Worldbuilding likely to experience the same thing? Almost certainly; it's never going to have the same number of new users as SO, but it's also never going to have as many curators, and the number of bad questions that remain open here nowadays - because nobody flags them for closure - is already horrifying.

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    $\begingroup$ "Over time the ratio of curators:users thus decays to the point that the workload on the remaining curators becomes such that many cease curating. This leads to more work for fewer curators, which accentuates burnout, which creates a negative loop...." Do you have any evidence to support this assertion which would apply to worldbuilding (our demographic is a bit different from Stackoverflow after all)- or is it just an opinion? $\endgroup$ Feb 11 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Escapeddentalpatient. (great nick BTW) Considering that most of the questions on here that should be closed aren't, the ratio of curators:users is evidently already problematic. $\endgroup$
    – Ian Kemp
    Feb 12 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @IanKemp Do you have any evidence that most of the questions that should be closed aren't? Who decides which should be closed? What issues are being caused by their remaining open? $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Feb 13 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ I'm going to amplify that last bit, what's the harm if a question is left open? If others didn't feel the need to vtc, maybe it wasn't so bad. Downvotes should quickly send it to the bottom; what's the issue if it's not crowding out other questions? Being too restrictive can suppress all questions. Closing a question too quickly, or for a non-obvious reason, can leave the asker discouraged from fixing their question or asking another. Unilateral close power leads to arbitrary decisions and more bad feelings. To continue to be welcoming and inclusive, we need to accept some crap. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Feb 13 at 4:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Schwern Part of the problem is SE's own goals. They want rapid closure and even deletion of questions (you can't delete once the first answer is posted). Why? They want to become the world's go-to source for knowledgeable, experienced answers you can't get elsewhere. In other words, we're fighting the intent of the site when we just let things slide. Most of us signed on back when this was, perhaps, a bigger deal than it is today... but we still see the value in it. Trust me, we'll never crowd out all questions - even on this stack. It's also worth noting SE was intended for adults. ... $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 13 at 5:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Schwern Also, keep in mind that closing a question was never intended to be a punishment. Querents (remember, intended for adults) are expected to work with the community to figure out what went wrong and actively fix it, thereby becoming better at asking questions. What doesn't work? It's rude to say it, but folks under the age of 25 or folks who only care about getting a quick answer (free research service!) rather than becoming part of the community. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 13 at 5:40
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    $\begingroup$ @IanKemp Hey, I want more gold badges (who doesn't), but most days there are only at most 4 to 6 reviews in the close review queue. Most days I read all the questions posted and most answers - we don't have the volume of SO or the bigger sites There are many lurking high-rep users who seldom post, but stick around for interest, I see that when I check-out the "last visited" in their profiles- myself included, only having posted twice this year, and about once a month last year. We seem to be OK for curators here as far as I can tell. $\endgroup$ Feb 13 at 6:01
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    $\begingroup$ I would argue that Worldbuilding's problem in particular is that we have rules that don't make sense, were interpreted very differently 5 years ago, and even the old curmudgeons that try to enforce their version of the rules can be seen blatantly breaking them in their own post history. We have a problem with consistency and arbitrary definitions. Any revamp of the help pages should also reconsider the rules, and try to reinvent this place as something that makes more sense from the start. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Feb 14 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ @JamieB you remain a rare voice of reason on this site $\endgroup$
    – M S
    Feb 15 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH 1) I don't agree that deleting and closing is the only way to achieve that. So long as good questions and good answers continue to float to the top we're good. 2) Wanting to be the go-to Q&A archive is inherited from SO. That might make sense for technical questions with clear, repeated questions and answers, does it make sense for WB.SE where every situation is a lot fuzzier? I think a WB pattern library would be fun, but I think those patterns will emerge from the Q&A, rather than trying to make Q&A conform to patterns. I think that needs to be rethought. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Feb 16 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH How close votes are perceived is what is important. I'm more concerned that your comment reads like "the user is the problem" (also ageist, which should be rejected) which is a sign of burn out. If we have contempt for new users, we're done. If we're burnt out, step aside for a while and let someone fresh take a crack at it. We need to work with new users and give them the chance to be awesome and the space to learn in a safe, pleasant, encouraging experience because who wants to hang around miserable people? We're all doing this for free. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Feb 16 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH We need to acknowledge that there is a tension between our long term goals (making a definitive Q&A archive, or whatever) and short goals (solving immediate problems, writing fun answers, etc). When a casual user asks a question, they're focused on their situation, not the site's long term goals; it's natural they just want their problem solved, and it's natural to be a bit miffed if we close their question because of some long term goals that are not theirs. So yes, people will be focused on getting answers, and we need to minimize the tension with our long term goals. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Feb 16 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Schwern If people just want to ask and answer worldbuilding questions without restrictions there are plenty of other sites. What makes us unique is that we provide a much more structured format. I think a lot of the problem is that people come to us expecting something else. To my understanding this also happens on SO and contributes to the idea that SO is a hostile place. It is rough to ask for help and be told you're not asking the right way. However this structure is what made SO special. By needing to fit the format, I have to organize my thoughts which often makes the answer obvious. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Feb 16 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Schwern "Getting more people to stick around" is becoming a real worry of mine. We're down to 4.8 questions per day according to the ratings. That puts us just above "Biblical Hermeneutics". Worldbuilding should be a broad and fun site. And it used to be, and the rules were nearly identical back then. I think any rule revision should look to return us to the glory days of 5 years ago, simply by rewording the rules to match how they were interpreted back then. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Feb 21 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ I would argue that many questions are being closed when they should be left open. It's not so much the ratio of curators to users, but the highly subjective metrics of the curators themselves. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 18 at 5:50

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