Some questions like the following seem to be valueless to anybody except the question poster which is strictly against SE mentality where a question should hold value for all future readers and not only the question poster: How to bootstrap technological development from one man in the forest, to building a spaceship?

I am seeing more and more questions that very precisely outline the story or world a user is building and next ask a very specific question within that world. For now I have flagged the question as too broad (which I believe it is as well), however what I wanted to ask is whether we're open to extremely specific questions that do not hold value for future readers (aside of being fun to read, but that's not what worldbuilding.SE and SE itself is about (aside of maybe puzzling.SE)) or whether I should flag them anytime I see them.

More questions like this:

  • $\begingroup$ In my opinion it's yes as long as they are about worldbuilding. We prefer to risk having narrow questions over broad ones. They are appropriate but as you mentioned, they do not make good questions because they are too specific. General question are better but if we limit ourselves we will run out of questions. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    May 3 '15 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent What I fear is that it will just create a positive feedback circle where more and more questions like those will be asked, as they are/can be fun to read and thus get upvoted and even make it to the hot questions list. A question like the linked one should never ever have been allowed to get 14 upvotes. It's both too broad and too localized, yet a large number of users (1470 views) now will think it's a good question to ask. $\endgroup$ May 3 '15 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ I've dropped in the last close vote and the question is now on hold. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    May 4 '15 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ I think this problem stems from the fact that most of the general questions that some people might have have already been asked. This leaves room for extremely scenario-specific questions, but not much else. This is just my opinion, however, and may be totally wrong. For all I know there are many more generally helpful questions out there in the minds of users. $\endgroup$ May 4 '15 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @DJMethaneMan Didn't see your comment when you wrote it, but just now I saw your question on the HNQ-list and actually edited it into my post as another example of a too localized post O:) . Just wanted to make clear that that wasn't a conscious thing. Either way, I think the same question could have been asked without making it entirely specific to your private continent. It would indeed be hard to prevent it from becoming too broad, but 'hard' is still better than a question that nobody ever will be able to use (except if somebody copies your continent :P ). $\endgroup$ May 5 '15 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidMulder In theory someone who has a similar world and a similar question might find it useful..... $\endgroup$ May 5 '15 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ "Zero to starship" (or similar start-with-nothing-but-knowledge) is a surprisingly common situation in speculative fiction. It is, however, much too broad to cover in a single StackExchange-style question. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    May 10 '15 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that many questions do get too specific. When I write my questions, I try to only include minimal background to provide just enough context for the question to make sense. However (I've seen this on my questions and others), when leaving out world-specific details, a lot of times the asker gets inundated with comments asking for more context...here's a recent example. I think the comments do help clarify, but it leaves the OP in a situation where he/she has to give much more detail than intended. $\endgroup$
    – Seth
    May 14 '15 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark Zero to starship is one thing, but the question in question specified a million other small details as well. $\endgroup$ May 14 '15 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Seth Yep, that's why I felt like it was starting to become a problem, as it's more and more becoming a fun forum where worldbuilders build world rather than a repository of knowledge and ideas. $\endgroup$ May 14 '15 at 22:08

I'm borrowing David Mulder's comment to the question here, because it adds useful context to the question:

What I fear is that it will just create a positive feedback circle where more and more questions like those will be asked, as they are/can be fun to read and thus get upvoted and even make it to the hot questions list. A question like the linked one should never ever have been allowed to get 14 upvotes. It's both too broad and too localized, yet a large number of users (1470 views) now will think it's a good question to ask.

First off, note that Stack Exchange actually removed the "too localized" close reason two years ago now. There is a fairly explicit message here: a question being "too localized", as defined by that close reason, is not in and of itself reason enough for closing it. There needs to be something else wrong with it as well. See Closing changes: on hold, unclear, too broad, opinion-based, off-topic reasons, bye-bye to Too Localized, point 5(A) in the question, on Meta Stack Exchange for the relevant announcement.

Second, you also say that you feel the question is "too broad". I have not read through it, but the fact that it currently has four "too broad" close votes out of the five needed for closing, definitely indicates that the community agrees with this assessment. That is a different issue, however. "Too broad" is absolutely a reason to vote to close a question.

Up/down voting is on an axis different from close/reopen (and to some extent also delete/undelete) votes. Note that the canonical upvote/downvote reasons focus on research effort, usefulness and clarity. This is, to a large extent, orthogonal to close-voting which is mainly based on topicality and answerability. Someone who votes up is unlikely to also vote to close, say, but a downvote is decidedly not the same thing as a close vote. People who vote up or down also don't need to explain to anyone why they vote the way they vote, and are not held accountable (note that even diamond moderators cannot see who voted how for a given question). It is therefore possible to have a question that receives high votes, yet is off-topic. In this regard, the Hot Network Questions list is a blessing in disguise; it brings in lots of traffic, but lots of people who follow those links tend to not be very familiar with the specific site's scope and standards.

Closing a question as "too localized" never really told the poster what needed to be done to fix the question. Hence it was not actionable which (yes, I agree with this) made it a poor reason to close a question. A good reason would tell the poster what to do to fix what is wrong (and comments could be used to add further details if needed).

In an ideal world, a question that would when that close reason existed have fallen into the "too localized" bucket would these days receive poor votes for its lack of general usefulness, but assuming it is otherwise on-topic and answerable would remain open, and may or may not be answered depending on the specific situation. If the question is too broad, unclear, not on-topic for the site, etc., then it would get closed as such. The latter is something that can either be fixed, or the question can be a candidate for migrating to a more suitable site in the network.

  • $\begingroup$ Just because too localized was removed as a close reason does not mean that it's an invalid reason for closing a question (as outlined in the linked post). I am perfectly in agreement that the simple 'too localized' close reason was not a good one, both because it was hard to understand and easy to misuse. Either way the idea of the linked post was that more specific close reasons would be implemented on a per site basis, so would you in principal be up for a close reason somewhat like (but far better phrased) (cont.) $\endgroup$ May 4 '15 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ "This question contains too much story specific detail and is not useful for other worldbuilders. Try to generalize the question so that the answer(s) becomes generally useful to other worldbuilders." This would then be the worldbuilding.SE version of the debugging help close reason on SO. $\endgroup$ May 4 '15 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ (and just to be clear, I meant it shouldn't be allowed to get 14 upvotes because it should've been long closed by that time, I do get that people are allowed to vote whatever way they like) $\endgroup$ May 4 '15 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ @David, it WAS too broad; you have to write the story to answer the question. But it was otherwise within Help Center guidelines. "How to achieve a specified effect in a defined world, including by the use of technology or magic, while maintaning in-universe consistency." $\endgroup$
    – Sean Boddy
    May 5 '15 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ @SeanBoddy It wouldn't have been too broad however if it had only asked at the end "How many years will it take him to launch into space?" the question would not have been too broad, but it still would have been useless to future readers. That's what the debugging code close reason is for on SO and a similar one would be necessary here as well. $\endgroup$ May 5 '15 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ @David, I spend most of my SE energy on EE.SE, where we also have to handle this sort of thing. We get wildly specific questions because we have wildly specific problems dealing with a near infinite catalog of parts and their various configurations, and we allow that as long as quality answers deal with principles and fundamentals, and the question shows work done. I would argue that the worldbuilding community is headed this way, just based on votes, answers and the fact that localization isn't currently a close reason. This is still beta, and guidelines change. $\endgroup$
    – Sean Boddy
    May 5 '15 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ @SeanBoddy Well, the thing I guess I am worrying about is that worldbuilding.SE will deteriorate into a site like puzzling.SE where it's not about learning and sharing knowledge anymore, but just about fun. For EE.SE I pressume that's a far smaller risk (though I am still surprised you guys decided to be fine with it there). Oh well, still waiting to hear back from Kjorling, if he's open for a worldbuilding.SE variant of the debugging close reason I think I will open a new meta post for that. $\endgroup$ May 5 '15 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ @David, to make my position clear, I understand your concern and agree with it, in principle. But I look over these particular questions, and I see 1) a degree of effort on the part of the asker, 2) the roadblock they hit when they asked for assistance, 3) considered answers and educated opinions, several of which contain information I would not easily have been able to find, because I didn't understand its relevance. Some of what we do here has to be about fighting the Relevance Paradox. $\endgroup$
    – Sean Boddy
    May 5 '15 at 7:07
  • $\begingroup$ @SeanBoddy Well, do remember that close reasons nowadays say 'on hold' the first 5 days and a lot of care has been put in place to motivate the user to fix their post. I think the problem of posts being too localized can nearly always be fixed if the user is aware that his post should be generally useful for future readers. Communicating this to users however is hard, and for that 'close reasons' are great (as they ensure that 1) people do not see 'bad' questions so there is no negative feedback loop and 2) the user himself is required to edit it before the post will be reconsidered). $\endgroup$ May 5 '15 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidMulder It is not up to me, or any of my fellow moderators, to decide what site-specific close reasons we should have. That needs to be a community decision. But, and I had this discussion on Amateur Radio Meta as well, before proposing a site-specific custom close reason, let's first get community agreement on whether the type of question should be off topic, then decide whether a specific close reason is necessary to cover for that case and what it should read. Based on the voting here thus far, I get the feeling that the community does not see what you describe as a big problem. $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 5 '15 at 7:20

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