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We have had a lot of questions reach the Hot Network Questions list recently, which is probably related to the current topic challenge, . This means that there are a lot of outside viewers coming in to Worldbuilding (and sometimes joining and voting).

The thing is, Worldbuilding is an odd site. We're not like the others. We cover a wide range of topics, including science, linguistics, and history.

I'm curious: What do users from outside sites think of us? What is our reputation?

Also, how can we change any negative perceptions that may exist?

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    $\begingroup$ I spend most of my SE time here so I can't really comment, but some of the migrations to world-building sometimes make me wonder if people see us as a dumping ground...it'll be interesting to see what people have heard. $\endgroup$ – James Jul 15 '15 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ While an interesting question, I've no idea how it would be answered. In particular anyone likely to see this question will be on worldbuilding, therefore is not someone able to answer it... $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jul 15 '15 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ I've edited the title to hopefully make it clearer when read out of context, hopefully that's ok :) $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jul 15 '15 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB That's better. :-) I'm hoping that any answerers will be from people who are sort of active here, but really not, and are much more active elsewhere, and know what their communities think. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 15 '15 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ That was also what I was thinking: we should ask them not us. On the other hand, yourself and @DVK are the ones I noticed most active anywhere I went outside WB. So you are probably one of the best to know how others see it. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Jul 15 '15 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin I'd put MonicaCellio there, too, as well as ArtofCode and some others. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 15 '15 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I noticed a few others here and there as well (@Lohoris could correspond to what you want, he hasn't much rep here, but much more on some other sites). It depends where you go obviously. Nevertheless, I noticed you two regularly. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Jul 15 '15 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ @James The current general policy about moderator migrations is to, in case of doubt, if a question is off topic where it is but believed to be on topic on another site, migrate and let the migration target site's community make the final determination whether the question is on topic. We shouldn't be afraid to close as off topic just because a question came from another site through a migration; our standards should remain the same. Questions being closed for any reason other than as a duplicate rejects the migration and bumps the question back where it was, closed as off topic there. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 15 '15 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ @James - example? $\endgroup$ – user4239 Jul 16 '15 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling - I was under impression that you also aren't supposed to migrate a question unless you ask the target's moderator if it's crap by their standards? $\endgroup$ – user4239 Jul 16 '15 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ I can ask the question on SFF.SE meta (or chat as on Meta it'd get closed as offtopic) if people would like me to $\endgroup$ – user4239 Jul 16 '15 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ @DVK Just a feeling, I can go back through and see if I can find examples if people feel the same, could jsut be me. $\endgroup$ – James Jul 16 '15 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ @DVK Asking every time quickly gets overwhelming, and moderators (notice I said moderator migrations) are supposed to be knowledgable enough about the network in general that they are able to judge whether a question is crap even though they likely aren't familiar with the subject matter. Hence, in many cases, it boils down to a variant of "it's easier to ask forgiveness than get permission" (and "don't migrate crap"); the target site's community is likely to need to fix up the question a bit anyway (tags, if nothing else). Nuances are often better left to the target site's community anyway. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 16 '15 at 8:31
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    $\begingroup$ I posted a question on Ubuntu's exchange, and when other users glanced at my WB score, they thought it was a joke (it was April 1). $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Jul 27 '15 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ I was about to supply an answer of my own views, then I realized that I've got 900 more rep here than I have on my #2 site, and a mere 81 away from approving tag wiki edits. I'm not an outsider any more and haven't been over over a year! The only other site that I see with so many things in the Hot list is PCCG which have the same "ok, that's weird, must click" sort of titles. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Jun 23 '17 at 18:31

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As a not-Worldbuilding user, I love seeing WB questions in the sidebar. They're almost always fairly interesting (there are the ones I don't like, but they're rare) with awesome answers. I'm amazed at how much research people here put into answers.

I mean seriously, of these two which are you more likely to click?

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I like how the Worldbuilding post is in grey to show that it's been clicked on, while the other hasn't. Nice touch. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 16 '15 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 Heh, I hadn't even noticed that. Completely organic :) $\endgroup$ – Undo Jul 16 '15 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ That's more or less how I found this portion of the SE network (tended to stick with SO and similar sites before). Quickly turned into a timesink with some of my favorite new reading material. $\endgroup$ – SnoringFrog Jul 16 '15 at 20:32
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I'm fairly sure I speak for (at least most of) RPG.SE when I say I love Worldbuilding. Our sites work together very well and no more are our roleplayers asked to be experts in history, science (and science fiction), every form of magic ever imagined in all of fiction, and biology (and xenobiology, robobiology, and necrobiology) in order to answer questions about making campaign settings - we direct them to the experts over here.

Bringing together collaborators from all the various sites where their expertise might reside - RPG, Sci-fi/Fantasy, History, Biology, Writing, and I'm sure more - and making all those experts available in one place to help with building realistic worlds is a dream come true.

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    $\begingroup$ I have picked up DM'ing a 5E campaign recently and yes...all you world building folks are now a party to DnD, extra nerd points for everyone. $\endgroup$ – James Jul 20 '15 at 21:03
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I'll tell you this: I'm not "really" a user here. So I think whatever I have to say is... decently valid.

I discovered this site looking through the gazillions of collections of beta sites that seemingly go on forever. When I first see a site, I look at some of the users, the highest voted questions and read their answers. I fell in love with this site at first glance.

I have an account here, yes. I don't build the world... Even though the old ones tell me "Oh, it's you young folks that will build the world of the future" (I'm 15 by the way). But I don't participate. I don't know if it's because I think my own ideas are stupid or something else, but I don't. Quite frankly, I don't even know if I vote. Yep, I haven't even cast a single vote... :( Actually, this meta question is the first up vote I've ever cast, on meta and main. I just love reading answers to various questions, smiling and laughing throughout the process.

I love many answers with this site, that sometimes I get a few of my friends together that love writing and we read through the answers. The comments are the best. We love talking about it. They love the site as much as I do.


I'm curious: What do outside sites think of us? What is our reputation?

Also, how can we change any negative perceptions that may exist?

Reputation (That means something, oh... That's user reputation :P)... I think it's pretty good. I don't talk to much with a lot of "people" from the entire community, and I don't think I've ever seen it brought up. So I can't tell you what the SE community thinks of this.

However, students and teachers in my school love this site (Worldbuilding). It helps us with ideas, they provide us with inspiration for projects in and outside of school. Being referenced in schools is... A pretty darn amazing feat.

Negative reputation... Well there's nothing negative of this site. Yes, there's the odd question or answer here and out, but that's common with everything, just like any other site. Nobody minds this.

As an "outsider" (Don't think I'm one anymore...), this site is amazing, and I just have one thing to note (And yes, I'm smiling and "yelling" when I say this)...

Keep It Up! :D

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    $\begingroup$ I'm talking specifically to Worldbuilding. I'll clarify that in my post. $\endgroup$ – Zizouz212 Jul 16 '15 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for posting this, it made me happy :) $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jul 16 '15 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, that's cool to hear! I hope you, your friends, and your teachers all feel welcome to participate -- ask, answer, come to chat (requires 20 rep)... $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 17 '15 at 2:12
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    $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio I really am helping to participate more. I'm kind of active on other sites, so I definitely have no reason not to participate. I definitely will get my friends and everyone around, don't worry. Hoping to do some more creative works (especially writing) later on, I will definitely come around and definitely participate :) $\endgroup$ – Zizouz212 Jul 21 '15 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Zizouz212 Don't fear bad ideas! If you want to tell a story get started early. I started working on mine when I was 15 that was 18 years ago and I am finally getting close to a first draft of a novel! $\endgroup$ – James Jul 21 '15 at 19:27
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One new user's observations, here. For context, here's my history of participation:

  • amusedly reading questions coming through on the network for a good year or so,
  • recently answering two questions and trying to make some meaningful comments on those questions and their answers,
  • reading through some of your top (voted) questions and their answers.

My Impressions:

  1. The questions asked are often some of the most interesting I see coming through the feed. Now, I'm an RPGer who derives significant amounts of pleasure from world-building, so perhaps I'm not representative....
  2. It's very chatty. To the extent that it feels like a Q&C site, not a Q&A site. A popular question may have dozens of comments, a third of which address the question, a third try to provide tiny answers, and a third being a dialogue on a tangent spun off of a joke-comment.
  3. Lots of frame challenging. I.e. "How does one accomplish X?" answered with "you shouldn't try to do X." Now, sometimes "X is impossible and here's why..." is a great answer. Not all frame challenges fall into that good form, though.
  4. Not much in the way of "comments aren't for answers," "unclear what you're asking," or "this question seems likely to generate many opinion-based answers; answers should be based on and describe actual experience with the methods or suggestions, rather than bald speculation" from the mods.
  5. Many questions generate answers that read as lists of whatever idea popped into my head, without enough detail in the question to suggest what differentiates good ideas from bad ideas. I think lots of questions could benefit from a bit of "Put on hold as unclear what you're asking" time and work.

Second Thoughts

I know that some of the above stems naturally from the speculative nature of many of our questions. "What sort of ecosystem would cause Formics to evolve as dominant species?" is inherently speculative.

But reading through some of the best work here convinces me that if I ask "What weather changes would result from the Earth spinning 10% faster?" I'll get plenty of comments along the lines "do you have any idea how much energy it'd take to add that much angular momentum?" (Followed by an argument about how one could or could not deliver that energy to the earth.) One excellent answer would talk about the sizes of the wind bands we currently have, how they'd re-size and shift, &c. &c. &c. Others would reference scientific papers that are absolutely on-point and I'd never have found without this. And in the comments to these answers there'd be extensive arguing over whether the Coriolis force exists or not. (You know this is true!)

TL;DR

There's a lot of great and fun stuff here. I enjoy it as an observer.

Participating, it feels pretty chaotic. I'd describe it as a lightly-threaded brainstorming site more than the Q&A I find so useful on SO or MathematicsSE.

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    $\begingroup$ Most of the problems you mentioned are definitely ones we struggle with every day. You'll find questions here on Meta about points 2-5 of yours, and I think we're getting better at fixing most of them. However, yeah, we are a bit chatty, though I think that's a problem that all of SE faces. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Sep 23 '15 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh I don't know that "chatty"=problem, though I guess my harping on it may convey that impression. It's just notable as a first impression. I do think when "chatty" becomes "arguments in comments over some detail of physics that has nothing to do with the OP" then it is problematic, in that I think they don't reflect well on the site/community. "Expert answers to well-posed questions" feels a little undercut by some of the bickering. $\endgroup$ – nitsua60 Sep 23 '15 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ I'm a big fan of moving those kinds of discussions (that aren't about the post) to chat instead. Only mods can do this and the site is very active so we probably won't notice on our own, so we rely on flags for that. Anybody in the conversation can request this too, by the way. We're happy to give you a chat room where you can go wild; just ask. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Sep 24 '15 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio I appreciate that. With my flag-declined rate it seems, though, that my sense of what's "too chatty" or "not constructive" or "answer in comment" is not a good fit for the site. I sincerely hope you and the other elected moderators feel supported by the community as you firm up the graduated site's scope and practices. $\endgroup$ – nitsua60 Jan 15 '17 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ @nitsua60 after a quick glance at your flag history, I think the problem is "answer in comments". It's not as clear when, or that, those should be removed, as compared to discussions or non-constructive tangents. I suspect that that there is variation on the mod team -- and within the community! -- about where to draw that line. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jan 15 '17 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ I would argue that they should always be nuked, and quickly. They subvert voting and commenting, acceptance, reputation; basically, everything that makes Stacks work well (IMO). Answers belong in answer posts, where the whole design of the Stack can function properly. Probably worth discussion/meta on its own, if mods don't have a coherent approach to answers and/or tangents in comments. $\endgroup$ – nitsua60 Jan 15 '17 at 18:15
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My own experience regarding what non-WB users think of WB is as follows:

  • We think the question titles are, quite often, absolutely hilarious when taken out of context. Some of my personal favorites include: "If everyone had to wear a box on their heads, how would society differ?", "Can I grow a banana that will produce a mushroom cloud [so I can threaten my neighbors]?", and "If corners were illegal, where would ghosts live?"

  • We don't understand how you handle closing questions. It is hard to imagine how you apply most of the VTC reasons. For example, isn't every question here primarily opinion based? Why isn't everything on-topic?

  • On a similar note, we are confused as to what metrics you use to determine which answer to accept. What criteria do you use to decide which method of liquefying your enemies is better than the other suggestions, or which usage of scorpions as living hand grenades is superior to the alternative options?

In general, the most common reaction to Worldbuilding is one of confusion and mild amusement, but also the obligatory respect bestowed upon our fellow SE communities. We don't understand you guys, and sometimes we laugh at the titles of your questions, but we love you because you're our brothers and sisters in SE-hood.

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    $\begingroup$ As for point #2, I know it was more likely than not a rhetorical question, but just to have it said: people, we actually, honestly do have standards! We've had long discussions about this early in the beta period. We have this line in the sand between closing as primarily opinion-based and accepting as just another example of really weird questions that has a potentially semi-large number of possible answers. Granted, it gets washed out every now and then when a wave comes ashore (er, I mean when a question is posted, obviously). :-) $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 4 '15 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ It's perspectives like this that worry me. People come here thinking we can't possibly have any rules, and then they ask questions that are immediately closed. That said, I still don't think we've quite found our footing when it comes to what is and is not on-topic. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Sep 4 '15 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling - Yeah, I understand that there are actual rules here, I was just repeating what I've heard elsewhere. $\endgroup$ – Wad Cheber Sep 5 '15 at 5:59
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I have only seen World Building questions that appear in Hot Network Questions, and questions that get posted in chat rooms I frequent. I signed up on WB solely to answer this question.

I feel like your site has a very broad range of questions that can be on-topic.

On Programmers it has been said, to the question of "What goes on Programmers.SE?"

Part of me thinks there should be an answer here (to the question in the title, rather than to any of the four questions in the body) saying, "To a zeroth-order approximation, nothing goes on Programmers.SE"

For World Building, I feel that the answer might be:

"To a zeroth-order approximation, everything goes on World Building"


There's just no limit to the number of "WTF"'s that can come up when seeing a World Building question. You just never know what kind of strange scenario that a question will ask about.

For example, I had a bit of a problem with my keyboard, so I was suggested to teach my keyboard yoga, to which I asked:

How do you teach a keyboard yoga?

And got the reply:

that might be on-topic on WorldBuilding

which ended up getting 4 stars (Chat transcript here)

On other occasions, you might see a weird title on Arqade and you say "WTF, Arqade"? And then you realize: "It's not as WTF as WorldBuilding..."

Or you might read an article on BBC and you think: "That might be something for WorldBuilding..."


I can recommend a chat search to see what people say about you.

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    $\begingroup$ Oof, I feel like this is the kind of misunderstandings we get (not you, but some of the instances you refer to). That chat search may be quite useful, thanks. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jul 16 '15 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with this. I started on Stack Overflow a couple months ago (for work). There are a handful of other sites here I passively follow, but World Building is the first one I felt the urge to join (for fun). The main difference I notice is that almost everything borders on "broad/opinion-based". On SO, if the first answer works, that's often the end of it, but on WB, 6 answers might pop up while you're typing your own. $\endgroup$ – Josh Jul 17 '15 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ I mean, where else do would go to find a solid material made out of human blood in order to build a bridge to the stars and brainwash people? $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Jun 23 '17 at 18:34
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Being used to the other SE sites (SO, RPG, gaming, etc) the thing I have noticed to be common here is how often there is no single, definitive 'right' answer to the questions. There may be a 'best answer' but it is hard to definitively say what is 'correct.' This is even more obvious when you get into things like Magic. Because Magic doesn't play by any rules but the ones you ascribe to it. Magic can do anything and nothing.

Personally, on this site, I have had a hard time transforming questions into something that has a definitive answer and is not opinion based or idea-generation. In most other SE sites, it is much easier to ask a question with a definitive answer...but here where we are the ones inventing the rules, it's much harder.

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It may have the effect of returning people to SE.

I only learned about Stack Exchange, and subsequently Worldbuilding, because I was googling a question I had that dropped me into Space.se -- and as a writer, I noticed an odd question that was from worldbuilding, from which I've since gained so many writing resources - and I like to think I've contributed, as well.

If I hadn't seen WB, I wouldn't have even remembered the URL "stackexchange."

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I come to SE for programming questions. I never deliberately come here, but fun and interesting questions often come from here to the "Hot Network" questions, so it's somehow become the exchange I've the second-highest rep in, and probably the one I most look forward to seeing a question from.

I love the sense of creativity and fun here, the plethora of exotic mental landscapes it gives the reader, and the imagination-stretching questions. Nobody's yelled at me yet, I know of no negative perceptions, and I like it just the way it is.

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I'm a user who mostly spends time on Stack Overflow and related sites, and I love seeing questions from here. Not just because I like to broaden my horizons, but also because it gives me things to keep in the back of my mind for when I someday plan to make video games.

And for me that is not an idle boast, I do have experience working on every part of video games, just it has always been as part of an existing project. I am currently spending most of my time on toolchain development rather than gaming though.

This does strike me as the sort of site that needs a FAQ (or general "what you should consider during world creation" guide) though - is there one? And possibly a curated "best of" like we have on Code Review?

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  • $\begingroup$ You can take a look at the questions under worldbuilding-process. I think the tag is misapplied in some cases, but that would probably be the best place to look. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 17 '15 at 12:19
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I found StackExchange when I was checking if my SF settings were wrong, I frequently browsed Physics.SE at first.
I always hesitate to ask a question on Physics SE, because I did not study physics in university, I am afraid that what I ask may be silly in physics degree holder's eye, then I will be downvoted. One day I discovered this site and I asked a question about special relativity. I think this is a great site for asking about fictional physics idea.

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I've come over from stack overflow, and I think it's awesome!

Go on vote me down :P

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    $\begingroup$ <snark> This question has been flagged for its length and content. </snark> $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jul 17 '15 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre <pedant> You mean this answer </pedant> $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Nov 8 '15 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor ...True. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Nov 8 '15 at 1:55
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I guess I count as a “user from other Stack Exchange sites”, since there are 32 sites where I've written more answers than here, and I've never written a short story in anger.

My feelings are mixed. On the one hand, there are many threads here that are both fun and interesting. It does help that this site matches my interests pretty well — I'm an avid SF reader, and the world building aspect (including but not limited to counterfactual “what if” aspects) is what drives me to SF more than “mundane” fiction.

On the other hand, when I see topics I know something about, I'm sometimes disappointed (and occasionally even appalled) by the lack of breadth exhibited by some contributions.

With questions about speculative fiction, I sometimes want to scream “go read the classics!”. And TVTropes should be mandatory reading before asking — with all the SF that's been written, good luck finding an original premise.

When it comes to questions about realistic worlds, I especially notice problems in topics related to computer science (my field of professional expertise) and some domains of history and sociology (where it seems that some people believe that the whole world is exactly like their neighborhood). That makes me wonder just how much of what I read on other topics (physics, biology, history of parts of the world I'm unfamiliar with, …) is outright wrong, but just plausible enough for me not to be able to tell.

This is not a surprising problem on a site with such breadth. I'm not sure if it can be alleviated by any policies. An attitude of rewarding well-referenced answers and penalizing answers that lack both sources and reasoning would help somewhat, but I wouldn't want to impose a Skeptics-like level of reference requirements either. I've sometimes noticed poor answers, decided to post my own better-informed one, and never gotten around to it because I'd have to spend too much time finding the right references.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why TV Tropes as opposed to All The Tropes, a fork that has fewer copyright problems? $\endgroup$ – Damian Yerrick Jul 20 '15 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ @tepples Because I didn't know about ATT. Does ATT get new content these days? $\endgroup$ – Gilles Jul 20 '15 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ ATT gets some new content, if Recent Changes is to be believed. (Disclosure: I edit there.) $\endgroup$ – Damian Yerrick Jul 20 '15 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ It is a very interesting view. When you see points that are outright wrong you could comment on it, in order to improve the post. It could be a simple "honest mistake". That would improve the overall quality. But as you say yourself, it is hard to be a specialist in everything, so errors, or mistakes do happen. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Jul 20 '15 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ I agree but it's not because a question seems too simple to you that it is a bad question. As bilbo mentioned above, not everyone can be a specialist in every field. Not everyone will read the classic either or they might have different classics. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Jul 20 '15 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Vincent I'm not saying that simple questions are bad. I'm saying that unresearched answers, and also in passing unresearched questions, are bad. $\endgroup$ – Gilles Jul 20 '15 at 18:25
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The thing is, Worldbuilding is an odd site. We're not like the others. We cover a wide range of topics, including science, linguistics, and history.

That's not too weird. Skeptics.SE also covers a large range of topics.

I like this site because it's so diverse. Good content doesn't require you to be an expert on a specific narrow topic. The main things that help you is a good ability at problem-solving (which is what I like about computer programming) and a broad general knowledge, such as knowing about kuru.

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