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This meta post is about whether or not What fantasy race has an affinity for water? should be put On Hold.

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Too Broad

I would argue that this question is far too broad: the asker must specify a lot more detail about their world and about what he or she is looking for in an answer. Because right now, all of the answers are nothing more than bare lists of ideas, and really they cannot be more than that. As of this writing, three of the four answers have exactly the same score, which indicates that we just do not have enough criteria by which to judge one as better than the rest. They’re all just equally-valid.

Several people have already commented on this issue, but I think more action needs to be taken. As-is, no one can even attempt a definitive answer, and the system is not working for promoting a “best” answer, because there isn’t and cannot be one.

Consider these comments, on the question and on @ivy_lynx’s answer, respectively:

As worded I have to agree there seem to be countless (well ok you could probably count them all) options here from all the various fictional universes out there.

—James

um downvote because it's mostly links? Should I elaborate on all these? The question is quite broad.

—ivy_lynx

Why is this a problem?

Because it’s impossible to vote. How do you say one list of possible races is better than another list? You could pick the biggest one, or vote for all of them, or vote for the one that interests you most personally, but none of those reasons are related to which answers the question best. We just don’t have enough context to pick out a particular race and say “ah yes, this would be perfect!” The question doesn’t get answered — the question-asker just waits long enough to see something they happen to like, or until they come up with something of their own, and they check the answer that happened to include it.

The Stack Exchange system doesn’t work under these conditions. The system is broken by the very concept, and everyone benefits from simply putting the question On Hold, encouraging the asker to really pin down what they want, and then we can see about giving really definitive answers.

What the question needs

We need enough information to be able to decide why any given vaguely-watery-but-not-aquatic race is better or worse than any other entry in that category, because the category is large and nebulous. The nix on aquatic creatures is a good step; the emphasis on trade and sailing is also, albeit a bit obvious (can you imagine a race that could be called “watery” without that?), but we need more.

Some particulars that I would like to see, personally, are some more context about the world they’ll be placed in, particularly the other races and how those are tied to elements. Knowing that would allow us to make arguments for or against any particular race as a good fit, based on the niche the race is supposed to occupy and through parallelism with existing races and their connections to elements.

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It strikes me that what's required here is a formulation, composed by those who put the question On Hold, that the question requests a list or enumeration rather than a definite answer. The same thing might go like this: "Can someone give me some examples of a fantasy 'race' that lives entirely in water?" A definitive answer to this would be "yes." Which isn't helpful. In other words, "On Hold: this question requests a list rather than being answerable definitively." Something like that.

The requested edit should ask that the question be reformulated either to be exceedingly narrow -- say, one or two examples might exist but they're hard to think of -- or, far better, to specify exactly the characteristics sought, with a subsidiary request for extant examples. That way, an answer can describe how such a species might operate, and go on to say, "for example, in so-and-so's book Such-And-Such, there are the Blahblahs."

Enumeration or list questions are going to pop up with some regularity, so I think that ought to be addressed specifically.

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  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, but I felt that this was a good extant example of the problems with list-questions, which I hope will help to focus and inform a discussion about how to handle them. $\endgroup$ – KRyan Oct 1 '14 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I entirely agree with you, KRyan. I'm just sort of flagging the issue as something that's more general than the thread in question. Maybe this wasn't a good way to do that? Still new to the system. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Oct 1 '14 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ Nope, totally a fair meta answer. Other good solutions include bringing it up on Worldbuilding Chat or starting your own meta thread. I do have a question about your answer, though: your answer seems to imply that what the question “needs” is to specify that it wants a list. You then seem to reject that “solution,” which I agree with, so I’ve upvoted, but you might want to clarify that first sentence. (And if you do think that simply saying “I want a list” fixes this question, I may have to disagree with you :P). $\endgroup$ – KRyan Oct 1 '14 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ Good point, KRyan. My comment here is unclear. I'll edit the opening. $\endgroup$ – CAgrippa Oct 1 '14 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ @KRyan We have already had a meta dealing with list questions (see here). That is probably worth reading. $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Oct 2 '14 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ @DonyorM I have read it, and it's related, but as Grace Note says: it's not necessarily hard to make a bad list-question into a good list-question. That can be done here. But it has to be done. The question as-is isn't working and the answers that exist for it demonstrate that. $\endgroup$ – KRyan Oct 2 '14 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ @KRyan I agree, I just wanted to make sure you weren't going to go down into "Are list questions ok?" again, since we have a very good answer. I did vote to close the question, so I do honestly agree with you. $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Oct 2 '14 at 3:18

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