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Something that I'm sure others have noticed, but that always seems to plague my questions, is the fact that answerers tend to focus on parts of a question that don't actually matter. For example, while I admit my recent question How big can a moon be where you can jump to its planet? suffered from some inconsistencies (escaping the moon vs reaching the planet, I didn't realize at the time that the two were separate), I really don't think it's my fault that the first two answers were about how you can't run in low-gravity. The first paragraph of the question summarized part of the story I was writing, and I wanted to provide some sort of context just to give a possible application of the scenario, but I was in no way married to the concept, and I thought my question did a pretty good job of showing that.

However, it got me thinking: is it actually a bad idea to provide this kind of context? Is it perhaps detrimental to the quality of a question to provide some sort of explanation of why you're asking, or how you will use the answers? Should questions seek to only give the necessary parameters of the question, and leave absolutely everything else out? For instance, maybe I shouldn't have provided the above example.

Or, alternately, is there a good way to separate out world-information from question-information?

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Adding context to your question could reveal an XY Problem. With the right information, someone reading your question could mention an alternative solution to the problem and inform you in comments. Whether you choose to employ the new solution and/or change your question at that point is up to you.


If you want to separate world and question information, you could always use a horizontal rule. This also helps draw attention to certain pieces of information, as it serves as a mental break for the reader.


Normally, there would be something important here, but this is just for demonstration. I use this last section to clarify what I expect from answers and the information here isn't directly tied to the question.


Just remember not to add too many horizontal rules.


Your post might start to look weird if you do.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm finding it really hard to read this answer... which I guess means it works. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Oct 6 '15 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh I try to avoid using more than one horizontal rule on the rare occasions I do. This was just a demonstration of the consequences of using too many. If you need that many, I would suggest headers instead. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Oct 6 '15 at 13:18
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A world is composed of systems and interactions between those systems. If a detail isn't pertinent to the operation of that world then don't include it. However, this can get tricky because sometimes you don't know what details are pertinent to the world's operation; especially if the world employs physical, social, psychological, or chemical systems that author isn't familiar with.

Crafting succinct questions that elicit exactly the kind of answers you hope for is hard. I struggle with it myself.

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I think worldbuilding has a unique challenge because we have to walk the fine line of not engaging in idea generation, but simultaniously very few WB questions are purely factual, by the nature of world building. If you make the problem too context sensitive, it becomes too hard for others to apply the answers. If you make it too generic, it may be ineffective for solving your problem at hand.

I've been toying with whether there's a format that permits asking a nested question, accepting answers for both generic and specifics, because I think that might generate answers that are useful for others. I just haven't nailed down a format well enough for my tastes.

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