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For some this is a problem brewing, for some this is a problem that has brewed, for others, its sat on the desk going moldy from being ignored. What do I talk about? Well Is Worldbuilding a What If Site?

I'm glad we are looking at this matter, but this isn't something that is suddenly new. This has been an ongoing discussion from the moment worldbuilding went into private beta and it continues today.

The main problem we have is that whatever we talk about on meta, however much we agree, there is very little use in being in a bubble. The majority (and I could be wrong here) of our users never read meta, they don't take part in these discussions and most importantly, they don't read them.

So my question to everyone here reading this who is simple, but like all things, difficult: How do we enforce the policy we decide upon?

My opinion, and I suspect that it isn't going to be popular is that the mods needs to be more hands on. We love our mods, we love the light touch they have, how they let the community decide and deal with its problems. In this however, they might need to be more proactive in enforcement. The main reason for this is that for most people, the weight of a mod carries a lot of authority behind it, their words (and those of high rep users) telling people in the comments of a closed question 'This is a what if and is too broad' with a link to meta will help spread the word.

But that is my opinion. I've made this thread because there are many about what the problem is and where the line is to be drawn. I want to start a discussion about how we actually go about enforcing whatever is decided.

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First, we are not to a consensus yet (at least not so far as I have seen). We are looking through the case study threads to figure out where the lines are. I will agree that there seems to be a consensus that there is an issue...just not what it is and how to fix it.

Second, I disagree that this is a problem for the moderators to manage themselves. We have plenty of users with a high enough reputation to flag questions as off topic and get them in queue, and that's how it should be anyways.

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    $\begingroup$ And if we need to alter the text of our custom close reasons to make it easier to provide the right guidance, we should do that (after we have some consensus, I mean). $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 10 '16 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ We have plenty of users with high enough rep just to use close votes, too. I think of flagging as a more-drastic action than just casting a single close vote, and think standard close votes are a viable alternative to relying on mods closing of their own volition or at the response to a single flag. $\endgroup$ – nitsua60 Feb 10 '16 at 21:59
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I think the first step is to have clear guidelines, once we have those the community and moderators together can enforce them but when right now we can't even agree on whether certain questions are on or off topic then that makes it harder.

I've got a proposal brewing for how we handle this by defining Risk Factors, drawing a line for where those Risk Factors become too much, and possibly specific close reasons and meta posts for each Risk Factor.

Once the current dramas of the election and new site design are over I was planning to start the discussion (whether still a moderator or not).

To give a taster though this is the sort of thing I have in mind (each Risk Factor will need refining in its own meta question). Keep in mind this is a very rough and not-attempting-to-be-complete example. Please don't discuss this specific example but the idea in general.

Risk Factor: Individual Action

Description: This question is asking about decisions or actions of an individual rather than a world.

Exceptions: Creation of historical figures, world leaders, pantheons, and similar is on topic but it must relate only to their history and nature not future actions.

Close if: Asking for future actions of an individual. Asking for reactions, plans or consequences for an individual.

This would have a custom close reasons with links to the meta discussion on why they are off topic and on a "how to fix my question" meta post.

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you looked at @green ontology post? $\endgroup$ – James Feb 10 '16 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yep............ $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 10 '16 at 18:14
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If all "what if" questions (and I mean all of them, even the ones that may not be too broad) are not allowed, we could simply have a close reason for "This is a what if question and is off-topic for the site." (assuming we add it to the help center as well), so that the users could instantly pop close votes.

Personally, I've yet to see a good "what if" question, but if someone finds one, please link it.

At the end of the day, the community closes more questions than the mod hammer does regularly - as such, I think having a custom close reason for that may be suitable for increasing the enforcement of the policy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Here is a link to my "what-if" question which I consider good and on scope: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/32647/… $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Feb 10 '16 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @PavelJanicek I wouldn't consider that open ended enough to be a "what if" question, but it is indeed in scope... i think. $\endgroup$ – Aify Feb 10 '16 at 20:38

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