Worldbuilding, it seems, is not a What If site.

So let's start making that happen. If we don't want these questions around, then I think the first step is with close reasons.

We currently have an Idea Generation close reason, which there are mixed opinions about. Personally, I think it's actually pretty useful, and covers most what-if questions. However, it would no doubt be better if we had a close reason designed for, and dedicated to, closing what-if questions. So here are two closely related questions:

  • Should we remove the Idea Generation close reason?
  • Should we add a What If close reason, and what should its wording be?

Remember that if you're proposing a wording, there's a 500-character limit.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think that some 'what if' questions also fall under 'too broad'. I agree we should close them, but I'm wondering if we need a close reason for it, and if the existing ones need to be removed or not. There 's a lot of overlap. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ @fi12 That was... sort of the point. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 20:04

4 Answers 4


1: Yes

2: No

Or at least...not yet.

There's a larger discussion to be had here about close reasons and how to handle what is and is not off topic. While IG/WI are an important part of that discussion they are only part of it and I'd prefer a more integrated approach rather than trying to patch one part of the problem without looking at the bigger picture.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with this, we need to tear down everything before we build anything new. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 16:03

The problem isn't what-if questions per se, and I'm reluctant to use that phrase as the name of a close reason lest we mislead people. Many of our questions ask "what if?"; we're building new worlds and need to work out the details, after all. The problem isn't "what if?"; the problem is questions that are open-ended and ask us to speculate or hold a conversation.

As with idea generation, the name doesn't capture the problem. Let's fix that for both cases.

We should remove the idea generation reason now (it's not only not helping but doing some harm), and while we do need to develop one or more new close reasons to cover our scope boundaries, we need to be clear and not over-broad in describing them.


1. Should we remove the Idea Generation close reason?

Yes. Much as I personally make use of it, and despite my generally good opinion of it, I also think it has its problems. For one, I don't think it was well defined when we added it, and was done in a little more of a hurry than perhaps it should have been at the time. Oh well, what's past is past.

However, it's currently not very well understood what we should use it for, and in what ways it's different from the primarily opinion-based close reason. There are differences, but they're subtle and not very obvious. At this stage, it would in my opinion be easier and in the long run better for the site to remove it and work out what we can do instead.

2. Should we add a What If close reason, and what should its wording be?

Again, yes. This is what we can do instead. We should add a close reason that specifically addresses what-if style questions. This will likely be similar to the primarily opinion-based close reason and to the Idea Generation reason, but will hopefully make it more obvious what's wrong.

Perhaps something like this would do the job:

What-If style question — questions that pose a hypothetical scenario and ask what the outcomes might be, without specifying details relevant to the worldbuilding problem, are both too broad and difficult to objectively answer, and are hence off-topic.

  1. While I fully agree with the thought of removing "idea-generation" (after all, idea-generation is what we do, really)...
  2. the 'what-if' closing reason that would replace it still seems too broad... How many details are needed to have successfully completed the requirement for having "specified relevant details"?

Here's my suggestion. Open to edits and suggestions, of course.

Please Show Your Work closing reason — questions that pose a hypothetical scenario and ask what the outcomes might be, without showing that the question author has put any thought into the implications of the scenario themselves. Worldbuilding exists to help along and augment the work of the worldbuilder, not do the work in their place.


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