There seems to be considerable disagreement about the questions How will our world change if all men suddenly die? and How will our world change if all women suddenly die?, which are bouncing back and forth between being open and closed. That's a very bad sign.

Let's hash this out. Are those two questions acceptable on Worldbuilding or not, and why?

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    $\begingroup$ Since there are many answers on both, most with nice content and applicable to a large audience, I don't see why they should be classified as "too broad", or be closed for any reason. $\endgroup$
    – Idos
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Idos A question getting many different answers is often (but, mind you, far from always) a sign that the question is too broad: there is too much allowance in coming up with answers because the question itself doesn't impose restrictions on answers. Asking "How will the world change? Will the civilization survive? What are the consequences?" while not restricting the set of answers is inherently very broad (the issue obviously is whether it's too broad). Neither question was posted by users with other contributions to Worldbuilding. We had lots of discussion about this during the beta. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ Obviously people like these types of questions as evidence by the super high view count. This also attracts more people to register and participate in this Stack Exchange site. I fail to see any harm caused to anyone by this. Let alone the community. $\endgroup$
    – Idos
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Idos Worldbuilding SE is supposed to be about getting help with specific issues encountered during worldbuilding. Despite commonly held beliefs, we are not the "kitchen sink" of Stack Exchange. Getting more participation is not necessarily a positive thing if that participation derails the purpose of the site. Now, you posted one of these questions; if you want to argue that they should be on topic, post an answer about that and make your case. You have over 7k on SO, surely I don't need to tell you what comments are for. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ I feel like I was able to objectively state an answer to "will civilization survive" and the reasons I came to that answer. And also give a general picture of how the world would change. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ I tried to add a point about it on the risk factor: meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/3382/9685 $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 7:55

4 Answers 4


These posts (I hesitate to call them questions) are far too broad for Worldbuilding SE.

Not only do they not as specific questions, they more importantly offer no criteria on which to judge the answer.

A Breakdown

For example, in almost all of the answers the immediate loss of life due to the virus and resulting accidents is easy enough to predict. So is the resulting panic.

However, from there on each answer focuses on their respective poster's own interpretation and biases. Most see the women survivors as panic stricken, and unable to cope, thus leading to the collapse of civilization. I found it funny that the male survivors would somehow be expected to fare better.

Sexist undertones aside however, how would we know how the survivors may, or may not, pull together to survive, or cling to civilization? How could we possibly understand the implications of such a power vacuum suddenly appearing? Of so many accidents taking place, and so many dead bodies suddenly being left to rot in the streets?

  • An answer focusing purely on body disposal and the health implications could easily grow to the length of an essay, or even a short novel.

  • Another answer focusing on putting out the fires resulting from the various planes falling from the skies, or cars crashing into buildings could be similarly complex.

  • Yet a third focusing on keeping power generation up and going could be a question in an of itself.

While a lot of answers on WB involve some guesswork, this is simply taking it to the next, next level.

My Concern

Whenever I see incredibly broad but fun to answer questions on WB I cringe a little bit. A part of me wants to join in the fun of imagining the many implications of that catastrophe taking place, and post an answer, or critique existing ones.

However, after 4 months on the site I can clearly tell that allowing this sort of behavior to develop unchecked would turn Worldbuilding SE into the garbage dump of Stack Exchange.

One of the things I thoroughly enjoy about our site is the the quality control which the community performs. How we are quick to help people out with a well thought out answer, however also quick to enforce our standards, rather than open our metaphorical doors to the metaphorical barbarians.

This isn't Reddit, dammit! I expect intelligent questions, and well thought out answers when I log in, and that's the community I want to help keep alive, not one which bows to public opinion and answers silly questions simply because they're "fun".

Disclaimer: Not that there's anything wrong with fun questions :-P

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    $\begingroup$ Exactly my point. I'm honestly amazed these questions have received so much attention when they're so clearly not a good fit for WB. $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ I thought the answers were kind of amusing, and a little bit annoying as well. It seemed like women would all be terrified, fall apart, and die lonely deaths; while men would join into giant rioting violent groups and plunge the world into war. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 17:06

I think these questions are on the verge of being off-topic, because at their core it's really a plot-based question: 'this things happens, how do people react?'

It's also a What-if scenario that feels more like curiosity than serious worldbuilding, though I would never want to close a question just because it seemed like the OP wasn't going to use it for anything.

They also feel like 'do the work for me' questions. This goes back to the too-broad problem, because there is just so much work that any answerer has to do that it vastly overshadows any work that the OP might have done.

In this case, and in many others, I think the solution is to ask a smaller question. For instance, there are already questions on this site about making babies without women, so that aspect of 'kill all the women' shouldn't be coming up again. There's probably questions about how societies react to a large number of deaths, so you don't need to ask that again (and really, the fact that there are three of basically the same question, none of which can be closed as a duplicate, proves that this is a problem). Basically, I think these questions can be split up into many smaller questions, where each one may actually be useful to worldbuilders. But as they stand, these questions are asking for too much and are too specific to be useful to anyone, except as an interesting What-if scenario (and if you want that, go support What-if SE on Area51).


The questions are building a world where this has happened, so from that perspective they are on topic.

It is not asking about individuals or about plot points, so still on topic.

However they are very broad and very unconstrained. On that basis they are too broad/too opinion based.

They are borderline enough on both that I can see why people are not sure whether they should be open or closed. My personal opinion is that anything saying "How will the world change? Will the civilization survive? What are the consequences?" Is too broad. That's a massive subject.

Will civilization survive? Would be fine.

The other two are actually rephrasing of the same "What are the consequences?" question and that is too broad.

The other problem is that the question gives no way to rate answers. They do not say what outcome you want or how to rate one outcome against any other.

So both should be closed until the question can be made more constrained.

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    $\begingroup$ "My personal opinion is that anything saying ... Is too broad. That's a massive subject." "So both should be closed until the question can be made more constrained." Then why did you cast a reopen vote on at least one of them in its current state? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ Because at the time one was closed and one open and they clearly should either both be closed or both open. The consensus seemed at that time to be both open (since one was open with no close votes but one closed with 4 open votes). However since then I've been thinking about it some more and have decided that in balance open was the wrong decision. As I said in my answer it's definitely not a clear-cut case either way. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:54


My general rule of thumb is, "if in doubt, leave it open."

My specific opinion on these two questions are:

  1. It proposes a fictional alternative situation. So it is on-topic (it was marked as off-topic)
  2. It does not ask a specific question though. So it might be considered too broad.
  3. There's no way to objectively choose one answer or another. So it might be considered primarily opinion based.

I would leave it open but ask for some clarity from the OP on #2 & some means of evaluation for #3.

The last time I checked, World Builder was the only Stack Exchange site that had answered 100% of its open questions (with the exception of some new incoming questions). A big part of that is because we close questions pretty aggressively.

I do not think this is necessarily a good thing.

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    $\begingroup$ We don't close questions forever, if they edit the questions to be on-topic we'd gladly re-open. I'd much rather close bad questions until they're improved than let a bunch of bad questions get answered, that's how we get more bad questions the next day. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ Don't read too much into the 100% answered rate. That's partly the nature of the site (average answers per question is extremely high) and partly that there are a number of us with a very broad knowledge base who make a point of keeping that queue down. I've even gone so far as to bounty good questions if they've gone unanswered for a while. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ What @DaaaahWhoosh said. Putting a question on hold until we can figure out what the asker wants/needs is the way the system is supposed to work. Answering questions that don't have all the details needed for good answers, and then asking for clarification, risks wasting everyone's time. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think we are more aggressive than everyone else closing questions though. I know of other sites more active in shooting down questions. And yet they don't get the 100% answering rate. So I don't think it is that connected. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 21:47

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