There was heated discussion below other meta question, where one user said:

I disagree with the sentiment that "well managed" equals smacking people over the head with the rules as soon as there is an opportunity. I disagree with the sentiment that rules-lawyering makes for a community with "high standards". And I disagree with the sentiment that moderator's subjective opinions are the Be All And End All when judging whether a question / answer is "good" or not. The forum does not exist for the moderators' sake, for them to impose their ego on others and get a power-trip on wielding a stick. But I am seeing some tendencies in that direction

While that comment above is bit too heated, lets have look at it more:

Arguments supporting that feeling:

  • This site has very quick response rate: If you post bad question here, it gets closed pretty quickly
  • Sometimes you have question closed without knowing why For example this first-time poster got two close votes without knowing why - without any comment posted
  • There are some completionists: Some people do anything for virtual points and badges. One hard to get is for reviewing and casting close votes. Therefore users can get close vote without any comment
  • Lots of people feel like closing a question is end of the World(building) Including me. Getting your own question closed feels bad. Especially when you get little clue why did that happen

Arguments against this feeling

  • This community has litllest amount of down votes cast At least my own feeling. Yes, you can get question closed, but you lose little to none internet points
  • When you ask for help, you receive one: Especially on chat there seems to be always someone online and willing to help out. The same can be told about Meta
  • Closed question is not the end If you update the question, it can get reopened

But how does the community feel?

We faced one frustraded user. But maybe we are having bigger problem. Which may just be "We have been too much welcoming and all the scope discussion made us to close more question that we used to."

So, what do you think?


This probably is not a full answer but I wanted to make a particular point.

  1. We have discussed and agreed upon standards which are completely reasonable and said rules should be enforced.

  2. Following those standards also comes with the responsibility to explain how things work to users, particularly when they are new. This means no close votes without posting a comment.

Keep in mind that the stock comments are next to worthless for new users. Don't expect the stock comments that show up from close votes to make sense to someone who is unfamiliar with the nextwork/site and the corresponding expectations and jargon...yes we have jargon.

If you are not going to take the time to help a new user out DON'T VOTE. Use the skip button, other people can and will handle it.

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    $\begingroup$ "Keep in mind that the stock comments are next to worthless for new users". This I suppose is one big crux of the matter. "Opinion-based question. Therefore closed". Say what?! Ok, what does that mean and why is it bad, huh?! That is not a high standard of moderation. That is lazy and bad moderation. We must avoid boilerplate moderation-by-robotics. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 2 '16 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ I think we're overusing "opinion based" when questions do have answers. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/43973/… being one example. Physics.se were happy enough to give a similar question an answer, why does it become opinion based here? $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jun 7 '16 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix Agreed. I actually voted to re-open that one. If physics can consider it on topic we certainly should be able to. $\endgroup$ – James Jun 7 '16 at 13:21

Ask 10 people what "Worldbuilding" is, and you'll get 11 different answers. For some it will be analyzing the effects of magic on world economy, for others designing the weather system for planet in a particular orbit.

And you know what? None of them would be wrong. Worldbuilding truly is an incredibly broad topic, from creature design, to linguistics, and much, much more.


Worldbuilding.com, is part of the Stack Exchange family of sites. This implies certain standards as far as the reusability of the questions, and answers are concerned. It also implies that those questions and answers be well framed, well formatted, and well phrased - Stack Exchange offers quality at a level which precious few (if any) other question/answer sites deliver.

Thus, WB SE, while covering an intimidating range of topics, cannot simply allow questions to be posted which do not meet that qualitative standard.

Furthermore, as one of the SE sites of a relatively whimsical purpose (at least as far as others are concerned) there exists a tendency to point people to us when their question doesn't fit the scope of those other SE sites.

By answering questions without first asking ourselves if said question falls within our scope, or follows the "rules" (not opinion based, broad, about a character's actions, etc.) we erode the standard to which we hold our site. Every opinion-based question answered inspires other new users to post similar ones, and furthermore spawns dissent when some of those questions are closed, while others are answered by enthusiastic users.

In my opinion most out of scope questions asked here could be framed such that they they met WB SE standards. Our more senior users are always willing to provide input and offer advice in the comments when voting to close, and Meta/Chat are also there for users seeking help. However many users don't seem to take the input to heart.

Some, like the person who wrote the comment quoted in the question, seem to think that pleasing the crowd, and answering questions is more important than enforcing our standards. I believe this thinking is fundamentally flawed.

We should enforce our rules and scope quickly, and firmly. We should offer to help people bring their questions within scope, and we should be helpful to all who make the effort to join our community. We should also redefine our scope if, as a community, we find it to be a little too strict.

However, I do not support the relaxation of our standards simply because someone's feeling were hurt when their question got voted closed.

  • $\begingroup$ You say: "Some, like the person who wrote the comment quoted in the question, think that pleasing the crowd, and answering questions is more important than enforcing our standards". No, that is not what I said and that is not what I think. I think that crowd-pleasing — in some cases, to be determined with sound judgment and while weighing towards the over-arching goals of SE — may have more weight than the letter of the rules. I would like to see a correction in your post about that, since you are stating as a fact something that I supposedly think. Please be accurate when you do that. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 2 '16 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors Crowd pleasing NEVER has more weight than the letter of the rules. An example of that is the "military use of towels" question. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 2 '16 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify I thoroughly disagree with you there. This site exists for the crowd, not for rules. Rules are important but they are not everying, only almost everything. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 2 '16 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors The site does not "exist for the crowd" - the site exists mainly to create a list of useful questions and answers for worldbuilders - Since the "crowd" consists of more than just worldbuilders (eg: passing readers from the HNQ), it makes more sense to tailor the site towards the worldbuilders specifically, with reusable questions and helpful answers instead of towards the "crowd" which includes many people who may or may never come back again. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 2 '16 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify To-mae-to, to-ma-to. We agree that this site is for the users, not for the rules or moderors on a power/ego-trip. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 3 '16 at 4:16
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors Except that the users are not the same as the "crowd" - we should be assimilating the new users to fit our current rules instead of changing our rules to fit the new users. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 3 '16 at 5:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify I have not said the rules should be changed. I said we should use sound judgement when applying them, and not just use the letter of the rule as a universal excuse to slap users - old and new - over the head. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 3 '16 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors The letter of the rule is sound judgement. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 3 '16 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify I thoroughly disagree with you there. Going only by the letter of the law is not sound judgement at all... it is just blind judgement. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 3 '16 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors Alas, we are at an impasse. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 3 '16 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors I tried using that logic with the police; I still got the speeding ticket, because he was carrying out the duties of his position. Just as we, as users of the site, are carrying out our duties to ensure the site we all love continues to thrive and be beneficial. We've set our standards, now we need to adhere to them. At least until we review them again. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jun 3 '16 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre - Couldn't agree more. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jun 3 '16 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Aify - points well made $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jun 3 '16 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors I find that comment mildly incoherent and contradictory. I never said we were police, nor that we consider ourselves as such. There's only a few moderators, and they mostly stay silent until a major issue comes up. Consider that the community (citizens) monitors itself and notifies those in authority (moderators) to handle what the community can't on its own. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jun 3 '16 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors Actually, those justification cases (eg: self defense resulting in the death of attacker being pardoned) are specifically mentioned IN the law. So even then, they're still following it to the letter. It is a fine analogy - of course we are not the police, but that's what analogies are, aren't they? Comparisons based on structure? We have rules, equivalent to laws, and the "police" are the equivalent of any high rep user/mod. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 3 '16 at 20:15

I am a new user, and my question was closed as off topic. So I am no closer to getting the answers I need, and do not have any understanding of why the (edited) question is unacceptable. This isn't encouraging to continue, and I would like to express that I would feel much more satisfied if someone had taken the time to attempt to see what I was getting at and help me to word my question in an acceptable manner to acquire the information I came here seeking in order to build my fictional world. I have contributed to the questions others have asked in areas for which I have knowledge, and would like to make the suggestion that helping others succeed and working collaboratively with users who ask questions that do not fit the community guidelines be a part of the attitude towards policing/governing the site. Thank you.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for answer. If you still need help, post new question here on meta and ask what would help it to be reopened. Do not forget to link your question from main site theere $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Jun 3 '16 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ What Pavel said. If you are unsure why your question was closed, post about that here on Worldbuilding Meta or ask in Worldbuilding Chat. You can also use the question sandbox for future questions until you learn better how the site and our format works. Do keep in mind that putting questions on hold is about the question, not about you. I know this distinction can be difficult to make at times, but people don't (shouldn't; if you feel that happens, then flag the post for moderator attention!) vote down or to close because of you. $\endgroup$ – user Jun 3 '16 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ A user kindly edited my question and it was reopened. Thank you for your comments. I continue to read and review, and learn. I didn't take it personally, my point was just that there didn't seem to be any 'next step.' $\endgroup$ – Erin McLeod Jun 11 '16 at 23:31

I agree with the attitude that closing questions is the end of worldbuilding. It's sad to squash creativity like that. However, I do regularly vote to close questions regardless. I justify it to myself by noting that StackExchange's Q&A format is not the ideal format for all questions. Many questions (particularly here and on Philosophy.SE) really need to be a back and forth conversation to dig at the root of the question. For example, it's impossible to make a magic system in a Q&A post, unless you make something boring and cookie-cutter. Exploring the meaning of "meaning" is another.

Buddhism has a beautiful concept called "mu." "Mu" is an answer that a guru may give to a student's question, and it says "There is no answer to this question which not lead you away from happiness." I find the ability to close questions is along these lines. If you really needed a full conversation, not a Q&A, then it is entirely possible that there is no good answer, and it is better for us to prevent you from receiving bad answers.

That being said, if I close a question because of "mu," I feel obliged to make a comment about it. Drive by closings doesn't help the original posters. We should still be helping the OP, even if we close their question.

  • $\begingroup$ Well put Cort. I like the idea $\endgroup$ – James Jun 9 '16 at 19:14

It was I that posted the quoted comment above. I have a bunch of loosely connected thoughts on this subject so please be patient...

  • I myself have somehow become a moderator been given some moderator privileges for Worldbuilding. Very nice, thank you for the confidence. But not even once has anyone approached me on how to do it; not even with an automated message about 1) what the overarching goals of WB/SE is 2) how rules are supposed to be applied in relation to these goals and 3) how to act when the rules are applied and acted upon.

    And surely I cannot be the only one that has slipped into the Moderator role on a banana peel like this. This is a potential problem, because we do not have a unified view of the 1,2 and 3 I mentioned above. This may lead to inconsistency in how we meet, greet and treat the users. And in the worst case scenario, it may lead to us acting against the best interrests of WB and SE.

    Point being: the Moderator appointment process needs improvement, to ensure consistency and some kind of consensus about the process of moderating

  • Users are touchy. And I dare say that users that have their creativity questioned — or put down — doubly so. I need only look at myself to see the glass jaw, embarrassingly plain. And I have noticed the same tendencies in others.

    Add to that that no-one likes to be disciplined. That someone steps in, slaps your hand and says "You done wrong" is not something that will ever be well received. There simply is no way you can do that without some hurt feelings start boiling under the surface.

    Point being: Any action taken against a user must(!) be very well founded, and if questioned or contested, we as moderators must be able to provide a solid and well argued motivation for the action. Otherwise Internet Dramah™ awaits us aplenty.

  • As relatively new to SE, I have noticed tendencies that some moderators, none mentioned, enforce rules for the rules' sake. Not for the users' sake, not for SE's sake, but only for the letter of the rule's sake... as if enforcing the rule is The Only One Way Of Doing Things.

    That may work fine in a court of law, but we are not that. As someone on the quoted thread said: WB — and SE in general — is a young community. We are still growing. We are still developing. This means that we want more people to join us. That in turn means that we must be careful not to put people off already at the door. And second, we cannot expect all the rules to be perfect already. No-one here expects that in 10, 5 or even 1 year's time that SE will look exactly like it does today.

    Rules exist for a reason; they are a tool to reach a goal. But if I ask 10 different moderators of WB what that goal is, we are — just like AndreiROM said in his answer — going to get 11 different answers. The rules are not a goal. The rules are but one(1) means to reach the goal.

    Therefore we must avoid to blindly fall back on a "Well the rules say that — in my interpretation — so therefore the matter is settled" style of moderation. Sound judgement and measuring the action towards the goal must be ever in the back of a moderator's head.

    Point being: rules are a necessary, but not sufficient, tool to create a good community. Sound judgment and a good mix of rigidness and(!) flexibility are needed too.

EDIT: The point of points — as lifted for a comment just now — is that the rules are not everything, they are only almost everything. :)

  • $\begingroup$ Ping @AndreiROM . See edit. ;) $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 2 '16 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for answer. I need to point out that you are not really Moderator of this site. You have just gained some post moderation priviledges. Read about moderators here: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/help/site-moderators $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Jun 2 '16 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @PavelJanicek Ah, I see. Well I will use that comment then as an argument that the entire process is kind of loose and fluffy around the edges. :D $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 2 '16 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ It isn't really, though; see A Theory of Moderation. Note that the post is somewhat old (seven years! time really flies.) and some of the specifics have changed, for example with regards to protecting questions. $\endgroup$ – user Jun 3 '16 at 7:46
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling The point I was making is that if this information is not reaching people that are given elevated rights, then the process is not good. It is not enough that the information exists somewhere, it must also reach the people that are affected by it. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Jun 3 '16 at 8:28

I think this is a real problem. Answers that focus on the establishedness and agreed-uponness of the rules utterly miss the point of the question, which is that new users are alienated by the appearance of heavy-handed moderation.

The core of the problem is this: too many (read: at least some) questions get closed without a preliminary hold period, and new users don't understand that a hold period is a normal part of the question/answer process on SE sites.

For the first part, the solution is simple: there's really no good reason to ever close a question without holding it first unless it's just an open personal attack or something. (A question that is clearly opinion-based, for example, may turn into a question that has a determinant answer after the site membership has had a chance to interrogate the author and prompt edits.) So, never vote to close questions that haven't been held and enjoyed some discussion first.

For the second part, the solution may be equally simple: do something to help new users anticipate and cope with their questions being put on hold. Perhaps a note above the question-asking box explaining that new questions, even good ones, are often put on hold early on in order to get clarifications out of the way before people invest effort in substantive answers to the wrong question? It couldn't hurt.

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    $\begingroup$ By the way, when 5 people vote to close a question it always gets put on hold, never closed right away. That part comes later. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 4 '16 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough. I've heard people complain about questions being closed very quickly, though, and that doesn't seem compatible with a meaningful hold period. If a question can be closed before an author has had a chance to revise it, that's essentially circumventing the function of the hold period and an example of moderators behaving badly. $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred Jun 4 '16 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ You should read this $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 4 '16 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ Everyone should read that, which leads us to Michael Karnerfors's answer. ;) $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred Jun 4 '16 at 18:54

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