@AndreiROM's (very valid) discussion about the scope issue on this question, How would be our society if it was populated by anthropomorphic dogs?, and my past experience with a different question gives rise to a different issue.

Say that you have a number of questions about a specific topic (@Chaotic's linked question works as well as an example as any). Picking a specific aspect about the broader topic often narrows down the scope to an acceptable question. However this causes an issue when the smaller scoped questions affect one another.

The asker gets a well-researched answer about their more narrowed-scoped question, selects it as the reality in his or her world, and moves on to the next question, posted separately. Since these aspects affect one another, the asker includes either a brief summary (most likely to be read) or a link to his or her previous question (most complete, but is skipped in my experience), and says that such is fact in his or her world.

The responders to the next question very likely have an issue with the previous answer. Maybe it seems illogical, unreasonable, or scientifically impossible as best as they understand. The responders are forced to:

  • Not respond to the second quesiton at all, possibly resurrecting the first question with a new answer in lieu of answering the second
  • Get off topic in their reply to the second question and address an erroneous assumption established by the first question
  • Provide an answer that they genuinely believe founded on an incorrection or dysfunctional assumption

...For technical sites with far more concrete answers such as Stack Overflow this doesn't become an issue, but on World Building, where almost every answer is inevitably tied to opinion (at worse) and judgment calls and/or armchair engineering (at best), this seems to break down. Even more when these questions become something of a chain.

Given these issues, what is the best way to handle these situations?

Note: I can provide a theoretical example if needed to offer something more concrete to discuss.


1 Answer 1


So. You're right to say that conflicts can arise when you ask stories in a series and I think in the end, that can be a good thing.

One of the main services we offer people asking questions is to help ensure internal consistency in a created world (as physics can often not apply).

When helping people narrow things down we should do a couple things:

  1. Identify that the initial question is too broad/opinion based etc.
  2. Help them narrow the scope
  3. Identify a good place to start a series.

This is the important bit (to the question you asked). When starting a series, no matter how interested you are in some specific aspect of the world, you should start with the most basic questions first

So in the dog world example, the question someone may be itching to get answered is: "How would the market for tennis balls be impacted" (cause...you know, dogs like to play fetch!)

That's great but if you haven't developed an evolutionary path, or cultural norms or a host of other things you may get yourself in trouble and have conflicts.

So. In conclusion.

The asker needs to take responsibility for asking a series in the correct order, and the community should be willing to discuss the correct order to assist them.

Answerers need to be willing to read and accept the outcomes from the previous questions and answers (which should, as relevance dictates, be part of the follow on questions) except in the case where a logical/physical inconsistency pops up. It'll still happen, even if you order the questions well.

Voters need to make sure that an answer, however lengthy or witty, addresses the question and background information being asked.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ In general I agree that the asker needs to provide a good foundation, which might mean backing up. But I don't agree that answerers are obligated to read all the previous Q&A; the question should provide the necessary information. Sure, include links to the prior questions for people who want to know more, but questions need to stand alone IMO. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio That's a good point. I was ineloquent, I will edit. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ Much better. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 20:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I agree with Monica, but I'm not sure this is really significantly better. Each question needs to be able to stand at least largely on its own. If answering one question requires that I study several previous questions and their answers, including any comments possibly left by the OP that might give insights into how their world works, then I'm more likely (and I suspect I'm not the only one) to pass on that question entirely and go with one that can be answered in a reasonable amount of time. Yes, questions on WB can sometimes be rather large, but don't make me go looking for what I need! $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 17:51

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