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The discussion here does not show a clear consensus, with 11 votes for one approach and 6 for another. I think it's important that we do reach a consistent approach on this though.

This question is NOT about which is the right answer in that specific case. The question is how do we decide on a policy and then how do we communicate and consistently apply that policy?

Should it be as simple as the votes (we have 11 for one and 6 for another, not overwhelming but a clear majority)? Do we need to have a debate? A chatroom discussion? Something else?

Once a decision is made how do we communicate it. Do we need to add it to the help somewhere? Announce it as a meta post? This question here may cover a lot of that but is anything else needed?

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The top answer there (now +15/-1) argues that questions about the real world are on-topic because "we ask these questions to gain a better understanding of our world in order to develop and understand one that we are creating".

The second answer there (now +10/-4) argues that questions about the real world are off-topic because you could imagine a worldbuilding connection for every question and we can't be a kitchen sink.

I don't think these positions are actually all that far apart. Here, let me try to reconcile them:

Questions about the real world are on-topic when they describe a worldbuilding application to which answers will be applied.

Examples:

  • Which binary-star systems have habitable planets? off-topic

  • I want to place a colony of 23rd-century humans on a planet in a binary-star system with (further criteria). What characteristics should I look for (e.g. star types, planets/systems we already know about, etc). on-topic

  • Are humans still evolving physically? off-topic

  • I want my future humans to have (certain properties). Could humans evolve that from where we are now? If so, what is a likely path and about how long would it take, assuming (factors). on-topic

A question that make the worldbuilding aspect explicit and central should be on-topic.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not entirely convinced. I mean in your example, if someone would come up with the first case, we would close as off-topic. Until it gets reworded to the second, and thus be reopened. The thing is that too broad or POB are quite easily understood as a need for rewording. Off-topic is a way to say we don't want your question. It sounds quite definitive, and not a wording issue. People might run away instead of editing their question into perfectly valid and interesting ones. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Sep 9 '16 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin if somebody fixes the first case by editing it into the second so it can be reopened, I'm all for that. A question that's wholly off-topic can't be fixed, but sometimes they can. On another of my sites (Mi Yodeya) we explicitly ban requests for personal rabbinic advice as off-topic, but questions about what the laws are in a given scenario are just fine, so the former often get turned into the latter. They have the same issue on Health, and probably other sites. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Sep 9 '16 at 16:36
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My thinking is this topic is a difficult one, because not every "real world" question is on-topic for Worldbuilding, but neither is every such question off-topic.

Questions about Earth's history are explicitly off-topic in the help center. Questions about modern Earth can be on-topic, if worded correctly. Questions about applying real physics to the arrangement of fictional celestial bodies is definitely on-topic.

There's no cut and dry answer, which is why we can't seem to come to a consensus. The problem is, no one can really put in words where the limits of that gray area are. This is why your second linked question doesn't yet have any answers.

I've long taken "real-world" questions on a case-by-case basis, upvoting, downvoting, and VTCing as I believe appropriate, but I don't have any metric by which I judge the merits of the question that I can put into words.

So while we can agree that we need to come to a consensus on the topic of "real-world" questions, the range and variety of such questions is such that a general consensus may not be possible.


To explicitly address your questions:

Should it be as simple as the votes?

No, because the two answers only represent two aspects of the problem at hand. I believe the best answer is somewhere between the two (see above reasoning). A debate might be the best way to go forward from here, but don't look to me to participate much (if at all), since I'm terrible at coherent rapid-fire logic.

Once a decision is made how do we communicate it[?]

Umm... Honestly, I have no idea. I'm fairly certain a large portion of the site's users don't go deeper into the site than their own questions, and I know not every new user reads through the help pages. Sure, we can tag a question as featured and put the information in the help center, but that doesn't mean the users who need to see it do. It may simply fall to the users who monitor the Meta to propagate the information as "real-world" questions continue to appear on the site.

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I think we should not close real-world topics, but we should migrate them as need be.

One key thing to remember about StackExchange is that it does not encourage cross-posting. This means that a question should not just go on SE's where it is applicable; it needs to go on the SE where it is most applicable. We need to get these questions onto the best SE for them. Just because a question happens to be asked due to a worldbuilding process does not mean WorldBuilding.SE is the best place for it.

I think one very valid reason to have a "real world" question on WB is if the question would get bogged down in the details if it was moved to the "correct" SE. I think it should be valid for a question asker to be able to say

Yes, this question is about the real world, but I'm going to be doing X Y and Z with it, which are decided non-real-world worldbuilding tasks, and if I ask this on the 'correct' forum, they're going to get stuck on unrealistic settings Q R and S that I need to address but never occur int he real world.

To provide a specific example, look at What would happen if friction dissapeared?. All of the answers are highly based on physics and biology. This question could have been asked on Physics, but it would have been closed immediately because it isn't based on the exact scientifically defined laws of our universe as accepted by the community. There may have been a few jokes about spherical cows, and then it would have been closed unceremoniously. Accordingly, putting it on WorldBuilding has some validity. The "best" site would not take it, so we become the "best" site.

Because this is not a close vote, but a migration, I don't think we need to be as active in broadcasting our opinion. Most of the other SE's I've been on will migrate your question without even giving you a chance to explain. In general, I don't think this is undesirable. In such a case, the wider community is helping the question asker put their question in the right place.

If I understand the migration process first, an admin from the other board has to accept the question. If they don't accept the question, then I think that should be more than enough of an argument to host the question on our own SE.

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  • $\begingroup$ No admin or moderator on the target site has to accept the question for it to be merged. In our case, with no migration paths set up, a WB moderator needs to be involved to perform the migration. The migration is rejected if the question is closed on the target site as anything but a duplicate; in every other case, the migration can be considered "accepted". Such close votes are cast by the community members on the target site just the same as if the question had been posted there originally. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Sep 6 '16 at 15:39

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