Ok, I'm fairly new to WorldBuilding SE and I'm having a ball taking a broad swath of questions and seeing if I can generate a logical answer consistent with the world. I do this because the mental exercise helps in my real-world job and also in my efforts to tell good stories in RPGs. I have noticed that some questions that have come up get put on hold very quickly, yet they seem, at least to me, to be focused, not totally opinion based, and with clear criteria. Of course the all powerful Murphy determines that I will be 2 sentences away from completing what I think is a solid answer to said question, when the system will no longer accept it. I have been reading some questions on the Meta trying to find out why, and I have not been able to figure out what the criteria for "too broad" and "Opinion based" really are. So far the answers I have come across read somewhat like the old story asking about porn, "I'll know it when I see it". This stood out with the second question about Megastructures:https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/71533/megacity-shapes-episode-2-anatomy?noredirect=1&lq=1

This didn't seem to be a very broad question. I can see how it might be broken out into two questions but I can also see how one answer could usefully be used to cover both questions if asked separately. Conversely, the Question about Flying Mounts: How to make a viable flying mount? is left open and had a lively discussion going on

I don't want to cast shade on the moderators for this, you have a REALLY tough job, but I really would like to know if there is some objective criteria being applied. The best on this I have seen was the "Condition A, Change B, Result X" type of logic, but this seems too narrow given the scope of what people (at least, me) come here for. People are telling stories, and need to make sure that the world isn't too ridiculous, so they ask questions. If the question gets put on hold 2 hours after the person posts, useful discussion gets killed.

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    $\begingroup$ As someone who has been here since August 2016 the speed of questions going on hold or being closed seems to have accelerated. Now I can expect virtually every new question to go immediately for review. While quality control is good, this is pushing purity too close to zealotry. Perhaps instead of reflexively putting questions on hold they be placed on "more discussion needed first" or something similar. The rising tumult about this & similar issues suggests WB is reaching its adolescence. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 19 '17 at 3:47
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    $\begingroup$ The number of threads in meta about hold policy means this should be more codified in a way $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 19 '17 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ Hopefully improved too. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 19 '17 at 6:35
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    $\begingroup$ Last week or so I saw like 10 posts on hold on the front page. That's garbage... Also anything that isn't in a perfect area gets closed. I've yet to figure out this perfect area of not too broad and not too precise. It's really obnoxious and I personally get very little utility out of this site because of it. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Feb 19 '17 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android "Perhaps instead of reflexively putting questions on hold they be placed on "more discussion needed first" or something similar." That is exactly what "on hold" status implies: That the community feels that there is something about this question that needs to be figured out or improved before good answers can be written. Sometimes the problem with a question goes deeper, but a lot of the time, putting a question on hold is simply a way to save everybody's time to avoid their answers tracking a moving target. Better to work out the quirks first, then answer. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 20 '17 at 10:20
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling That is exactly what it is meant to imply. My suggestion was to change the signage to make this abundantly clear. Also, there are many cases where could adopt a more positive tone & making it clear this was discussion to improve the question. Working out the quirks first, makes sense if all the quirks are in the question. Often enough they seem to be in the eyes of the beholders. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 20 '17 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android Even when the quirks are actually strictly in the eyes of the beholder, the question can often be clarified to fix whatever issue made people feel the question was closeworthy. If you are proposing changing the "on hold" notice text, then I believe it would be a network-wide change and you might have better luck making your argument on Meta Stack Exchange instead. (Note: I agree that it would be better if the "on hold" notice makes it clearer that the on hold period is specifically intended to allow the question to be changed to be a good fit for the site, at least absent answers.) $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 20 '17 at 10:55
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling. Some others have made suggestions about changing the "on hold" notice. A network-wide change, eh? Well, one step at a time. Is there some way people advocating this & similar changes can coordinate themselves so it's not just the one odd person grumbling for change $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 20 '17 at 11:19

I can't really address the reasons the questions you mentioned have been put on hold, but to give a few general points and hints:

1) The people putting questions on hold are people like you and me, anyone with enough rep can cast a so called VTC (Vote-To-Close) on a question with an appropriately chosen reason. If enough VTCs have been cast then the question will be put on hold so any issues of the question can be resolved and the question can be reopened again.

This is the general workflow of the Stackexchange system and basically the same on every site of the network, some sites use it more actively (like we), some use it less actively.

It is clear that many users do not, or want not, understand this. Reasons vary from the users innocently not realising the difference from this format to a general forum, over others simply not caring about getting acquainted with the rules, to some openly admitting that they don't give a very rude offense about it - some will understand when you explain it to them, others will complain even louder.

2) The format is aimed at creating specific questions with clear and objective answers. While this can be easier for some formats (e.g. Stackoverflow), it can be notably harder for other sites (e.g. on here).

Nonetheless the Stackexchange network is about creating, collecting and organizing all sorts of knowledge and data - thus any question that does not fulfill these criteria can, will (and imho should), be put on hold as fast as possible in order to help the OP refine it before it collects many answers that do not address the actual issue they were trying to ask about.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, that clarifies a bit. It seems to me then that perhaps those who vote to put one on hold should then be more specific than "Too broad" in the comments. "Opinion based" Is another that seems to be overused in an environment that is about speculation. I like the fact that it takes several to put one on hold, but the lack of specificity in the comments doesn't help the folks that posted in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 19 '17 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI "Too broad" and "Opinion-based" are criteria to put questions on hold. Often this seems contrary for a site dedicated to speculation. I agree more feedback should be given in comments about improving a question to help posters. Comments can be too negative rather than helpful. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 19 '17 at 3:40
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android I'm reminded of something an old boss used to say "Don't bitch to me unless you are going to bring me a solution" Seems tha would be a good guideline to use here. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 19 '17 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI A good variation on "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." The problem may be it's easy to close or put a question on hold than work towards improving it. $\endgroup$ – a4android Feb 19 '17 at 6:34
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI sadly it is not always easy to give good feedback on how to improve a question. Especially when it is unclear what the question is wanting to ask in the first place. I admit that I don't always add additional comment feedback, especially when I think the user really hasn't even bothered going through the intropage $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Feb 19 '17 at 7:04

I don't have much to add answer wise, Dot summed it up nicely but I think it important that I mention my current mentality as I have contributed to the increased number of closed questions.

I have stepped up my VTC usage and downvote usage lately. This isn't with the intent to punish anyone.

We are a subjective site in many many respects and that is frankly how WB will always be in my opinion. So a couple points I would like to make.

  • Efforts to eliminate subjectivity will essentially eliminate the site
  • On the scale of --- Good Subjective_^_Bad Subjective --- we have veered way to far toward Bad.
  • Users are answering questions that are clearly off topic (be that too broad, or too opinion based). In response not only am I casting a close vote on the question but down voting and commenting on answers. It has not been very popular with the people I done this too but, if we don't train people not to do it, this will keep happening.
  • I love that this site is so friendly and that we tend to just close rather than abusing people with down votes, but as our size grows we are going to have to teach people with both carrots and sticks.
  • Votes to close SHOULD be executed quickly. The last thing you want is a bunch of answers against an off-topic but salvageable question. Now the answers are wasted time and you can't edit the question because there are a bunch of answers against it.

Alot of users on WB are just on world building, and that is great. But we (most people on meta exist elsewhere on the network) need to remember we exist within the SE framework.

The framework has certain expectations and while I think World Building will always be on the boundaries of acceptable we still need to maintain those standards as best we can for the content we cover.

I don't know that it has ever happened but SE would be within their rights to shut down a site that does not comply with the standards of the network.

  • $\begingroup$ I appreciate the effort to keep things clean and usable. And I agree that a hold is a useful tool rather than completely closing a question. So are downvotes for bad answers. As has been stated a hold allows the OP to improve a question. Here is a main gripe of mine: On hold questions get the VTC quickly, but without comments that are specific as to how to make the question better. At best they get a point to a help page that is somewhat obscure. That does not help to improve the question and effectively stops conversation as an unintended consequence. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 21 '17 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ I would suggest, as a guideline, that those who vote to close (or put on hold) at least take a small amount time to be clear in how to improve a question. If it takes 5 or 6 votes to put a question on hold, that is 5 or 6 opportunities to improve the question. This has the carry along effect of guiding more passive users before they ask a question and will in turn get better questions on the site. As it stands, newbies will likely bail on the site because an "on hold" without much guidance becomes a personal slap. Those that vote to close become de-facto trolls, and that doesn't help. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 21 '17 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTiki. I always try to suggest how a question can be improved whenever I think it needs to and there are others who try as well, but it is quite rare (based on my observations) to see a new user actually edit their post. And the result of not editing is almost always a closed question. I think there are two sides to the problem: the system needs ro be clear and experienced user more helpful, but new users also need to do their part in listening (well, reading). We can always improve the site (and should try our best at doing so), but at some point we have to stop spoonfeeding. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Feb 21 '17 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely true that if the new guy refuses to edit the question should be closed, no argument there at all. Just let them know why it's on hold "checking the internal consistency of the universe". It takes a little more for the experience member to do this, but the payoff for the relative effort would be enormous. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 21 '17 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI I agree with your point concerning comments. I try to do a good job commenting when I close but I am sure there are times where I don't do enough. That is something we can all work on. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 21 '17 at 19:32

Most of the closed questions are not closed by mods (those with a diamond after their name), but by the community. Someome of the regular community have flagged it for closing as they thought it did not fit and then the normal users with rep over 3k can vote if it should be closed or not. This is a good system in the sense that it is the community that self moderates, it is bad in the sense that there is a risk for opinion based voting (i.e. a question that does not follow the scope, but which is interesting might get to stay open and vice versa). While most users tries their best to be impartial and consistent, there will always be shades of grey and differences in opinions on how well a question follow the scope of the site.

The main reason why questions are (and should be) closed rapidly if they are too broad or off topic is so that the question asker can modify it in peace to better fit. That way it won't get too many answers which later turns out to be wrong simply because they were answered before the question was rewritten. Once a question is modified, it can be voted to be opened again and a [closed] status is intended to only be temporary. However, many (and especially new) users seems to think that a closed question is dead. There is an ongoing discussion here on meta regarding how to make users better understand why their question got closed and how they should deal with it. If you feel you have suggestions to the subject, then please post them there.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, you have added some clarity. But that is kind of the problem in the first place. A lack of clarity in why a question gets held as "opinion" or too broad is what made me jump over into meta in the first place. We need to be more specific. "To be unclear is to be unkind" $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 19 '17 at 3:43
  • $\begingroup$ I don't believe a precise answer is possible. If it were, we could automate the process. It's a human judgement call. It's why it takes 5 of us to close a question. And its why questions can be re-opened if they get clarified. On hold should not be seen as a problem! It's a step along the way to a good question. In my opinion, most questions should be "on hold" at first... my own question last week had an ambiguity in time that needed to be cleaned up that I didn't catch when I first posted it. If the question had started "on hold", someone could've found that before answers started! $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 21 '17 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Just regarding mod-closing stats: The four of us have closed 6 posts over the last month, and I don't think any were unilateral. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Feb 21 '17 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM Starting a question on hold may not be a bad thing, so long as the purpose of that status is clearly communicated. Until I jumped over to meta and started reading, I didn't quite understand the purpose of "on hold". The problem lies in the fact that I had to go looking for answers on the subject. A simple sentence or two and you caught your error (love that question BTW). Can we not extend that same courtesy to newbies? If they can't or won't clarify, close the question and move on. At least you offered something helpful. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 21 '17 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE You closed that many? Well, 6 ain't that many neither in absolute or as a fraction of the total, but seeing how well the community closes, I honestly thought you mods would close maximum 1 or so per month. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Feb 21 '17 at 18:38

On the WB page, I disagree with only 3 of those holds, but all three of those are ones where I understand why the hold was applied -- they're within the gray zone. I don't see any questions that are on hold gratuitously.

As WorldBuilding SE gets larger, we will have more casual users... this happens on all the StackExchanges. We should expect the rate of "on hold" to increase significantly, and at a faster rate than the rate of new users. Wikipedia has the same issue: casual users make casual edits, and editors had to get more aggressive about rolling back edits as time went by in order to keep the site useful.

I think it is important for all of us with VTC privileges to continually re-calibrate to make sure we are reflecting the community standards, but at the moment, I don't see a problem. To me, the issues of last month where many of us were trying to understand the distinction between "unclear" and "too broad" have been resolved, and the rate of that specific issue has -- in my observation -- decreased notably. (That's anecdotal observation, not actual measurement.)

  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough, I think a lot of the griping, even in the justified cases of "on hold" would be reduced if comments reflected the actual problem with the question rather than just throwing a link to a help page. That has been a problem with certain questions that I have observed. This is by no means a true representative sample, because I'm talking about questions that I thought were fine but got put on hold. Maybe this is something that needs to be put out there to those that have the VTC privilege. Please be specific as to how to make a question better. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI -Monica come Home Feb 21 '17 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ i think the majority of the problem is that "world building" is inherently suited best to open discussion rather than specific Q&A so SE might not actually be the "best" format overall for what is trying to be done with WB in general. When WB topics and SE format clash, WB topics lose and is made poorer, especially when people too strictly adhere to pure Q&A format. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Feb 21 '17 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Durakken I kind of wish that WB SE had a "sibling web site" for actual world building. I.e., WB SE is the cache of data used to build worlds generally and WB Not-SE was the place to build a specific world, or to have longer form brainstorms. Case in point: Where is the right place for me to have this discussion: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/71724/… ? The result of that discussion belongs on WB SE. But the discussion itself does not. $\endgroup$ – SRM Feb 21 '17 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM Well there are places where you can discuss world building, but that's not their primary purpose. There is Cartographersguild, Zompist, and a bunch of PnP campaign building sites or Writing sites, but those have a different base thrust of thinking than world building in and of itself $\endgroup$ – Durakken Feb 22 '17 at 2:42

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