Stack Exchange has a very successful Code Golf site, where people try to develop the shortest program to accomplish a goal. Recently I came across Spanish.SE's version of it. The madness is spreading!

I was wondering if we might be interested in exploring something akin to this. I don't know what the equivalent of a character count is for WorldBuilding yet, but the "shorter is better" seems like a nifty way to make things very friendly for the stack exchange format (although it does disqualify some of my 10+ paragraph responses. So sad)

I also thought it interesting that Spanish.SE is trying to keep the number of golf questions to a minimum with a rule that the winner should propose the next golf.

Do we think worldbuilding is a topic where golfing could be a valid art form?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Didn't you already try to create a Code-Golf-Version on WorldBuilding quite some time ago? worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/502/… $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Mar 27, 2017 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ But I still like the idea! +1 from me $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Mar 27, 2017 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ Does look to be the case! I'd forgotten! Something tells me I still like the idea =) The Spanish one is interesting, though, because they're adapting the rules to a very different topic. It shows some interesting ways the idea can be flexed to better fit non-programming topics. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Mar 27, 2017 at 19:50
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ We get a lot of short not-really-answers now, and that's something we try to discourage in favor of answers with real explanations and sources and suchlike. What bounds would you place around these kinds of questions to keep that from leaking out to the rest of the site? $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2017 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ It's worth noting that Spanish.SE has exactly one question so far. It is by no means an established success. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Mar 27, 2017 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Brythan I think that's by design. According to the linked answer, they will only allow one golf question at a time. $\endgroup$
    – Shokhet
    Mar 28, 2017 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ If you like worldbuilding in small spaces, you might like some of the "twitterature" people; twitter.com/microsff, twitter.com/s______w______s, twitter.com/ASmallFiction, twitter.com/VeryShortStory among many others. (Would any of those tweets work for your proposal? ie ask for a steampunk story, limit answers to 140 (or some small n) characters) $\endgroup$
    – Shokhet
    Mar 28, 2017 at 1:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Shokhet Possibly, but I took that to mean only one open question with no accepted answer. I would expect them to keep the historical questions. Also, the question title starts, "Let translation-golf begin," which I take to mean that this is the first question. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Mar 28, 2017 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a big fan of concise answers. However overly terse answers are arguably even worse than ones that ramble on and on about concepts only vaguely related to the question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 28, 2017 at 13:45

2 Answers 2


Nope. (5 characters)

It seems to me like if we did this, the questions would mostly be of the idea-generation sort (which are on-topic, but I think the community is still somewhat divided about that). So you'd ask "I want X, how can I make it happen?"

The problem I see is that the shortest answer might always be "create a universe where X happens." Or, if there is a shorter answer, it's going to be less than 35 characters, which kind of seems like a waste of time.

The problem here is that even on Code Golf, the answers can be of any length, and tend to be pretty long for the golfed languages. The solution is short, but the answer that describes the solution is expected to be as long as needed to explain what's going on. On Worldbuilding, the solution is sometimes put in bold somewhere, and can be pretty short, but in a lot of questions that solution is either 'Yes' or 'No', and the important part is the explanation.

An alternate option could be to do one of those "what's the smallest change that would allow X" questions, but those are already kind of normal and usually on-topic.


So this is brainstorming based on the comments I've seen.

One of the questions that I hate are the "Help! I've painted myself in a corner!" questions. These are the questions where an author needs a particular plot point to occur and needs the world to support it, but they've built the world too rigidly and they can't figure out how to do it. You probably hate these too. These are almost always "story based" because they are having to fit the changes into an existing storyline.

Of course, we also should recognize that this is a fundamental part of world building. In an ideal world we should all learn how to build worlds that are flexible enough to not have this happen. In practice, the art of jamming one last detail into the world is a required skill.

Spanish.SE's translation golf has an interesting rule: when asking for the shortest translation possible, you're obliged to provide a translation of your own. The idea is to prevent people from using their translation-golf to do translations for homework and such.

What if we applied a similar rule to a golf like game on WorldBuilding. You provide the world, a few key places where the world intersects with the world, and something you want to fit in place. You ask "What is the smallest change I can make to the world (in terms of amount of WorldBuilding/Writing effort) which lets me fit this one last detail I need into my world." You then provide an example of a solution which would fit your world.

I think this could work out similar to how Physics.SE handles homework problems. You're permitted to come to Physic.SE for homework help. However, you're required to show the work you've undertaken so far, and people ideally should coach their answers around the particular mistakes you've made.

From the comments, character count is probably not going to be an elegant scoring mechanism, but perhaps the standard voting process could be. Vote for the answers which, in your mind, are the simplest smallest changes possible.


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