I'm giving this link as an example of what I am about to (maybe) rant about: Super-generic Fantasy World: The problem with Murder Hobos

It has been downvoted several times as has my answer to it.

In this case, here is the Rub. It is a fairly specific question. It was just asked in a way that isn't immediately clear. The OP was trying to be clever and asked his question in a way that sets the tone for his story.

One comment asked what the question actually was and the OP edited the question. In the meantime the question got several downvotes. I answered the question, trying to keep in theme with the question and I gathered a few downvotes. I can't point to something really specific, but I get the impression that some people stopped read the question, didn't catch on to the underlying humor, downvoted and moved on.

To be clear, I'm not overly worried about the downvotes on a personal level. If I begin to gather downvotes and I'm getting some comments, I try to pay close attention and figure out what is objectionable and make edits as necessary.

I do try to answer questions in more general terms and I don't sink a ton of effort into detailed research. My baseline is: Can I make sense of it in a way that I would "buy it" in a work of fiction.

The upshot of this bit of meandering is that in WorldBuilding, We are creating and helping others create STORIES. We are not searching for the cure for cancer or abolishing world hunger. This site is not about absolute truths. Collectively, we get ideas and we want folks to follow along in the story. The better we can make the story, the more accessible it becomes for more people.

In the example question, you can make out the skeletal structure of the story, and even the punchline, but the OP seems to be looking for some paths to get from point a to point b. He just wasn't direct about it. In my opinion, he was trying to have some fun and at the same time set a tone that would shape the answers. I think he would have gotten different kinds of answers if he just wrote the question like "how do I develop a link between the real world and the universe of all table-top role playing games and what roles would a task force from the sci-fi side have in mitigating damage from it?" With some more detail, evident from the length of the original, He wouldn't have gotten as many downvotes.

Are folks taking things a little too seriously? We are about making better stories. Downvotes can be a negative reinforcement mechanism and should be used appropriately, particularly with newer users. Not just because you didn't understand the question. I don't understand some of the hard-science questions. I don't have the background. But I don't downvote questions and answers when the math goes over my head.

Should we include something about this in our guidelines, or if I missed it, make it bold face?

If I'm way off base, let me know, leave a comment. just please don't driveby downvote. Also, let me know if I'm just griping. If I am, downvote and please say something. :)

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for all for the answers. That does help me if I want to help others on the site $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 15, 2017 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/215379/… $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Apr 15, 2017 at 3:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't get what's the peoples problem with that question. It's glorious! Very good SCP write-up. Questions pretending to be announcements from kings or officials or in form of false reports are fine on WB, why SCP should not? $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Apr 15, 2017 at 4:35
  • $\begingroup$ @apaul34208 that link was AWESOME! thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 15, 2017 at 4:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @M i ech because it makes little sense out of context. What is SCP? $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Apr 15, 2017 at 5:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI I just want to point out that iirc worldbuilding.se is for helping people build worlds, not "write stories." In fact, we have a close reason for questions asking for story specific help. Finally, I think that the question is too broad & opinion based after the question is made clear. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Apr 15, 2017 at 16:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ He should have essence of the question on top of the question, the story is for those who would like to read the story and answer the question. Forcing everyone to read The Great Story just to understand what the question a bit of overestimation if self-importance and greatness of the story. I personally read the stuff above the first "====", haven't found the information I need for the decision. For me, it is not enough to downvote, but I may guess it could be one of the reasons for those who did and source of frustration for those who didn't $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Apr 16, 2017 at 9:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Aify I actually disagree. The only reason to build a world in the first place is so that we can tell a story. In really good stories, the world is a character that is often given as much, if not more time as the protagonist. Even if you are building a world to satisfy something in your own mind, you are still telling a story. I would actually like to see the "story based" close reason change to "plot based", as I feel that to be more accurate. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 17, 2017 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI Some people world build for the sake of world-building. While my personal opinion is in line with what you suggest, the fact of the matter is it is still an opinion. Just suggesting you shouldn't conflate the purpose of your world-building as fact for everyone. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Apr 17, 2017 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ I world build for the sake of world building myself. I started hanging out so I could engage in creative problem solving in addition to seeing what others come up with. I often have to try to see things in a different way from the way things have always been in order to do my job. If I strip away pretense though, I'm telling myself a story when I do this. Seriously, just about everything we do in world building is a matter of opinion. Everyone has different reasons for spending time here, but in the end, we all tell stories $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 17, 2017 at 20:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @apaul34208 SCP stands for "Secure Contain Protect" and is...in a sense a meme now. I find it dumb, but it's a large collection of random nonsense made out to look like some sort of government "hide all the artifacts" thing, like Warehouse 13, only with more Paranoia (the...uh, satirical role playing game). People make new "SCP entries" all the time because they had An Idea. The downside...the entries are often redacted to the point of uselessness. eg...who redacts the SCP entry number? Why? At least Paranoia did "[Redacted for [Redacted for Security Reasons] Reasons]" only once. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2017 at 15:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I downvoted this post solely because it has "drive by downvoting" in title as if there was some injustice or personal downvoting, while in fact the downvotes were legitimate. If you say you're not overly worried about personal downvotes, you're lying, because you see them even when they are nonexistent. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2017 at 11:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TomášZato You are actually illustrating my point perfectly. Did you read through the entire discussion? I'm guessing no. There is actually discussion on what you bring up attached to an answer lower down. However, "drive by downvotes" do exactly what you have, though without comments. A downvote from me on your post just because I think you used the letter "q" too many times carries an identical amount of weight to a downvote "because it has 'drive by downvoting". It's just an indicator of the other thing, folks taking some stuff too seriously. that's the root problem $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 19, 2017 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI Well, I am happy that you do not take stuff - like downvotes - too seriously. And I recommend you update your understanding of what does downvote mean on a meta site. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2017 at 21:23
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ "It was just asked in a way that isn't immediately clear". To me that is reason enough to down-vote. Also: Redacted Redcated has made it his shtick to try to be "funny" and stylish rather than formulating questions that can be easily understood and answered. If this had been a "Showcase your creativity" forum, then he would probably have earned high marks. But this is not that. I have repeatedly told him to concentrate on content rather than style, but he keeps at it. Call me biased if you wish; I do weigh that against his questions. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Apr 20, 2017 at 10:41

4 Answers 4


Specific comments on the question

Comment #1: Ack! Inhomogeneity!

While not a reason for closure, I'd like to point out that the use of bolding, italics, code formatting, and "================================================" don't make for an incredibly readable post. It's always nice to emphasize things that need to be emphasized. But using a bunch of different dividers and means of emphasis don't make for a visually appealing post. It's actually a little distracting.

Comment #2: Jargon and certain other terminology is indubitably, unequivocally reprehensible if gratuitous and supererogatory.

First, yes, those are all real words. Second, don't use words if you don't need to. I don't just mean using lengthy ones; I mean using a bunch of terms that simply don't need to be there. My eyes are drawn from "Foundation's Mobile Task Force" to "SCP-P001-B" to "Afflicted Kender" to "THE BRIGHT FAMILY REUNION", and again, it's a little distracting. I'm all for presenting a question in a humorous, in-universe way, in some cases, but here, I think a lot of the terms served merely to confuse - sorry, obfuscate - the question.

More general stuff

Really, apaul34208's comment and Redacted Redacted's reponse should drive home a point:

What's the question? – apaul34208

@apaul34208 To create an estimation of the potential dangers, SCP-P001-A pose to a semi-feudal society. – Redacted Redacted

If someone's confused and then you can come close to alleviating that confusion with one sentence, you should probably consider rewriting the question.

The remaining problem, though, is that even if the question is suddenly made much clearer, it's still not a great on-topic question. Yes, the author provided a decent number of details about SCP-P001, but there's still so much that could happen, even with some of the details in the world given. It doesn't seem likely that a person could piece together a grand unified answer to address most possible scenarios.

I think that the question should be reopened if it's edited as per the comments, but I also think that it should then be closed as Too Broad.

I have no comment on the downvotes. I'll see if I can give you something canonical, but in general, policy is to let people vote as they will - unless, of course, they're trying to cheat the system or do other dastardly deeds, in which case our informants spies surveillance tools can deal with them.

  • $\begingroup$ I get that downvotes keep things from getting personal. That makes perfect sense. Now that I've had a couple of hours to mellow and have watched a big, dumb, fun movie, I'm in a better frame of mind. A part of the problem, though, is that downvotes can sting a bit, especially if you put some effort into the question or answer. you get over it, no real harm done. It's the one downvote followed by 4 others in rapid succession while you get upvotes from others that gives me the sense of "piling on" $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 15, 2017 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ Also, how long is the time between 'on hold' shifting to 'closed'? How long should we give for edits for that to happen? $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 15, 2017 at 1:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It also requires the reader to know about the SCP website vignettes. This could be cross-linked more effectively. A short intro/summary before the in-story part would make a difference. It could have linked to the site — better yet, post it there! $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Apr 15, 2017 at 2:08
  • $\begingroup$ On-hold changes to closed in the title after 5 days. There is no difference between them. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Apr 15, 2017 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz there used to be - for example, any edit to on-hold question put them in reopen queue, and closed questions needed one reopen vote to show in reopen queue. Was that changed? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Apr 15, 2017 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ Just what it says here. Looks like that is correct. “functionally identical” refers to actions the user may perform, I guess. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Apr 15, 2017 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI I concur, especially if it's honestly hard to understand the downvotes. By the way, as JDługosz said, the timeline is five days, chosen to give a more positive image of what being on hold means, i.e. as a sign that improvement is needed. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Apr 16, 2017 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Only problem is... that it's fan-made, and the whole story is about an alternative foundation, that has been changed by a ground shattering (read: moronic) event, that others would consider stupid, if not done properly, (with over 3000 items in the catalouge, it's definitely hard) and with the involvement of parallel universes explained with quantum suicide. $\endgroup$ Apr 16, 2017 at 14:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz I have never heard of the SCP website vingnettes. what are those? Anyway, I was able to answer the question without them. I just solved the puzzle within the question. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 17, 2017 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCP_Foundation $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Apr 17, 2017 at 2:47
  • $\begingroup$ (And we won’t hear from Paul Tiki for a few days) $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Apr 17, 2017 at 2:50
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz thanks. that looks interesting $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 17, 2017 at 2:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Let me know how many of them (SCPs) you read through. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Apr 17, 2017 at 3:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Obfuscate is one of the best words in the English language. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Apr 17, 2017 at 20:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @James I prefer the even more arcane adjectival variant, "obfuscatory". $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Apr 17, 2017 at 23:20

Ya... I kinda took the lead on that one... Sorry about that.

I really don't mind a bit of fun in questions, but when the signal to noise ratio gets skewed to the point where I find myself reading the question several times to gather what they're after, I'll say something about it.

In this specific case:

  • I commented.
  • I waited a few minutes.
  • Didn't see any improvement.
  • Then I voted and voted to close.

Then the question was edited, and it still felt a bit too broad, and was still more flourish than substance (Signal to noise).

I honestly kind of like a little story here and there, it adds context for the question, but this one felt like it was entirely story, with little actual worldbuilding. More of a here's my world, what story fits with it. I know it's a judgement call, but as far as being "useful" I figured that that one leaned toward "only useful to the person asking", effectively making it "not useful for future readers."

Keep in mind that downvotes are intended to sort content not to be a personal affront. In this case the content wasn't very clear and wasn't likely to be useful, so...

  • $\begingroup$ All Fair points. If I were to quibble, it would be to wait an hour or 2 before a vote to close. That's just me though. The one time I asked a question, I had some things to do and I couldn't even get back to it for at least a few hours. I have noticed a few questions getting shut down much faster than that. I'm also noticing a tendency to pile on. One downvote can quickly generate 3 or 4 more. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 15, 2017 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ Also, thanks for the guideline of "only useful to the person asking" vs "not useful for future readers" I need to keep that in mind. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 15, 2017 at 2:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI I wouldn't call it a guideline, at least not officially, but definitely something worth thinking about. $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Apr 15, 2017 at 2:53
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI as far as the "pile on", keep in mind that it takes 2.5 downvotes to offset every upvote, so if a question gets 1 upvote and 2 downvotes, the asker still walks away with a rep gain. 5 downvotes only takes away 10 rep, so while it feels kinda crappy, it's very easy to recover from. $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Apr 15, 2017 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ To be honest, the only reason I cared about rep at all was to beabel to vote to close or re-open. Got to that point so I don't care too much about about rep. To me, the number of downvotes is the number of people who didn't care for my efforts, which is hard not to take a little personally on a gut level. Kinda like a paper cut, it stings all out of proportion with the actual damage :) It leads me to the very thing I'm complaining about. I'm taking it too seriously. I just want to be wary of doing the same to others. That sting might hit someone else way harder. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 15, 2017 at 4:55
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI there are some other fun tools at the higher thresholds, but I get what you mean. At a point you begin to think of them as magical unicorn dollars. But there is always that pesky psychological validation thing... Gotta separate that occasionally. Once you begin to see it as it is, just someone's opinion, the sting lessens. If it matters I only voted on the question. $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Apr 15, 2017 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI also... Not to put too fine a point on it... The user who asked isn't new to the game. They've had an awful lot of these learning experiences. $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Apr 15, 2017 at 5:03
  • $\begingroup$ thanks. Of course the othe peoples opinions are, of course, wrong because they disagree with ME. (tongue firmly in cheek) Have a great holiday! $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 15, 2017 at 5:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI "wait an hour or 2 before a vote to close" I disagree. If a question should be put on hold, we should do so quickly, before people spend a lot of time answering a question that might turn out to be changed a fair bit. It's better to put on hold, posting useful comments if applicable, and then while the question is on hold figure out how to fix it. Once the question has been fixed, it's fair game to be and should be reopened quickly. A question being put on hold is not a punishment or a "penalty box", it's a "whoa, hold on a second" until we figure out what the asker wants. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Apr 21, 2017 at 10:59

There are some excellent "thematic" questions and answers on this site, for example Assistance to fight off a silicon-based lifeform

The key though is that the style in which the question is asked does not hinder the understanding or the answering of the question. Style is great, but only when it doesn't get in the way of substance.


Burying the lede makes it, indeed, unclear. But I would not downvote after it was already closed.

  • $\begingroup$ Granted the lead did get buried, but I had a lot of fun once I caught on. The story part included in the question, I thought, was really clever. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 15, 2017 at 1:54

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