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We have had some discussion before about whether software recommendation questions are on topic. This meta question is not about software recommendation questions.

Rather, I want to pose the question of whether questions about development of software which may be useful in worldbuilding would be on topic. As an example, I present you What is the most efficient data-structure to store planet elevation? which was closed by community vote during the site's private beta period. Two of those who closed the question (Tim B and myself) subsequently were appointed pro tem moderators on the site.

My feeling was at the time and remains that this type of question is a poor fit for this site because it is not a type of question that a worldbuilding expert would be expected to be able to answer. Depending on exactly how you frame it this is a software development, computer science or geographical information sciences question; it is not a question about how to make a world work.

As such, this type of questions are likely a better fit for the Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange (because it is essentially about the design process of a geographic information system) or the Programmers Stack Exchange (because it is about algorithms and data structure concepts).

How does the community feel about this type of questions? Do we want them to be on topic? Can they be on topic? (Please provide a good rationale beyond what essentially amounts to "I think we should cater to everyone's needs in everything that can be peripherally related to worldbuilding because I think it makes for cool questions".)

In the specific question mentioned as an example, replace the concept of "worldbuilding" with "map-making in the real world"; would you still feel the same way about the question? Because the question in that case remains essentially the same: what data structures would be a good choice for storing a particular type of data? If you feel differently about the question in that case, please explain why.

Let's hash this out.

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A fairly significant aspect of world building is procedural world creation. Implementation details would generally make more sense on StackOverflow, GIS.SE or the like, but the higher level algorithms are fairly specialized and more likely to attract the attention of experts in the area here than they are in a general programming or GIS site.

The question that raised this issue is a borderline case at best but a good question would be something like "How can I generate a realistic set of river courses without needing to build a DEM?" This is the sort of thing only a world builder would need.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice point, plus 1! I hadn't thought of that. $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Nov 11 '14 at 1:42
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For the benefit of making voting clear, I'll post an answer with an explicit alternative. Feel free to add other answers if you agree with the sentiment but disagree with the reasoning, or for that matter if you disagree with my stance.

Questions about development of worldbuilding software should be off topic on the Worldbuilding SE for the reasons laid out in the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Agreed. There are more than enough programming / coding style sites for any kind of software development to be on topic. See Programmers.SE and StackOverflow $\endgroup$ – Mourdos Nov 10 '14 at 10:42
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A similar issue came up in the early days of Writers. We ultimately decided that questions about using software, if they were tied in with writing and not general tool use, are ok, but questions about specifying or writing that software are not. (We also noted that some software-use questions really belong on Super User.)

I think we should take a similar approach here. Questions about how to write software for use by worldbuilders are not really questions about worldbuilding. But we have relevant experts here, so I see why someone would come here for that. If somebody wants to gather use cases or requirements from the experts here, I think chat is the ideal tool there (and could go along with a meta question). So yes we can help software developers, but not on the main site.

So I agree with this answer, and am posting this to offer additional reasoning.

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These questions are on topic.

It is not a problem that they might be also on-topic, or even "more on-topic" on some other subsite.

That does not affect that they are on-topic here. (See for example the overlap between the scifi subsite and the movies & tv subsite.)

Specifically, even though it is not a problem for a question to be on-topic on more than one-subsite, the on-topicness is not determined by it being about making worldbuilding software. How on-topic it is, I would think, is more about how much the details of the question are about a world-building-relevant detail, as opposed to just being about some software development detail, while programming worldbuilding software.

e.g.

"Does it makes sense for increased humidity to affect biomes the way I have it in this code?" - is very much on-topic.

"Why isn't this code snippet from my river erosion algorithm compiling after I installed the latest Windows update?" - is not on-topic, because the worldbuilding nature of the software is irrelevant to the question.

Over-zealous question-closing impacts more than just the closed questions. For example, every time I run into an interesting question that is closed because of weird technicalities, it makes me angry and not want to participate in that subsite.)

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    $\begingroup$ Agree. Procedural world-building is about worlds, not software (or dice in a role-playing game). I wrote this answer with a procedural formula in mind. The question wasn't specifically worded for procedural world generation but it it fits. Might be a game, or generative fiction, or a writer's tool to fill in background. I'd like a tag for "Procedural World-Building". If it's not specific to any software platform, it's not really a code question. $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Mar 7 '17 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ And how many questions are actually about procedural world-building, just carefully worded to avoid censorship? Unless this group is specifically World-Building for Literary Writers Only, or something that I missed. $\endgroup$ – wetcircuit Mar 7 '17 at 12:47
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For the purposes of voting, I'll argue that questions like these are on-topic.

Reasons for this include:

  • Since it's a problem someone may encounter while worldbuilding, why not help with that? After all, the scope includes "Specific issues with worldbuilding" and "Real problems or questions that you’ve encountered" (from the tour).
  • Since the community is comprised of people who have, are, and want to build their own worlds, it stands to reason that people here will know the answers to these questions.
  • As an answer to the argument that it should be off-topic because it's not directly related to worldbuilding, that same argument would make all software questions off-topic, but the community has already decided that software questions are on-topic.

If you can think of more reasons that these questions would be on-topic, I would certainly welcome those as comments.

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