My primary use of the Exchange, when it comes to asking questions, has been to back check answers I've already tackled in my writing, is that typical or most people come here for raw advice to start building and writing particular projects?
This graphic is how I'm pretty sure people use the site:
The green path is the path I typically take:
- I come up with an idea.
- I think about it a bit and try to work out the details.
- If I need some more help on something, I ask a question.
- If the response is positive, then I go on to build the world a bit more.
I think you would count this as a step towards building a world.
I occasionally take the blue path, if I'm more confident about an idea. I build the world a bit, and then if I have problems, I go to Worldbuilding Stack Exchange. This has the advantage that my world is usually much more fleshed out, and so I can provide more details to people. More details generally means better answers (in my experience). This sort of route is what you'd call a check of what I've already come up with.
I imagine, though, that people often take the purple path (given some of the questions I see). They go straight from having an idea to asking about it. This often results in poorly thought-out questions, which aren't great. This is another sort of build technique, but unfortunately, it doesn't always lead to the best questions. I've done this once or twice before; it's something to avoid.
A similar path to this is actually a variant of the blue path (shown with a dotted line), where a person starts building or writing without first thinking about the plausibility of the idea; they then may go to Worldbuilding Stack Exchange to figure out how well it works. I'd also imagine that this is somewhat common - not the sort of thing we want to encourage, because it would be nice if people do some of their own thinking before coming here, but still a possibility.
Everyone's going to give you a different answer to the question. My questions are pretty evenly split between your two categories. However, I would wager that, given by the quality of some of the questions, more people use the site as an intermediate step for building, rather than as a stage to check what they've already done. The margin probably isn't large, though.
6$\begingroup$ You skipped the path where I come up with a question, and in the process of formulating a good question for worldbuilding I answer my own question and don't need to ask it. For me that is the most common path. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2017 at 14:09
$\begingroup$ @sphennings While it's common it means that there are no posts and you are not really "using the site" for those questions. It looks like my first paragraph comes pretty close to your modus operandi. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2017 at 14:14
3$\begingroup$ @Secespitus I am using the site. I'm using it so well It answers my questions before I even ask them. :) $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2017 at 14:15
$\begingroup$ There's also the case of someone coming up with an idea, using that idea in a story, and then realizing it doesn't quite work for some reason, and come to WB looking for help. Your graphic seems to completely lack that possibility. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2017 at 14:20
$\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling That's a fair point; I've modified the diagram. $\endgroup$– HDE 226868 ModSep 5, 2017 at 15:28
$\begingroup$ @sphennings I'd sort of file that along in the purple path; there's still the process of taking an idea and going straight to the site in some capacity. $\endgroup$– HDE 226868 ModSep 5, 2017 at 15:29
$\begingroup$ In fairness, I kind of thought more of someone coming up with an idea, doing some reality-checking of their own, using their idea in a story, hitting a snag and coming to WB for help with the snag in the already-reality-checked idea. I guess that's one more path to take. This is getting complex. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2017 at 17:17
Personally I tend to answer questions myself when I can and ask for additional input if I'm not 100% convinced of my solution
I'm one of those people who prefer to get additional input if they found a "solution" to their problem and would love to have different point of view. There is always someone giving me new insights that help me in my future work and sometimes I retcon stuff after getting interesting answers. But because I mainly answer stuff for myself, often by handwaving, I don't post a lot of questions.
In general people probably don't start here without having established anything
The site is not really great for discussing questions like "Where to start when building your world?". You are supposed to ask for stuff that can be answered. Therefore most people who come here probably have some sort of framework or structure they already established and ask for aspects about their story.
All in all there are a lot of reasons for why people use the site
You won't get input from everyone but my feeling after reading a lot of stuff on the Main Site is that this feels to me like 50:50. Some people need help because they don't know where to start, but they have a goal in mind and some people need help because they are not convinced of their own solution.
You can see some of the reasons for why people are on WorldBuilding.SE in the Meta discussion Why do YOU hang out on Worldbuilding?
$\begingroup$ We do have worldbuilding-process tag, though. It's one of the tags that I think are often misapplied, but when it's used correctly, it's useful for finding precisely those "where to start?" types of questions. Be very careful to not make them too broad. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2017 at 17:18
$\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Yeah, but that's not "Where to start?". It's "I want to start with [stuff] (for example the Mineralogy) - please help me with this aspect". The user still has an idea about what he wants to do and where he wants to start. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2017 at 17:22
$\begingroup$ True enough. If you really mean "how do I build a world?", then such questions aren't appropriate for Worldbuilding SE. They might work in chat, though, but of course chat requires a small amount of rep to get you started (the "talk in chat" privilege is 20 rep). $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2017 at 17:25