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This question about alternatives to wikis (to use to build an encyclopedia of one's world) is currently on hold. This question about map-making software is currently open. Both are software-recommendation questions.

We have a highly-voted meta post that suggests permitting well-scoped questions of this type:

We can do a better job of answering world building software questions internally than by pointing people over there [Software Recommendations]. [...]

A good question would state what the intended use is (world generation, naming, knowledge maps, etc), what kinds of features it should have (random generation from a seed, word lists, smart linking, etc).

Both of these questions describe what the author is looking for (although maybe not in enough detail in some cases). Both state a world-building purpose (encyclopedia, maps). What is the difference between the two? Or is there none and they should either both be open or both be closed?

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    $\begingroup$ I've offered an answer here but would very definitely like to see other input. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 1 '14 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ The question that's still open doesn't appear to have any close votes on it, which I suppose says something. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 4 '14 at 0:02
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Software-recommendation questions are on-topic (we even have a tag) if specific enough, so in principle both of these could fit here.

However, the wiki question feels a little more like boat programming, as if the world-building aspect isn't central to the question. I hope we all agree that we'd close a question asking what the best keyboard is for doing lots of typing even if one is typing up a description of one's world; this feels kind of like that. At its core, this feels like a general web-development question that could just as easily be motivated by world-building, technical documentation, a fan site about your favorite TV show, or helping Aunt Martha organize her recipe collection. A key quote from the above link:

The fundamental rule is you can't just stick "for programmers" on a question to make it programming related.

But wait, couldn't we say the same thing about the maps one? Maps can be for world-building, but they could also be for navigation systems, tools for lunar/Mars rovers, or meteorology. To me the map question feels more tightly bound to world-building than the wiki one does, but I'm just one person.

I think the question we have to ask about a software-recommendation question on this site is: how strong is the tie between the software and the purpose of world-building? I don't think we can codify that; part of our work in beta will be to develop a record of precedents, of examples that fall on both sides of that line. It is especially important for the community to weigh in on issues like this; please use meta, close/reopen votes, and chat to help us all reach consensus.

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  • $\begingroup$ Maps are always for worldbuilding- even if it's building our existing world. Right? $\endgroup$ – Scimonster Dec 7 '14 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Scimonster well, if I were asking for software that will help me do navigation on a map (because I'm trying to compete with Google Maps, or I'm a logistics officer in a military theatre, for instance), that wouldn't be. But I agree that map creation is very likely to be in-scope here. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 7 '14 at 18:34
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The wiki question looks off topic to me. I expect there to be on topic wiki questions in future, I just don't think this particular one is on topic. I'm really glad to see a meta question on this because otherwise future users could easily think that the closure of the wiki question sets a precedent of all wiki questions being off topic.

This particular wiki question does not relate to worldbuilding. It is driven by needs for the presentation of the content, not the development of the world itself. If it was about tracking the changes, highlighting areas to double check for consistency, or modelling some aspect of a world, then it could be on topic.

"How can I keep track of changes in my world in progress"

could be on topic, despite being also on topic on several other SE sites.

"How can I present this finished content"

is not on topic here.


Even though the map question may also appear to be about presentation, due to being visual, this is functional, seeking a useful way of modifying a world and observing the changes. The map question should attract answers that have worldbuilding in mind. The question is about finding a useful tool for creating, rather than fine tuning the presentation.

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Since most of the points have already been covered I won't go over them again, but there is a key point that bears repeating (skip to the last paragraph for it). I do see that it was closed by a mod vote rather than by members of the community but not knowing how many flags and such it got, so I can't really comment on that. Declaration of Bias: I wrote the question that is still open.

One of the questions is asking for very specific thing, clearly listed in bullet points. It also asks for existing sites or services (the fact that there was an offer to develop something notwithstanding)

The other start reading like a rant about the current options and then five paragraphs in asks the actual question without defining in a clear and concise manner what the actually wanted. The word "better" was used which is a key indicator of opinion based. It also asks two subtly different questions, both for recommendations: One for self development and one for pre-existing.

Taking a very quick stab at rewriting the question that isn't mine, I would have gone along the lines of asking how people organise their own notes and writings online, providing details of what I was looking for: Non collaborative, few hyperlinks, easy to format. (Not being the original author, I can't say exactly what they are looking for.)

As is usually the case in questions that get closed, it comes down a lot to how you ask your question, rather than what your question wants answered. Had the closed question been written as a request, rather than a complaint, it would probably have been okay.

This is already three times as long as I intended it to be. As a result, those of you who skipped here for the short answer, read the paragraph above, or better yet, read the whole post you lazy so and sos :-)

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I'm not a fan of recommendation questions, be they for software, web sites, books etc.

They have a tendency to fail in one of two ways:

  1. They become a list of everyone's favourite thing and people tend to just link to that thing rather than explaining why it solves the problem the OP as posted.
  2. They become out of date - how quickly will depend on how fast the thing you're talking about is moving. So, on Stack Overflow or Programmers (for example) where the subject is programming which moves quite rapidly, recommendation questions become obsolete very quickly.

For a recommendation question to work it has to be an excellent question, which is something most of us (myself included) can't write.

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As the OP of the wiki post, I thought I'd weigh in.

Worldbuilding, by its very nature, will cover every topic that exists in the world. As a worldbuilder your research will likely include Physics, Astronomy, Biology, Evolution, Engineering, Architecture, History, Mythology, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Cartography, Linguistics, Phonology, Fashion, Metallurgy, and Gastronomy to name a few, many of which I'm assuming have their own dedicated SE's.

As I understand it, the Worldbuilding SE works because we understand implicitly that the questions are being asked by worldbuilders for worldbuilding. As such, we're getting answers from people involved in the worldbuilding process, and we can expect their answers to be more relevant to our needs.

If this weren't true, there would be no reason for this SE to exist - we could all just ask biologists, astronomers, historians, chefs, and software engineers instead. The relevance of questions on this SE should not determined by topic, but by purpose. (Actual purpose, not hypothetical purpose.) If it's for worldbuilding, it belongs here. Simple as that.

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