I think there are three parts to this meta question, beyond what is explicitly asked:
- The specific question you've mentioned, What kind of poisons could be used in a hospital setting?
- To what degree precedent matters, and how the scope evolves dynamically over time.
- Close voting (which you're suggesting some users are doing too often, or irresponsibly) without knowing the scope very well.
1. The case at hand.
The question itself asks for a poison that would kill a person while keeping them conscious throughout the process, with the requirement that the poison be hidden on an initial examination but discoverable upon deeper inspection. In terms of question quality, it doesn't have quite as many details as I'd like, and it doesn't show a huge amount of original research, but it's not terrible, and it does give some criteria (especially the one about keeping the poison hidden, which makes things slightly challenging).
I've read through the comments there, and I found a couple that are relevant:
Please can you explain how this question relates to wolrd building?
Almost any medicine is poison if used inappropriately or in conjunction with certain other medications. This is really story building, though, not world building. Should probably be moved
those questions are not on-topic. They are storybuilding, not worldbuilding questions. Even the setting is in this real world.
As I'm reading things, folks are voting to close for two reasons:
- They don't think it's about worldbuilding. I don't see how it's not worldbuilding; the OP explicitly states that it is for a creative work they're making, and they need help on a specific detail - not an overarching idea, concept, or plot arc, but a specific detail.
- They think it's idea generation.
Let me address the second one in more detail, because the concept of "idea generation" has a long and - if you'll pardon the pun - storied history on Worldbuilding Stack Exchange. I'll try to get it (mostly) right.
For the purposes of this site, "idea generation/plot building" basically means that someone is asking us to come up with an entire idea for their world. For instance, they could ask us to decide how a knight should best rescue a princess being held captive by a ravenous monster. That's building the plot right there. In general, if a question is about the actions of a character, it has a good chance at being idea generation.
So, idea generation questions have several problems, right off the bat:
- They're too broad. To use my example above, the knight could raise an army to save the princess . . . or face certain death and try to fight the monster one-on-one . . . or attempt to bargain with the monster - you get the idea. All of these solutions are, approximately, correct.
- They're really just invitations for endless discussion, and we're not a forum. Talking with others and bouncing ideas off them is great, and there plenty of places where you can do that; we're not one of them.
- We're not a content-generation engine.
Around the time of this first discussion, we picked "Idea Generation" as a custom close reason, and used it for a while. Monica suggested nixing it about eight months later, mostly because it wasn't doing anything that Too Broad/Primarily Opinion-Based wasn't. It took us a while after that, but we finally got rid of it, especially after some important discussions the following February, where many users expressed concerns that we were allowing too many "What-If" questions (and that's another saga in itself).
. . . But I digress. The point is, idea generation questions are usually overly broad and poorly constrained - or not constrained at all. I will argue that this question is not an idea generation question, for several reasons:
- It's not asking us to build a plot (not the only criterion for idea generation, but a common one).
- It does place constraints; it's not just asking "What's the best poison I should use to kill someone?" That is an unconstrained question.
- It has more than one right answer, probably, but you can objectively tell whether one is better than another. For instance, one poison might show up on an initial autopsy scan, while another might not; the first one is then better. Even more constraints could be added to the question as it is, which would be nice.
I cast the fourth (and binding) reopen vote.
Precedent on a Stack Exchange site is a tricky thing. On the one hand, it's great to refer back to, and old questions can tell you what to do with new questions. On the other hand, it does change. I know of plenty of cases on this site where once-good - and even quite popular - questions were closed because people realized that that class of question was not a good fit here.
In some of these cases, we've had (usually minor) scope changes. And that's fine. We live, we ask, we answer, we learn, and we see that some topics work while others don't. I think that that is - and should be - the primary driver behind scope change: experience about what works and what doesn't. This is sometimes why it takes a while to implement, change or remove policy - we don't have a large data set on a specific topic. And you need data - making meta discussions based on just theory is a recipe for disaster.
I don't think it's a problem if we change the scope over time. There are some things that we need to ensure happen if we do - and these are quite hard to implement, at times:
- We close old questions, too, for consistency and fairness. That way, new users won't ask off-topic questions because they think old ones are still on-topic.
- We make sure people know about the change; if it's of a high enough magnitude, a featured meta post may be appropriate to sum up the discussion (alternatively, the discussion itself could be featured).
- We reach something of a consensus, and as many people as possible get a say. We don't want things happening behind closed doors, and we don't want a schism because half of the site can't agree with the other half of the site.
This is all very hard and messy. I don't like it when we have to go back and close bunches of old questions, because we have to make sure that we don't miss any spots, and it's all very complex. Figuring out what's covered by the new standard is also hard. Fortunately, we haven't historically had many of these large-scale policy discussions in the three or so years this site has been around. Other sites have.
3. Close voting
I will say, first of all, that it's emotionally challenging to see a site grow into something much bigger and almost uncontrollable than where it started out. I missed the private beta, but I joined very shortly after the public beta started, and I've been here for over three years. I've been amazed at how the site's evolved (and succeeded!). I still remember a lot from those days.
I'm so happy that we've done well. I was ecstatic when we graduated; it made my week. But I'm also - totally selfishly - sad to see it flutter out of my hands, because now I can't see how every corner of it works, or how every question evolves, or have the chance to be a part of every discussion. I might be a mod, but I have very little control over the site. It's . . . different.
And so - and I say this gingerly, and delicately - I kinda sympathize with you being annoyed at newer people coming into the sandbox, so to speak, and not really knowing the history of the site. I get it; I've been there - both as a new user (!) and as now something of an old hand - though certainly not the oldest.
Here's what I'll say to those with more experience on the site:
What I would do - in an ideal world, where I have enough time and energy and waking hours - would be to look at many questions in depth, and have a dialogue with those voting to close and/or reopen, and make sure that we all understand why a question is being closed. Everyone who gets the privilege to close and reopen does have a bit of a struggle trying to understand the nuances of the scope, especially on such a weird site as Worldbuilding Stack Exchange. I think it would behoove all of us with experience to help them.
Here's what I'll say to close voters in general:
Let's make it clear, on each question, why we're voting to close or voting to reopen. If we can cite a specific meta discussion, then great. In fact, that's ideal, because it helps the asker formulate better questions in the future. By giving them specifics and details about what questions the site likes and what questions it doesn't, we make it much easier for them to ask good and on-topic questions in the future.
Another relevant thing to think about is Frostfyre's reminder to close-voters. Their standard comment is
Close-voters: Please don't vote to close questions without leaving commentary. The problem cannot be fixed if the OP is not made aware of it.
It doesn't matter whether the votes are cast as off-topic, too broad, primarily opinion-based, or unclear: There should be more explanation of what the OP can do to fix things. We owe that to them.