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Some of the recent questions on Worldbuilding have been interesting, and not just content-wise. Lately, we've had quite a few questions that seem (at best) tangentially related to building a world, and more related to semi-speculative science questions that might not go over well on their related science sites.

Here are some examples:

These are just questions that (in my very-possibly-flawed opinion) aren't directly related to worldbuilding. The first might be better off on Astronomy; the second would be good for Biology; the third might also be good for Astronomy; the last would be good for - well, I'm not sure. Perhaps one of the computer-oriented sites.

I don't mean to be harsh. There have been plenty of questions which I think (again, this is my opinion) are perfectly suited for Worldbuilding:

What are your opinions? Do you think these sort of questions are fine here, or perhaps not?

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    $\begingroup$ If the user does not say he/she is building a world, don't assume he is not. Those question would fit perfectly into a users' worldbuilding scenario, and I welcome any questions being that specific. $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Dec 10 '14 at 10:49
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(Speaking for myself, not in any official capacity)

I think the questions you list there are all fine. They may not fit into everyone's own area of interest but they are all relevant to building a world.

For example a planet that switches orbits would be a very interesting setting (cold and warm years depending on when you switched, various effects when the switch happens, etc). It directly feeds into world building.

The fact that something is on topic on another site doesn't automatically make it off topic here. One thing that people should consider though is where they would get the best answer, the planet switching for example might well get more solid answers in Astronomy.SE.

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  • $\begingroup$ I should add that all of the questions fit into my area of interest (!), but I see all of your points. I don't want to accept this answer (yet) because I think that a question like this is really a question owned by the whole community, but I would otherwise. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 7 '14 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I've de-personalized the "you" and replaced it with everyone :) $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 8 '14 at 9:54
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In my opinion, one thing, that should be considered is the context. Some of the question people ask here fall also into fields of Physics, Biology, Geology, etc. But the questions world-builders need to ask are quite often very speculative and rather than completely exact scientific answer, they want plausibility check and some "rule of thumb" that allows the world-builder to resolve the question in his/her world.

Let me take the question What efficiencies make a realistic food chain? as an example. You could ask the same question in Biology Stackexchange, but the question would be probably closed as too broad or as impossible to answer in general. The reason is that to scientists it is clear that there is no universal efficiency of metabolism. Yet, at Worldbuilding Stackexchange, we will give answer that "efficiency of 10% is a good rule of thumb", which is far from exact, but quite close to the truth.

At least questions

fall into this category, I think. Some questions, like

could be probably asked elsewhere, but I wouldn't push people too hard to do so. I think there is no harm in being generally accepting towards these questions. Also because the field of worldbuilding is very broad itself.

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Definitely not worth me adding an answer, but this was a little long for a comment.

I just want to add that there is an over-concern in the SE communities regarding what is EXACTLY appropriate and what is not. I recommend we assume the person has an intelligent reason for asking such a question first. If, after some analysis, or after watching for awhile, we can find enough data points that suggest a question IS a bad question then maybe it's worth doing something about.

There seems to be a trend of shooting questions down because the question is, or seems to be, poorly worded or uses too many catch phrases that an existing question used. Let me point out that if it's difficult to tell if it's a duplicate or poorly thought out then there are (effectively) three likelihoods:

  1. we either don't know enough about the topic to judge
  2. The person has a poor grasp of the language they are writing the question in (or similar difficulty... including they don't know enough about the topic to even ask a good question... which is absolutely NOT a good reason to shoot it down... this means it will resonate with people in a similar state)
  3. or, last, it probably isn't

So I suggest we consider questions valuable until there is fairly overwhelming evidence that it is not, (and someone else downvoting it is some of the worst sort of evidence).

I think this is particularly applicable to World Building... as this topic can literally encompass nearly any other topic, many of which we will NOT be experts in.

I suggest we should be more focused on watching for low effort/low quality questions than than worrying about whether or not we deem them appropriate.

Now if there is a poorly worded, likely not thought out, question we should likely take action against it, AS LONG as there are not a large number of good answers being generated from it.

I strongly believe that good answers are the primary reason SE is one of the first, and typically, most applicable, search results I see (well programming related generally).

Questions are just a catalyst for answers & the quality of answers, therefore, are more important.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, for telling everyone to calm down about things being exactly on-topic, but.... $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Dec 7 '14 at 6:17
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    $\begingroup$ ....-1 for "There seems to be a trend of shooting questions down because the question is [...] poorly worded" -- if it's not obvious what the question is, the question should be put on hold (it's not deleted or anything) until the OP clarifies what's bothering him/her. If that's not done, then a whole lotta people will answer the question according to their understanding of it, which will lead to many answers to many questions, all under one question post....while an OP might get upset for a question being put on hold as "unclear," this really helps the OP the most, ensuring that.... $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Dec 7 '14 at 6:18
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    $\begingroup$ .....only relevant, helpful-to-OP answers are given. ( net score for question from me: 1 - 1 = 0 ) $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Dec 7 '14 at 6:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Shokhet Ah, put on hold seems like a great option. Here's another reason my input may be less valuable, I haven't ever attempted to moderate a question heh... (don't even know if I can lol)... so thanks for the enlightenment and I agree, putting it on hold (preventing answers until the question is clarified) DOES seem to be a pretty valuable option. $\endgroup$ – MER Dec 8 '14 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ Live and learn, huh? ....I'm definitely still learning how SE works; this is only the second site that I have close-vote privileges on ;-) $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Dec 8 '14 at 23:38
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It sounds like the OP is confusing world-building with society-building. The questions that are described as off-topic mostly concern designing a believable physical world (or planetary system), and the examples of on-topic questions involve variations (sometimes fantastical) in social or technological systems (also part of a world).

These are actually really good fits here, I think. I'm currently getting told off in Biology that a question about building structures using programmed bacteria is overly broad and speculative, and I'm thinking about moving the question here. It's a speculative question, but I think one that is relevant to architecture and construction, and may be a valid technological path.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I see how planetary orbits have effect on a society. The questions ask if certain scenarios are possible, without thought to how that would affect the society. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 10 '14 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I think you and Adam Miller are on the same page... his answer sounds to me like he means that the OP is thinking that only questions that relate to building a believable society are valid here, & he's saying that it's more broad and that those things the OP pointed out as not fitting actually fit just fine... sound about right Adam Miller? $\endgroup$ – MER Dec 10 '14 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ @MER If you're right, I completely misunderstood. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 10 '14 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @AdamMiller - Please, please, can you make a minor edit? I completely misunderstood the answer and I'd like to reverse a downvote. I'd edit the post myself, but it's yours, so the decision should be yours. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 10 '14 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868,done. I wasn't aware that an edit was needed to reverse a downvote. $\endgroup$ – Adam Miller Dec 10 '14 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ @AdamMiller Thank you so much. The issue is that any vote on any post is locked in after a certain amount of time (typically something like 5 minutes) - until and edit is made. And in this case, I had a second thought here - after about 7 minutes. Thank you for the edit; I reversed my vote. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Dec 11 '14 at 2:31
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Since I asked the Janus question, I'll put my reasoning and thinking here. As Tim pointed out having a strange orbit where planets switch places every few years could be a very interesting place to have a story, warm years and cold years etc. I think I could have a lot of fun with stories working with these.

I was interested in if the Janus situation could scale up to planet sized bodies and how that might affect things. Would it cause extra earthquakes when they came close together etc. Would the needed minimum change in orbit severely affect the seasons.

And since I am a member of the Worldbuilding community, and I thought the question was a reasonable one to ask here, this is where I asked it. To help build this site and try to have good questions and answers available here.

If my questions really don't fit, like the one about Scott Summers, then I it will be moved or deleted. We have some very knowledgeable people here and we get some great answers.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would want to ask what about questions from a book, which one wants to build content on. Is it alright if I closely rephrase a difficult question which I found in a book? $\endgroup$ – Robert Boettcher Dec 9 '14 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertBoettcher I would think so. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Dec 9 '14 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Well in the Janus situation, it only swaps every 2 millenia or so. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 10 '14 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Oldcat actually it's every 4 years or so $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Dec 10 '14 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ That's for the real Janus, with its 17 hours long orbit it flips in 4 years. The equivalent situation for Earth would be 2000 years. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 10 '14 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Oldcat Oh! didn't know that is what you meant, that could lead to some interesting things $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Dec 10 '14 at 19:15

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