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I am in nit-picking mode today.

While my question about Christmas on Mars got great reception and loads of positive votes, and personally I totally enjoyed answering both questions about dining habits of aliens and alien social activities, my inner editor tells me that there is "something wrong" in these questions.

And to me, these questions share the fact, that they are "fun questions" and their main aim is not to "build a world" but "have fun as community"

And here my reasoning with myself ends in dead circle:

  • If we disallow "fun question" this site can begin to be "boring"
  • If we keep fun questions in scope, it will attract people wanting "internet points" to post more and more fun questions to gain the so much wanted points.

Therefore, I would like to hear your own view on this. How to tackle the "fun questions"?

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    $\begingroup$ My inner editor also tells me that there is something wrong with them. But that's because other Stackexchange sites I frequent are much more serious business (coughSOcough). Some peoples also have a way with words that make it so they can make any subject funny or interesting (Steve Jobs or Randy Pausch, I mean come on the guy open by saying he has 3 months left before he dies and he makes people laugh during most of his lecture). I think such a meta question is a "turning point" in the maturity of the site to determine what is acceptable here. $\endgroup$ – Mystra007 Dec 10 '14 at 22:24
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I only spent any time on the "alien social activities", but based on that it seems to me that "funny questions" are very much relevant to world-building. While the questions on this SE tend to focus on checking verisimilitude, the actual goal of world-building is not generally to build a realistic setting. It is to build a setting that other people can accept and be interested in.

For example the activities question, while "funny" could actually be a very important detail to any story that concerns alien contact, a very important facet of any setting where first contact is common, a significant piece of the background for any setting with large number of sentient species, or even the entire story for a short story about first contact.

And even if we ignore the "utilitarian" aspect, such "fun" issues are pretty important to people in the real world. Most people spend more time thinking about Christmas, dining, or social activities than they do about physics or economics. Unless your world is devoid of people, your world-building should reflect that to some extent. If your setting has multiple sentient species, you should have some idea how your people try to share social activities across species, for example. It would be pretty important concern for the people, if your world was real.

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    $\begingroup$ Exactly. Adding such details is all about making world you build/write about feel more natural, more "real". $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Dec 12 '14 at 22:49
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I don't think they need "dealing with". You are right that for the alien dining I don't have a specific use-case at the moment but it was an interesting question that I was thinking about and wanted to see some other points of view. They are also questions that will be useful to any future visitors who are trying to build worlds with multiple different species interacting.

While we prefer questions that are trying to solve a specific problem and often get better answers for those cases that doesn't mean that more speculative questions should be unwelcome either.

I have a couple of scenes in my head that the alien-dining question helped clarify. Whether I'll ever use those scenes I don't know but if I do ever use them they will be improved by the answers given.

You need to be really careful trying to enforce any anti-fun rules as well. Who are we to judge the worth of someone's thoughts. Maybe they have an idea for a story they want to write but abandon it after asking a question here and discovering the world is impossible. Maybe they are someone that starts 10 projects and finishes none. Maybe they are someone who is just interested in science fiction in general and wants to discuss ideas. Maybe they are an established published author with a best selling series that wants to branch into science fiction.

There's no way for us to know which of those someone is or to help one over another...and even if we could I don't think we should!

What matters is the quality of the questions, the ideas, and the answers. Nothing else should be used to rate them.

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    $\begingroup$ While I also do not have any use for my Christmas question, I might be also using it. To be honest, I got scared, that people will try to be "fun" just to get points $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Dec 10 '14 at 10:31
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    $\begingroup$ Points are easy (yes I know - easy for me to say). So long as they are generating good content then points as a motivation doesn't worry me. If they are generating bad content then downvote them and remove the incentive :) $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 10 '14 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ +1 ....I'm not currently building a world (so says my user profile page), so all of my questions are purely theoretical....by the argument that only "real" questions be asked, my top voted question should be DVed and closed.....which I don't think is the case :) $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Dec 12 '14 at 4:46
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I think they should be welcome. Surely Douglas Adams would approve, and the humorous worlds in his books would be in scope, no? I would think that any fictional world situation would be in scope for a question, regardless of seriousness. The site description doesn't say the fictional worlds need to not be comedic worlds.

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First of all, some people write funny stories. I think it's quite hard to make question about such story sound serious. And there would be no point of it as well.

Second, a lot of fiction is mostly about entertaining the reader. I can't come up with a good reason why can't we have a little meta-entertainment with coming up together with some bizarre answer for montypythonistic questions.

Third, there are two reasons why the question might sound "funny": subject or wording.

As @Mystra007 pointed out, some people can talk about anything and still sound funny. Some do it deliberately, others just can't help themselves. Is that a reason to ban them from discussion? Not in my book.

If the subject is funny, then... Then what, exactly? What's wrong about it? I've heard theories, that having fun is a sin, but I hope we ditched that mindset as a society some time ago.

Surely, there is a difference between "funny question" and "trolling", but all provided examples are falling into first category.

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I am one of those people who uses this community as an end in itself. Not necessarily to win points but that features as well.

My world building is very much contained within my questions. I enjoy exploring a scenario and getting feedback on it. Once that is done I have no intention of writing a story, building a game world or anything so ambitious. In my mind, I have created, lived in and explored a world for a few hours in convivial company and that suffices.

I'm attracted to the humorous subjects. I mean, if you like Terry Pratchett for example, why wouldn't you be?

To personalise it, I recently submitted the following question. Is there any reason centaurs can't fit their own horseshoes?

I did so because it amused me - I'll never take it any further. Yet anyone who does want to populate a world with centaurs would do well to consider such things. I believe I've done those people a service.

I think this question betrays more than nit-picking. I think there is an element of thought-police about it. Who cares? It's not like the SE is going to run out of memory just yet. Questions have their moment then disappear into obscurity. They do no harm to anyone unless they are truly off-topic.

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I think the issue is one of scope. Some people want this forum to be a place to get quick quality answers for the worlds they are building for professional use, or similarly serious use. Others see this place to build smaller, less important worlds. Consider, there is no objective metric differentiating "Christmas in Space" from "Aquatic Intelligence," other than that it is very clear that the author of "Aquatic Intelligence" intends to incorporate it into a larger work, and it is less clear if "Christmas in Space" will be incorporated (but we don't know for sure!). Both are positively addressing a world that does not exist, and is being built (at minimum, being built on SE, as we speak!).

If one is of the mindset that the purpose of this forum is to support professional work, and nothing more, then these smaller questions could be seen as crowding out. The other mindset would suggest that these other questions attract more attention to the forum, giving the professional question askers an even larger audience.

The line between acceptable or not has to be fuzzy. As an example, I posted a puzzle question a while back, and the community decided this forum was not the place for puzzles. However, the question itself was valid (so much so, that I received several suggested edits to try to bring it around and get the hold released). The presentation mattered so much, that the actual content was never called into question, even though I openly borrowed content from popular questions of the time. Other than my choice to present the quesiton as a puzzler, there was no way to discriminate between it and the serious Faerie and Magic questions around it.

I would err on the side of caution, and allow more "funny questions" over closing them. Give people the benefit of the doubt, or we run the risk of starving the forum as people fear the moderators closing all of their questions. If we need it, a tag might surface to denote "serious work" for those who would like a smaller, more dedicated audience to answer it. Jokingly, may I suggest "Serious Inquiries Only" as the tag name? ;)

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