Relating to this question.

Since when can a question be closed for poor quality? The two respondants to my challenge to justify the closure said that it's just a physics question (which we answer all the time.) which isn't listed as off-topic in the Help Center. The ONLY rules I know of for justifying closure are those in the Tour and Help Center.

I am completely in favor of modifying the Tour and Help Center to reflect tighter and clearer rules and expectations. I've brought various issues up myself a number of times over the months I've been participating, but it never leads to an actual change. I've learned a great deal from the discussions, but nothing ever changes.

But without that change, the only rules we have are the rules listed in Tour and Help Center. Period.

I'd tolerate using Meta posts if (a) there actually were meta posts that clearly and specifically explained the new rules, (b) those posts had any kind of visible consensus (like a well-upvoted post with supporting upvoted commentary as answers), and (c) those posts were regularly used to guide participants. The only example of this I'm comfortable with at this time is the new, updated expectations for the Anatomically Correct series.

However, it is nevertheless unfair and unrealistic to expect newcomers to abide by rules that are only in the heads of other participants or hidden somewhere in meta.

Which is a long way of saying, you can't close a question simply because it's a physics question because there is NOTHING in the Tour or the Help Center that says it can't be!

Either we need to figure out how to change the Tour and Help Center to reflect narrower rules or we need to live with the fact that those rules are what we have to work with.

Our closure process is too much of a moving target! Frankly, despite SE's basic custom of not requiring VTCers to leave justification for their closure — and since we cannot trust VTCers to use the pre-defined justification according to the established rules — then if you're unwilling to leave a comment explaining EXACTLY where in the Tour or Help Center your justification comes from, then you should be downvoting and moving on. Not voting to close the question.

And to prove my point, the linked question was closed as off-topic because it's not "about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center."

Show me where in the Help Center you found justification to close this question. You used the excuse. Prove it.

Postscript: The downvote button's rollover states:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

...and downvoting is all it deserved. It violated no off-topic rule listed in the Tour or the Help Center.

Post-postscript. I found this wonderful analysis by moderator Michael Kjörling that I would like people to consider as they answer.

EDIT:  Please note that James closed this question both because it's a duplicate, but also because the conversation has matured and needed to shift to the new moderator-driven perspective.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Downvoting a question is a real turnoff to the questioner and is the opposite of welcoming. I do not for a moment oppose policing the site -- just because it should be welcoming doesn't mean it should be about all topics and open to any question! But I do believe that the bias should be to allow questions unless they are clearly off-topic, or otherwise suffer from fatal flaws. If the gray areas in the site's description are too wide, perhaps they should be improved. If they are necessarily vague, then gray-area questions are just part of the as-designed landscape. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Olson
    May 3, 2018 at 12:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ " But I do believe that the bias should be to allow questions unless they are clearly off-topic," @MarkOlson That policy, tried in the past, lead to a lot of even worse problems in the past as questioners get angry about unhelpful answers, answers contradict each other, and people complain that the questions are useless as an archive because they become extremely tailored to the particular questioner. For this reason, I do not believe the bias should be toward the questions. I will argue vociferously in favor of certain edge questions, but not edge questions in general. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    May 8, 2018 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM I don't claim the expertise and experience to define where the dividing line should be, but it's pretty clear from reading Meta that the people who do have that experience and expertise frequently do not agree on whether a post is on-topic or too broad. That's pretty strong evidence that the sky won't fall if the boundary is made a bit more forgiving. I'm not advocating an overturning of the established order, but rather making some reasonable tweaks. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Olson
    May 8, 2018 at 20:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @markolson What Meta shows is the times we disagree. It does not reflect all the times we agree. Therefore you cannot judge “frequently” just by looking at Meta. In my estimation, it is still a minority of closed questions are disputed. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    May 8, 2018 at 23:24

7 Answers 7


Like the poster of this question I have concerns about the arbitrary interpretation of vote to close reasons, this is due to twenty years experience in the legal services section of a government department where we worked at high standards of evaluation, consideration, analysis, and particularly in the interpretation of the criteria, rules and operating frameworks for making those decisions. However, in this specific instance things are not so straight forward.

Firstly, the setting has two Earth-mass planets collided. One planet is made of antimatter. This can only happen in a fictional world. To date no antimatter planets, or any other astronomical objects, have been observed or detected. Yet the question itself is concerned the amount of energy released. Now, research shows, that similar questions been asked on Physics SE. Although some of which may not necessarily give the OP the information sought. There is, at least, one antimatter calculator accessible online. Inputting the number of kilograms for the masses of the two planets would be onerous in the extreme. Therefore, not a good or practical source.

All this suggest that the question could have been asked on Physics SE. However, because its setting is that of a fictional world it is also reasonable to ask it on Worldbuilding SE. Now whether it is accepted as a legitimate question for WB SE is a matter to be decided there. As we see it has been close voted.

Alternative options to close voting that have been suggested are down voting or migrating to Physics SE. Down voting as a way of expressing disagreement with posting it on WB SE. Migrating to Physics SE is a very reasonable option. An option it should be noted no-one has exercised. This is a failure of process and good manners. Whatever is done should be helpful to the question's poster. Unfortunately, on many occasions close voting does little to improve question or facilitate answers. This may be one of them.

Down voting doesn't seem to do much good. It rarely leads to improvement in questions. Not unless the downvoters gave their reasons.

I don't pretend to be familiar with Physics SE, but it seems probable that Physics SE might accept and answer this question. In which case, migration to Physics SE is appropriate. Perhaps the problem may have been that the question's poster may not have been a participant on Physics SE.

The question has two answers that seem to provide answers. There are other instances where science questions have answered on WB SE. Many of which may contribute to worldbuilding undertaken by their posters. Because WB SE is a question & answer site, it is possible that questions related to worldbuilding can have such specificity that the surrounding apparatus of worldbuilding may appear to be absence. Asking the right questions will continue to be a vexed and complex issue.

One point not discussed elsewhere is while the question asks for the amount of energy released, is that no attempt has been made to address the other issues in the question. Namely, "Ultimately the scale of the energy release is important to understand whether arranging this fate for my enemy would be strategically useful or just plain dangerous if my home planet is in the same system."

This part of the question could do with some clarification. I'm not sure if the enemy lives on (my) home planet or on another planet or if the enemy is located somewhere else, say, in a fleet of spaceships or asteroid fortress. However, this deserves attention because it is on-topic within the criteria in the help centre. However, this could be answered on Physics SE.

In conclusion, this could have been answered on Worldbuilding SE, as similar questions have previously been answered here or Physics SE where questions about the antimatter destruction of planets have previously been asked (although the usefulness of those questions is a bit doubtful) which indicates the question is suitable to be asked there. The question should have been migrated to Physics SE. It doesn't look good because this wasn't been done.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I wrote this post because the VTCers' use of "off-topic: not about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." Had they selected "Off-topic:Other" and explained the need to migrate the question, I would have been irritated, but this post would not have been generated. My principle complaint is the imposition of non-existent rules that no newcomer can know about ahead of time. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 3, 2018 at 13:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas You can't vote to migrate. We can recommend doing so in comments or do what I did, flag it for migration. Questions like often fall into a grey area where they are appropriate here and/or on another SE. I can see it could be answered here, but, personally, I feel it's better on Physics SE. It's horses for courses. This question had some worldbuilding content. but even that might answered. It gets tricky if the SE a question like this gets migrated to, bounces it. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    May 4, 2018 at 1:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas just for reference. Here is a meta question on migrating questions. Looks like migration to other sites (aside from wb.meta) is up to moderators. So flag for moderator attention and leave a comment. worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4517/… $\endgroup$ May 5, 2018 at 13:09

I voted to close this question.

First off, it really does belong on Physics.SE. While we can answer physics questions, it's best to handle them on the "mother" SE site. The physics questions I find we cover best are the ones where the physics is "too out there" for Physics.SE. In this case, antimatter anhilation is mainstream physics. We teach it in schools.

The second issue is that it provides limited value. The information needed for this calculation is easily available by a google search for "antimatter," leading you to the Wikipedia page on antimatter. Anyone remotely interested in this topic could find the information they need easily, using Google.

The third issue is that it's a self answered question. While this, itself, is a totally reasonable part of the StackExchange process, it does raise the bar on making sure the results provide value to the community. If the OP had to weave together several different difficult to find sources to write the answer, and provided links to them, I'd consider that to be of merit.

So, by the technical rules, it should be closed (should be migrated to Physics.SE). We often bend the technical rules in the name of quality, but I don't see enough quality here to warrant bending the rules.

  • $\begingroup$ 2nd issue: downvote. 3rd issue: good point, but still a downvote. 1st issue: where in the rules (the technical rules) does it say we don't answer questions that would naturally appear on other sites? I'm all for it, but the rules don't say it. The Tour says "...and settings." Does the collision of matter/anti-matter planets not constitute a "setting?" (Bear in mind I'm intentionally playing devil's advocate. You earned my respect a long time ago.) I'd be happy to update help center with a "it belongs on another site" rule. Who can do that? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 3, 2018 at 1:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JBH I think that if that qualified as a "setting," then any word problem would be admissible as a question on WB. Mind you that would be an interesting way to get around Physics's "No homework problems unless you show work" rule. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    May 3, 2018 at 2:00
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ It's been said time and time again that "Just because a question could potentially be answered on another SE, does NOT mean that it is off topic for WB." And as OP says, it's NOT against the rules as written. Just making up your own rules and expecting everyone else to live by them is silly at best. Every one of your points is wrong on a fundamental level. Change the written rules or walk away from questions you don't like. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    May 3, 2018 at 13:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 And just because it could be answered on WB does not mean it is on-topic. Both statements are true. However, because it can be better answered on another site, that weighs against the question. By itself, no, not sufficient to close, but it is a mark against and may contribute to a vote to close. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    May 8, 2018 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM So flag for a moderator to migrate it to where you think it should go. Asking OP to post on multiple exchanges is frowned upon. If you just close their question and tell them to go somewhere else you are pretty useless, and aren't helping anyone. If it was kept open, someone here might have the knowledge to post an answer that doesn't occur to you. If a mod migrates it to physics then someone there might be able to answer it. Either of those are much better than what you're proposing. Op chose to ask it here. If it was a mistake, help by getting it moved where it belongs, not thrown out. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    May 8, 2018 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 your response is exactly why I said it isn’t generally sufficient. But if a question isn’t a good fit for WB AND it has other issues, yes, I will generally vote to close. In rare cases where the question is blatantly and completely another domain, it is sufficient, but those aren’t common. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    May 8, 2018 at 14:03

I see a lot of very long posts. I agree with some, disagree with the rest, but to my eyes those are all TL;DR, which is not inviting to discussion.

I voted to close as off-topic, using the "this is not about worldbuilding" option. The reason I did that is because I think there is no worldbuilding involved in the linked question. It should be as simple as that.

And of course, people will have different interpretations of what is worldbuilding and what is not, and how to follow the rules. It doesn't matter how much detail you put into rules, disagreement will always happen. Just remember that, unless moderation is involved, it takes the votes of multiple people to open or close a question, so some consensus is involved. All SE sites are driven by community. If the majority voters think that, according to rules, the question should be closed, then it stays closed. If they think it should remain open, it remains open.

Right now it only has my very own VTC. I think it should be closed, but if the community thinks it should stay open now, I'm not going to let that kill my vibe.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Right now it has been re-opened and is awaiting re-closure. (a) Closing for reasons not specifically identified in the help center means new users have no idea how to use our site and can't trust us (b) asserting, 'meh, nobody can be trusted so it doesn't matter' is just saying you don't want to be responsible for better quality VTC behavior and (c) People with our level of rep get followed like lemmings by those with 25% our rep, they're looking to us to set an example. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 4, 2018 at 14:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH I agree with point A, but I disagree on B and C. I never look at the reputation score of people I try to emulate - and I do think that everybody should be trusted by default. What I mean with my answer is that I believe in community consensus. I don't agree with a lot of things that are done in the SE sites, but I do not wish to impose my views over what communities have already agreed to do. $\endgroup$ May 4, 2018 at 14:41
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "It doesn't matter how much detail you put into rules, disagreement will always happen." For once, @Renan and I agree. :-) $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    May 8, 2018 at 2:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I never look at the reputation score of people I try to emulate I, for one, never look at the bank account of people I try to emulate, but if I'm a user in a system, with a set of rules; and another person has a LOT more system points, they must be doing something well, right? Otherwise, the system wouldn't award them juicy juicy Internet points, right? What's the point of them if not to incentivize desirable behaviour? ((Yeah, I know a high rep user can do wrong stuff, and a wrongdoer can game the system, but I think my point stands for a general case)) $\endgroup$
    – xDaizu
    May 11, 2018 at 10:04

The specific page of the help is the on-topic page, which says

Worldbuilding SE welcomes questions on the following


Effects of events or world elements, including biology, technology and magic, on specific aspects of that world's societies, cultures, and environment

and later

as long as they are not about:

  • Actions of individual characters, rather than elements of the world they inhabit
  • Character building
  • Elements of plot
  • Historical events of or historical facts about the real world, except when provided as examples or comparisons in the construction of an imaginary world (consider the History or respective subject-specific Stack Exchange sites)
  • General writing or storytelling (consider the Writing or Role-playing Games Stack Exchange sites)
  • Software that doesn't directly relate to worldbuilding (consider the Super User or Software Recommendations Stack Exchange sites)

This particular question is clearly an effect of an event or world element on a specific aspect of the world's environment. The event is the collision of an Earth-sized planet with an equivalent amount of anti-matter. The world element is physics, which would naturally be included in biology, technology, and magic. The specific aspect of the world's environment is the amount of energy produced by that collision.

None of the "as long as they are not about" bullets apply. The closest would be that this might be a historical fact about the real world. However, the Earth has never collided with an equivalent amount of anti-matter, so we have no historical reference for how much energy would be produced.

To reiterate, there are two ways this could be considered marginal. In the first, physics is not specifically listed as a world element. In the second, this could be considered a fact about the real world. The latter issue is limited by the modifier historical.

I do not think that physics has to be specifically listed as a world element. We have any number of questions involving physics.

If we wanted to not take questions like this, we should add to the "as long as they are not about" section. E.g. something like

  • Scientific facts or extrapolations involving the real world

Of course, that would still allow for asking questions about fictional worlds, so it might require broadening. E.g. the same question about a planet twice the mass of Earth would not be made off-topic by that criterion.

Or just remove the word historical from "historical facts about the real world".

This is probably the wrong place to have a discussion about changing the help. If someone seriously wishes to modify the help to make questions like this off-topic, they should probably post a new meta-question. Incidentally, that is the process to modify the help text. Post a meta-question asking if the help text should be modified. Answers can be things like No or specific suggestions for modification. If a modification reaches consensus, the moderators should then make the change (possibly by asking StackExchange staff to do so).

It has been noted that not all the help content can be modified. However, this part of the on-topic page has been modified. We'd just be modifying the already custom portions. This is pretty clearly within scope.

It has been argued that this question is not Worldbuilding. However, it is a fictional world (we don't actually have Earth-sized clumps of anti-matter running around the real universe, at least not that we know). And if the story has this collision, the amount of energy released is part of the setting. That's Worldbuilding to me.

It's a relatively focused and narrow question, but those are generally considered good aspects of a question. Answers can broaden it by showing how to calculate for a broader situation (e.g. with different masses).


Let’s see if I understood correctly because I know we have problem(s?) but I’m not sure we are talking about the same problem.

Tl;DR: Questions don't need an explicit worldbuilding context.

In this particular case

  • Physics = on topic

    The asker can ask the question here or on the Physics SE. He chose where he want to ask the question. Questions about building a world are on topic on the site, no matter the topic.

  • Poor quality = downvote + comment (optional)

    It is better to include a comment otherwise the asker won’t know what the problem is.

In general

To me, the real issue is that many questions get closed as off topic because they lack a clear worldbuilding context. Such appear to be the case here.

  • With context = this is a worldbuilding question
  • Without context = basic physic question = off topic

People keep asking for the author to give a worldbuilding context. But I haven’t seen anything in the rules that requires the author to provide a context to the question. When someone asks a question on Wolrdbuilding SE, we should assume they are building a world, else why are they posting here?

Understanding how the world works is crucial in building a believable world. Therefore, I would tend to consider these questions as worldbuilding. As mentioned above, they can ask on the specific sites or here. It doesn’t matter and there is nothing in the rules against doing so.


But without that change, the only rules we have are the rules listed in Tour and Help Center. Period.

There was nothing about building world in the question, so it should have been closed as off topic. Period.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You are contradicting yourself.The first paragraph tell that it's ok but the second says it's off-topic. There is nothing in the rules at the moment that makes the question off-topic. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    May 7, 2018 at 14:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Vincent No I'm not. Help center says this site is to "get help creating imaginary worlds", so if question contains no traces of creating imaginary worlds it shouldn't be here. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    May 7, 2018 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ It does now. After the edits, the question contains elements of worldbuilding. If you still don't consider this as worldbuilding, what does it take? $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    May 7, 2018 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent I'm only saying it should have been put on hold / closed when it was, and that such closure was in line with site rules, especially with the very first sentence in Help Center, sentence JBH apparently ignored when he wrote this meta post. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    May 7, 2018 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ As I just mentioned in a comment to Thorne's answer... worldbuilding is about chemistry, physics, biology, and all those things that people want to migrate. We often seem to be arguing over the worst of semantics: it's OK to ask a factual physics question so long as it's couched in terms of a fictional world. We might as well tell people that any question is OK so long as they use the word "green" in the question... it's that meaningless. Worse! There's nothing in the tour or the help center that tells new users they must couch the question in fiction. (continued) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 8, 2018 at 2:31
  • $\begingroup$ We give new users insufficient guidance and then blame them for not meeting site standards. As I've said many times, I'm more than happy to change the rules, but as they stand, we're applying a false standard new users cannot learn about but the hard way. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 8, 2018 at 2:32

What you need is a move to new area button that will move the whole thread to the correct area.

Closing is pointless and disheartening when someone asks a perfectly valid question in the area they believe is the correct one and it gets shutdown without an answer.

  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, migrating is not that simple. Each site has its own rules for migrating into their site and they have final say over whether or not something does. But, and to be clear, worldbuilding is about chemistry, physics, biology, and all those things that people want to migrate. We often seem to be arguing over the worst of semantics: it's OK to ask a factual physics question so long as it's couched in terms of a fictional world. We might as well tell people that any question is OK so long as they use the word "green" in the question... it's that meaningless. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 8, 2018 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'm just talking from personal experience. I posted a question in the programming section about interfacing with the Google home API and got shut down without an answer or any idea why or where it should be posted. $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    May 8, 2018 at 3:04
  • $\begingroup$ At which SE site did you post it? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    May 8, 2018 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ If you see a question that is being closed and you know where it would be on-topic you can use the mod flag and write a comment to one of the mods about migrating the question. Mods can migrate everywhere. (They will of course check if they know whether it will be on-topic or not and may or may not migrate it.) $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    May 8, 2018 at 7:17

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