Yesterday there was a question by someone implying the real earth is flat and how a round world would keep all the water on it.
It has been heavily edited since. The original question was:

Water on world that is round?

Since, gravity is a construct out of the question (backed by Pseudo-Science), in a fictional world that is round, how would you go about making the water not fall off, Or even people for that matter. Is there some kind of futuristic force field that can be implemented to keep the water (and people) in place?

In my opinion this was a troll and not someone seriously convinced the earth is flat. I assume that because of his appearant assumption that everyone agrees the earth is flat and it is obvious (like this has never been seen differently) and also the answer he chose to accept.

There is no point to this question and even with the mod edits it is not really worth anything as neiter the answers nor the questions help anybody with anything.

How should something like that be dealt with? Just flag it for mod intervention? I feel like none of the basic flags fit this type of misconduct.
"Rude or abusive" has the description "A reasonable person would find this content inappropriate for respectful discourse." - which would fit, but the question is neither rude nor abusive as phrased by the Be Nice policy of this site.

In my opinion this question has just been posted as a troll and to spark debate about a stupid topic. How do we best deal with this type of behaviour?

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    $\begingroup$ Is the intention of the OP truly relevant? Either it's a question that fits or it doesn't. Whether it is meant for trolling or not is kind of irrelevant, isn't it? I think it's fine to call out people sometimes, especially if the question is of extremely low quality (which was the case in that example), but what else can you do. Also, please see my question here: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5914/… . I think what Mr Michael wrote there applies here as well $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jun 21, 2018 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35: Yes, you're right. OP's intention is irrelevant. Maybe downvoting and reporting for low quality is the best. $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2018 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ The kindest construction of this question is that it assumes someone in a flat-earyh cosmology is trying to devise a fictional round-earth cosmology. Perhaps, for a story they are writing. There's nothing with questions that postulate worlds contrary to nature as we know it. Many apparently stupid questions may be perfectly reasonable to their posters. Worldbuilding is a creative activity. Creativity often has to be playful & plain frivolous to succeed. A stupid question may have a serious purpose. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jun 22, 2018 at 6:05
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android: Yes, but if you look at the original wording of the question, the edit attempts to reintroduce the flat-earth questions and several of the now deleted comments, it is rather obvious in retrospect that he was really trying to create a stupid debate - mod HDE 226868 just cleaned up all of his mess. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2018 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ @ArtificialSoul OK I've looked at the original question. The deleted comments are unavailable. There are problems with its written form. Deciding how things would work in a flat-earth is the business of worldbuilding. It isn't obviously pushing a 'the world is flat in reality' point of view. While it is possible to suspect that, the question can be answered as a straightforward question about the mechanics of a flat-earth world. If the OP was clearly pushing a flat-earth debate that would be different. I give it the benefit of the doubt. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jun 23, 2018 at 1:54

5 Answers 5


Maybe this is just me, but . . . I kinda hate it when people justify an action by saying "Ah, the user's just trolling", or "Obvious troll is obvious", or any of a number of remarks I see again and again and again. The reason for my distaste? Describing something as "trolling" doesn't actually say anything about what's wrong with it. If something is Too Broad, close it as Too Broad. If it's off-topic, close it as off-topic. If it's unclear, close it as Unclear What You're Asking. All of those close reasons describe what is wrong with the question.

But essentially saying "I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's trolling" is pretty unconstructive. It doesn't say anything about the content; it guesses at the user's motivation. And guessing can be wrong. I've seen plenty of crappy questions that people described as trolling when, in all honesty, the person asking them just had no idea how to ask a good question. Making that sort of assumption can be problematic.

Here's my acid test for questions that might be described as "trolling":

  • Is the question off-topic, overly broad, too opinion-based, or otherwise a good fit for one of our standard close reasons? (If yes, close accordingly)
  • Is the question clearly trying to promote a specific view or position, and has no other redeeming value? (If yes, use a custom close reason to say as much)
  • Does the question serve a useful purpose at all beyond what the OP is trying to achieve with it? (If yes, leave open)

See, questions belong to the community, not to whoever asked them. They'll be useful to plenty of people in the future (yes, to a lesser extent on our site, but still, we do get plenty of duplicates). That means that, on the whole, I think they should be judged independently of the person who asked them. If they're valuable, we keep them open and get them answers. If not . . . we close, and maybe delete at some point.

In this case, I thought the question passed the acid test, and could be tweaked and edited to fit the bill. I removed the flat Earth references; those are extraneous. I also made some edits to boil the question down a bit, to get it to this revision:

In a fictional world that is round, and has no gravity, how would you go about making the water not fall off the planet (Or even people, for that matter?. Is there some kind of futuristic force field that can be implemented to keep the water (and people) in place?

The question currently looks basically like that. If I asked that question today, would you vote to close it as off-topic? I mean, maybe. But I think it's a lot better than the original version. Moreover, if it has faults, I'd say that they mean it's downvotable, rather than close-vote-able. But perhaps you disagree, and it can be improved move.

In the end, a question belongs to the community, and can be edited and tweaked by the community if need be. This was a case where, I thought the post could be salvaged.

  • $\begingroup$ I do see your point, but i think you edited the question so heavily it is a new question. And i was not very sure it was a troll in the very beginning which is why i did not report it until after he chose an answer. OP's comments and the choice of the accepted answer made it obvious this is not meant to be a serious question. With the question as it is now, how is it really answerable? (certainly not with "water is a muscle") And the "futuristic force field" would have to work similar to gravity - so why not make tweaks to gravity, but to exclude gravity? $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2018 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ Kudo for how you dealt with the hot potato. When I flagged the question for moderator attention I was puzzled on how could the thing be handled in the best way. I felt that simply deleting it would have gone against the spirit of the game, if I can use a cricket equivalent... $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch Mod
    Jun 24, 2018 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtificialSoul You have a point there; I do think that under certain conditions, this sort of drastic edit is justified if it's perhaps the only option left to save the question for future users. To be honest, I wasn't interested in helping the OP; I was interested in helping people who would read it in the future, and might benefit from it. In the end, they're the ones who matter. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Jun 24, 2018 at 19:56

There was a line in Small Gods (Pratchett) challenging the logic of a round world because everyone knows all the water would drip off the bottom.

I see no problem with questions that aren't asked seriously, I'm pretty sure none of our Santa questions were asked with serious intent for example. The solution to questions like this is to consider them in their own right, to embrace them wholeheartedly with the wording they carry and not to suggest any intent on the part of the author.

If you put a round world in a universe that only supports flat ones, what happens? Does all the water drip off the bottom?


It's an aside, but I'd like to address this question of yours:

How should something like that be dealt with? Just flag it for mod intervention?

Before flagging for moderator attention, consider what you want a moderator to do about the content in question, then ask yourself if you, or at least the community at large, can do that without involving a diamond moderator.

  • Do you think the question should be closed? Then flag for closure (or vote to close once you get past 3,000 rep).

  • Do you think the post is in violation of the be nice policy? You might consider editing it, but if that isn't an option for whatever reason, just flag as rude.

    • As an addenum to the above, even if you do edit out the not-nice part, you might want to consider leaving a custom flag along the lines of "revision NN contained rude language, which has been edited out". That way, there is an easily accessible record to help moderators see if it's part of a pattern, yet it's clear from the text of the flag that no immediate action is required on the part of the moderator handling the flag (except perhaps a quick check to make sure the not-nice material hasn't been edited back in).
  • Do you think the post is a rambling mess of a word salad? Then just downvote because the post is "unclear", and possibly flag/vote to close as unclear.

And so on.

There are very few things that actually require a diamond moderator, and thus are appropriate for custom flags specifically requesting moderator action; most things can be handled by the community, in which case you should use a standard flag. The major exception to this is comments, where custom flags can provide significant value.

By all means, if you do come across things that can't be handled by the community, a diamond moderator flag may be warranted. For example:

  • Spam in a user's profile? Flag one of that user's posts for moderator attention and describe the issue; the community can't fix that, but a moderator can. If the user hasn't yet posted, you can ping one of the moderators in the chat room; there's usually at least one around. If you don't want to draw public attention to the user's profile, we can set up a private chat room.

  • Repeated low-quality posts from different users that look like (or admit) that they are for the same human being? Please! Users evading site restrictions (such as the low-quality ban) is something we absolutely want to know about.

  • Content that appears to indicate that a user may actually be intent on hurting themselves, or even suicidal? Do flag! (But especially given some of the weirder questions we get, first read the post carefully to ensure it's not a misunderstanding of what someone wrote from an in-character/in-universe point of view.) A moderator isn't expected to handle that directly, but we do have the ability to escalate the matter further.

These lists are not exhaustive by any means. You might want to familiarize yourself with what ordinary community members can do, and before flagging, think about your desired outcome. If the two overlap, then use something other than a custom, diamond moderator-only flag. If you use a custom flag for things that don't require diamond moderator intervention, the flag may be declined.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, that makes sense. But with that particular post i was really unsure of what proper procedure should look like. I am all for debate about flat-earth and other stupid ideas, but i did feel like this is an inappropriate site for that discussion. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2018 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ These are excellent points. Community initiative can go a long way towards solving a lot of issues. I'd draw a comparison between posts that contain an obscenity but are otherwise okay; a user can flag for mod attention, but it's often simpler to edit the word out. (Although flagging can help us see patterns of problematic behavior like that, of course.) Anyway, I agree with all of this; you have my upvote. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Jun 24, 2018 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 "flagging can help us see patterns of problematic behavior like that" Right, but that can also be accomplished with a custom flag saying "revision NN contains obscenity, which has been edited out". That way, there's an easily accessible record, but it's also clear to the moderator who happens to handle that flag that likely no immediate action is required. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jun 25, 2018 at 10:16
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I did mean to say that a custom flag would be warranted; looks like I left that out of my comment. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Jun 25, 2018 at 14:46

Counterintuitively, the best approach might be...

Pretend it’s a serious question and give a serious answer.

On this site especially, where fantasy and pseudo-reality coexist with logic and science, there are many “troll” questions that can be generously interpreted as real questions if you choose to do so.

Here, the OP’s question could be describing a universe in which

  • the theory of gravity is actually pseudoscience, or

  • people firmly but incorrectly believe that the theory of gravity is pseudoscience.

Is this a creative way to interpret the question? Sure. But it leads to a believable and plausible scenario.

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    $\begingroup$ Best answer here! $\endgroup$ Jun 23, 2018 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ But isn't it a "here's a high level-concept, make all the work for me" question then? Because you can not even argue science in there it is entirely opinion-based. (For this particular question at least) $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2018 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtificialSoul, it was a bit broad on one of the edits, but just asking how to keep water (and atmosphere) on the planet seems ok to me. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Jun 25, 2018 at 14:35

What I found most rude and abusive about this particular question and the teapot tempest that followed was that some busybody saw fit to edit the OP's question so that it no longer made any kind of contextual sense.

Users who have the authority to edit must not abuse that authority just because they dislike or don't get along with the questioner, dislike the question (for whatever reason) or simply don't understand the question.

The original question made perfect sense and was spot-on topicalitywise. What you think of the querent himself is neither here nor there.

When a question is asked of the community, what follows is quite simple. This is how you deal with this kind of question:

  • First, answer the question. The respondent takes the lead of the querent and responds in kind. We've had mild role-play questions in the past, we've had straight up info seeking questions, we've had plain old maths questions. Some consideration and perhaps a little creativity would have devised a wonderful answer to the question.

  • Second, don't be rude about it. Calling people names (like "Troll") without any good reason I'm sure breaks at least one house rule.

  • Third, don't abuse authority. Unless it's a matter of spelling mistakes, poor grammar, a factual flub or poor organisation skills, we should not be in the business of screwing around with someone's question just because we don't like what the querent asked.

  • Fourth, don't put words in other people's mouths (or in their virtual pens). You do not not know if this querent meant the question to be from a literal Flat Earth perspective or not! You do not know if this querent meant the question to be taken as "serious" or "facetious". Unless you are in his head, and I would suggest you are not. Therefore, the community takes each question at face value: rather than assuming what the OP means, we can ask for clarification.

  • Fifth, don't presume to know what some future wander in the long future archives of Worldbuilding StackExchange will come across and find to be of value. I personally found the question to be perspectively interesting and of as much value than many questions I've read. And of more value than many more. It is sad that the question was vandalised by the Mods. They detracted from the question's value considerably.

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    $\begingroup$ The reason the question got edited heavily can be read in mod HDE 226868's answer. He explained why he edited it the way he did. And secondly: I did not run around calling OP a troll at the time, i just criticised the question. I do call them that now that i have read all the comments they wrote, etc.. (Most of them are deleted by now) $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2018 at 7:23

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