There has recently been a question asked:

How plausible is it for a 12-year-old girl to walk through a village in her swimsuit in England?

The question is asked well and has good answers...But is it worldbuilding?

Reasons it might be:

  • This is research for a novel so fits the intended purpose of worldbuilding.
  • It is information that someone is looking for in order to build a world.
  • It's something that could well be hard to google and yet someone here is likely to be able to give a good answer to.

Reasons it might not be:

  • It's just asking for information about a part of the real world

This feels very much like it is covered by this policy (in which case it would be on topic) but it is getting close votes so is it?

A proposal to finalize the "are real world questions on-topic" debate

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If you were to decide there's a line between on-topic and off-topic real-world questions that were asked by someone holding worldbuilding thingamajig, this question seems like it would be very close to that line, or on the wrong side of it. It's 100% about English culture - I can see a parent asking a similar (although not quite identical) question with it having no underlying worldbuilding element, which seems like a bad sign. $\endgroup$
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ This is also a part of our ongoing problem with "soft" sciences which tend to get closed as opinion based. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ I think it's established that this is on-topic for that reason, however I wonder why it's not "opinion-based" or "story based". What is normal is a matter of opinion. If it could be seen as normal depends on how the town is described. I don't see any reason why there should be an universal answer for all of Northern England. Such small villages could be pretty diverse. Would you perhaps consider asking instead of is it world building in a more general way: "should it be closed and if so, for what reason?" $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35, such places aren't particularly diverse, they mostly haven't noticed that the empire is long gone and they all voted brexit. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix That isn't true. Many of the small northern towns I have been to voted remain and there are many differences between them. Some are rich. Some are pretty much commuter areas for cities like Leeds and Manchester. Some are pretty much all farmers, some are about 50% summer houses. Most are a mixture of people. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 12:41

1 Answer 1


I'm going to put a case here as to why it is on-topic, although I'm the first to admit that the argument is somewhat subjective.

We often talk about physics, engineering, biology, applied maths, organic chemistry, etc. on this site, and the general rule seems to be that you take a concept, and ask a (more or less) hypothetical question that asks the user base to extrapolate their knowledge to a specific scenario, explaining how it might (or might not) actually work.

As I see it, this question is doing exactly the same thing, only with an interpersonal / cultural field of knowledge.

Yes, it's asking about the real world, but it's not asking for a 'fact' from the real world that you could look up on wikipedia. There has been some demonstration of research against the question insofar as there is recognition of the general rules of etiquette and dress in western culture, but this is asking those with deeper knowledge of those rules to extrapolate into a specific case.

This often happens in cases where the answers we give are This is already happening style answers; one could argue that deeper research may have yielded this answer but we accept it because the answer may not be part of what we would call general knowledge. I may well know about the practical application of certain engineering principles that most people have no idea about, but I have no idea what would be considered the boundary of 'appropriate dress' for a 12 YO in England, and under what circumstances.

To that end, the answers that were given were provided by people with superior knowledge in that 'field' and were useful extrapolations of general principles into a specific case that was articulated well by the OP.

In short, my argument is that the question was well worded (and reasonably well received) because it follows the function of questions that are well regarded, albeit against a field or discipline that we don't normally deal with on this site.

I will reiterate that this is just one interpretation of the rules and I think that it's entirely reasonable that other interpretations will be more narrow than this one. I would also point out that this question is on the very edge of what I would consider acceptable for the site and I'd not want to see us field a barrage of questions on hem sizes, turban colours, etc. as a result of letting it in. But, if you disregard the topic and focus on the mechanics, it does seem to fit in my personal opinion.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a good answer. As far as real world questions being on topic goes, according to the Mods: Our conclusion is that questions regarding real world stuff are on-topic. Reasoning: Understanding how the real world works is the best and frankly only option we have for comparison to what we are trying to create. Understanding the real world allows us to make alterations to reality in creating an imaginary world. Does it really matter if that real world question relates to costume & sociology and not to math and physics? No. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 0:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas You just took that post out of context. The mods have specifically stated since then that what they said there is a proposal and that it is not set in stone. The question goes on to ask the community for consensus; the mods did not decree that those things are on topic just quite yet, so at this point i'd like to ask you to refrain from claiming that "the mods said it was on topic." A more accurate version is, "The mods have suggested that it should be on topic." $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 23:37

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