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Hold/Close is an opportunity, not a judgment

The Stack Exchange family of websites operates on one model that is sometimes a challenge for creativity: one specific question leads to one best answer. Consequently, Stack Exchange users vote to close questions to stop answers from being posted while important updates are made to questions.1 Unfortunately, votes to close (often called VTH or VTC) often come with downvotes, which represent the community's confidence in the preparedness of the question (such as performing expected research before posting). It is very important that you do not take this personally. Please! Do not take this personally. Everyone, even experienced site users, receive downvotes and have questions closed.

This is an important opportunity for you to update your question. You should consider both the reasons for the closure (which are listed in a yellow box below your question) and issues listed in comments. You can see the reasons before closure by clicking on the "close" link below your question. If you have specific questions, you can always bring them up in comments, in chat, or by entering our Meta site where you can ask about your question directly. A great many participants on Worldbuilding.SE are willing to help you understand the issues.

Please do not give in to the temptation of anger. This is never helpful. Promise us you will hear us out and we promise you we will hear you out. Most of the time it's an issue of how you are asking your question, nothing more.

1. If your question is put on hold, please don't take it personally. Work with us to get the question reopened.


Our question sandbox is your best friend

Creative questions are often difficult to express in quantifiable terms (which is a fancy way of saying, "it can be hard to be on-topic"). Our Sandbox for Proposed Questions is a great place to fix these problems before presenting the question on the main site. There, site participants will help you craft your question such that you can receive the highest quality answers. We hope all our new users will take advantage of the Sandbox to learn how best to ask questions on this site.

2. Use the question sandbox to your advantage!


We help with building worlds, not stories

This may seem counterintuitive, but we're not here to help you write your story. We are here to help you build your world. Worlds are the framework for many, many stories. Some questions are meant to advance the story, not build the world, and are considered off-topic as too story-based. We mentioned above that question problems are usually an issue of how a question is asked. Here is an example of a highly focused question that doesn't depend on the specifics of a story to be answered:

(Good Example) In an alternate Earth circa 1350 A.D., a small army in England of 50 archers and 300 infantry encounter 400 orcs armed with leather armor and short swords in the East Lyn valley of Devonshire. How could the terrain best be used to defeat them? The best answer will favor survival of the archers over that of the infantry.

Why is this issue important? Because a well-written question will benefit many people, but a story-based question will only benefit the questioner. Click here to learn more about what makes a question too story-based.

3. Your question should be specific, clear, and independent of your story.


You may need to guide us toward an answer

On our sister site, Stack Overflow, programmers ask questions about designing software. It's difficult to ask an unclear, opinion-based question. For example, "How can I concatenate two string variables in the PHP programming language?" On the other hand, it's very easy to be unclear or demand too much opinion here:

(Bad Example) How can my future society build a Dyson sphere?

Such a question will be quickly closed as too broad or too opinion-based.

You need to provide clear limitations to your question and may need to provide insight into how you will judge the best answer.

(Good Example) My future society has the ability to move celestial objects the size of Earth's moon. How can I avoid gravitational problems caused by a star when moving moon-sized components of a Dyson sphere into place around my sun? The best answer will make the most use of physics as we understand it today.

Click here to learn more about what makes a question too broad.

4. Your question should be focused and limited. If necessary, explain how you will judge the best answer.


You can edit your own question at any time

Finally, please know that you can edit your own question at any time by clicking the "edit" link found below the list of tags at the bottom of your question. We invite you to use this feature frequently when perfecting your question. When asked in comments to clarify your question, please do so by editing the question, not by answering with a comment.

5. Use the "edit" link to modify and update your question.


1Hold and closed are the same thing. The question's status is changed from "enabled" to "disabled." The phrase "hold" is used during the first five days to prompt the questioner (called the original poster or "OP" in our lingo) to update the question. If no update is made, the word is changed from "hold" to "closed." Questions may be reopened at any time. No hold/close ("disabled") condition is permanent.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Jul 22, 2018 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


ThorstenS added this to the original, but I'd like everyone's thoughts. I'm not sure that "per default, reality-based" is correct.

ADDITION from me, ThorstenS himself:

You seem to have missed completely this question where it was overwhelmingly decided that the default position is science/logic-based. As we have a three-tier system (reality-check, science-based and hard science) and reality-check is the lowest common denominator, questions and answer should be at least reality-based.

The idea of removing/reducing the three tier system came up, but was decided negatively.

Does [hard-science] imply [science-based] imply [reality-check]?
Do we need the reality-check tag?

6. If not otherwise said, questions and answers are per default reality-based science-/logic-based. If you need futuristic/magical elements in your story, describe the abilities and limits as accurately as possible.

(Bad Example) I need a liquid that dissolves everything! What is the best way to use this liquid in a weapon?

First, in what container was the "liquid" created? It is self-evident that a all-dissolving liquid is an oxymoron. Also the second part is much too broad and invites opinion-based answers.

(Good Example) My protagonist is an alchemist and I need an acid which dissolves the most common and used metals in the world. How can I create the substance and what material is best to store it safely? (I am thinking about using it in crossbow arrowheads).

This can be answered by Aqua Regia which is even available (and also used) in Middle Age alchemistry. Normal glassware would be sufficient for the second answer.

Worldbuilding is a nice place to find out what is available and if some thing has fictitious properties, find out if there are logical loopholes which can be abused and make a story/world implausible.

  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't the downvoter... $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 15, 2018 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ Downvote to what? There is no downvote to this question. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 19, 2018 at 4:28
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "I'm not sure that "per default, reality-based" is correct." reality-check has never implied "no magic allowed"; rather, it is about "does this make sense in context?". I think you're misreading that old Meta discussion, which was about answers to questions that don't say either way whether answers relying on magic are acceptable. Defaults can always be overriden, and if OP states an explicit preference, then it's not a problem (except insofar as unconstrained "magic allowed" questions are liable to be either too broad or primarily opinion-based, but that's a different issue). $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also, while that discussion is almost four years old and from early in the beta period, I don't think I've seen any more recent discussion on the matter that has come to a different conclusion. If you're aware of something I have managed to miss or simply don't remember, please do link to it. If you feel the need to raise the issue again then that's fine, but please, do so separately, not as a side point in another Meta post, especially one you are explicitly intending to use as introduction to newcomers. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android, there was when I posted my comment.... $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 19, 2018 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH This makes it even more puzzling. Perhaps the downvoter changed their mind & in reversing their downvote sent it to oblivion. I didn't know that could even happen. Perhaps that's the way the system is designed. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 20, 2018 at 2:14

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