This was originally an answer to the real-world questions discussion.

Consider the example of this question.

L.Dutch said in a comment to the referenced question, "I am missing the worldbuilding element in your question, it sounds like a hobby bob question, and as such better suited for the dedicated SE. Can you clarify the worldbuilding problem you are asking us to solve?"

The question was subsequently closed as off-topic:not about worldbuilding.

When I asked why and pointed to the real-world question discussion, Secespitus directed me to the following bullet point.

  • Provide context. Giving other users context around why you are asking the question allows them to better understand why you are asking and what kind of answer you want.

Question: I'm requesting clarification of what "context" refers to in the above statement.

Position #1 "Context" refers to justification that the questioner's purpose or intent is specifically worldbuilding.

From my perspective (and as an example of my beliefs), this problem is solved trivially by including the phrase, "I'm writing a story..." in the question. What does it matter if rationalization is provided? It's a superficial restriction that adds nothing to the question. It's only purpose is to give people a reason to close the question.

Position #2 "Context" is information or background supporting the question and improving the opportunity to answer it.

This makes more sense to me because it's about the question, not the intent or purpose of the questioner. This asks for technology levels, weather patterns, orbital circumstances, information that actually improves the question.

Concerning this issue there have been several comments:

"I'm writing a story" is too shallow. What are you trying to achieve with "X" in your story? Why is it necessary to have it faster/more efficient? What's your goal in asking this question specifically here? The goal of this specific guideline is to know what the OP is trying to achieve to know what direction we need to go with answers and what the problems are that the OP encountered. Adding "For a story" is insufficient for this and does not help at all to understand the underlying problems of the question. Secespitus

Yes, we must expect OPs to rationalize asking real world questions; otherwise, this site becomes a kitchen sink for any question. Aify

Please consider that questions serve as a reference for other questions. They get found on google and if it's not clear what this is all about, all hell breaks lose. I wouldn't trust on this being called "worldbuilding" to communicate to everyone what the purpose is. I think this is a complex topic that should be dealt with in an extra thread. There are such cases and such cases, there are arguments for both sides, and this is a common issue, it would be nice to have this as a reference. Raditz_35

JBH's Perspective (A) hard drive space is cheap, (B) My time isn't being wasted (why does anyone think their time is?), (C) Creating an environment of exclusivity is Stack Overflow's #1 problem. The culture over there is wretched and I'm very much hoping it doesn't infect us here.

Frankly, we should either be all-in or all-out. Every loophole provided to deny people asking real-world questions will be used to negate the Moderator's choice to make real-world questions on-topic. If we're going to allow the "context" loophole" (which I'm seeing more frequently in comments over the last two days) we might as well make real-world questions off-topic.

Frankly, my problem isn't that they are or aren't on-topic, my problem is consistency. This (and all other rules) should be simple and straightforward. There are too many compromises that only make life miserable for new OPs.

I'd like to reiterate that. I'm infinitely more concerned about the culture of this site and its willingness to be welcoming and helpful to new users as they learn how to write good questions than I am trying to protect what seems to me to be an effort to preserve the "purity" of the site. Honestly, who cares how many questions there are? Or whether or not some or many are low quality? Like I said, disk space is cheap and if you're offended by a question, move on to the next one (and I'd like proof that the outside world would perceive us as a dumping ground of low quality information if we let people in and simply answer their questions). Do we actually think people will stop visiting this site because we're willing to answer more questions? or are willing to help people learn to ask better questions? How odd....

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It seems even Stack Overflow, it of the technicolor yawn, has recognised the problem too. Refer: stackoverflow.blog/2018/04/26/… $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 13 '18 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ I suggested that you do this in another topic, I think there is another topic underneath here: I don't like the question as is because it connects two issues that should be treated separately, see also answers: a) maximizing question quality or maximizing niceness - which one is more important b) is the argument "you need to add WB context" valid? I get that you justify your argument with saying we should be welcoming (name one community that is more welcoming than WB please, people here are super nice and helpful for internet standards), but perhaps post your position as an answer instead? $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 13 '18 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ Since I've droped two comments in which I stated that I don't like the way you present your argument below answers, I think I need to give an explanation: Why do you need to use the word "purity"? Perhaps this is a language/cultural thing, but the connotations of that word - suggesting that people that disagree with you are, well, concerned with purity, well, I find that rather unwelcoming for this site. If this is your opinion, so be it, but it's not an argument, it's a personal attack on the people that closed that and similar questions in my eyes. At the very least, it's unfair $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 13 '18 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH If you didn't mean it like that, just edit it, but please don't claim that this is the right nerve. It's an argument that is mostly polemic in nature, filled with rhetoric or suggestive questions, one particularly harsh insult and a lot of subtext and all of it for the cause of being nice and welcoming which doesn't fit tbo. Please consider what I wrote in my first comment, post it as an answer so that those two important questions can be treated separately, maybe one can get a useful debate. Right now, people either agree with you or are automatically insulted by your original post $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 13 '18 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ I don't really see the point in arguing anymore, I told you that I don't think this is a good foundation for a discussion and frankly the wrong approach to get what you want, if you disagree so be it. I'm not going to open a duplicate topic to have it my way $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 13 '18 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ "Creating an environment of exclusivity is Stack Overflow's #1 problem. The culture over there is wretched and I'm very much hoping it doesn't infect us here" - Have you considered that some of us might think the exact opposite of this? To me, the culture of exclusivity on SO is the main appeal of the site; it guarantees experts when I need one. To me, that's not wretched at all; it's fantastic. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 13 '18 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ You're right; I shouldn't have said that it guarantees experts; there are very few guarantees in the world. The purpose of the site, however, is to give the best quality answers to good questions. Thanks for posting the link to the meta post regarding demonization of quality concerned users; I'm going to quote one of the answers here; "I have discriminated against those who show no desire to make an effort to think, or read basic "how to ask" pages, or who just don't care. And I will continue to discriminate against those people." The experts have plenty of tolerance; for willing users. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 13 '18 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ Every hour we wait before casting a VTC is a chance for someone to post an answer to a question which may need to be changed drastically, thus invalidating said answer. I find it irrational that some users leave a comment under a post with directions on how to fix it, but don't vote to put it on hold immediately. It defeats the purpose of the entire hold-reopen process. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 13 '18 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ The "feeling of punishment" has nothing to do with maintaining site quality. If no matter how nicely I tell someone they're wrong, they end up feeling attacked and take it personally, then there's nothing I can do to stop those feelings. Like you said, humans are irrational; even if everything that is wrong has everything to do with their question and not the person, they'll take it personally. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 14 '18 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the second half of your comment. Why does it matter what the VTC process is? On definition of a "willing person": one who comes back to edit their question to fit the site rules after the question is put on hold. Emphasis on "fit the site rules." Not "complain about how their question was unfairly closed." $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 14 '18 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ Do you not account for people marking "leave open" votes in the review queue? In our current system, if it goes to review, is pushed out of queue with leave open, and then enough people still VTC it, how is that different from your proposed system? $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 14 '18 at 4:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 The two issues cannot be separated. SE's Be Nice policy is foundational, but so is the push to maximize quality. It is not case of one or the other. They should both go together. There are some who use quality as excuse to neglect being nice being nice. SE has decided against that, to squeals of pain from some and cries of delight from others. is there anything wrong with trying to achieve both quality and good manners? $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 14 '18 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Let's assume there's a question that shouldn't be closed. 1 person VTC's, sending it to the queue. 3 people say "leave open", removing it from the queue. There's still a lingering CV there, and 4 more unique people need to repeat this "send, remove from queue" scenario before the question finally gets closed. What are the chances of 4 different people from possibly different time zones and backgrounds, opening up the same question and doing a direct close vote on it before the question gets shunted off the front page by newer content? $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 14 '18 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ This is inefficient enough as it is. Do we even need actual consensus? I don't think so. It'd be impossible to close anything or remove most bad site content if we needed true site consensus. Where does your 10 votes number come from? Is that just magically "5 * 2" or is there rationale behind 10 people? 10 is an even number, how do you deal with ties? What's wrong with 5? The biggest flaw in your proposal is that 10 people don't represent a consensus any better than 5 do. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 14 '18 at 8:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was referring to your comment above - "The first 5 who VTC close the question. If, on the other hand each "leave open" canceled a VTC vote, then 5 would vote leave open, 5 would VTC and 5 more would still need to VTC"; I count a need for 10 people to VTC in this sentence. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 14 '18 at 17:27

I strongly agree with L.Dutch: if we just allow every question we turn into a "Please google that for me" and a "Which Wikipedia site contains these keywords?" search engine. That's not what the site is supposed to be and not what the value should be.

I will focus on some of the things said in this question, the important parts have been bolded by me:

Frankly, we should either be all-in or all-out. Every loophole provided to deny people asking real-world questions will be used to negate the Moderator's choice to make real-world questions on-topic.

Moderators are just normal users. Experienced users that deal with the worst crap on the site and deserve respect for their hard work, but in the end, when it comes to site scope, they are just normal, experienced users. They can't dictate what the site is about and they didn't do it in this case. Making it look like some dictators said that everything is on-topic now is doing them a disservice and cherry-picking the parts from the mentioned post that suit your agenda. Just like the proposal our exception handlers proposed because the discussion was spiraling out of control was about allowing real-world questions it was about having constraints with the explicit mentioning of:

With all that said we still have to have expectations and standards, it can't just be a free for all.

The above statement is in a h1 heading in the original.

If we're going to allow the "context" loophole" (which I'm seeing more frequently in comments over the last two days) we might as well make real-world questions off-topic.

You see people exploiting a "loophole", I see people cherry-picking. This is not a "loophole", it's the intention behind the site. It can be seen everywhere. Looking at the help center I can see that the first sentence of the What topics can I ask about here? site mentions:

Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a site for developers, designers, writers and artists to get help creating imaginary worlds.

Providing the context about what imaginary world you are building isn't about some hidden loophole. It's what you signed up for when you created your account here. The intention is to have questions and get answers about your worldbuilding. Going by technicalities that it doesn't explicitly spell out that you are supposed to provide context is the same as saying that the help center is useless because it doesn't explicitly spell out that you should write in a human understandable language.

Frankly, my problem isn't that they are or aren't on-topic, my problem is consistency. This (and all other rules) should be simple and straightforward. There are too many compromises that only make life miserable for new OPs.

In an ideal world everything would be black and white and every rule would be perfectly understandable by everyone no matter who reads it. Fact is, we are not living in a black-or-white world and there will be edge cases. That's what the normal voting processes are for. And yes, like in the real world sometimes things just aren't easy. I believe strongly in each individuals ability to discern that a site about creating imaginary worlds is interested in solving problems for imaginary worlds.

I'd like to reiterate that. I'm infinitely more concerned about the culture of this site and its willingness to be welcoming and helpful to new users as they learn how to write good questions than I am trying to protect what seems to me to be an effort to preserve the "purity" of the site.

Being helpful and welcoming doesn't mean we should allow everything. It means that we as a community should show the new user what is on-topic and what is off-topic. We should show them how to write good questions, as you say. But if we allow everything, why should they change? There have been quite a few trolls during my time here that exploited the willingness of others to help and never tried to improve. This is happening. And by saying that every question is acceptable we are teaching them that every question is acceptable, no matter what it's about or what quality it has. How are people supposed to improve if we don't tell them what to improve and what the goal is?

Having rules doesn't mean we are unwelcoming.

Sure, we could work on our communication. There are times when you read a question and you think that people could be clearer about what they are doing. Leaving a comment pointing to the important resources that explain what a "VTC" is or what that means or how to get a question reopened once it's been put on hold or why we are doing this. But being welcoming doesn't mean we should simply abandon all rules and guidelines.

Honestly, who cares how many questions there are? Or whether or not some or many are low quality? Like I said, disk space is cheap and if you're offended by a question, move on to the next one (and I'd like proof that the outside world would perceive us as a dumping ground of low quality information if we let people in and simply answer their questions).

I do.

I want a site with high quality questions and high quality answers.

Because when I need help I want people to actually help me. I want answers that are useful to me. I want to move forward with my project.

If this site allows any and all questions, like those asking for google or wikipedia links, then we need to allow those links. The questions are on-topic, so the corresponding answers would have to be, too, right? But what use is it for me if I have a complicated problem about orbital-mechanics and someone writes an answer with a link to the Wikipedia article about the three-body-problem?

I am also an avid reader of the site. There is so much interesting stuff here that people are thinking about. Reading is making the site fun for me. That's why I want to keep it as clean as possible, for example by editing posts. But I don't want to click through a hundred badly written google requests only to find one thing that I like to read. And I have to click through the questions to find stuff.

If we didn't close the diamond tool question then the user would know that they can ask like that here. They will continue to ask such questions and they won't be the only one because other people from the outside with this question will come here, see that they can write a google request and then continue to do just that. Because apparently that's enough.

Do we actually think people will stop visiting this site because we're willing to answer more questions?


If this is just a site that allows everything I can just use google, wikipedia or go to any other kind of forum. I am not here for that and so are many others.

It's not about tightening the belt and only allowing excellent questions. But I don't see why we should open up the site for any question you can come up with. If you want programming help you should go to the experts for programming, not to the worldbuilders. If you have a problem with tools for your home project you should go to the experts for tooling, not the worldbuilders.

We are a community of people that know quite a lot about quite a lot of topics with a focus on using this knowledge to create fictional worlds. We are not experts in everything and we should not allow everything. We should allow the things we are experts in. That's the goal of the StackExchange network and I strongly believe in it. Expert communities that help beginners and experts in the topic alike. Not communities that help everyone with everything that comes to their mind.

People are here because they need help with worldbuilding or want to provide help for worldbuilders or because they like to read what other worldbuilders are building. People are not here to see a different interface to google and Wikipedia.

We should be nice in asking for quality content, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask at all.

or are willing to help people learn to ask better questions?

How are we supposed to help people learn to ask better questions if there is nothing to be "better" in? Every question is allowed, so there is no way you could improve. Why bother writing different if the last times worked? And yes, this has happened and it is happening. If you want prove look through the 2017-2018 Sandbox. We are pretty accommodating, increasing this more just leaves us open to be abused by trolls and by people not wanting to waste their time and therefore opting to waste ours.

if you're offended by a question, move on to the next one

This statement is often the core of the position offered in the question. I will not ignore bad stuff. Then I can just go somewhere else where there are no rules and no community moderation.

Why do I need to ignore bad stuff and allow people to assume it's okay? If I don't like a question I can downvote. Sure. But why am I suddenly not allowed to interact with it anymore? Am I so worthless that I am not even allowed to express my opinion anymore?

You are removing the community moderation part from the StackExchange network by saying that people are not allowed to interact with stuff they don't like anymore. If that is the position we should just remove closing and reopening, together with flagging and downvoting. I should just move on, right? If a spammer offends me, I should move on. If there is a bad question, I should move on. If there is a troll, I should move on.

I won't do that.

The core of the StackExchange network is community moderation. Telling people to not do that is to ignore the core of the network. You signed up for community moderation when you created your account. If a new user soon after signing up finds out that they don't like community moderation then I am personally fine with that.

We should be welcoming. We should be nice.

We should work on our communication by being exemplary and writing useful, helpful and nice welcoming comments that guide new users to important resources where rules and guidelines are explained with the corresponding rationalizations.

But we shouldn't abandon all rules just because some people think that having rules equals being mean. That's a fallacy and is distracting from the core of questions like this one. You want to talk about site scope? Then talk about site scope instead of drifting off into site culture and proclaiming that everyone who has an opinion about the site scope is not welcoming and should just move on, leaving you alone in your bubble with others that feel the same - these are the only ones allowed to stay, right?

We need worldbuilding context to answer the worldbuilding problem. The XY-problem is a big thing for us on WorldBuilding. By mentioning what problem you are trying to solve people can answer the question you posted and can provide a frame challenge in case on is needed.

What if the diamond tool question was about very fast growing trees and how to keep them in check? Sure, we could have left the question alone and having someone post a wikipedia link the OP might have found their answer that they could have found themselves by using google instead of WorldBuilding.SE, but someone might come up with a better solution that the OP didn't think of. Burning the forest down for example. Or destroying the Earth around the trees to not allow them to grow any further.

I don't know. I have no idea what the setting was and what the problem was that the OP was trying to solve. I need that information to help guide the OP and help them solve their problem, but if they are not willing to provide the worldbuilding context then I can't help them with their problem.

That's not what the site is supposed to be. We are supposed to help people with their problem and we can't do that without context, which is why context is required. That is what I perceive as "Be nice." - try to help and solve the underlying problem, not be a quick helper for googling stuff. By just googling this we don't help them in the long run and we make this site just an interface for search engines that people use that are too lazy, according to their words, to use google.

We need the context, as is evident from this highly upvoted proposal, this upvoted response, this upvoted response, this highly upvoted response, my answer to the last discussion about this that was also highly upvoted and the fact that this response was a bit downvoted and got three comments in the direction of needing context, one of them being my comment.

Yes, context is necessary to make a question on-topic on Worldbuilding because we need the information to help the OP. This has nothing to do with site culture and is not a sign of being unwelcoming to new users.

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    $\begingroup$ I 100% agree with your point on question quality. Someplace else I've commented that this WB can be unique and doesn't need to be a one-fits-all-solution. There is enough space on the internet for it and a million other places with other rules. You can never please anybody and the people here right now would be displeased with a complete change of policy. Sorry for the useless comment, but I really want to emphazise that the provocative last paragraph of the OP is one out of many opinions dispite what the polemic language suggests $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 13 '18 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ I read 2/3 of your post wondering when you were going to answer my question, and when you finally get to saying something about context (past the 1st horizontal rule) you bring up the XY problem - which your answer is a good example of. And even then, you didn't answer the question. I'm not asking "do we need context?" I'm asking "what context are we requiring?" So, in the end, you haven't answered my question - but spent an enormous amount of time talking about other subjects. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I have answered that multiple times over the last few days in varying amounts of words. If you want people to focus on a thing you should do so, too instead of going on tangents about everyone being unwelcoming. It can't be clearer than multiple repetitions of "We need worldbuilding context" $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jul 13 '18 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ Sure it can. Do you need worldbuilding context about the questioner or the question? Are you asking for the questioner's intent or for background about the question? $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 16:09
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  • $\begingroup$ I haven't seen an example of "what's your worldbuilding context?" type comments that ask for any clarification of the question. In many instances, the question itself is quite clear. Indeed, I'm not seeing "what are you trying to achieve?" comments, I'm seeing "how is that related to what we want to answer? comments. (On a side note, does "what are you trying to achieve with X" come from the help center, or is it only a phrase you brought up in your first comment when this was presented as an answer? That would be a good addition to the help center.) $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH "How to achieve a specified effect in a defined world" is already part of the help center $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jul 13 '18 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ Are we in violent agreement? If real-world questions are on-topic then "defined world" must include our own. If the question "What's the best way to shapen a kitchen knife" has been proven to be adequately researched, is it off-topic simply because the OP didn't explain that his fictional Earth-like planet has a blue sun? $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Judging by your comments and the way you phrased your question we are in rather drastic disagreement, mainly because you are mixing culture and scope as it suits you for discrediting people and cherrypick things that suit your agenda. And no, I don't care what color your sun has when you are asking about sharpening a knife - I want to know what you are planning with that sharpened knife. Again: "What are you trying to achieve with "X" in your story?" What problem are you trying to solve with the sharpened knife? $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jul 13 '18 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus Often the context comes with the question. Example: how explosive is needed to blow up a steel door? If WBers ask why?.Now if this was to get a robot tank inside the Vault of the Emperor.This might lead to a chain of questions asking more about the story than the worldbuilding. If this was a spy thriller, would people ask why? About knife sharpening, the OP might want to keep a sharp knife for a character stranded in the past. The XY problem is an asker beware problem. OPs should ask the right question. The problem is human fallibility. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 14 '18 at 5:36
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android "Often the context comes with the question." True, but that is not always the case. If the context is obvious from the question, then great. If it's not, add a few sentences to clarify what you (the OP) plan on doing with the answer. If the problem is to, say, have a character stranded in 1650 real-world Europe have a sharp knife, that's a very different question from having a character in a present-day-like world where sharp knife blades literally grow on trees have a sharp-knife-like tool. Obvious or not, context still matters because it helps inform answerers. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jul 14 '18 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I do know the difference between "often" and "always". I could have written the rest of your comment before you wrote and said much the same things. I would have stranded my character in the Palaeolithic though. A question about firing pearls from flintlock pistols had WBers asking where was the WB context. This seemed unnecessary. It was about achieving a specified effect. Frankly the rest of the world, with or without antigravity socks, didn't matter (in this case). This is rare. Why I said often, not always. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 14 '18 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 The complete change of policy is coming from above. Namely, the SE itself. There are certainly those who don't like it. But quite a number do like it too. Guess we can't please everybody. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 14 '18 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android Raditz was referring to the worldbuilding context that is currently required, which has nothing to do with what StackOverflow wants to change. And if there is no reasoning present in the question then I know I am missing context. "I want to sharpen my knife." requires a "Why?", whereas a "I want to sharpen my knife because I am in the past and don't know how people could do it at that time" already has the context and does not require additional questions. Saying we should ignore context because there are questions that already include it is a fallacy -it's about those that don't $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jul 14 '18 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Secespitus Heavens! You've got it wrong. I'm not saying we should ignore context because most questions include it. if it's fallacy it's a fallacy of your own making because you distorted my words into their opposite meaning. WB context is essential for the majority of questions & usually included. There are rare questions where the question is sufficient context to ignore the rest of the world & be in scope. Do I need to explain what rare means? For every rule there is always an exception. I hope you now understand. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 14 '18 at 10:00

As I pointed out in other comments (see the the diamond tools question and this IMO excellent analysis), there are some questions which simply shout "I am too lazy to make a google search, do it for me and give me the link". (and this user even boldly wrote it)

enter image description here

Well, I think letting this happen would drastically reduce the quality of this Community. If we should turn to just a collection of Wikipedia links, what would our added value be? I believe our strong point as community is the ability of using our knowledge (which I sense it is vast, based on the excellent answers I read here and there) to lay bridges into the unknown of worldbuilding.

Mind, I recognize it's hard to cut a clear line between a "too lazy to research" and a somehow decent worldbuilding question. My personal and euristic metric is that if:

  1. it takes more effort typing the question here than googling it
  2. it's knowledge available to somebody out of high school

then it's likely a non worldbuilding question.

See these two examples:

  • diamond tools question : googling "diamond tools" returns a Wikipedia page as first link. 14 keystrokes against all the hassle of typing the entire question here, plus somebody typing the answer (point 1: check). Also, diamond tools are known to any laymen who goes into an hardware shop, one doesn't need a MD in engineering to know they are a thing (point 2: check). My conclusion: VTC.

  • comfortable temperature question : googling "comfort temperature" returns again a Wikipedia page (point 1: check), but knowing how those temperatures are obtained required me to attend a class at university (point 2: miss). My conclusion: a tad lazy in research effort, but asking for not widely available knowledge, plus OP's given some worldbuilding context: answer.

I recognize by myself that this is not a black&white situation, which gives room to interpretation. But this is what I have been able to elaborate until now.

When I ask for what is the worldbuilding context of the question, is because I have experienced on my own that making up a worldbuinding context for a question is even harder than writing a good question."

I am willing to help someone struggling with a foggy idea, but not willing to help a lazy guy who, instead of doing some research, asks here "how do I do X?" and hopes to get away with the fact that we also happen to answer real world question.

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    $\begingroup$ I can only speak personally but I would stop using Worldbuilding entirely if it allowed those "do my basic research for me" questions. Some minimal effort is required just to show respect for the people you're asking help from, IMO. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jul 13 '18 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ "diamond tools question [...] My conclusion: VTC." While I can see your reasoning, I do want to point out that closing a question is not for quality issues (as long as the question isn't so unclear that you can't tell what is being asked, at which point VTC as unclear). Lack of research is, however, a reason to vote down a question. A quick web search and checking out some Wikipedia pages seems to me to be the lowest reasonable bar for prior research (it's unlikely that Stack Exchange is available but both Google and Wikipedia are not). That research should somehow show in the question. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jul 13 '18 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ This answer utterly fails to answer my question. I have no argument with the need for research portion of the real-world question requirement. But your comments to those questions don't say, "you haven't done enough research" (which is worthy ONLY of a downvote, they say, "I am missing the worldbuilding element...," which I assume reflects context and then results in closure as off-topic - which you did not mention or discuss at all in your answer here. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH, I failed to include that part. Done that now $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch Mod
    Jul 15 '18 at 5:39

First, I agree with you that "context" has never been clearly defined and it is subject to personal interpretation. I think both of you propositions are good. Including either of these would help explain how the question is about worldbuilding. Sadly, the linked question does not have any of this.

Mentioning this famous post, let me quote one part of it. The bold is mine.

Considerations when asking a question relating to the real world:

Provide context. Giving other users context around why you are asking the question allows them to better understand why you are asking and what kind of answer you want.

Attempt to do your own research. If a quick google search will answer your question it may not be worth posting a question on the site. Generally, querents are expected to demonstrate what has been tried and why it was not sufficient or did not work. This too helps people answering understand what you are trying to accomplish as well as your level of knowledge on the topic.

Define your requirements and by what you will judge answers.

Questions that fail to adequately meet these requirements may be placed on hold even if they are not, "off-topic."

It says that questions need a worldbuilding context and need to show some research effort. The question you linked meets none of the requirements. Thus I see no argument to keep it open.

While this is not a law but just a guideline, I see this as a bottom line I can use to decide which questions meet our standards of quality. I think it's fair considering that other sites of the network have even higher standards of quality.

  • $\begingroup$ Vincent, when you say "that question sneed a worldbuilding context," where did you get the word "worldbuilding" from? The point of my question is that some people are inserting that word and yet it is not part of the quote. (For the record, I'm 100% in with needing the research, I don't see a need to clarify that.) $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 15:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH It's the topic of the site. While not in the quote, it is reasonable to expect questions to be about that topic. The point is, if the question doesn't seems to be about worldbuilding, it is more likely to get closed. At least, that's how I understand it. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Jul 13 '18 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ How would you express a difference between a real-world question for the purpose of building a fictional world and the same real-world question for another purpose? $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 16:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH The context, otherwise it's impossible. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Jul 13 '18 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't an addition to the help center "welcomes questions" list that reads, "Real-world questions asked for the purpose of solving an identified problem in a fictional world" reflect the XY Problem mentioned by Secepitus in his post? $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 17:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH I don't think so. The XY problem is when you're trying to solve problem X, you think the solution is Y, and instead of asking how to solve problem X (without presupposing that Y is the correct solution), you ask how to do Y without even mentioning X. That will get you answers about how to do Y, but completely excludes the possibility of getting a much better answer to the question of how to do X by using the proper method Z because nobody knows you're really trying to do X. Adding context in the form of a statement that your ultimate goal is X would allow for answers saying to do Z. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jul 14 '18 at 5:53

To put this post into perspective, consider what this post on Stack Overflow says about the problem of being unwelcoming.

Too often, someone comes here to ask a question, only to be told that they did it wrong. They get snarky or condescending comments for not explaining what they’ve tried (that didn’t work). They get an answer… but the answerer gets scolded for “encouraging ‘low-quality’ questions.” They get downvoted, but don’t know why, or called lazy for not speaking English fluently. Or sometimes, everything actually goes well, and they get an answer! So they thank the poster… only to be told that on Stack Overflow, “please” and “thank you” are considered noise. All these experiences add up to making Stack Overflow a very unwelcoming place for far too many.

To anyone who wants to argue that much of the above behaviour is done by active users to improve the site, this is discussed in the Stack Overflow post quoted above, where it was found wanting. It's no longer the be-all and end-all excuse it used to be.

Sadly, this experience applies to many new users coming to Worldbuilding SE. Since many of the participants here are technically minded, this can be put into numbers. According to our league Tables, over ninety-three (93%) percent of registered users have not attained more than two hundred (200) reputation points. This strongly suggests they were interested enough in Worldbuilding to register on this site and then turned away or became disinterested in participating in worldbuilding. It seems they have voted with their feet and walked away.

A similar ratio of disaffected participants also exists for Stack Overflow. Whether similar ratios exist on other stack exchanges is an open question, but it would be interesting and enlightening if there are more welcoming stack exchanges out there on the network.

This post is intended to give WBers a sense of the bigger picture and more context.


This post made specifically to deal with issues in relation about the site's culture. Similar issues have been raised at higher levels in the Stack Exchange Network. While JBH's post is about how to establish worldbuilding context in questions, culture does play a major role in shaping the behaviour of commenters and voters in dealing with questions.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You have pointed out the issue yourself: 93% sounds large, but there are many factors contributing to it, that mythical unwelcoming culture, well, we really need to know how much of the 93% this accounts for and of many of the remaining 7% stay because they agree with the policy of being a bit stricter - which I personally don't interprete as unwelcoming for example, I think most people here are super nice. Otherwise, much like the OP, this argument is more rhetoric than anything else. $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 13 '18 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Actually I find most people here are nice. If I based this on my experience I would be quite positive. I do observe that other users are treated less kindly. You seem to have missed the point that even the Higher Powers feel that SO is unwelcoming. Many complaints about harshness there are echoed here. If it is mythical, why are the complaints consistently the same? The 7% is more generous than that sounds. The higher the reputation the smaller the number. I am not interesting in indulging in rhetoric, I am interested in improving WB SE. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 13 '18 at 14:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't know any debates on SO. I don't think one needs to carry over those debates if they don't apply. I think there are a couple of people that again and again state that this SE has an issue with being open and welcoming, but I honestly fail to see it. There is the occasional person that is rude, but I don't see how this is an issue at all - quite the opposite. I'd say that people here are begging people that post unanswerable/unfitting questions to edit them and stay and contribute because some people complain about a nonexisting problem constantly in meta - imo $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 13 '18 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ The debates apply, @Raditz_35, because, you, L.Dutch, and Secepitus are promoting the same issues for the same reasons. SO is the largest SE site in the network, probably bigger than all the other SE sites combined. Their experiences should not be so quickly dismissed. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 16:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH I don't understand what you think I am promoting $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 13 '18 at 16:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35, You said, "I don't think one needs to carry over those debates if they don't apply." Welcoming is more than avoiding rude statements, it's about helping people succeed rather than dismissing them. It's about clear rules, consistent application of those rules, and helping people understand those rules - rather than quickly downvoting and closing and believing that such punitive measures will somehow help new OPs to ask better questions. Those debates over at SO are very much applicable here. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 16:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH I still don't get it. I agree with everything you wrote and in my perception this is what I have been doing. Am I promoting the opposite of what you wrote? Are the other users you mentioned promoting the opposite? I'm going to be honest, this sounds to me a lot as if anyone who disagrees with you must stand for some things that puts them in line with the devil. While this sort of thinking has poisoned US politics, let's not succumb to it here. You recently wrote an answer with a footnote attacking people that downvote it preemptively. Perhaps try to be a bit more open for other opinions $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 13 '18 at 16:48

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