Regarding this question: Restricting antimatter - practical rather than legal measures

I've been processing a lot of answers tagged low-quality from this question and, though I could be wrong, I believe most of the tags are coming from the OP.

I am not judging the OP for doing this. Indeed, I think it's the right of an OP to expect answers be held to the conditions stated in the question. Sometimes people get bogged down in the conditions and sometimes the conditions make the question difficult if not outright impossible to answer, but it's the OP's question and he/she has the right to set the terms.

Generally the site is very lenient about this in that "you can't do that, so try this" answers are not tagged and deleted as a matter of course. And right or wrong, it's become part of the culture of Worldbuilding.SE.

Not surprisingly, the OP's desire to be strict with the answers has ruffled feathers. (Remember, I'm in favor of OPs being allowed to be strict.) The problem is that no one knew this going in, so there's been failed expectations and, with them, unhappiness.

Question: What is the best way for an OP to announce they will be strict with answers, meaning answers that don't meet the conditions and terms of the question will be marked low-quality and deleted? Is a tag (e.g., ) sufficient, or should the OP use a custom announcement in the question?

EDIT: This question is NOT seeking to establish a general behavior or change in the culture on this site. It is asking how best to work with OPs who want strict adherence to the terms of their questions.

  • $\begingroup$ By “strict” you mean no frame-challenges, right? Or are there additional parts of the question you think are being bent? $\endgroup$
    – Dubukay
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Dubukay, If you saw my last comment, ignore it. After reading Secesipitus' answer, yes, I believe we're talking about frame challenges. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 16:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Having a personal interest in this particular question I feel it should be noted that the current highest voted answer (mine) is a frame challenge rather than a strict answer to the question, and has (in comment) been accepted by the OP as addressing the necessary considerations in context. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix, the funny thing is, we're all talking as if the OP shouldn't have a choice. In this instance, the OP wants strict answers. As stated in the post, I'm NOT asking if we should change site policy about frame challenges, I'm asking what an OP should do if he/she doesn't want them at all. Frankly, the possibility of a good answer (which doesn't always happen, I'm not even sure it's common) doesn't sound like justification to say OPs shouldn't have the right to exclude frame challenges outside of comments. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix I'm not sure I really read you're answer as a frame-challenge, what you've given me is more a reason why the technology of antimatter would be abandoned, it doesn't give me the point of least resistance I was looking for but it does tell me that it's a valid approach. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash, a good frame challenge should be as acceptable to the OP as any other answer. In this case your technological premise was perfectly acceptable in the general scheme of sci-fi, but I was challenging your desired approach to a solution by offering an opposing perspective. It's become a redundant technology of the past rather than an effective technology of the present or future requiring control. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix, actually, human nature being the way it is, a frame challenge (good or not) is only acceptable to experienced site users. It's regularly seen as a negative to new users who only know to understand it as, "your question stinks because..." and they've not yet learned how valuable that can be. A description of frame challenges and their value would be a good addition to an advanced version of Welcome to Worldbuilding!. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 17:29

3 Answers 3


There shouldn't be a(nother) way for the OP to announce that they will be strict with answers (like with the tag) as it implies that the question can in all other cases be ignored and prohibits reasonable frame-challenges

The base assumption is that answers adhere to the rules layed out in the question. If people ignore the question their answers may be flagged as "Not an answer". To make it easy for reviewers you should leave a comment to indicate what is wrong with the answer, especially if you are the OP. There is no way to see who flagged a post from the normal review queues. Leaving a comment also gives the poster of the answer the chance to react and edit their answer. It's very well possible that someone just genuinely overlooked something. Or they tried to write a frame-challenged and didn't quite manage it, as a frame-challenge should for example state why the thing the OP is searching for is not really what they need.

A tag is not the solution for this problem. Tags are simply a way to categorize questions into easier-to-find groups. We already have one meta-tag that is posing restrictions on answers, which is and there is regularly some confusion about the usage of the tag. We can't expect new users to understand that in 99% of the cases tags are pretty much meaningless for the question and answers apart from bringing experts in the topic who marked them as favourites faster to the question, but in two cases, with and , they suddenly pose extra rules on questions and answers.

You also can't be an expert in , which is one of the basic questions you should ask yourself when creating a tag. You can be an expert in , or in questions, but would apply to anything and is therefore simply not useful as a tag. at least means that you must be an expert in something that involves real world science and putting together equations and such, mostly in the context of things like orbital-mechanics. But simply suggest that in all other cases people can ignore the question and write whatever they want because they don't have to strictly adhere to what the question says. Meta tags are bad.

A special announcement is also not useful, because it's basically the same as with a tag, just more complicated. We would teach people that there are certain phrasings that suddenly magically transform what they said into a specific set of additional rules. But how will they find out about the wording? What if they do it a little bit different? Do the extra rules still apply? Why don't we have special rules for every topic?

But the special announcement is in the right direction. We answer the questions that are asked, so if you ask that people to simply assume something and they still get hung up on that part without providing sufficient reasoning for their frame-challenge then it's simply not an answer.

At the same time the querent must accept that they will get frame-challenges from time to time. In many cases they won't be too happy about it, but sometimes they are simply what the querent needs instead of what they want. As long as something is still a reasonable answer we shouldn't delete it just because it goes against the believes of the querent.

We should delete questions that simply don't answer the question by way of ignoring restrictions and answering their own version of the question.

We should not delete well executed and reasoned frame-challenges that explain why the querents assumptions don't lead to the result the querent wants and give a reasonable different course of action or alternative.

The querent should make it clear in the question what their expectations are and they have the right to flag answers as "Not an answer" if they ignore basic assumptions without any reasonable explanation. They do not have the right to flag every answer as "Not an answer" that is a frame-challenge.

There shouldn't be a tag, special phrasing or similar way of providing the querent with a thing to point to and say "You didn't write an answer the way I wanted, so I am going to delete it".

In the end the querent is free to accept the answer that helps them personally and thereby show what they perceive to be the answer most relevant to their specific situation. But StackExchange is meant to be a repository for all the people with a similar problem that will come here later and we shouldn't delete reasonable answers because they might very well help these people later. It might also very well happen that the OP realises that they can achieve their goal in a different way. Prohibiting frame-challenges would be robbing them of potentially useful information.

  • $\begingroup$ I was in complete agreement until "We should not delete..." and your belief that the OP hasn't the right to flag every answer that is a frame-challenge. Doesn't a frame-challenge in an answer constitute a comment? Frankly, it sounds like "this is a comment on another post and not an answer" by definiton. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 16:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @JBH No, that's quite the opposite of a frame-challenge. A well executed frame challenge says "If we follow your basic assumption we won't arrive at the result you envision because X and Y don't interact the way you think. It's not possible this way. Instead you should try the following to achieve your goal: description of frame-challenge" $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ OK, (a) This question is asking how the OP can warn people he's going to be strict. You verbosely said you'd prefer a warning in the question. (b) What a well-formatted frame challenge is, is irrelevant. The challenge is a comment to the question and we're simply letting it slip under the rules because it contains an answer somebody other than the OP thinks is acceptable despite it not adhereing to the terms of the question. It happens all the time, but you need to give me a reason why the OP can't legitimately flag the answer as not an answer because you claimed he couldn't. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 17:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH He can't flag it as not an answer because it addresses the points raised in the question. Just like my answer here does. Your basic assumption is that we should increase OP happiness. I outlined why that should not be the priority. Your assumption is that a tag will solve the problem. I addressed why that will not work. Your assumption is that the OP has the right to flag something that is not strictly following what he set as the premise. I am challenging that premise and stating that instead the OP has the right to accept the answer that solves his problem. The OP should not warn people $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 17:11

What is the best way for an OP to announce they will be strict with answers, meaning answers that don't meet the conditions and terms of the question will be marked low-quality and deleted?

This should be our normal way of doing things. If you ask how to boil eggs, it's not helpful to you if I post an answer on how to make an omelet. It doesn't matter how great the omelet-making answer is, it still isn't an answer to a question about boiling eggs. You shouldn't need to point out in the question that you aren't interested in answers on how to make omelets, or apple pie. That should come by default.

Heck, if you ask how to boil eggs, unless you allow for magic answers, it's not even particularly helpful to you if I post an answer describing how to wave your magic wand for the raise-temperature-of-object spell, or even suggest that you might have a spell to raise the temperature of an object that you could just apply to the eggs in question.

Frame challenges is more about telling OP that they really don't want to boil all of the eggs if they want to keep their poultry over time, and so if they want an industrial-scale egg-boiling machine, even if they're asking how to boil as many eggs as possible in as short a time as possible, they really shouldn't feed all of the eggs to it.

Is a tag (e.g., strict-answers) sufficient, or should the OP use a custom announcement in the question?

Given the above, this question more or less comes down to "do we need a tag or special disclaimer to indicate that we should do what we're supposed to already be doing?".

I imagine that what I feel should be the answer to that is obvious from the phrasing.

Meta tags are problematic, and have been discouraged network-wide since 2010.

Just here on Worldbuilding Meta, there's Is “science-based” a meta- or otherwise-problematic tag? and Do we really need an anatomically-correct tag? and Is the tag [logical-consistency] workable? and Why no “big-list” tag? and Mutually-exclusive goals and how to discover them and probably a slew of others that a quick search didn't uncover.

Robert Cartaino's answer to Are meta tags banned across the board on all Stack Exchange sites or can each site decide if it wants to allow meta tags? on Meta Stack Exchange has some more background.

On Meta Stack Exchange alone, there are 93 questions discussing meta tags directly and by term, and there's probably many more where they are discussed by that name only in answers.

We already have several meta tags on Worldbuilding, which to top things off are often used incorrectly. I think it's been a while since I saw a question tagged only, say, science-based, but that used to be a regular occurence. Maybe the community is just quicker at editing the tags on those questions these days. These tags don't tell us anything about the subject matter of a question; they impose restrictions on answers, in a way not obvious to a newcomer (whether that newcomer wants to post a question or an answer). Adding more such tags seem to me to be a really bad idea.

Rather, unless OP states they are okay with alternative solutions, judge and answer the question based on what they are actually asking. If the question cannot be reasonably answered as asked, put on hold and get it fixed, whether that requires changing the premise or simply clarification of the purpose for which the question is being asked.

To top all of this off, I distinctly recall that at one point there was a proposal for a tag that would allow for frame challenges; basically the exact opposite of what you're proposing here. I can't seem to find it at the moment, and as I recall it got shot down pretty quickly, but if someone happens to come across it, please comment. It's out there somewhere...


I feel that, as my question and actions are in the middle of this, I really should reply. I always try to be clear about the goals of my questions and strict in my interpretation of those goals. I try to give the same treatment to the questions of others, I was under the impression that a strict adherence to the premise of questions was generally the only way to go. I also try not to be adverse to being told that the issue I envision is not the problem I think it is, or will not have the effect I foresee. I do take issue when I feel that the question is being ignored in favour of answering a question I did not in fact put, and I'm militant about expressing my opinion that that is what has happened with a given answer.

In this case I have flagged three responses as non-answers, one says "use legal means", which the title says is not the goal, and which the question reiterates is really not the goal and why it's not the goal. One flag is for an answer that rather than placing restrictions on existing technological avenues proposes a weird science answer that actually does the opposite of what I want to do and makes antimatter proliferation a foregone conclusion. Then there's this answer which may be meant as a frame challenge but, especially when combined with the subsequent comments, comes off, to me, as "you're an idiot, stop wasting our time" and does nothing to address the actual question asked which is one of technology not the relative usefulness, if any, of the material I'd like to exclude.

I feel that flagging these sorts of responses is reasonable if they don't address the core issue the question has asked for. I don't think there should be an additional warning in questions that the OP wishes answers to respect the question as written, that should be the default. I also, and possibly this is a contradiction, don't think we should discourage legitimate frame-challenges where the answerer is pointing out that, given the question as written, the OP doesn't have the issue they think they have or has made a proposal that doesn't work.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .