I'm not currently a particularly active user on Worldbuilding, although I've contributed a bunch of answer back when the site was new. I do, however, regularly visit several other sites on the Stack Exchange network and I tend to keep an eye on the Hot Network Questions sidebar for interesting questions to read and possibly answer.
Recently, I've noticed a bunch of Hot Network Questions asked by a new user on this site. They seem to have the recipe for HNQ down pat: their questions are funny and entertainingly written, with intriguing "clickbait" titles that attract curious readers, and they link together (yes, with actual hyperlinks) into something resembling a collaborative story. They prompt the reader for creative answers with multiple open-ended sub-questions and, being set in a vaguely specified fantasy world, their possible answers are only limited by the answerers' creativity.
And it seems to be working. In the six days this user has been active, they've asked five questions, gotten at least four of those onto Hot Network Questions, and earned two gold badges.
What I'm wondering is what, if anything, do these questions have to do with worldbuilding?
Looking at the specific questions, it seems to me that they're not really asking about building a fictional world. In fact, most of them don't even really seem to be "questions", as the term is generally used here on Stack Exchange, but more like open-ended lateral thinking puzzles:
This question, currently with 120 upvotes and 7 downvotes, starts with an intriguing title and a silly premise. Underneath that, though, the actual question amounts to "how to send messages without carrier pigeons?", which, when you think about it, is about as broad as a question can be. Especially since magic is allowed. It currently has an accepted answer (with a score of +95 / -1 votes) that says:
"Your pidgeons are spoons on the outside but they're still pidgeons on the inside, only very confused. Get another alchemist (surely you don't only have one) and have them transmute pideon nests into soup bowls. Their instinct will catch up to their new body and they'll develop a strong desire to fall into their own bowl."
I think that just about says everything that needs to be said about the question.
- This follow-up to the previous question seems to have failed to make it to the HNQ list, maybe because it wasn't quite funny enough. Its main problem (besides the fact that "a network of spoon-launching trebuchets" and "realistic" don't really make sense together) is that it contains a multitude of sub-questions, some of which (like "Is a trebuchet accurate enough?") are pretty vague (accurate enough for what?). Still, it's IMO one of the, um, least bad ones of the bunch.
- This is actually a rather nice question... it's just not really a worldbuilding question. It's just asking about historical techniques for keeping things frozen, and would (with some rephrasing to get rid of the silliness) fit just fine on, say, History. Where, in fact, basically the same question has already been asked back in 2014.
- Just like the title says, this question is asking about the effectiveness of spoons as torture devices. Technically, that would be a valid question, if there was a Stack Exchange site on torture. Which there fortunately isn't. It's still not a worldbuilding question, not even with the off-hand allusions to alchemy and magic (which just make it that much broader).
- This is the only one I would personally consider at least marginally on-topic, insofar as the feasibility of using pigs as cavalry mounts in a fictional world is a valid and answerable one. Sure, it's framed with the same silly meta-story as the others, but at the core there is, IMO, a valid worldbuilding question here.
However, so far only two of these questions appear to have been flagged for closing, and in both cases the review concluded 3 to 1 in favor of keeping the question open. So it seems that the Worldbuilding community, or at least the part of the community that frequents the close vote review queue, considers these questions on-topic here.
If so, my question is why? What makes questions like these relevant for this site and desirable to have here? And is this really the direction this community wants the site to take?
(Yes, I realize that "they're fun and popular" is a valid answer. What I'm wondering is whether they're fun and popular worldbuilding.)