I do not feel that my thread was put on hold in good faith.

This is the thread.

This is my question: "What goods, available to Group B, could create a trade relationship that is existential to the survival, or industrialization of Group A?"

This is, word-for-word, an example, taken from the thread specifically about how to adhere to the guidelines:

"On topic: What could cause a government to pass such-and-such law given these societal conditions"

Seen here

Nearly every single post that I've made here involves a demand to either adhere to rules that nobody else follows, or holding/closing threads, anyway, regardless of what I do.


7 Answers 7


First off, nothing was done with the intent to harm you. I get that it can feel that way sometimes, we were all new users at one point or another.

The mechanics of the site mean that 5 users who have sufficient reputation, agreed that your question was off-topic for the site.

I see a couple problems with the question.

1) It is not properly constrained. With the exception of the items you exclude an argument could be made for a multitude of options.

2) The question contradicts itself. As one commenter mentioned the thing can't be truly required for their survival if they have existed prior to this trade starting.

3) We don't know your setting. What goods do they have available to them to trade?


Given the above, I don't see why they need group B to kick-start their industrial revolution.

If you can't see a reason that they would need the help, and you know everything there is to know about the world, how could any of us come up with a reason other than throwing random ideas out as answers.

All in all, with what is provided it would be impossible to define a "best" answer.

Keep in mind that SE is not a forum, its not a place for people to brainstorm for you (although we do quite a bit of that in chat if you'd like to brainstorm there)

Check out this help page for more information on how to ask particularly this bit:

General guidelines for all questions:

  • Must be specific and answerable: What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Must include context: What are you trying to accomplish? Context gives people writing answers an idea of what your end state will look like and why you want to get there.
  • Must include restrictions/requirements: What will make one answer better than another? If any answer is equally effective your question is not properly constrained.
  • How can this be executed? What tech, timeline, magic or other criteria apply to the situation.
  • Should include research: What ideas have you considered, or what information have you already looked at or failed to find?

Response to comments:

If you see bad actors, or at least bad actions please flag them for the moderator team to review. The site has gotten big and we just don't see everything that happens on the site. We try diligently to enforce the Be nice policy, but if we don't know about it we can't address things. This goes for everyone, please use those flags

One benefit to making sure items get flagged is that bad actions pile up and help us identify bad actors, this is how we identify people for suspensions and warnings from the moderator team.

It is an agreed upon point that on world building there is very rarely a single correct answer, you are right about that.

Reading your question though, I struggled to understand what you are really looking for, in essence, what problem are you trying to solve? Is it some trade good that makes it possible for them to get clean water? I think that is a very different and clear question. As I read the question now though it comes across as: I have two groups, one has more technology than the other, what can group X trade to group Y that group Y absolutely has to have?

This, to me, is asking us for ideas instead of asking us to help fix a problem.

In short, my personal take is the question would significantly benefit from increased clarity on what problem you are asking people to solve.

To your point about other questions being "worse" ...you're probably right. Again, we need the community to enforce standards and on a site like WB that gets challenging. If you think something is off-topic flag it so that it hits the review queues.

I can appreciate your frustration, I remember being new when the site was new and after a lot of effort put into a question to have it closed can be quite frustrating. I learned and it was painful and took some time.

I definitely suggest utilizing the sandbox here on meta or visiting the chatroom. In a lot of cases questions may not be a great fit for the SE format. It doesn't mean they are bad questions, it just means the system used around this place isn't flexible enough to handle a lot of things.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi @james I can address your feedback piece-by-piece. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:35
  • $\begingroup$ A. First, the very first response was a blatant insult. The second response was a suggestion for refining the question. A suggestion that I thought was irrelevant, but made a good-faith, polite, effort to accommodate. While I was doing so, that poster joined the first poster in mocking me. When I made my displeasure at this treatment clear, they then flagged the mod queue, at which point a moderator deleted the insults, and then sent me a personal chastisement for my 'attitude' in response to derailment, insults, and endless sea-lioning. (cont) $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ I'm willing to bet money that neither of the other participants received any such reproach, nor will they, as I have personally seen both RJ conduct himself like that repeatedly and have also seen one of the very mods who sent me that message speak to people with far less patience than I exhibited in that comment thread. So, while I appreciate the assurance, I don't actually believe that it holds true to the consistent pattern of behavior that I've seen here. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ 1: Most questions can have multiple answers. This is why criteria for evaluating those answers is requested, and I provided a clear set of criteria for my question. Most questions that are left open on this stack don't even have that. Not only can there be multiple correct answers, but people do not include criteria to evaluate them. This is an exact example of what I mean about being asked to adhere to guidelines which others are allowed to ignore. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ 2. The question does not contradict itself. I provided a response to RonJohn that was deleted. He claimed that since a society already exists in that region, no external resource could be existential for their continued survival. The current existence of a society in a region does not mean their continued survival is a given. Any answer which allows for the purification of the toxic groundwater, is, by definition of existential importance to this society. In addition, his misread ignores the entire other half of the question, regarding industrial progress. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:45
  • $\begingroup$ 3. The setting was described with enough definition to create helpful responses. It is an otherwise earth-typical setting that simply has slightly more advanced technology than we do now, including hypothetical technologies that could reasonably developed here, within the next 50 years. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ 4. Just because, currently, I was having an issue answering my question, doesn't mean that there isn't an answer. In fact, since it was posted, I've found two seperate answers, on my own. This usually happens when I post here. I spend an exorbitant amount of time asking, against, my better judgement, I then have to deal with at least one snarky person who seems to have nothing better to do than be rude, at least one person who offers superficial suggestions which dwell on minutiae about the format of the question, two or three really basic responses that aren't very helpful. (cont) $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ Then I modify it again, then I get insulted some more, and step away for a while to do further research. When I come back, having found actual answers to my own problem, with no help, I find that the question has been voted closed by people who regularly ignore the very metrics they are trying to apply. That's how this works, when, of course, I haven't neutered the question (at the behest of stack regs) into something perfectly, flawlessly compliant, and utterly useless. So yes, it's answerable. I've had to answer it myself. As always. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ And I apologize if my reply comes off as irritated, but I am irritated. Volcanically, $^&^ing irritated, but complying with expectations of patience and temperance that I have zero expectations of being on the receiving end of. Ever. It's not you, it's the wasted time, the double standards, and the generally piss-poor culture. If I didn't have built-in expectations for fair-play and basic respect I would have already washed my hands on this place a long time ago, which is immediately what my spouse suggested after I showed her the OP, just to make sure I wasn't crazy. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ @user49466 I will be editing my answer to address your points in the comments, standby. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Nov 13, 2018 at 15:11

To play on this site, you need to play by the rules

I'm mostly responding to the comment thread that you posted to James' answer.

It can be hard to learn what a good question is here. Here is a fun fact: most of our top users by reputation....have had their questions closed! (here, here, here, here)

Even if you are on the site regularly, for years, and are one of the top contributors, the community can decide that your question is dumb. As an asker of several closed questions, I obviously thought they were good questions, and I asked them in good faith. And, in some cases, I got pretty frustrated that they were closed.

But, I don't run this site. No one person does, not even the mods collectively. There are hundreds of users who regularly review the closed queue, and so some subset of those hundreds of users are the ones who determine if your question is good or not.

The rules here are somewhat nebulous. After all, each of the hundreds of close voters interprets the rules, as applied to your post, in their own way. As regards your question, it accumulated five downvotes and five close votes in a 12 hour period. The site's collective wisdom has decided that this isn't a good question. It doesn't follow the 'rules.'

So you have two options here. You can get volcanically angry and rant on Meta. Or, you can attempt to learn what the rules are. Worldbuilding has a culture, and you, like most new members, aren't fully aligned with it yet. Ultimately, the site will not come around to your point of view...well probably not, unless you are much more charismatic and persuasive than you are letting on. Instead, you should learn to think more like the other people on the site. Then you will learn how to write good answers, and ask good questions.

I'm sorry that you don't think the site's closing policy is fair, but it works well for the site culture that we have established. Those of us that have been here for a while seem to like it. Perhaps if you stay and play, you will like it too, some day.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Fun fact, two of your examples have first VtC cast by me. Just as the question by user49466. I believe that proves I don't look at user reputation or ♦ when I cast my votes. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 13, 2018 at 14:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Mołot Ah, our site's most prolific pessimist :) I have a category named after you ready to go for the holiday data-palooza this year! $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Nov 13, 2018 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't call myself a pessimist. Agreed, I vote a lot. On the other hand, single vote does nothing, and most of the time when I VtC question either gets closed or edited - and I prefer the latter outcome. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 13, 2018 at 14:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Mołot I think it is good to have reviewers who are consistently pessimistic and those that are consistently optimistic (like Frostfyre) $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Nov 13, 2018 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion, Perfectly balanced... as all things should be... $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2018 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'm one of the more "optimistic" reviewers. I know I've v.t.c. a couple questions of yours @kingledion; and I've also voted to keep many open. You might amend your title to "To play on this site, you need to play by the rules: and the interpretation is the hands of many people with differing opinions about the rules and with differing ideas on how those rules should be applied!" $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Nov 13, 2018 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ I need to give you all lessons on tactful writing... :) $\endgroup$
    – James
    Nov 13, 2018 at 15:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Fun fact for your fun fact collection: my first ever question asked here was closed and still is :) $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Nov 13, 2018 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion "To play on this site, you need to play by the rules." doesn't actually work. I took a brief look at the top 7 open threads on my feed. Of the seven, only one (your's) offers criteria for evaluation. One is hard math, so it can only have a single answer. The other five can all have multiple answers and the OPs offer zero boundaries for evaluation. So, in practice, "follow the rules" means that I clearly state the criteria that I'm using and its closed as POB...the vast majority have zero criteria at all...but get ignored. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 18:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user49466 "criteria for evaluation" need to be there, bu they don't need to be explicit. Let's look at Designing a river which does not overflow - we know that answer that uses designs meet in real life will be better than one that does not. That cheap and simple one will be better than complicated or expensive. It's an engineering problem and most people understands what are criteria for engineering solutions, and can agree pretty easily what they are. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 13, 2018 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Molot Great, so criteria don't actually need to be stated (a complete contradiction from other guidance I've recieved) they can be "assumed" at the total discretion of whoever is reading it. Can we just stop pretending that there's any consistent metric being applied here? $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 14, 2018 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ @user49466 criteria needs to exist. If they are obvious / natural, they don't need to be written explicitly. But they need to exist. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 14, 2018 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ @molot Browsing the new threads since I last logged on, I just looked at this, which was just "protected" by a mod. What criteria do they list, or can be "inferred" to judge from the nearly endless, valid, answers here? worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/130164/… I'd really love to hear, how one is expected to discriminate between troll tusks and troll earwax as a valid answer, and why that nebulous, unstated, criteria is more valid than the clear, bounded criteria that I used. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 14, 2018 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ @user49466 your "example" has 4 close votes on it, and was closed once already, so it is in no way an example of question community accepts. This is example of a question community disagrees on, and 9 high-rep users voted to close. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Nov 14, 2018 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ @molot and it also has twenty plus upvotes, a dozen answers, and participation by multiple members who are in this thread and deem my question unacceptable. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 14, 2018 at 23:57

Much like Kingledion, i am including your Comments on James' answer in this.

I entirely understand your frustration, I've been on for less than a year but have posted answers to a lot of questions, and have also VTC several questions, and yet both questions i have raised myself have come under a lot of flak. one was closed the other i had to fight to keep open. both i thought were very reasonable questions especially compared to those i have VTC when going through the close queue and those i see stay open...

However after having left them for some time, annoyed, I've gone back and looked at them with a different eye. and i found something:

I couldn't see the wood for the trees...

Several of the key things I find missing in questions that I decide to Vote to Close when i go through the queue, were obviously also missing in my questions. When someone posts a question we look at them critically and make a decision, but when we ask a question WE are the ones that want the answer we are nowhere near as critical of our own questions as we are of others.

Things that make me VTC most often

  • Answers could be any number of things, an several answer focusing on very very different things could be correct for that questions, Result: Too Broad
  • The questions requires taking very specific things into account that would ONLY apply to the world the OP is creating and not any other Result: Too Story Based
  • there is no correct answer and its anyone's guess Result: Primarily Opinion Based

Both of my own questions having not looked at them for a while i can see are actually guilty of being Primarily Opinion Based, despite not thinking that at the time. I got a lot of random comments but its worth noting that emotion and feeling do not portray well over text boxes. therefore genuinely helpful comments that offer advice to adjust the question or alternate things to look at can sometimes be construed as rude or unhelpful.

Often if I can't fill a comment box with enough letters to go over the limit then i won't answer, but I may well post a comment so that someone else might make a better answer out of it. these comments could be considered as rude as they basically seem like "why don't you just do this" but that is not how they are intended

And some comments such as RonJohn's here appear completely irrelevent which starts a back and forth and appears rude until you consider that Worldbuild.SE is mostly about making sure the writer does break the immersion of the reader/player, and it is somehting that often people overlook and in turn breaks immersion. it doesn't require the editing of the question but its something the OP may not have considered. it was most likely intended as a Helpful comment


In general moderators do not discuss what messages may or may not have been sent to other users or what action has been taken against them to both respect their privacy and to allow them a chance to rehabilitate and change their ways. If someone has a history of posting abusive messages and those are flagged then you can be confident that we will become interested in that person and take appropriate steps. Abusive comments are against the terms of use of this site and are something we take seriously once they are brought to our attention.

We can see the deleted comments on that thread, and you are correct that they were needlessly hostile. I can only apologize for that and assure you that it is not the spirit or tone of site that we aim for.

Unfortunately though as the other answers have already covered the question as it stands isn't a good fit. It might be worth trying either chat or the sandbox (Sandbox for Proposed Answers) where people will be happy to help you tweak the question so it can get a more specific answer.


I'll try to avoid a TL;DR wall of text like my peers. I didn't read the comments in the original question. I voted to close because:

  • I think the question is too broad. Whatever goods two groups of people would trade would involve more factors than the context you provided, such as history, punctual supply & demand overtime (what is in demand one day could be overdaturated on the next), stock trade speculation, wars etc.

  • I think it is opinion based. If one user answered passion fruit because it helps soothe the nerves and another said coffee because it boosts focus, we would have no objective way to say "ok, this answer is better than that other one".

I also think that no further elaboration would help alleviate those problems, so I voted for deletion.

My recommendation is to focus on tighter question scopes, with objective criteria for answer evaluation.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Hey now my wall of text is beautiful. :p $\endgroup$
    – James
    Nov 13, 2018 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan "If one user answered passion fruit because it helps soothe the nerves and another said coffee because it boosts focus" neither of those answers would adhere to the requirements of the question, which are answers that are: "existential to the survival, or industrialization of Group A..." The criteria is right there. $\endgroup$
    – user49466
    Nov 13, 2018 at 17:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user49466 coffee is existential to survival and industrialization. People need sharp minds to drive the industry. Why do you think it is the second most traded commodity in the world? ... See the potential for opinion base now? $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2018 at 20:03

As one of the votes to close, user49466, I can only say the following:

  • I always read through each question in the queue, plus all comments (especially those of the OP), plus any edits made to the question before making any kind of decision.
  • I only rarely look at the user name, but really don't care if it's someone I recognise or not. And with an anonymous handle like yours, I wouldn't recognise you from previous turns in the queue anyway.
  • I very frequently see-saw, hovering over the "close" button. I really don't like closing questions. (As I've stated elsewhere, I have some very serious issues with the incompatibility between worldbuilding as an art in and of itself or as a means to making art (stories or games, etc) and the Stack Exchange Model. So there is constantly a tug-o-war between a strict adherence to The Rules and a more opinion-friendly approach.
  • I have no access to the stats on "keep open" votes I've made (only close votes seem to be counted, that I can find); but I am very certain that I vote to keep more questions open than I vote to close.

In this instance, as far as closure goes, I think one of the comments was correct: you're basically retelling the story of mid to late 19th century Japan when America tried to open Japanese ports to trade. Japan at the time was very much like your A Group; the US was very much like your B Group.

The circumstances are rather bizarre. You seem to want them to jump from 1700s to solar thermal arrays and moisture devaporators. There really are no "trade goods" that are going to make this happen. You yourself even say I don't see why they need group B to kickstart their industrial revolution.

(And you're right, they don't! They're just going to be a century or three behind until their infrastructure can catch up to the point where they can fully integrate Group B's level of advancement.)

What you're really left with is the narrative element: the story of how A learns from B. And that is the basis for closure. This question is less about world building and more about story-building within your world. Perhaps you could rework your question to better follow this Stack's policies? ( Sora Tamashii ) And you even agreed with this assessment: @Sora Tamashii That's a good idea. Will do.

As it stands, your question continues to be a good candidate for remaining closed. Either because of the narrative element or because of the contradictory element or because of the nonsensical "existential to the survival" element. All of these really need to be addressed before even I would vote to reopen.

My sincere suggestion to take a look at what the others have said above re elements of a good question and use those ideas to write an entirely new question. Just start fresh!

  • $\begingroup$ Done, although I'm not sure starting fresh is really needed. The question is potentially salvageable. It may be easier to start fresh though $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Nov 13, 2018 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough! Either way, a complete edit or a new question would be welcome and I'd certainly give either due consideration. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Nov 13, 2018 at 17:14

I didn't see this particular question on review, if I had I would have suggested it be put on hold pending heavy editing. Why? At our current rates of technological progress we don't really know what our technological landscape will look like in 5-10 years, we can't even guess what will be in prototyping 50 years from now. So in effect the question asks us to extrapolate 50 years of technological progress (at even higher rates than we now experience), a primarily opinion based exercise. Then to decide on which of those extrapolated technologies would have the greatest appeal to a group we know nothing about beyond the historical era which their technology most closely resembles, a story based decision, and one we don't have the information to make concrete suggestions about.

This question is further complicated by the fact that Group B may not wish to share certain information, you've said that not sharing technology isn't an option, the border is too porous, but that doesn't mean that Group B will want to share everything so open trade in any number of goods may be restricted for reasons we can't judge due to the lack of detail about their culture.


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