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Sometimes a question is asked and there are answers in the spirit of the question.

Usually there are also nitpickers in the comments who try to find every possible loophole. To close all the loopholes in advance could require a long essay that no-one would want to read.

I can see the advantages and disadvantages of this.

Disadvantages - The loopholes may be peripheral to the actual spirit of the question and distract from what is really being asked. These lists occur in the comments and may thus be ruled as discussions.

Advantages - If you are going to use this scenario for game-play or literature, then players/readers may also nitpick. It's good to be prepared and have answers.


Increasingly I find myself trying to anticipate every possible nitpick but slightly resenting it because it is so time consuming.

Are there tips or techniques for coping with this?

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for fanning the nostalgia for my long gone youth. It's a great rhetorical device to attribute ill-defined actions to a nebulous group of people, without bothering to actually give specific examples. Anyway, isn't this exactly what comments are for? People expose loopholes in comments, you plug the exposed loopholes. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 2 '18 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ tips or techniques for coping with this <- dealing with resenting critical feedback or for building a question with few loopholes or very specific criteria? If the first, you might look at other SE sites which have similar questions. I know that academia.SE and SoftwareEngineering.SE have some interesting related posts and other SE sites should too $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Dec 4 '18 at 2:44
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    $\begingroup$ Throughout my journey in worldbuilding I have came across several savage nitpickers, have many battle with them and all ended badly for me but it does get better because you will gain more experience and knowledge. My advice is don't feed them and definitely don't provoke the packs unless you have a death wish😉 $\endgroup$ – user6760 Dec 7 '18 at 4:20
  • $\begingroup$ Worth noting, that some questions are asked in a certain spirit but are, due to details, impossible to actually answer. I nitpick to fix these issues so other answers aren't outright wrong. $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Dec 15 '18 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ @ Sora Tamashii - I think that's a fair comment. I have the feeling there is a fundamental problem with regard to Worldbuilding and the SE structure. Sometimes it works (and has worked for me) but sometimes, especially with magic, there can be no fully specified question simply because with magic anything can happen. I'm thinking of a way to tackle this. I'm sure I will come across a lot of inertia from regulars but I'll try to formulate it anyway and suggest it on Meta - probably after Christmas now. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Dec 15 '18 at 22:03
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There's a difference between loop holes and "the spirit of the question." Which are you asking about?

And if you're wondering why I asked that question...

Asking a good question is hard — even for experienced users. Everyone needs to remember the following list, which is in no way comprehensive.

  • No question is perfect.

  • There will almost always be people who understand the facts and intent of a question.

  • There will almost always be people who do NOT understand the facts and intent of the very same question.

  • Every question can have its frame challenged.

  • Every question can generate ideas about how to make the situation better (or worse).

  • There are alternatives to every answer (in 99.9% of cases).

Therefore...

  1. As often as I can stand it, I'll take the OP at his/her word. I realize I'm dealing with everyone from young children who don't have enough experience to know they're not asking a well thought-out question to highly trained experts who know more about their subject than I ever will or could. (Why that spread? Because sometimes I know the OP has weaknesses and doesn't realize it, and sometimes I have the weaknesses and don't realize it.)

  2. When I can't stand it, I'll point out the issues. (My tolerance has a lot to do with how well my day's going... Sorry....)

Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with pointing out the issues. As frustrating as it is to OPs (it has been to me, I get it), requesting clarifications and even casting close votes when the OP won't or can't clarify is what makes the OP a better question asker. People who see this process as belittling, bullying, inconvenient, or simply nit-picking haven't yet realized how very hard it is to ask a clear and complete question.

As for how to cope with it? I suggest chocolate and regularly taking breaks from the site. I mean that. There are absolutely amazing people in the SE universe like Monica Cellio and HDE 226868 who never seem to get ruffled by the nonsense. Then there's people like me who, if I don't take a break now and again, will find myself beating my monitor with my keyboard because I've convinced myself the OP d'jour is an unwashed barbarian.

And to make a point: if you let yourself get wrapped up in this (or any) site too much, then the site starts to become unfriendly — very much like StackOverflow, where a small minority of people had become so wrapped up in the site (believing their time was being wasted if OPs weren't perfect) that they forced SE to overhaul their be-nice policy in a valiant effort to put a stop to it. Find a way to both never believe your time spent on this site was wasted and to never waste your time on this site.

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    $\begingroup$ I love your answer. $\endgroup$ – Renan Dec 3 '18 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ I agree. It's very insightful. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Dec 3 '18 at 11:56
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It seems to be a trade-off between different types of clarity

I find myself in the same kind of predicaments you speak of all the time, and so I can relate. I will initially try to make my question short and concise, but then after reviewing prior to posting, I will often find glaring loopholes, just as you allude to. As much as I'd like to keep the question short, I often find it necessary to include assumptions or other content for the sole sake of keeping things within a clearly defined solution space.

As great as that is for clarity in terms of the scope of the question, it does somewhat ironically sacrifice clarity in terms of readability. A question with lengthy assumptions / parameters takes time to parse through, and as anybody from a programming background or UX design will note, the user's patience with the page must be managed carefully. So it's a bit of a trade off. We may be satisfying the real nit-pickers out there, but at the expense of the casual or mild-enthusiasts who can only afford a quick read through. Seeing a lengthy question for such groups may well be off-putting.

My personal approach is to err on the side of robustness. I assume that the world building community is itself a filter, and as such creates a content consumption bias. If you are really interested in learning how worlds are built, then you must be interested and feel somewhat passionate about the subject, and thereby willing to wade through longer premises.

Ultimately it could be an art as much as it is a science inasmuch that a great question would be posed with minimal parameters but the direction/scope the OP desires would still be clear. I would aspire to that; easier said than done though.

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  • $\begingroup$ Oftimes questions not precluding those loopholes are closed for various reasons, when logic dictates that the answer sometimes must redefine the bounds of the question (see: the scientific method.) It is natural and (considered) efficient to presuppose some shared information in almost all exchanges, but anybody ignorant or coming from a different direction will naturally object. Nitpicking then is neither good nor bad, it just is, if one wants a broad base of response, one must accept a broad base of commencement. $\endgroup$ – Giu Piete Dec 2 '18 at 19:40
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I find that one single loophole destroys all context. This is specially true for the tag, and even more so for .

When I find loopholes in questions for those tags, I do answer to expose the loophole to the best of my capacity. Not (only) because I am evil, but because this helps the OP and other members to save time when reworking their questions and answers. The sooner a loophole is exposed, the sooner a new question may be opened that does not have it; or the sooner an edit may be done, if it does not invalidate any answers.

Loopholes are part of many world-building processes, and helping dealing with them is part of what we do.

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Dealing with this can be tricky, because the answer depends on the question. Often I find questions were written to target an unimaginably demanding goal. These questions often take the form of asking the answer to philosophical questions that philosophers have struggled with for thousands of years to no avail. Or perhaps they take the form of seek an answer that ever military leader in history would have drooled over. In these cases, nitpicking must be part of the answering process because we need to find a way out from the impossible question we've been given.

In less stringent cases, the nitpicking really isn't necessary. I agree that a short question that isn't written in legalees is a much better question for WorldBuilding. No point in making them bulletproof if you don't have to.

Somewhere in the middle, we have the XY problems, where the user really has some underlying need that isn't written into the question. The nitpicks, in this case, serve to try to peer into the outer question that the user really is asking.

The hard issue here is that often the person asking the question doesn't know enough about the topic to know where their question lies. Most people asking about how conscious AI's might operate have no idea that that topic has been studied to death in philosophy, and the answer is "We don't agree on what consciousness is, much less what a conscious AI behaves like." This should be no surprise: they're asking the question because they don't know the answer!

I do think the use of community wikis is the key to solving this. In the case of many topics, rather than nitpicking, we could simply link to a community-wiki answer which is used to provide the same feedback to everyone who asks a similar class of answers. Anyone who is asking for the perfect war strategy in their world can be pointed to a wiki describing just how hard it is to have a "perfect" strategy, and why no general in the history of mankind has ever had one.

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  • $\begingroup$ I pretty much agree with most of this, except the point on community wiki for many of the points laid out in this recent answer of mine. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Dec 4 '18 at 10:09
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"Nitpicking" in comments saves time and frustration

It protects question from becoming chameleons. If you find such comment under your question, you should be glad - you can edit your question to remove loophole. If it ends up in the answer, you are no longer allowed to do that.

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Perusing the answers and pondering this myself, I've come to realise two things.

  1. There are big-picture people and little-picture people. Top-down and bottom-up methods of answering.

  2. There is a disparity between scientific and magical questions.

For my question Would a Moon made of water pose a threat to Earth during eclipses? - I don't think I had a single nit-pick or maybe one that was a simple clarification.

However posing a magic-based question can be like stirring up a hornet's nest. Just defining the type of magic and what powers are available is pretty much impossible. There can be an indefinite number of "What if ..." scenarios. Or simply the comment that, "It's magic so anything is possible."

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  • $\begingroup$ Apparent "disparity" comes from the mere fact that science is well defined, and things not in the question can be found in a textbook or online, and quite often are simply known by most of people. Magic systems are not real, so things not in the question are left to be made up. See questions about time travel or traversible wormholes, discussion there is usually as heated as in magic questions. So questions where more is left untold and unclear attracts more comments - that's only expected, isn't it? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 6 '18 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ I agree. This question is partly about figuring out how to formulate a question well. Maybe I phrased it in a somewhat polarised way. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Dec 6 '18 at 11:53

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