A little frustrated here, but my motive is to discuss issues, not inflame things. I gravitated to this site with the intent of helping people construct their worlds, likely by contributing my knowledge and expertise in areas they lacked, and to hopefully receive the same from others. However, since joining, I have noticed that (and this is not just concerning my questions)

1) the general attitude of posters is condescending and largely unhelpful, with a decided bent toward a few people with a definite mental focus on pure science shutting down anyone who doesn't seem to be working on a real-world terraforming strategy.

2) the site's policies seem alright at first, but are biased against anyone with English as a second language and their strict and arbitrary enforcement shuts down anyone asking for help with any aspect of their world that is NOT raw numerical scientific in nature. Cultural insights, geographical knowledge, political structures, and many other vital portions of world/story building get no help at all and are shut down for being out of scope or too broad.

3) The over-the-top zeal with which peole seem to shoot down ideas makes me glad WB SE wasn't around to advise Roddenberry or Asimov, let alone Tolkien, or modern libraries probably wouldn't even HAVE a fiction section.

So, question would be a) am I somehow mistaken in this assessment? Or b) is there some way to at least partially rectify the above issues?

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    $\begingroup$ Not to be picky, but what is your question? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch Mod
    Sep 14, 2019 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch I tagged it as a discussion hoping that the issues could be discussed. But I added a question for clarity. $\endgroup$
    – HA Harvey
    Sep 14, 2019 at 7:04
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Cultural Worldbuilding and avoiding closure. $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2019 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ " a definite mental focus on pure science shutting down anyone who doesn't seem to be working on a real-world terraforming strategy" can you provide some examples? Also, we are expected to challenge assumptions if science-based or hard-science are used. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2019 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Cyn wrote a solid answer, I admit some users lack tact when commenting, but in the end they are trying to help out. On occasion people do cross lines, in those situations please flag a post or comment and the moderators can adjudicate and take any necessary steps to correct things. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 16, 2019 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ @James But, what if the person crossing the line is a moderator? $\endgroup$
    – overlord
    Sep 25, 2019 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ @overlord As a standard rule (at least on worldbuilding, can't speak for other sites) we moderators do not make decisions on questions/situations in which we are involved. Another moderator will see the flag and make a decision. The moderators aren't any more infallible than any other user and we give each other suggestions all the time. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 25, 2019 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Roddenberry, Asimov and Tolkien were visionary academics supremely capable of holding their ground when challenged, I should avoid belittling their capabilities. Asimov himself possessed a BSc, a D Phill, and was a tenured associate professor lecturing in Biochemistry. It's doubtful anything we might say could perturb his great works. $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2019 at 1:17

2 Answers 2


It is harder to write good questions about culture, politics, and other qualitative issues, but there are plenty of them on WB. As someone who has written 3 questions and seen two of them closed for being too broad (I edited one enough to reopen), I feel your pain. But the problem isn't that the site is bad, but that its mission is more narrow than you or I might want. This helps us too, because it weeds out a lot of the questions whose scope is too much.

I have not seen any bias against people who speak English as a second language, as long as they're able to adequately explain their question. I often edit those questions to improve their English, and clear questions do get more upvotes. But we are a truly international site and, though our discussion language is strictly English, we are made up of a truly linguistically and culturally diverse user population.

Yeah, there are annoying people here. And everywhere else. There are people who ridicule questions or answers in ways that are not helpful. For example, I got some of that for asking questions that involved child characters (why someone thinks it's useful to refer to my characters as "snot-nosed brats" and worse, I'll never know).

But there are also helpful people who make insightful or supportive comments and give terrific answers.

The mission of having clear focused questions with ratable answers does indeed bias the site towards pure science and math, but take a look at the body of questions. There is a big variety here.

To formulate better questions, use the Sandbox. I wish more people would read over proposed questions and comment, because it's common to get no response or just one person giving an opinion (and maybe getting caught up in a side issue). But still, the advice there can be very useful.

It takes a while to understand a new culture, and that's what WB is. Stick around, read a lot, answer some questions, and you'll feel more comfortable here.

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    $\begingroup$ I've seen a fair amount of harsh language in comments around misunderstanding questions where the error is simply a missing or incorrect article. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Sep 16, 2019 at 7:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix I know for myself, if I say I don't understand a question, it's really because I don't understand. If I find a grammatical error in someone's post, I just fix it (or I ask if it's unclear). I won't disagree with you about some people who aren't nice about questions they don't like. Most people are pretty decent though. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Sep 16, 2019 at 15:06

To be frank about it, yes. There are a certain cohort of people on this site that have their heads so far up their tails they're at risk of recursion. Yes, there are some generally self-righteous commentators who pull apart an answer or question they don't properly understand and seem to troll the site more than provide any real value.

But in all fairness, that is also a reasonably accurate description of my workplace. Perhaps even my extended family. Despite this, I have remained on the site since starting just under 2 years ago at the time of writing this (Sept 2019), I keep going to work and I don't (mostly) try to avoid family gatherings. Why?

Because your first premise (a) isn't correct. Sure, these people exist, and there are days when they seem to be the most prolific contributors to the site. And sure; there are days when that's all you see in your comment block and you wonder why you keep doing this. But you need to remember 3 things here.

1) We don't encourage 'well done' comments
If a question or answer is well formed in the first place and there's nothing you can add, we don't generally encourage people to post 'attaboy' comments because it would detract from question or answer directly. We expect answers and questions to be of good quality in the first place and as such the lack of support comments is a reflection of the high bar we set for ourselves.

2) Comment Fields are short
Some of the most useful comments I've received on the site have at first seemed to me to be terse. When you only have a couple of hundred characters to work with, brevity is important but it comes at the price of a lot of 'softening' language that would normally assure the recipient that the advice is constructive and discourage taking the comment personally.

3) We tend to be biased towards believing our work is of high quality
This is a trickier one, but I've learned it the hard way directly on this site so I would like to share it with you. When you do get a '+1, great answer, just a small nitpick' comment, I personally don't feel as much of a positive emotional response to that as I do from a 'you don't know what you're writing about' comment. I already tend to believe that my answer is good because otherwise I wouldn't post it. So the negative feedback comes as more of a blow; just saying. Sometimes, I believe the criticsm to be helpful and somewhat well founded. Other times, not so much. I have probably guessed wrong in both cases. Point is after a while, you learn to roll with it.

In any event, I have been as guilty as anyone else in recent times of biting back when I think I'm being trolled or I'm dealing with the self-righteous. I'm trying really hard not to respond to these and just ignore them. Consider me a recovering responder who lapses every now and then.

Which brings me to the whole point of this missive. The answer to your (b) question is yes, there IS something we can all do. Just ignore (or in severe cases, flag) comments you feel are unhelpful. In the early days I tried to take everyone's feedback into account and edit my answer so as to avoid negative feedback, and all that happened is that I twisted my answers into something that didn't get the neg votes changed and restricted my ability to get more upvotes.

On this site, whether we like it or not, and largely due to the time limits after edits in which people can change their vote, once you have neg votes, they're there to stay. So, if the comment is helpful in your opinion, by all means edit your question or answer to reflect the new information. If it isn't, my advice is to simply ignore it. If the votes on your answer in particular are ALL neg votes, delete and move on. We've all put up an answer which hasn't been worthy of us in the past, even (if not especially) me. Don't let it stop you from contributing in the future however. Just delete the ones that are tanking and get on with providing new questions or answers and learn from the experience.

To be frank, I believe that the vast majority of people on this site are good people, trying to help out others, sometimes by providing frank and fearless advice to the posters who contribute in prime. SE can seem like a critical and unforgiving environment but it's important to note that the very design of the site, and the standard to which we hold ourselves, makes it far more likely that comments will sound negative. Your positive feedback is the rep score of your contribution instead. So; while 3x neg comments may hit you harder emotionally than a score of 30+ on your contribution, the rep score is actually the stronger indicator that your contribution is valued.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the point on realizing you wrote a bad answer...I've done that a few times...I go back and read it later and realize...oh, the commenters have a point, this is garbage. ..' $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 25, 2019 at 20:58

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