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Quoting from JBH's comment on a recent Anatomically Correct Series (ACS) question

This is a place to help people build worlds, not indulge in whims. There are clear precedents in Meta that this forum is NOT for extending pre-existing or commercial worlds (which Minecraft clearly is). There are other forums for that purpose. I've noticed over the last 6 months a number of complaints that ACS is getting muddied by low-quality entries.

Personally I share the feeling that lately the ACS has been abused to post a series of questions with weak worldbuilding content and more of a "I have a list of creatures, let's use it to make a list of ACS questions on them".

Our help center clearly states that we want questions which are more than just mindless social fun.

Therefore my question to the community:

Shall we narrow down the scope of the ACS or not? If so, how?

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    $\begingroup$ cough I think this might be helpful: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7775/… cough $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Apr 17 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ It's been over 2 years since I was last active on this site in any form. Not only am I incredibly shocked that ACS has become such a staple, but that I'm still in such a high percentile. $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Apr 29 at 6:46
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I'm still really sore at SE.inc, so forgive me that this probably has a pretty harsh tone.

Before I begin, every user should understand something. Users like HDE226868, L.Dutch and many others have unbelievable training and knowledge, and they're willing to take the time to explain answers to people (like me!) who would need YEARS of additional schooling to figure it all out ourselves. It's a GIFT that they share their knowledge and experience with nobody's like us. There's a considerable social presence on Stack Exchange and a great many people enjoy it. But if you think the social presence is the primary reason this site exists or that this is simply something fun to spend an hour goofing around with — you're showing CONSIDERABLE disrespect to those talented people who could literally be doing anything else more valuable with their time.

  1. Stack Exchange (ALL of Stack Exchange) has one overriding purpose: to help the next person in line to find answers to their questions. If your question has no practical future application for another author (and saying to yourself, "oh, somebody might make use of it!" doesn't cut the mustard) — it doesn't belong here.

  2. This site's original purpose (and, insofar as I know, it's current purpose) is to help people develop fictional worlds of their own design. In that regard it is fundamentally a writing resource. If you're question hasn't been posted for that purpose, it doesn't belong here.1

  3. We are NOT the dumping ground for questions that are not or will not be accepted on other stacks. It was a whomping big issue just allowing real-world questions that could be (and often should be) addressed on other stacks. Simplifying an avalanche of posts and discussion: we decided to allow it because questions starting with "I'm building a fictional world..." tended to be ignored or closed on other stacks. The fact that we were nice about that is not a precedent.

Further...

  • We've addressed the issue of commercial worlds many times: they're off-topic unless you can describe how an aspect of that commercial world can fall inside your own world without infringing copyright. Has that changed?

  • ACS questions that don't extend the body of useful information for worldbuilding purposes aren't just a waste of the resource — they dilute the resource. There are so many questions right now that it would take days to parse through them.

  • Multiple ACS questions from the same author are, IMHO by definition, an abuse of this site. Once we've shown you how to develop an evolution for one of your creatures (assuming the issue hasn't been dealt with adequately by previous ACS questions or other WB questions), we frankly shouldn't be asked a second (or a third, or a fourth...) time. I'm sure somewhere in the Help Center it says that we're not here to write your story for you. We're technically not here to build your world for you. We're here to help you overcome practical limitations with your own creativity.

Roughly speaking, the bottom third of the ACS list has nowhere near the quality of the top two-thirds.

How to narrow down the scope

I frankly don't think the ACS or site rules and expectations are unclear at all. I do believe a number of the posters have been lazy and abusive — relying on our willingness to simply let them have their way. Therefore...

Close questions that don't meet the posted requirements for ACS and this site instantly. Once closed, delete them both from Main and from the ACS list. Ban users who don't figure out the problem the second or third time. Asking why it happened is always acceptable. Whining that it is happening is IMO prima facie evidence that the OP is either goofing off or refusing to understand this site's purpose.

OPs: we have a chat room where people will help you figure this all out and a sandbox (I assume it's still in operation) where you can field test questions before posting them on Main. If you can't be bothered to use them (or read the Help Center, or filter through the discussions on Meta) then don't be surprised by your reception.

Ladies and gentlemen, like every other aspect of real life, this IS NOT a judgement-free zone. You'll go to jail for breaking the law in real life... there's an equivalent consequence here — and we've been really nice about it thus far.

Yeah, that sounded harsh. Someday I'll cool off.


1Yes, you will find questions posted that are not about worlds in active development. I've posted a few like that myself. But those questions should and usually are posted for the specific purpose of exposing an issue of interest to other authors — to bring useful information about issues legitimate authors can and will face to light. They don't set a precedent for silly questions. And yes, I'm more than willing to express my belief that a question is unworthy.

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    $\begingroup$ Well said! I only disagree with you on one point: that we are fundamentally a "writing resource" and that if your question isn't posted for that purpose, it "doesn't belong here" --- just NO, we may be a resource for writers, but we are also a resource for worldbuilders whether they are writers or not, as many people do this for fun or to develop games or for some other non-literary reason. (cont...) $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 18 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ ... I've long disagreed with WB.SE on the "real world" questions. Those questions really are not on topic here at all. Otherwise, I don't think your tone was harsh, and I really don't think you're a "nobody"! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 18 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ Hanlon's Razor, please. I understood a different purpose of Worldbuilding.SE based on how I draw fun out of it. Now that I'm corrected, I voted to close my own question. It sounds however like you are assuming malice or other severe character flaws on the part of some of these other question-askers, rather than consider the possibility that they too misunderstood this website. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Apr 18 at 20:50
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YES

How? Use you super diamond powers and cast the offenders (or at least the offenders' questions) into the Outer Void!

At the very least, I think the ACS Hub here on Meta ought to spell out the expectation that third party intellectual properties are off topic. Not only for ACS, but generally speaking for WB.SE in general. The forum appropriate for those queries is SciFi/F.

It would also be helpful, perhaps even more helpful, to list examples of what types of creatures we're looking for in the ACS. Are we looking for traditional folklore or mythology? How about creatures of literature? Creatures of motion pictures? How far removed, really, are creatures found in game properties from those found in ancient myths? After all, the only guidance given is create fictional creatures in a realistic evolutionary way which would certainly include everything in Minecraft!

But let's not be hasty! I'd just like to note that you yourself edited the Pikachu ACS question, and also provided an answer! Let's be clear: there is no worldbuilding content in that question. It's a straight up third-party intellectual property question. It serves no function other than to satisfy idle curiosity.

That said, how are you suggesting already existing but inappropriate queries be handled?


Well, to answer my own question, I've started by voting to close the commercial / third party questions and the ream of (in my opinion spammy) low quality questions. Have met with OP push back. Will invite him to participate in this discussion.


I've combed through perhaps the last 20 or 30 entries on the list. Most are what I'd consider "low quality" and several clearly ask about third party intellectual properties. I've invited the asker of most of these questions to chime in here.

I do think we need to refine the expectations a bit to reflect the need for worldbuilding context a/o an actual worldbuilding problem that needs solving. Too many of the questions are "name of mythical monster + 2 or 3 data points about it + the tag 'how can this evolve'". I don't think that provides sufficient worldbuilding context. Even if you're writing a story about said monsters!

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    $\begingroup$ The reason why I am triggering this discussion with the community is that I don't want to use my mod hammer to enforce "my" standard on the community. I'd rather want the community to agree on a way forward and enforce it on its own. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Apr 17 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica -- Fair enough. For my part, I'm just saying, go ahead and hammer away on the obvious offenders! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 17 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ A slap on the wrist for repeated the offenders sounds fair, if it is brought up on their next post of that kind or at least make them aware they have to describe their character which has similarities which seems like more a valid question, they could even ask those questions outside of the AC series if they have original ideas. $\endgroup$ – user69935 Apr 17 at 15:01
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Require context, and some up-front effort

I personally do not know if "How could Pikachu function" would be accepted on the scifi stack exchange. For one there's that site having a different approach - it is defined by its contents, rather than the answering approach, in which Worldbuilding seems quite unique. "How does the Force work?" is a question that can be answered with nothing but references to canon. "How would this Force-like magic system work?" requires creative input, and it is one of the joys of this site, as I experience it.

Similarly, "Why do redshirts die?" has a canon answer: they're used for security. In contrast, the brilliant answers to "Why does the Conjoined Alliance of Space Travellers keep producing red uniforms?" lists wonderful possible alternative and highly creative reasons as to why some crewmen wear red. It is rightfully one of the most popular questions on the site. Such answers however go directly against established Star Trek Stellar Trip canon, and would not be as appreciated on the other site.

So I think there's definitely a case for asking for stuff similar to existing works - it just should not require a "canon" answer. In fact, those should be discouraged. "Well, in the show Star Trek redshirts die because they are in security." would be a valid answer to the linked question, but not necessarily the best one. I do not know if Pokémon explains where Pikachu's powers come from, but if it or some ancillary work does, the SciFi site would treat that as the answer, and Worldbuilding as an answer.

So, instead of banning the genre outright, I would just require more effort to be put into questions asking about existing media, and specifically giving it more context that defines the creature or element more narrowly than the source material does. So a slightly more valid Pikachu question would be like this:

What's the closest you could get to a Pikachu within these parameters?

A basic Pikachu has these qualities:

  • […]
  • […]
  • […]

Now, I have a world where their electricity should be purely biological or they evolved with their general shape and colourations until magic came and added the electric powers or the creatures are domesticated by humans yet they will eagerly fight their own kind or one or more other things that narrow the query down from "poof me this thing into existence".

The last thing is the most important. Creature design should have a narrower scope than "how it is depicted in traditional media", which is vague and unfair to those unfamiliar with said media. And a creature design question should be more than a list of qualities, it should also give an angle, the questioner's take on the creature. Best would be if they already have some idea on how a rodent could channel lightning, and asked to have it verified; but I also like more open-ended questions.

As long as you further narrow it down from the source material, existing IP questions are fine with me. If the source material has already defined the thing and its history precisely, then you can ask a broader question instead, such as: "Could mammals evolve electric powers?" - which would no longer be an Anatomically Correct question.

tl;dr: require more than a list of bullet points, require context and an angle

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  • $\begingroup$ Full disclosure: I asked one of these. In my defence, I was more curious about the "energy creature passing through glass" aspect than about accurately representing the book, and I did decide to not take literally at least of metaphor describing them as "holding their breath" which did not seem appropriate - but take this how you will. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Apr 17 at 13:39
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the only rule set in stone (or at least what I thought was the only was the only definite musts) for Anatomically Correct Series is to be a fictional creatures in a realistic evolutionary way and they had to present something new to the.

  • they had to be specific with the question not just be "could Elves commonly found in fantasy stories realistically exist" without any more clarification
  • they had to stay within the realm of biology (no magic or pseudoscience)
  • they had to present something new the ACS

now why yes i'll admit some of my question could be considered as low quality like my "Anatomically Correct Catgirls"question or my "Anatomically Correct Shrek" question as this site isn't meant for joke questions but may others like Anatomically Correct Orang Pendek, Gargoyles, Mothman, ect... don't violate the rules even if we agree that AC isn't for creatures from commercial worlds

Do i think any and all Anatomically Correct questions involving copy righted creatures should be closed on sight?

no since the 18th question with "Anatomically Correct Xenomorph" to me (and presumably others) asking about creatures outside the public domain became fair game and i think that forbidding "commercial organism" may seriously keep plenty of interesting questions from ever reach the light of day

Should the scope of the Anatomically Correct Series be narrowed down?

why yes i'll admit AC needs more quality control and that i'm at least partly responsible for that which a lot of them not belonging on the site (mostly because at least in the begging they weren't made for AC but i was later convinced to add them).

Solutions

as KeizerHarm stated requiring more effort to be put into questions asking about existing media is probably the best option as it would limit the number of them as well as increase the overall quality

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for joining! Couple points: Commercial properties, those are already off topic. Asking an ACS query about a commercial property doesn't change that. As far as your solution, I think that's a good one. I'm just going to tell you straight up, if you work at improving your string of ACS questions to the point where they at least show some thought on your part (I think if you really look at them, you didn't put a lot of thought into those questions) (cont) $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 18 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ and give us some worldbuilding context to work with (in particular, the workings of your own fictional world!), then I will be more than happy to retract VTC and would happily nominate closed queries for reopening. The truth: I really like this series of questions and I think your subseries in particular has a lot of potential. But it's potential that you as querent haven't really lived up to. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 18 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas OK so the main concept of my world trying to put all this fantasy creatures and races from around the world into a realistic world (meaning no magic). so basic giving them a evolutionary history and making obey the law of physics $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 Apr 19 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ The 18th question was asked two years BEFORE the ACS rule modifications, which invokes ACS modified rule bullet #5: pre-existing ACS questions MAY NOT be used as precedent. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 19 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ Icewar, let me say that another way. Rules change, and the rules of this site have changed considerably from its earliest days. "Today's rules" are the only rules that count. There are questions from the earliest days that would be closed instantly had they been asked today. No past question is ever precedent to justify a question that skirts or violates "today's rules." Ultimately, the OP is responsible for figuring out what "today's rules" are. If you ask, lots of people will help - but SE's basic VTC behavior everywhere is VTC often and fast. (Chicago's Mayor Daley would be proud.) $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 19 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, "today's rules" become "tomorrow's rules" through discussion here on Meta - but you'll find resistance to certain issues. Commercial property is one of the hot potatoes. "Today's rules" basically state that asking about somebody else's world violates the fundamental spirit of this site. Somebody else already created that world and they have first dibs on how it can or should be modified. Thus, it's hands-off unless you can rationalize how to not break copyright bringing something from that world into yours. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 19 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ Finally, the ACS "question" that heads the ACS list of questions has a very specific set of rules. They are the rules set in stone (not just one...) unless modified with community consent (and TrEs-2b's consent as he/she started the series and owns the question). Please review those rules. Bullet #5 is one of your problems. $\endgroup$ – JBH Apr 19 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH ok it's just from what i saw no rule really talked about Commercial property just that they had to be specific with a lot of detail, have links to specific examples of the creature, include important psychical and behavioral attributes of the creature and that past questions shouldn't be used to justify later ones $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 Apr 19 at 11:28
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    $\begingroup$ 1. And also there should be some kind of substantial connexion with your own worldbuilding. After all, our primary purpose is to help YOU build YOUR OWN fictional world. 2. The commercial property rule doesn't just apply to the ACS questions; that's forum wide. It could perhaps be clarified within the ACS question, and perhaps elsewhere. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 20 at 20:36

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