Yes I'm aware Yes, questions can be Too Localized. But usually they are at far greater risk of being Too Broad exists, but I want to talk about something a little different.

Everything in this site is probably going to be "too broad" for a standard SE site. Most questions are "what if" questions that could be answered in myriad of ways. Even "localized" questions will likely have multiple valid answers, because Worldbuilding is not a direct science where there are yes or no answers. Anything is possible. So we may need to define "too broad" a little differently than most SE sites. My suggestion is something like

"A question needs to be answerable in a few paragraphs. A 'question' should only have one actually question inside it, and needs to have the context to be able to be answered in a specific way."

Basically I think we need to give people a little bit of a break when it comes too to broad. This site will easily produce multiple answers to a question, I think, because most questions will have multiple possibilities.

That aside, I think we should also consider discouraging downvoting of "too broad" questions, especially those of new users. Obviously people will vote how they want to vote, but I think we should have a sentiment of not downvoting these questions because it can be vary hard to grasp what is "too broad" on this site, because Worldbuilding is a very broad subject. I think it would be easy to get discouraged if your questions were constantly being closed and downvoted because you couldn't quite get how broad something could be.


2 Answers 2


There needs to be enough definition to guide voting

That’s really it. SE depends on votes and voting to work. A question needs to be specific enough to say “This is a good answer, that is not, because reasons,” so that a consensus can emerge and the best answers can come to the top.

If a question could be answered in too many ways, or the only way to answer it is to just list ideas which will never be exhaustive, that cannot happen. Answers all become equally good-but-not-complete: the best answer would just be one that includes all (or a lot) of the answers in one answer. If that’s the only way you can imagine answering a question, then it should be closed.

You avoid this by having specific criteria for judging answers. List details that an answer has to cover, include restrictions and constraints for answers to fit inside, whatever. “I need ideas,” even “I need ideas for this situation,” tend to be bad questions for SE. The system is poor at generating and refining those ideas (limited ability for back-and-forth refinement and discussion), and the community (should) expects a little more from question-askers.

That said, yes, this SE is different. We will have to get a feel for where line needs to be drawn. We will no doubt have to refine that line. We should probably allow things that are just a little against our better judgment, to see if they turn out well. But ultimately we have to remember that the most important thing is that answers can be voted on in a meaningful way.

  • $\begingroup$ I kinda realized after I posted this, that this might not be a good idea. $\endgroup$
    – DonyorM
    Sep 18, 2014 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ Some of the most interesting questions on WB are kinda broad. I would suggest erring quite significantly towards of leniency. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2014 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ @superluminary And a lot of those questions, while interesting, are answered very poorly – or answered with pure speculation, which amounts to the same thing. I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than that. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Oct 29, 2014 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ @KRyan - I'm all for holding ourselves to a high standard, but the nature of WB is that we can't actually know, for example, what an avian city might be like, or how a bug in the universe might manifest. We can however apply logic, imagination, reason and experience to come to a likely, though never definitively correct answer. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2014 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ @KRyan - I would argue that this is the nature of WB. We have to speculate, or we have nothing. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2014 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ @superluminary We can still do better than we have been. We can extrapolate from reality, with well-established explanations of how reality currently exists and then solid argumentation and reasoning for how we extrapolate from that to the answer we give. But many, many answers on this site amount to little more than “well, this sounds pretty neat!” They usually are pretty neat, but that isn’t enough for a good answer. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Oct 29, 2014 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @superluminary "We have to speculate, or we have nothing." Absolutely correct for WB. "We can however apply logic, imagination, reason and experience to come to a likely, though never definitively correct answer." That describes the WB method at its best. My sentiments exactly. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jan 26, 2017 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android And those sentiments are exactly why I've largely written this site off as useless. The signal to noise ratio here is absolutely abysmal. And no, that's neither correct nor 'best'. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Jan 26, 2017 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ @KRyan - It's a site about imaginary alternative universes. Primarily a resource for writers, gamers, and other creatives. There are no correct answers to be found here, nor can there ever be. We can only ever do our best. $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2017 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @superluminary Primarily, it's a Stack Exchange site, where I expect to be able to avoid noise. Instead I get lists of plausible or neat, but with no driving indicators of relative quality, making voting nothing more than a popularity contest. Better very much is possible. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Jan 26, 2017 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ @KRyan - so how would you fix it? We can't necessarily extrapolate from reality because we are talking about fantasy. I agree with you about including reasoning, answers should be based on logic, but when you're dealing with questions about magical pixies, logic can sometimes take a back seat to neatness IMO. Answers here are inherently subjective by definition. We are talking about things that don't exist, and no-one has ever seen. $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2017 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ @superluminary Answers should justify why the author thinks this is the right answer, and if there is no such answer, the question should be closed. This cannot and should not try to be the be-all, end-all place for discussing worldbuilding. In fact, it shouldn't be for discussing worldbuilding at all. It should be for answering specific questions about worldbuilding. And all of this isn't just ya know, my opinion coming in out of nowhere, this is SE policy and what SE defines itself to be. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Jan 26, 2017 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ @KRyan - Different SE sites have slightly different rules and cultures, and I think this is fair. I'm most active on Stack Overflow, where there is often a single right answer, and it is possible to categorise all knowledge for the good of the collective. Full categorisation is clearly not possible on WB since we're dealing with an infinite resource. Perhaps WB is not a good format for the SE format, but it seems a shame to close it down since it's such good fun. $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2017 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @superluminary Which is exactly why I, as someone who has not been active on the main site, do not have privileges to vote-to-close. But this is my answer that was commented on, so I’m offering my opinion. I thought—and still think—worldbuilding could be done well as an SE site. That’s why I was so active on meta at the beginning of the site. I don't think it is being done well as an SE site. That’s why I’m not active on the main part of the site, and stopped interacting with meta. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Jan 26, 2017 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ @KRyan - that's a shame. SE only works when people take an active interest. I take it all back. $\endgroup$ Jan 26, 2017 at 16:43

What is happening here (What would be the main societal changes if we invented a free and unlimited energy source tomorrow on earth?) is very interesting for this issue I believe:

The question started out as too broad, but because it was left open for long enough, people's comments helped narrow it down to a maybe localized enough question. It remains to be seen whether we're able to do that every time (or if it's even the case with this question), but I believe that we should encourage this kind of behavior on this site.

People will tend to come up with über broad questions because, just like you said, we like the "what if" sorts of things here. But we can narrow it down together and get something to work even when it started as "Too Broad".

Commenters are asking "what field are we targeting? Economics? Physics?", and "what time frame are we looking at? 1 day? 1 year?"... And this is good I think.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Actually, that is exactly how the system is supposed to work. If not before then at the point when the question is put on hold, there should be comments that discuss what is wrong (for some definition of the word) with the question, which allows either the original poster or someone else to edit the question to fit within the site's scope, if it can be made to fit (sometimes that isn't possible). After the question is edited, depending on whether it was put on hold/closed or not, it would either be eligible for reopening or the cast votes would simply not apply any longer (and start aging). $\endgroup$
    – user
    Sep 21, 2014 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ This is the entire reason it's called On Hold: don't allow answers (which would be bad answers because of the question's problems) until the problems are fixed, and then reopen. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Sep 22, 2014 at 0:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ These comments are good points but bearing in mind that we are likely to attract new users who may not be familiar with the other Stack Exchange sites, I think it is a good idea when close voting to add a comment (or upvote an existing such comment) to say that closing is not the end, and just means the question needs to be fixed before it can be reopened. I think it's important to encourage new users and highlight that their question is welcome, just not ready yet. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2014 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ @githubphagocyte That is also part of how the system is supposed to work, yes. In my experience (primarily on RPG SE), it usually does. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Sep 23, 2014 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ Can we define too broad a little more succinctly. Is is just a question of adding a timeframe and generalised framework for discussion? $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2014 at 21:36

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