Can someone explain why the linked Anti-Gerrymandering question was migrated to Politics.SE?

Build an Anti-Gerrymandering Political System

It already had a wealth of answers, so obviously a number of site users thought it was on topic. Asking to design a new system is generally off-topic in politics.SE, but gerrymandering is a "popular" topic, so it will likely stay open.

Staying on WB would allow for more fantastical solutions. The original question doesn't specifically disallow that, or place any restrictions on magicial/high-tech enforcement. Though the OP may not actually want those, they didn't go out of their way to say so.

WB requires users to bring adjacent expertise. If every WB question that could be answered with real-world science was moved on, we'd have a lot less traffic.


I would like to expand on L.Dutch's answer.

Two years ago we tried to tackle this issue with "A proposal to finalize the 'are real-world questions on-topic' debate." Generally speaking, the policy became "people can ask real-world questions so long as they have a worldbuilding reason for doing so."

If you search Meta for questions about real-world questions, what you'll discover is that the proposal helped, but did not solve the problem. To quote Secespitus,

If we just allow every question we turn into a "Please google that for me" and a "Which Wikipedia site contains these keywords?" search engine. That's not what the site is supposed to be and not what the value should be.

Consequently, all real-world questions fall on a hair-line balance. That's just the way it is. There is no clear-cut solution because, in a very real sense, if we just open the gates and allow any question to be asked here we quite literally will become Stack Exchange's dumping ground: the Stack to which all other Stacks send the questions they don't want to answer.

To be fair, while the vast majority of questions on this site can be and are answered with real-world expertise, it's actually somewhat uncommon for a real-world question to be asked directly. Think about it. Real-world space ships extend all the way to the Space Shuttle. Anything else beyond that is Worldbuilding by definition because the ships don't exist (even if the expertise to answer the question does).

As time passed (and you'll see why I say that if you read through that lengthy history of real-world question discussions) I've come to realize the wisdom of erring on the side of "we answer real-world questions, but we also don't answer real-world questions." The goal is more than user volume. It must be or this stack really has no value at all.

The goal is quality questions about worldbuilding.

Therefore, despite being one of the respondents to the question in question, I do agree with L.Dutch that the worldbuilding context wasn't just thin, it was non-existent — and I should have known better. A sincere worldbuilder is working on the rules of a fictional world of their own creation. Saying something vague, or worse, something like "I'm working on a world just like Earth..." and then expecting us to answer the question is (and should be) a reason to migrate the question.

BTW, within an hour of migrating the question, my answer got to more up-votes. :-)

One more thing. You state, "The original question doesn't specifically disallow that, or place any restrictions on magicial/high-tech enforcement." I just finished writing an answer to Is it okay to edit? that touches on that kind of statement.

You don't know the mind of the OP. You don't know what he/she intended, wanted, or expected. You don't know the background of the question or its motivation. You literally don't know if anything you said is true. What you're doing is assuming those are true, and based on those assumptions, you're wondering why the question was migrated.

The harsh reality is, the question was migrated on its merits, not on its potential. Just as questions are (and should be) closed on their merits, not their potential.

No Stack should be allowed to become a free-for-all.

  • $\begingroup$ Does the worldbuilding context need to be relevant to the question? In the gerrymandering question, would the mention that the population of the nation is composed of intelligent griffins be sufficient reason to keep it on Worldbuilding.SE - even if their species has nothing to do with the problem? $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 22 '20 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ And you say that asking about spaceships that do not exist is a worldbuilding question by definition. The gerrymandering question was asking about laws that do not exist. I at least don't know any systems that give representatives votes in proportion to their number of voters at the last election. So what's the difference there - other than that it asked for "What ways are there to do X", rather than "Would solution X work" - which is a reason to close it as too broad, not off-topic. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 22 '20 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm The gerrymandering question was asking about changing existing laws. The gerrymandering question might have been retained on this site had the OP explained the political starting point and the desired endpoint, identifying both the conditions and the consequences of the question. That's good advice for all questions. Unfortunately, we were left with "in-real-life-today" conditions. Sorry. If you want to substantially change how the mods do things, you'll likely need to become a mod yourself. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 22 '20 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ I don't want to change anything, I first want to understand how it works now. Please believe me when I say that. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 22 '20 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm -- the worldbuilding context becomes relevant to the question the more of it there is! If the OP had asked from the perspective of intelligent griffins, I'd still VTC due to lack of details or clarity: how does the concept of political gerrymandering fit into the biology, neurology, culture, history, society, etc of these griffins? Once the OP gives sufficient background and context, then I'd say it's a good question. Otherwise, just throwing griffins into the question leads to the problem of the red herring. You end up with a query that has an irrelevant fictional element... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 22 '20 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ ... upon which is asked a perfectly ordinary real world question. The context and the question have to be clearly related in order for the question to work here. So, a question like given that griffins are hard-wired to inhabit & defend their chosen home territory,how would gerrymandering.... gives us something about the world that we can actually use to answer the question. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 22 '20 at 22:01

That a question receives answers is not an indicator that it belongs to worldbuilding.

Before the linked question being migrated, it was already closed for being off topic and had received several flags in the same direction. Since I deemed the worldbuilding part to be pretty weak

For a hypothetical world [...]

I opted for the migration.

As pointed out somewhere in the SE community: "How do I conjugate the past tense of the verb to be on a 737?" is not a question about aviation, but about the English language.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not the OP, but it's always been vague to me personally to what extent a worldbuilding question which can be answered with logic in a field of science should be migrated to the SE community about said science. We have a lot of questions about vehicle and spaceship design; should they all go to Engineering.SE? What is the boundary exactly? $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 21 '20 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm -- there is no objective boundary, only subjective boundaries. I'd say this query is off topic here, because as L Dutch says, there is literally no worldbuilding context to speak of. OP could have left it out and the question (and answers) would really be no different. The problem with acontextual queries like this is that they either end up being entirely opinion based, because everyone assumes a different sort of context to place their answers in; or else it's seen as unanswerable because the OP didn't give any fictional world context with which we can offer good answers. ... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 22 '20 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ ... I'd say the space ship design queries are on topic because they generally involve fictional technologies and fictional engineering. Real space ship design ought to be exported to a different forum. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 22 '20 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I am assuming for the moment that the gerrymander-question-asker thought they had provided all the context required to answer the question; that they consider further background what some would call "fluff". Assuming you believe context is generally relevant, what's the purpose? Is it there to provide a mental confirmation that the work at hand is fictional, or is it so that answerers have a hook to do light frame challenges rather than answer narrowly what the OP is interested in? $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 22 '20 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas For the record, I frequently have the opposite problem; my questions are often 75% backstory. I am frequently mentally compelled to cut as much as possible so that the question itself becomes the focus instead of the background. Identifying the purpose of the context as identified by Worldbuilding.SE community can help me zone in on what I need to keep. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 22 '20 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm -- You could well be correct in what the OP was thinking. As we're discussing in the other question, I hold that the purpose of context is, pragmatically, to make a question on topic in the WB.SE forum! :) The other purpose of worldbuilding context is to help direct the creativity of the respondents. It gives them a foundation to work from. Ideally, this in turn will give the querent a useful answer, and hopefully will allow the community to enjoy a creative, and perhaps entertaining answer! How broad or narrowly they answer the question is at the discretion of the respondent. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 22 '20 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm -- I think that's a pretty good background to question ratio. Deciding what to cut and what to keep is an entirely different discussion! You might end up cutting some curious factoid that I might use to construct a wonderful answer, for example. But of course, I'm not asking you to keep everything just on the off chance someone will use it in a response. I think, perhaps, if you read through your background and with every detail ask does this detail directly flow into my question? you'll put yourself on the right track. In my examples, I mentioned that everyone rides... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 22 '20 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ ...purple and gold unicorns. If I apply my above suggestion, I'd have to say that, no, purple and gold unicorn riding doesn't really directly flow into the question of gerrymandering. I could safely leave that fact out and not affect the important context or the question. If my background were pushing four or five long paragraphs, I'd probably choose to edit those kinds of "fluff" details out. If my question were already pretty slim, I might actually choose to add in some "fluff" details, in the hopes that they might spark some really extra creative and fantastic answers. ... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 22 '20 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ ... I'd actually recommend keeping the question itself edited and pared down to its essential minimum; and perhaps splurge a little on the worldbuilding context. (Approaching, perhaps, an 80% ~ 20% ratio.) Long winded questions can become confusing ; though sometimes a question just has to be long and convoluted in order for the OP to get what they want. At 75% ~ 25%, I think you are in no danger of overdoing or underdoing either the question or background. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 22 '20 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I will come back to your comments tomorrow and give them a better read; my brain is not all there at this moment, I fear. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 22 '20 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas Sorry for not coming back to this, by the way. I have digested the message over time and found that I didn't have anything to respond by the end. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Nov 12 '20 at 22:36

I would like to know why it got closed and migrated. I still don't know. There's talk of balance and imperfect division but I still don't know why it was moved. I don't know what I did wrong but I'm sorry for asking a bad question.

This was a big deal, I had lurked here for a while and had started to get comfortable enough to ask, only to find your question got moved onto a much bigger site that I wasn't familiar with. It took me a while to build up the nerve to sign up to that site and start reading the new answers.

I asked the original question on worldbuilding.stackexchange because it was concerning a fictional world. The narrative was for a group of colonists to of escaped Earth and wanted to make a fresh start, learning from the mistakes of the past. No griffins sorry. I'm sorry I didn't put this detail in the question, but I got a comment immediately after I posted it pointing out that my "gerrymandering = bad" assumption was a reason to close because it was opinionated, and it got immediately voted -1.

  • $\begingroup$ Don't worry about the Meta-down vote. While they might seem more chatty Meta threads are frequently more subject to down voting and trying to keep a focus on Answers, rather than this which actually seems like really useful context for the original question. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Oct 23 '20 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ Couple points for consideration: first, I'm glad you actually took the time to lurk & observe! A lot of new users simply don't bother. Second, of course, we really didn't intend to cause you any extra stress by migrating your query! There's really no need to get worked up about signing on to a different SE forum. The basic "SE experience" should be pretty much the same anywhere you go within the site. Third, I don't know if you've done this already, but I think it would be helpful for you to put all this in context if you were to review our (somewhat imperfect) ... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ ... tour and take a look at the help center and also review what Worldbuilding is all about. Essentially, the only thing you did "wrong" was to post a good question in the wrong forum. Your question is pretty much what actual political scientists, political parties, legislative organisation, and the like actually do. Gerrymandering is generally considered to be a Bad Thing, and when it happens, people get irate and other people work to fix it. So, your question is what we'd characterise as ... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ ... a real world query without any fictional world context. This simply means that it's off topic in our forum, even though you wrote a tantalising little tag "for a hypothetical world" That is hardly sufficient context for us to deal with the question here. As you review those resources, you'll find that our focus in WB is fictional worlds. These could be fantasy worlds, sci-fi worlds, mythological worlds, fairy tale worlds, alt-historical settings, historical fantasy settings, etc. From that perspective, what you did wrong here was to not provide us any background or context... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ ...that would allow us to understand what kind of fictional world or setting you're asking your question about. Our basic goal here is to help you understand your own fictional world better and to offer some ideas on building this fictional world through our answers. To that end, we aren't a search engine or a homework aggregator. Our expectation from querents is that they will respect the time and effort that respondents put into this forum by providing questions in the basic setting of a fictional world, including background on what kind of world we're dealing with: in your case, this... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ ...would involve things like "what makes your fictional setting different from a typical Earth political setting"; and "what kind of government structure are we dealing with"; and "what kind of political history are we dealing with". Just to name a few. Lastly, I really don't want to come off as sounding rude, but the community has taken great pains to answer this question (why was your query migrated), and I know I've expended quite a lot of time and effort in answering and commenting on this discussion. I really don't know how else to say it but: your query was off topic! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 13:38

This was originally a comment by me and after thinking about it, I'm turning it into an answer of sorts.

First I would point out that I have not actually read the question, or the answers. But reading this meta post gives me enough information to say this: It would appear that the question was received well enough that it garnered multiple answers and multiple votes on them. Then it was migrated to Politics and while I'm not sure if it received any more/different answers, the AP of this answer (JBH's) claims to have received more votes for his answer. So, the community of this SE read it and voted, and (at least some) of the new community has read it and voted.... how is this a bad thing?

This was my comment. Now I'll go a step further. It would appear that the general topicality of the original question was border-line. It remained in this SE long enough to garner answers and votes. Then it was migrated, and garnered at the very least more votes, some of which are positive. So the question has gotten a (much) broader readership and those readers, and new readers have voted in appreciation. This should not be looked at as negative.

Some commenters here, such as @KeizerHarm in JBH's answer, seem to be relatively upset (please don't take exception if you don't like that word, fit a different one in to match your own level of ... concern) that it was migrated. Let me point out it's not your question. It 'belongs' to the OP. They are the one who gets to decide what does and does not answer it, by marking an accepted answer or not. If the question being migrated to the other of the two most relevant SE's garners as much support, answers and votes as possible, good for the OP. It seems to me that is enables us to give a better chance to help the user. If the OP doesn't agree with the migration, they can flag or comment and edit or rewrite their question in a possibly better (and more on topic) manner.

As it is, this question appears to be not quite on- or off-topic for either exchange. Be satisfied it received answers (and votes)... or ...

write your own question.


In my opinion; an on-topic interesting question that was a good fit for this site got migrated to become off-topic on a different site.

"How can I design part of a fictional world such that situation does or doesn't occur?" That's pretty strongly on topic IMHO, and nothing I've read here or in the comments of the question gives a satisfactory answer as to why that question is not worldbuilding.

My answer got a tonne of upvotes after that question got moved to Politics.SE, it's become my highest rated answer on Politics.SE and I got like 5 badges for it - so, I did pretty well from the migration, I'm still opposed to it. I did answer referencing real world examples (as info on the problems with American politics was fresh in my mind for some reason), and that went well on Politics.SE, which was incredibly lucky. Reading through all the edits done after migration I was in the minority - Many people added disclaimers like "This was meant for fictional worldbuilding" to their answers, perhaps in anticipation of downvotes for helping someone with worldbuilding on what became an offtopic question on a real-world politics QA site.

I do think we close questions way too often, and the more interesting the question is in my view, (and the more excitedly I start drafting ideas), it seems the more likely it is to be closed. Some of these closures are good calls of course, but many I disagree with and wish I had a "please don't close" vote to undo someones close vote.

Migrating was the lesser of two evils but in my opinion the question should've remained here and open.

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    $\begingroup$ (a) The question has not been closed on Politics. Please justify your claim that it's off-topic there. (b) You're years late making the argument of your 2nd paragraph. In fact, we had that very argument years ago. (c) Every Stack has already concluded that Q/A popularity has *nothing to do with application of policy (thank goodness, we'd be no better than Reddit or Quora). (d) All those disclaimers were based on two words in the unedited but migrated Q. (e) We've already had the VTC-too-quickly argument and we don't close questions fast enough. (*continued*) $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 22 '20 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ You, personally, have a habit of answering questions that violate Stack Exchange and Worldbuilding.SE policies. Most new-to-middle-aged users do and even we seniors get caught up when a question happens to pique our interest - but it doesn't change the rules, which exist for a purpose. The Stack would actually have higher quality questions and answers if everyone stuck to the rules and helped younger users learn how to ask good questions. But, that's a never-ending fight. There's always someone saying "just answer my question!" or "just let me answer!" $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 22 '20 at 15:00
  • $\begingroup$ a) It got closed here, not on politics, reading the history Monica actually re-opened it to migrate. And OP classed as OT. b) Maybe some decisions made years ago need revisiting occasionally, user bases and motivations change over time. f) You downvoted me for sharing my opinion on a topic (is my opinion wrong?), and I still don't understand why that question was migrated clearly enough to be able to predict whether a similar question will be migrated in the future with any certainty. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 22 '20 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I am really surprised it hasn't been closed as OT on politics.SE I attribute that to the fact that Gerrymandering is a really interesting topic, and that it arrived with a number of interesting and insightful answers. If it had started on politics, I feel confident it would have been closed before building up steam because it requires speculation on hypothetical scenarios which are generally OT. Certainly I've seen many 'what about this voting idea' closed even if some responds with 'exists in X country' $\endgroup$ – Jontia Oct 23 '20 at 4:40

I concur with L. Dutch & JBH 100%, but do want to address two of your key points:

Staying on WB would allow for more fantastical solutions. The original question doesn't specifically disallow that, or place any restrictions on magicial/high-tech enforcement. Though the OP may not actually want those, they didn't go out of their way to say so.

Fantastical solutions are one of the best things about this forum! I like to think I've provided at least one truly fantastical solution in my time here; but I really do enjoy reading others' fantastical solutions as well. So, this is a kind of bread-n-butter of WB; and I do agree with you, that had the query not been migrated, we might indeed have seen a number of fantastical solutions to this query.

The problems I see are 1. that we don't know what the OP is actually looking for: they give us no context and no background; we don't know anything about the people, the politics, the history, or the culture that we're trying to help the OP with; 2. if we assume, we assume at our peril. The long and short of it is that it is incumbent upon the OP to supply us with sufficient background to offer high quality answers. Otherwise, we become no different than a worldbuilding challenge on Reddit. Not that those are valueless, but simply that their value is different from what we're offering here at WB.SE.

In sum: yes the OP didn't disallow thaumological law enforcement, but nor did they allow it. By not specifying the context, I'd VTC or migrate simply because what the OP did specify. In this case, what they specified was basically the real world.

WB requires users to bring adjacent expertise. If every WB question that could be answered with real-world science was moved on, we'd have a lot less traffic.

Indeed. The problem with this query, as I see it, is not an issue of our lack of adjacent expertise. Clearly, there were answers, so there's no lack of intelligent application of WB's expertise. The problem, again, is that this is a real world query without fictional world application. That's off topic.

In order for the question to be a good fit here, we need to be able to apply our expertise to a fictional scenario. In order to do that, the OP has to provide us with enough information!

  • $\begingroup$ Even outside of thaumological we could have had some social solution answers, like a movable Tiny House Nation population. But I take your point that the OP didn't say they were looking for, or even had flexibility in those areas. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Oct 23 '20 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ It looks like the OP of the source question has provided a bit of background in their answer on this thread. So that I can get my own head around the three linked "it's OT" answers here, if that context had been included in the original question and perhaps fleshed out a bit with current populations/densities would it have then been on-topic? $\endgroup$ – Jontia Oct 23 '20 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Jontia -- Sure, however, "social solution" answers to the question as written would probably be equally off topic here. I read the fictional context that the OP noted in their answer to this Meta question. There is also this other Meta question that deals specifically with the required level and relevance of fictional context. I use a five point scale to determine (for myself) whether a question's fictional context is either sufficient or relevant... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ ...to this forum. As the gerrymandering query is written, I'd consider it a Level 1 question: basically {I have a fictional world} + {here's a real world question for which I'm giving no context}. This type of query is a non sequitur as the two components don't fit with each other. I think it's more than fair to close such a question a/o migrate it to a forum that can deal with the actual question asked. But as you say, the OP provides a little context here in Meta. I'd actually place that at Level 2. It looks like there's context - yay! But when you actually read it (colonists ... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ ... want to leave Earth and make a fresh start), you find that the background is not really focused on the fictional world itself. The question then would be a "red herring" --- it has nothing to do with a fictional world, and is still essentially a Real World question. We could just as easily say "people in New York got fed up and moved to California where they wanted to make a fresh start..." I would vote to close that in a New York second for wasting my time at the very least. If the question was otherwise meritorious, I'd recommend it be migrated (as this one was). The long and short of... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ ...it is that this is the Worldbuilding forum. We really deal best with obvious fiction. And, by definition, we deal with the fundamental systems and functionality of a world or setting. The OP's original question is straddling so many lines it's ridiculous! Apart from the fictional context issue vs real world question, I also think there's a good argument to be made for this being closed as "too story based", as the basis of the OP's context is essentially the choices that characters make within a story. The OP mentions that someone complained that it's opinion based, and I think that... $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ ...may be a valid argument as well! I suppose in summation, I'd say to your question: the context given is insufficient on the one hand yet sufficiently irrelevant on the other for the question to be a good fit at WB. On the third hand, that the OP left out the context, I think, makes migration to a different forum easier, because the other forum could very easily reject the migration if they get the merest whiff of something being "made up". $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Oct 23 '20 at 14:02

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