We have a rule of thumb around here that "if you find a question good enough to answer, you should upvote it". Generally I agree with this; however, I often find myself on the fence about if I should upvote a question that is only worth answering with a Frame Challenge. A question can be original, well written, on topic, and clearly answerable... and yet still contain a significant fallacy in its conception.

Example: Why would most species avoid democracy?

Does/should the "if you find a question good enough to answer, you should upvote it" rule of thumb apply to Frame Challenges?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Uh...frame challenge - you should upvote if the question is of good quality, not whether or not you decided to answer it. I don't see a hard link between these. Sure, if you answer a question, then chances are that you find it good. But that doesn't have to always be the case. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ I'd consider a downvote, I'm bad at formulating frame challenges. There was a funny one this week, worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/223481/… someone asking about close combat weapons for dragons. I actually salvaged it by suggesting a change ("need more focus") and when it was improved by an edit, I put a comment telling why I still downvote it. The question did improve.. but it has a fundamental flaw: dragons don't use hand-helt weapons.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 21:47

5 Answers 5


As pointed out in the comment, a question should be upvoted when it's of good quality.

"if you find a question good enough to answer, you should upvote it"

it's not a rule here, nor a rule of thumb.

That it might be answered, or that it might be answered with a frame challenge is not related to the upvote. A frame challenge can be an eye opener for the OP, precisely because it challenges the frame they have built, and can put the worldbuilding problem under a completely different perspective.


And in the beginning people were vociferous and participative and yay, they did up- and down-vote much! And lo, time did pass, and people became less interested and less attentive, and it did slow down the acquisition of rep and badges thereby...

@L.Dutch is right, the perspective is neither a rule nor a rule-of-thumb (meaning, an "expectation"). That people have commented to that effect in the past is true, however, because voting serves a purpose it's better (IMO) to err on the side of voting than not. And that's true for both questions and answers.

The basic problem is that once you've gained your basic user privileges on Stack Exchange, the only reasons I can think of to keep plugging along with rep are two:

  1. There's some SE swag that gets mailed to you when you cross the 100,000 rep mark. (Per-Stack! Total rep on the network doesn't count.)

  2. A general sense of respect. People are less likely to challenge a high-rep user (and, on the flip side, they're more likely to follow one, too, meaning watch how you VTC).

Having said that, the rules that are important are reflected by the mouse-rollovers and what we find in the Help Center. For the questions the roll-overs read:

(UP) This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear.
(DOWN) This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

Neither of those statements translate to "I like/dislike this question." In fact, it's a bit of a stretch to translate them to "this is a good question."1 What they do is reflect a statement from the Help Center:

Answer well-asked questions

Not all questions can or should be answered here. Save yourself some frustration and avoid trying to answer questions which...

...are unclear or lacking specific details that can uniquely identify the problem.
...solicit opinions rather than facts.
...have already been asked and answered many times before.
...require too much guidance for you to answer in full, or request answers to multiple questions.
...are not about worldbuilding as defined in the help center.

Don't forget that you can edit the question you're answering to improve the clarity and focus - this can reduce the chances of the question being closed or deleted.2

And when we follow the first link in that section, we learn that a good question is:

How do I ask a good question?

We’d love to help you. To improve your chances of getting an answer, here are some tips:

  • Search, and research
  • Be on-topic
  • Be specific
  • Make it relevant to others
  • Keep an open mind

You'll notice that other than the statement that says "search and research," nothing in those statements talks about the premises or topics chosen by the OP. In other words, a question can be a well-asked question, deserving of an up-vote, and yet be unanswerable. It can also be a question that has a perfectly obvious answer but is so badly asked that it deserves a down-vote.

Above all, remember that the purpose of a frame challenge is not simply to instruct the user about something they don't understand well. We get all kinds of people on this Stack with a wide variety of education, experience, and research skills. What was trivial for us may not have been trivial for them. The purpose of a frame challenge remains, as with all answers, to answer the question. The frame challenge is what adjusts the premise of the OP to allow the answer the respondent believes is correct.

So when we consider the practical applications, if you felt a question deserved to be answered for any reason, why wouldn't you also cast a non-obligatory up-vote? Not as a rule, nor as a rule-of-thumb, but as a participatory preference that supports the whole?

1And this is important, because how most people use the votes is to express popularity — and even that's complex. Good examples are questions about gender, gender roles, and gender identity. I've seen well-asked questions get down-voted to the point of deletion because people didn't like the question. In other words, hot-potato questions tend to suffer most from inappropriate voting. But, c'est la vie.

2That last statement, actually found in the Help Center, is dubious because we have an unwritten expectation that no edit shall invalidate an existing answer — and since we have a number of users who will (and do) answer anything fairly quickly, the statement is for all intents and purposes, false. You can't edit a question for any practical purpose other than legibility, grammar, and spelling unless you're lucky enough to catch it before someone answers. Type fast.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There's some SE swag that gets mailed to you when you cross the 100,000 rep mark. (Per-Stack! Total rep on the network doesn't count.) In theory, I've never heard from them about it $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 9:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix That's weird, wasn't it Willk who crossed first on WB? I thought he said he got something. I remember congratulating him on Meta and that was where he posted a comment about the swag... but I can't find that post. Well... that stinks. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ I have been struggling with establishing any kind of personal policy for how to vote on questions. Your answer really digs into some of that. Is there anything around here that might help me sort this out? I find I vote almost exclusively on answers only, which I know is not right. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 3:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I hear you, @Tom! Honestly, I frequently find myself falling into the same trap. But consider the following: Upvote if... (a) The question seems that it would help more people than just the OP, (b) The question expands the process of how worldbuilding happens, (c) The question is honking clever, (d) If it was worth my time to read the answers to the question and vote on them, the question probably deserves it on principal. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 5:05

Framing the Frame Challenger (with tongue firmly in cheek!)

First off, just for the record, I've already upvoted Nosajimiki's query here (because it is useful); and most the responses thus far (because they are, in their own ways, useful).

Before pontificating any further, I would note in particular that JBH says of the frame challenge:

The purpose of a frame challenge remains, as with all answers, to answer the question.

And also that Otkin says of the specific linked response:

Your own answer, IMO, is not a real frame challenge. You do not dispute the premise.

In order to consider whether one ought to or nought to upvote a query one has responded to with a frame challenge, we need to understand what a frame challenge is. And how convenient! Not only do we have a proposal that defines what it is, but both the principle protagonists of the present query participated in the previous question!

A proposal for helping users understand frame challenges

To the point of definitions:

A frame challenge is any assertion that challenges the premise or underpinnings of a question.

I'm not looking to impose a specific form (syntax, format, etc.) as much as I'm proposing a philosophy. (A) A frame challenge must of necessity contain an explanation of why the respondent believes answering the question as proposed by the OP isn't useful, relevant, or meaningful. However, (B) A frame challenge need not offer an alternative solution.

The Problem:

I concur with Otkin that Nosajimiki's answer to the democratic aliens query is not a frame challenge because it doesn't actually challenge the premise of the question, which is that species avoid democracy. At best, it only points out that the governments of a number of species exhibit democracy-like phenomena.

Further, I concur with Nosajimiki's answer to the Proposal question: I feel like a frame challenge must by its very nature offer an alternative answer, otherwise, it belongs in comments. This is where the frame challenge, as with all answers, actually answers the question!

If we carefully read the Aliens query, the OP is focused on species and cultures rather than actual forms of government, which actually run contrary to the fundamental premise of the query. If we carefully read Nosajimiki's response, he neither focuses on species and cultures, nor offers an alternative answer. His answer only reiterates what the OP already told us, namely: that most of the species do in fact have governments that exhibit some democratic features. It then goes on to describe some aspects of democratic features in historical Earth governments.

The Solution:

It's really not my intention to bust your chops, Nosajamiki, but rather to make the point that if you're going to "complain" about the quality of a question enough to answer it with a frame challenge, you should at least a) follow your own definition of frame challenge and b) answer the question.

I hold that, unless a question is really and truly hopelessly useless, you as respondent probably thought it was at the very least interesting. Why else would one take the time to read and consider? I'd argue that you should upvote any query you're responding to, whether with a frame challenge or not, if it is interesting, well-researched, and useful. Clearly you thought (and I agree!) that the question is interesting, and upvotes and number of answers clearly demonstrate it is useful.


These are the expectations for voting:

Voting up a question or answer signals to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful, while voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information. The more that people vote on a post, the more certain future visitors can be of the quality of information contained within that post – not to mention that upvotes are a great way to thank the author of a good post for the time and effort put into writing it!

If we go with this, the best solution would probably be not voting at all because the linked question meets the criteria for upvoting (useful) and downvoting (poor research, lack of definitions) at the same time. But I do not think that this is the best approach. It might be better to decide on a case-by-case basis.

Some problems with overall concepts are very obvious and show a lack of research and effort (this is only true if these are problems, not intentional choices). For example, any question that is based on an assumption that humans (us, living on this Earth) are indistinguishable from Homo economicus (perfectly rational agent) should be, IMO, downvoted unless it is explicitly stated that it is a rational choice by the questioner.

On the other hand, questions like the linked question about democracy do not contain such obvious fallacies. In this particular case, there is no fallacy at all. It is a matter of definitions. You choose to define the described political structures as democratic. However, if we choose to use stricter definitions of democracy, none of the described species, including humans, has democracy or a democratic government.

Your own answer, IMO, is not a real frame challenge. You do not dispute the premise. Your questioning of the premise is based on your usage of definitions, not disagreement with the facts of the questions. Considering this, I do not think that you should base your vote on your perception of challenging the frame.

  • $\begingroup$ Democratic and a Pure Democracy are not the same thing. The Frame Challenge was that his races were mostly Democratic (which was what the OP asked about). Only by shifting the frame to the much more narrow concept of a Pure Democracy does the basic assumption become true. It's like someone asking a question about hominids when the question only makes since if you assume they mean hominins. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki But then it's still a matter of defining things, right? If you noticed what they most likely meant, I doubt it's framing the challenge (or the other way, water-ver) and more fixing a mistake in meaning. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki It is still a matter of definitions. For example, you say that 'the US is a Democratic Republic'. And I assume (please correct me if I am wrong) that you see the US regime as democratic, but not pure democracy. However, some political scholars would disagree with this and suggest that democracy in the US is merely an appearance (for example, see this paper). $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki I think that yours is a great answer (as always). And what makes it appealing to me personally is that you provide your definitions. The Pure Democracy part, as I see it, elaborates on your definitions (which is always a good thing, IMO) and adds some good points about problems that democracies face. || It can be that our understanding of frame challenges differs. For me, definitions do not constitute a change of frame with very few exceptions. It is just differences in labels if nothing else changes. The answer is more precise, but it does not question the premise. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin If a person asks "why do quadrilaterals always have 4 right angles", then you need to reframe the question to make it answerable. A frame challenge could begin with: "quadrilaterals do not always have 4 right angles, but squares and rectangles do...." Likewise, I did not redefine democracy to answer the question, I pointed to a specific subclass of democracy that the question itself could only apply too. It is a frame challenge in that the scope of the question had to be contracted to make it answerable. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ So... I don't know if this falls into your definition of a frame challenge or not, but I've always considered questions that require expanding or contracting the scope of the OP in a meaningful way to be a frame challenge. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki Quadrilaterals is not a good analogy here as their definition is very precise. Democracy does not have such a precise definition even in political science. Exactly the same political system can be called democratic or non-democratic depending on the criteria of democracy that the speaker uses. Your answer can be seen as 'if we use this and this criteria then most of the mentioned systems can be called democratic to some extent'. This does not change the scope of the question, though. Because if we use different criteria, the very same systems will no longer be called democratic. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki At best you can say that you are challenging the definition of democracy in this case. However, no definitions were provided in the first place. And, as mentioned before, democracy does not have one precise definition that everybody uses. For example, I would rather agree with the OP that all described systems are non-democratic. I am one of those people who distinguish between republic and democracy. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 18:00

If someone made an interesting or original question, I upvote. Specially when it comes to series of questions.

"Good quality" questions are entirely subjective

You can make up a definition of a good quality question, but it will always contradict or contrast itself in this website.


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