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The Anatomically Correct Series has been a treasured Worldbuilding tradition for seven years. Some amazing questions and even more amazing answers have contributed to the series. But...

Back in 2020 a silly question about a character from Minecraft prompted me to write the following:

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.

This prompted @L.Dutch to ask, "Should we narrow down the scope of the Anatomically Correct Series?"

Which led a number of us working with original poster TrEs-2b to create a set of enhanced rules that, we hoped, would return the ACS to the quality it once enjoyed. (It might not look like anyone but I created those rules, but there were discussions in answer and comments all over the place.)

Unfortunately, despite that effort, we have experienced an avalanche of terrible questions over the last two years . Everything from pure nonsense to stream-of-consciousness ideas that have been thrown out with less effort than is required to throw spaghetti on a wall. The ACS has become ridiculous, with an incredibly high closure rate.

Perhaps it's time we ended an era.

And it breaks my heart to recommend this. The ACS was pure worldbuilding! Taking a mythological creature as described by human hands and feared or loved in human hearts and asking the simple question, "how could this reflection of the human soul be realized?"

But a search of recent questions shows that, thanks to the voluminous and (and this is a very blunt personal opinion) massively low quality submissions by a small handful of users, it's right to consider this.

Question: Should we terminate the Anatomically Correct Series... while we still have fond memories of it?

  1. The ACS page would be updated with a notice at the top of the page that NO NEW SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

  2. The tag will be updated to explain the termination and the fact that it can no longer be used.

  3. If it's possible to close/protect a meta page, the ACS would have this done to it so that no one could edit it more.

  4. We will actively close any question that suggests the goal is to realize an "anatomically correct" version of any mythological creature of any kind.

If accepted, a user's only option would be to ask for specific help developing a creature for their own fictional world. Period.

Upvote if you agree it's time to bring the ACS to an end.

Downvote if you disagree.

Comment if you seek clarification about the question.

Answer if you wish to add to the discussion, pro or con.


EDIT: It's worth noting that the meta post creating the ACS was necessary because questions about the evolutionary justification of human myths are intrinsically off-topic. Remember, the goal of this site (see the Help Center) is to help people create imaginary worlds. Their own imaginary worlds. Without the ACS Meta post to legitimize the presence of the questions, no "how could this human myth evolve?" style question can be asked and not closed.

This isn't the first time this has happened. This stack once embraced a Fortnightly Challenge. One of those challenges was concerning Santa Claus, which evolved into the current tradition of permissibly asking Santa-related questions during the Christmas season.

This question is asking if it's time to withdraw permission to break the rules, because all ACS questions are asking about something the poster didn't originally create in a world that isn't theirs.

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  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Out of the last 15 submissions, 12 come from just 2 users, 6 each. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch Mod
    Jul 15 at 7:56
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How would you stop someone from simply creating a new ACS? A new tag, a new Meta archive, the whole lot? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 15 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ Just to clarify, is this about banning ACS or about banning anything related to making anything more Anatomically correct? For example, if someone made their own creature but didn’t think it was well made and wanted to improve its anatomy, would that also be not allowed? $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Jul 15 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas While your point is well taken, you'd have the influence of the community's decision behind them - especially when it comes to deleting the tag and closing their posts. If we want this to come to an end. It'll take a fair amount of time for it to come alive again. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Topcode Both. This is about discontinuing ACS and anything that looks like trying to explain the evolution of a human myth and returning the Stack to focusing only on creature design for fictional worlds created by the OP. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 5:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @JBH But this means that you should close all questions coming from the vampire background for instance as soon as it's "too-close to the original myth" for instance. Otherwise people can just hide an ACs question into another, just like people thinking they can ask plain real-world questions "because I want to make a world with it". Worse than the comparison I made, the boundary is blurry and this is not the goal when determining if something is accepted or not (ie. have a clear distinction). $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 16 at 6:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena As we discussed. ACS is particularly bad. In a way not seen in other questions. Because of the additional elements enabling easy asking of low quality questions, it's not the tag but the format. Best to kill the tag while we're at it to be thorough in our efforts. If people want to build a world with creatures from myth they still can but they have to do so without relying on a structure that enables low effort posts. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 16 at 6:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ One more thing my friends. Saying that we shouldn't do this because people can still come up with ways to circumvent it is like saying the police shouldn't issue speeding tickets just because people can get away with speeding when the police are not around. I humbly reject that argument in fiction just as it's rejected in real life. Please find a better reason. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 6:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH Actually... It depends. If there's an improvement, then yes, your ticket comparison is true. But if there's none or little, it's like if one suggested issuing speeding tickets only in the car-free roads. That's a strategical point people have to consider : Knowing the problem, does the solution solve efficiently the problem? $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 16 at 7:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think we shouldn't do this, ultimately, because you founded your proposal on your own opinion. It wasn't my intention to discuss how people might circumvent, but rather to fix the problem rather than sweep it under the rug. With all due respect: if the community accepts your proposal, we're not really going to solve anything. The same users, the same low quality questions, the same problems shall still persist, only without a structure that you yourself acclaim as "pure worldbuilding!" There's an old bromide: if it ain't broke don't fix it. Well, the compliment to that one is (cont) $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 16 at 16:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (cont) another old bromide: when it breaks, fix it! This is clearly a structure that, I believe, you don't really want to throw out. (I certainly don't want to throw it out!) I could be wrong, but I sense a great frustration in how it's being abused. Throwing out the structure isn't going to cure the abuse. And I don't think it's really going to do anything other than shift the frustration to some other aspect of WB. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 16 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas "Because you've founded your proposal on your own opinion." Had that rational been valid back when I proposed (and you helped) to create rule enhancements in an effort to improve flagging ACS quality two years ago then those enhancements wouldn't have been made or accepted. If you feel better for blaming this problem on my personal opinion, you're welcome to it (as much as I am welcome to my personal opinion), but if you continue to suggest that this discussion is irrelevant because it's just my opinion, I"ll link you to your own answer from two years ago where you supported it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 21:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH -- I would say that closed ACS questions should be edited so that reference to ACS is removed. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 21 at 21:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas At which point it's off-topic because the creature is a 3rd party creation. We sure see a lot of crap nowadays because of the ACS. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 23 at 3:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I've created the chat room and loaded it with my draft. The text is meant to replace 100% of what TrEs-2b has in the post. I hope he won't mind. Note that there's an out-of-order "4.2 cont" that's a continuation of the too-long-for-chat "4.2." Sorry about that. chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/138535/acs-rules-20220815 $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 15 at 16:29

7 Answers 7

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A Troublesome Solution to a Problematic Trouble

Issue: It seems to me that the underlying issue is that this proposal rests on what is admittedly an opinion, that there are voluminous and (and this is a very blunt personal opinion) massively low quality submissions by a small handful of users. While I share the opinion in general, I do have to ask two questions.

  • The first is not so much if this is the best solution to the problem, but rather is this a proper solution to the problem at all.

  • The second is whether or not this is even a problem requiring a solution.

Assessment: As I see the issue, it does not appear to me to be a SE or a WB related problem. I may be wrong, but given the background of the problem, the issue seems to be more of a personal one.

If this were a matter of users breaking WB or SE rules, then I think we'd all agree that SE has in place methods of addressing that issue. Closing queries, deleting queries or responses, disciplining and perhaps expelling users.

This, however, looks to me like it is an issue of taste, or aesthetics, or (as was clearly stated) opinion. Now, this is an opinion that I share. I think we all know who the user in question is; I know that I have engaged with this user multiple times in the past in order to help improve their question conception and writing; and I also know that that has not worked, so I don't do it anymore.

As I read the proposal, and given that JBH and L. Dutch have done so much work on making the ACS a truly wonderful sub-forum, I must say that it reads almost like a kid who brought out the balls and bats and hoops and things to play a game, now upon determining that a few kids refuse to play up to quality, has decided to take said balls and bats and hoops away. I hope this is not the case! But in any event, the problem to be solved is not the game, but rather the poor quality playing!

In reviewing the ACS ruleset, and in reviewing the list of recent questions, my assessment summation would be that I honestly don't see where the ACS itself is broken to the point that it needs to be closed down. Is it being abused? I think the answer to that is a strong probably. Is the abuse equal to the proposed solution? There I believe the answer is no.

Recommendations: I am going to downvote the proposal for the following reasons, and then provide a potential counterproposal.

First, I don't see anything within the ACS Guidelines that would act as a red flag for sub-forum closure.

Second, on the contrary, I would argue that the ACS continues to be a valuable sub-forum that for the most part has worked and that I believe could be a good model for creating other similar aggregations based on other common question genres

Third, I don't see where any ACS guidelines are out of order or impractical or onerous to the querent. If anything, I would argue that the guidelines are perhaps not clear enough to be fully practical.

Fourth, I believe that the original proposal comes from a good place --- the ultimate desire to see WB and ACS play host to high quality questions --- but I also hold that shutting it down isn't the best answer.

THEREFORE: my recommendation is that the proposal be voted down due to its faulty conception. We don't accept questions that are of a purely opinion based nature; I don't think we should close a sub-forum or disable a tag for a similar reason.

Rather, I'd suggest that the ACS be given a proper set of rules. Through it's history, its guidelines have been tweaked and improved. That's a good thing. Rather than end the era, I'd call for the ACS to enter a new era.

To that end, I'd suggest a much more focused clarification of the sub-forum's expectations from both querent and respondent.

  • Take stock of the questions we've been getting and compare their deficiencies with the present guidelines
  • Examine the present guidelines to see what's missing
  • Put the two streams of data together to come up with a simple set of rules that, like the no commercial property rule, will ensure that querents have clear guidelines to follow
  • Create a similar set of rules for respondents

I think that if we clarify the expectations for both parties, the overall quality of questions and answers will be higher and no unnecessary burdens will be placed on either.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ From my comment thread : "The anatomically-correct tag is functionally different from arbitrary tags, even those that have many low quality Qs. We have community structure around it. We have people who don't VTC low quality Qs with that tag, by virtue of having that tag." This is an interesting question Sphennings raised more or less willingly : Does the tag and rules make actually people act differently and more leniently towards low-quality questions? Because if it does, then can we really say "that SE has in place methods of addressing that issue"? $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 15 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ You can't really say that the site has a way of dealing with the problem, when the problem persists and seems to be getting worse. In theory current site policy should be sufficient to resolve the issue but in practice that obviously isn't the case. If the current rules should be enough but aren't getting applied, then creating a whole new, potentially better, set of rules, and expecting them to be judiciously applied seems like a stretch. Perhaps what we really need is moderators being more proactive with the use of their powers and setting an example by closing low quality questions. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 16 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ SE in general aims at getting quality contributions. Therefore a flood of low quality/low effort contribution is a problem. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch Mod
    Jul 16 at 4:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch As a mod there are steps you have the power to take. You could use your ability to unilaterally close problematic questions instead of remarking on the problem and hoping the community VTCs in our own time. You could take other actions against repeated low effort questions and failures to learn and follow site policy. Part of the situation were in is lack of enforcement of site policy. Can you take a more active role in using your mod powers to solve problems the community can't. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 16 at 5:58
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not trying to make the moderator's burden heavier. Quite the opposite. My goal is to create a condition where those of us willing to police the Stack have a clear set of marching orders to simply close and move on. While the latest two offenders have created a lot of recent pain. Frankly, I've been watching the ACS loose traction for two years. And the effort several us made to create clear rules to improve the situation haven't helped at all. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 5:59
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH It is an alternative way to resolve the problem, without killing a beloved site tradition. If when a mod saw a question that should be closed they closed it, instead of leaving a comment that it should be closed and waiting for the community to cast 5 close votes. There would be a very clear signal that such questions do not belong here. No if it was a problem why did the mod stand by and do nothing. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 16 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings You have a point. I wouldn't worry so if we had 3-4 active mods. I'd worry less if the mods have power to endow 3-4 of us with instant gold-badge status with the tag, and then add to the ruleset that the tag is mandatory, so that (e.g.) you or I could add the tag if necessary and then slam the question closed if it doesn't meet expectations. I'd give Elemtilas' proposal serious time if that could occur. But putting this all on L.Dutch's shoulders doesn't make sense. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings --- Just because people don't use the tools doesn't mean they aren't there. My point is simply to make this tool easier to use. A clear set of rules might also make the Mod's job a bit easier. If for no other reason than a clear community statement of expectations would ease the conscience a bit. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 16 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ elemtilas At this time I reject the notion that the rules are unclear and/or insufficient. See the comments under @sphennings' answer. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH --- Okay, I respect that. One thing that does bother me: I've been looking through the recent slate of ACS queries, and also the ACS Meta, and while I still hold that at least some of the rules could be more clearly stated as such, what I'm finding more difficult is what the point of ACS in the first place? I mean, apart from the obvious. In other words, how should these questions fit within the context of WB? I'm just swamped in I.K. queries that are literally duplicates of each other apart from the name of the mythological creature. Somehow, I don't think the original (cont) $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 17 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ (cont) concept, or its later improved concept was to simply go through the list of every single mythological creature in the world. Maybe what ACS needs more than anything is a viable raison d'etre and a clear direction. Now, if you were to propose shutting ACS down for being an unwieldy thing that lacks purpose, I might go along! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 17 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas Oddly, the people have spoken in conflicting ways. This post is at -21, so the community wants ACS to continue. 7 out of the last 10 ACS posts on Main have been closed, so apparently the community is also fed up with the barrage of low-quality posts. You and I tend to work well as a team. What say we take the text as-is from the ACS page as a starting point, create a chat room, and hash out what between us we believe is a clear set of Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots, then propose the changes to the community? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 1 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH --- I'm up for that! I've already started on a discussion topic question for here and I'm certainly happy to work with you on it! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 4 at 3:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Fwiw, I hate all the low quality ACS posts. Happy to help suggest some rules. $\endgroup$ Aug 15 at 9:58
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Kill ACS the tag, not the idea

I agree that the tag is being used as an excuse for low-quality questions; including one of myself back in the day. The format actively invites low-quality questions, because it provides a template where you only need to fill in a description of a creature, with no other specifications or indeed further thought. I got lured by that myself, I am sure others have as well. And I think adding new rules to the meta page will start having diminishing returns.

But the 4th point of the OP goes way too far. Making things plausible and realistic is what this site is for. Every single question on this platform could be answered with "a wizard did it", but the reason people go the lengths to put the questions here is because they want an answer that's a bit more supported by some manner of science, truth, or popular understanding, in order to enhance their creative story-telling.

Questions about things set in the real world are on topic. Questions about testing things against real science are on topic. And evolution is a science like any other. There is no difference between a realistic evolutionary path, as tested with our understanding of evolutionary pressures and biology and such; and a realistic bridge, as tested with our understanding of physics and material science. Evolution may be a "softer" science than Newtonian physics, but the need to speculate has never been an obstacle to science-based questions in the past.

I also think the tag and meta post are unnecessary; we have and . A high-quality ACS-ish question can still live without the ACS tag by having those two.

Kill the tag and close the meta post, as they invite questions that are only descriptions of creatures which would not be allowed otherwise. Don't kill the whole idea of a realistic evolution, or questions about mythological creatures, or the two together.

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  • $\begingroup$ From the ACS meta page we read the following requirements: (a) "creatures thoroughly designed (other than lacking anatomical fulfillment)", (b) "Generalizations ... are unacceptable and grounds for closing the question", (c) A specific description of the creature is required or the question will again be closed", (d) "Creature descriptions should include important behavioral attributes and a clear physical description. It is the questioner's responsibility to invent the creature." (*Continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ In other words, the ACS rules do not "provides a template where you only need to fill in a description of a creature, with no other specifications or indeed further thought." However, I readily admit that the tag was not updated to completely reflect the meta post. But considering no one reads tag wikis, I have trouble believing that would have helped. Nevertheless, it is important to understand (as I just explained under Mike Serfas' answer) that ACS-style questions are naturally off-topic without the meta post to legitimize their existence. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Your ruling that ACS is naturally off topic should be front and center in this proposal, not hidden in comments. In fact I consider that a far more far-reaching ruling than just disallowing ACS. By that precedent, you would throw away any science-based question that does not supply alternative laws of physics to make the thing "fictional enough". $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jul 17 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ The problem isn't the use or lack of physics. In fact I think this site's preoccupation with physics sucks. The problem is that the creature isn't yours (meaning it wasn't your idea in the first place). Do you actually think I've said something new? That I've made an arbitrary ruling? As far as I know, the help center's claim that "Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a site for ... to get help creating imaginary worlds." has been around since day #1. It's a nice thought that this is all just my opinion, but there's a real problem and I don't see a meaningful way to solve it other than this. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ In fact, let's clarify that. The ACS violates the basic premise that the creature in question isn't yours and isn't being developed to forward your own worldbuilding efforts. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 23:13
  • $\begingroup$ The ACS rule you just quoted stated that the querent has the responsibility to invent the creature. In other words, to turn a vaguely and contradictorily defined concept from myth and legend into something concrete to fulfill a story role. Take a look at media: dragons and vampires have been interpreted hundreds of times and made into a myriad different versions by authors of works. Weren't those authors doing worldbuilding when specifying how their vampires/dragons worked? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jul 17 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ And yes, even if you aren't inventing rules you should clearly state why you think ACS the idea should be banned under an existing rule. It's necessary foundation for the argument; without it there's no telling what precedence is set by the new proposal. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jul 17 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ The specific purpose of ACS is to take a specific and well-defined human myth and propose how it could be evolutionarily valid. How the generalization of such a myth could be modified to fit within the specified rules of the OP's own world is exactly what we do on WB and NOT what we do via ACS. I'm not proposing (e.g.) that we stop all questions about vampires. I'm proposing we stop the ACS, which has little to nothing to do with anyone's fictional world. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ How do you draw the line between a question about the evolution of vampires and one about jackalopes? Myths are rife with contradictions, there is no specific well defined myth. There is only specific interpretations of myths, and interpretations are creations. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jul 17 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ (A) I edited the post concerning the issue of legitimacy. and (B) the line is easy to draw. We allow questions like "I want to have something like a Star Wars light saber in my world, here are my world's rules, how can I realize that goal?" That's how vampires and jackalopes can be legitimately asked about, in the context of a fictional world of your own creation. If you want to ask about them in context of the Real World's mythology, the ACS authorizes that. I'm seeking to deauthorize it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH the edit is appreciated. Does this mean that any question about vampires must be reworded into a question about "beings like vampires", the same language used for third party elements? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jul 17 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ To make my position clear; I don't think that the basic "here's my creature, how could it have evolved?" question works because of the lack of research effort into evolution; it feels like inviting ideas rather than solving a problem. However, I don't think that you can conclusively put myth in the same category as third party worlds, because myths have no author to provide an authoritative interpretation. I believe that any interpretation of a myth, specifically described, is essentially a new creation and should be an acceptable subject of a question. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jul 17 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ Easy answer: yes. And I can put myths into the same category. They're well known. They have specific interpretations within the culture they come from. I believe an argument can be made that they're the epitome of a 3rd party or commercial world - the Real World. If they are to be asked about, it must be in the context of your world. What is that world and how does it differ from the Real World? It doesn't? Great, close the question and direct the poster to the Real World's description of those myths. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ It is worth disclaiming that I have a fundamental distaste for "how could X evolve?" questions. If the poster cannot explain why that level of detail is required in their fictional world, then they've either (a) not thought through the problem well enough to ask a specific question or (b) they're just clogging up our Stack with random-idea questions. The worst offenders of the ACS have been people driven by the latter. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ I share that particular distaste but I don't agree that myths are equivalent to 3rd party worlds, because myths have no definitive interpretation and 3rd party worlds do. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jul 17 at 23:41
4
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Rewrite your Meta page - leave the questions alone

It looks like the site did something very convoluted here. Some people asked a number of similar questions about different organisms, which is understandable. Somebody came up with a tag to classify them, which is understandable.

Then somebody made an index page to specially highlight all those questions. Isn't that nice...

And then, because that page encouraged more of that type of question, and because not all of them met the standard, you augmented that kindness with a long list of rules tucked aside in a Meta post. Honestly I'd never heard of them, or the index.

And now, it's burdensome for close voters to look over each and every new question in the series. After all, a close voter is so much more important than the author of a creative question, you can't expect them to read everything that they want to close. So let's just close ... everything. Everything faintly resembled to what might have gotten a tag that might have been unfairly spotlighted in the special Meta page had no action been taken.

But we'll leave the "historical" Meta page, because it's so important...


How about a simpler solution: rewrite your Meta page to show "The Best Of", or delete the Meta page and all its guidelines, and even delete the category tag if you want, but then leave any such questions to be read and thought about like any other posting, with no new or topic-specific rules at all.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think anyone is proposing doing anything to existing questions. Just make it clear that new questions in the ACS format should not be asked on this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 16 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings - In the text above I read We will actively close any question that suggests the goal is to realize an "anatomically correct" version of any mythological creature of any kind. $\endgroup$ Jul 16 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeSerfas yes, actively. Not retroactively. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Jul 17 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Topcode Even if it's not retroactive, I can see no merit to having a rule against one specific topic. From what I've seen on here, I doubt anyone has trouble finding standard existing reasons to close low-quality questions. Note also that you would be plunging onto a slippery slope: "you don't accept questions about the anatomy of couatls, but you allow questions about..." (poison, magic, guns, abortion, homosexuality etc. etc., just fill something in the blank and it'll be banned soon enough) $\endgroup$ Jul 17 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ While this is certainly a possible solution, the reality is that all ACS questions are naturally off-topic. Specifically from the help center, "Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a site for ... to get help creating imaginary worlds." and an unofficial definition that has been used over the years is "worldbuilding is about creating and consistently using rules of a fictional world of the OP's own creation." Ignoring the idea that one could argue that human mythology is "fictional," it isn't the OP's creation. The ACS meta page is what legitimizes the questions, not the other way around. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ And this isn't the first time this has happened. There's another tradition we have involving questions that are otherwise off-topic for the site: Questions about Santa Claus. Those were also legitimized using a meta post. Therefore, I don't think the problem goes away by deleting the meta post. In fact, I think it makes the problem worse by removing anyone's ability to easily justify a close vote for a question type that would deserve to be closed in every case. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ How is making an anatomically correct couatl not worldbuilding? You have an alien world, it has flying animals, and one of them looks enough like the mythological creature that the inhabitants call it that, which is convenient for the writer and perhaps even helps to pollinate the plot. But now you want to know if a snake with wings can possibly sneak past the gods of aerodynamics. What could be more on topic? $\endgroup$ Jul 18 at 21:57
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The Anatomically Correct Series is fundamentally fine. There are a lot of low-quality submissions with it, but the issue in that case would be the submitter instead of the series itself.

The real underlying issue is that there is no valid format or example for both submitters to follow and for voters to judge a question with. As a result, people post ACS questions with minimal and unclear content and voters downvote and close ACS questions for arbitrary reasons not in the site rules or ACS rules; even if previous similar posts are upvoted and accepted.

Exhibit A: Check out this post versus this post. These two posts are almost identical. They both cover a non-Western mythological animal, they are both written in a very similar way, and both posts are only a month apart from each other. Yet, the latter post was immediately downvoted and closed while the former post was repeatedly upvoted, stated to be "an ACS question that meets the requirements." by JBH himself, and was left open for several weeks until I pointed out the discrepancy. Was there any major edit to the Stackexchange rules between June and July? No. Was there any rule changes to the ACS series in the past month? No. Then the question is why are two very similar but non-duplicate questions receive two very different reactions? It is almost like there's a hidden double standard at play.

Exhibit B: Compare this post to this post. Once again, two very similar (but not duplicate) posts covering a similar topic and written in a similar way. Once again, we see that the more recent post is immediately downvoted and closed while the older post is repeatedly upvoted, still open, and has received quality answers. The latter post is 3 years old but it also still post-dates any major edit to both the Stackexchange rules and the Anatomically Correct Series. The latter post should be a shining example of an ACS question. Why it was written by a moderator himself! Yet if a new user copies the moderator's example, they are chastised instead of praised. Why would that be? Unless there are some unwritten and subjective rules that recent ACS questions are now being judged by.

I believe I have made my points clear. Even though there has been no major revision to the Anatomically Correct Series since April 27, 2018, I wager the overwhelming majority of linked ACS questions after that date would be downvoted and closed if they were deleted and resubmitted this week. Several posters are very hostile towards ACS questions and submitters don't have a good idea why since previous ACS questions can no longer be followed as good examples. Even the official ACS thread on the Worldbuilding Help Center would almost assuredly be downvoted and closed if it was deleted and resubmitted today.

To improve both the Anatomically Correct Series and Worldbuilding Stackexchange in general. I propose two solutions; none of which include closing and terminating ACS. Solution one is to edit and rewrite the opening post of the Anatomically Correct Series. It hasn't been seriously revised in 4 years and it is clear that the standards expected from the Anatomically Correct Series have changed. This revision should not only include rule changes but a template or templates for future submitters to potentially follow. After this revision happens, close/reopen voters should closely follow it and only judge ACS questions by the ACS format and the stackexchange rules. There should be no such thing as an unwritten rule on stackexchange. Questions should only be judged for being a proper and abiding submission to this website and not be judged by the subjective interests of the voter.

Solution two is to create some new and proper examples of high-quality submissions for the Anatomically Correct Series. It is clear that using previous questions in the Anatomically Correct Series to format your question is non-viable. We have all seen recent examples of how ACS questions shouldn't be made. Now let's all create many new examples of how ACS questions should be made. If you want high-quality submissions for ACS instead of low-quality ones, The right path is for posters to lead by example, and be the change you want to see in the world. I invite moderators and other high reputations users on stackexchange to make proper and high-quality ACS submissions of the organism of their choosing. You can either submit a question about a mythological creature or plant not submitted yet, or you can go back to some closed/deleted ACS questions, massively improve them, and reopen the question. Use real-world biology and physics as the basis for why and how the organism of your choice would evolve and what its anatomy would probably be like. Do this and everyone wins! Submitters can make quality questions and get quality responses to their ideas, and voters will see far less low-quality submissions.

So come on @Willk, @L.Dutch, @o.m., @John, @Nosajimiki, @Starfish Prime, @LSerni, @Monty Wild, @Daron, @HDE 226868, @JBH, @sphennings, @Keizerharm and anyone else. Take the ACS challenge! I will even bounty all high-quality submissions that get made by high reputation users.

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Logic issue

-Hey Tobby, I've got really bad news.
-What John?
-Some people have been using our paint cans to make graffitis in the streets.
-Ah. How many people?
-Well, 2. But they are really active and nasty!
-Were they told it's forbidden to paint graffitis in public spaces? That the paint cans are used to paint one's house, or stuff like this?
-Yes, I did warn them multiple times for one year now, but they still continue! I tell you, our paint cans make hooligans out of people. We have to stop selling them.
-Uhh... Next time you see them, just call in the police.

Story aside, it's not because something exists that everyone will make something bad of it. And in this particular case, having just a few people on this kind of question is definitely statistically too little to know whether nothing good comes from this tag anymore. It might be just the three or four users.

Yes, I know that we told them to improve their question. Multiple times. And they continue. But that's a moderation issue with these users, not a moderation problem with the tag itself. The same deal happens with other users, on other subjects (Not quoting anyone, that's not the goal).

In anycase, if the tag was removed, it won't stop said users to ask bad questions (for instance in the mythical-creature tag). Going back to the story, it's like you confiscated their paint can, nothing prevents them to start using paint spray guns instead.

My opinion

Whether or not this tag is "metaphorically deleted", it should stop having this "aura" with specific rulesets. In general, the more rules are uniformized, the easier it is to work with rather than having to deal with people trying to walk around them.

This goes both way : Either as promoting them : Telling "this question is part of the anatomically-correct series" in every question, or not doing your proposal 3️⃣ (I'd go as far as moving the meta's text to the wiki instead of a link). Or as banning them : proposal 1️⃣,2️⃣ and 4️⃣, namely. A deconsecration of the tag could make them less interesting as an hiding spot, and easier to moderate as a vote-closer. In any case, the search for quality needs to be on par with other questions and leads to a swift-closure/downvote as usual, regardless if it is an anatomically-correct question or not.

Edit : As a follow-up to a gigantic comment thread, I would also suggest merging anatomically-correct tag towards mythical-creatures or equivalent tag, this in order to suppress the aura some people would still see looking just at the name. Not suggesting to synonymise though, given how the synonyms system works, it might very well end-up in the review queue without bulging (only people with +5 votes can vote, and there wasn't many people on this tag) :/.

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  • $\begingroup$ To say that this is just a policy issue, or just a moderation issue is to miss the point. We can take multiple courses of action at the same time to support the same desired outcome. While recently there are two users who are actively spamming the tag with low effort questions, there are other users who will post an one off bad Q to the tag. This tag can be likened to an attractive nuisance. People keep misusing it because it enables misuse. Better to prevent people from misusing it in the first place than to rely on moderator action after the fact. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 15 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Sphennings You do know that the actions proposed by JBH requires action after the fact, namely point 4, and they're all moderation proposals? Really few people read the tag description, even fewer the wiki. If we took you to the letter, we shall close all "dangerous" tags like Society : 15/50 (30%) closure at the time of writing, and questions reaching up to -7 votes (one being made from one of our favorite AC's asker). Oppose this to 3/15 (20%, or 13/48 for all of them) for anatomically-correct with max -4 votes. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 15 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ The anatomically-correct tag is functionally different from arbitrary tags, even those that have many low quality Qs. We have community structure around it. We have people who don't VTC low quality Qs with that tag, by virtue of having that tag. We have created a system that actively encourages people to ask questions with that tag. Deconstructing the system that leads to the tags misuse is something we can do without requiring the mods to take more action. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 15 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings And that's exactly where the issue can lie. If the design of a tag -because of its specific rules, be it accepted or not- makes people more likely to ask bad questions, it's the rules of the tag, the way it is viewed which need changes, not necessarily a plain and brutal closure. Talking RPG words, it's to move towards the same page between two different game campaigns so it's the same between every players. And if some players are not happy with it and break what's expected of them, so they can/should go away! $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 15 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ All in all, I'm ready to bet some of these people ask these kind of questions just because they're "special", be it because the tag includes more "helping future readers" as a goal, or just because it receives a less harsh treatment (punishments are a way of influencing someone). I mean, lately some of them were asked and answered with lots of details at the same time, meaning they didn't actually have much troubles answering their issues. That's very unusual for someone asking for help, to say the least. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 15 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ Are you trying to say that you still want people to be able to ask high quality questions about the anatomy of critters going forward? Seems like that is still doable with 1 ,2, 3, and with a less strict version of 4. It's been clearly established that the problem persists with things remaining as they are. We already ban question about 3rd party worlds. there is precedence for restricting lines of questioning when they become problematic. Remember that tags aren't magic. They are supposed to be words to make it easier to search for questions. If we find that they promote spamming they can go. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 15 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Sphennings Or it can just... Change and make it like the others in terms of treatment? What in closing this tag will prevent me or others from asking questions about a "definitely an anatomically-correct question but hey it's not tagged this way!", exactly like you suggested yourself to do for my turtle question? Yes, I can remove it's from a legend, but my text's body would be exactly the same : Size, gold, crossbow trigger, sword, goal and conditions, etc. Because I'd like it for my world. As I said there : "That's actually one of the purpose of the question :)." $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 15 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Sphennings, Besides, Remember "that tags aren't magic. They are supposed to be words to make it easier to search for questions." :p. If you give a specific ruling to close them more actively (#point 4), you're giving more to the tag's purpose than I do :) 🦋. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 15 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ The problem isn't people in good faith asking good questions, about problems they're actually having building a fictional world. The problem seems to be people searching wikipedia for mythical creatures and asking low effort questions about them. The issues with your question on main are that you don't have an actual worldbuilding problem and focusing on the format made your question harder to read. If we remove the infrastructure, the tag, the list of Qs on meta, the special treatment in review. We remove the incentives that reinforce poor behavior. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 15 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 15 at 19:45
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Can't vote so have to write it as A

This category of q's was always - lazy as fuck, and low effort, low quality, low value for WB as a place for authors in a sense of reuse in a sense of quality answers.

Starting from 'anatomically correct' - like - butter butter butter - wtf it should mean, I guess everyone has its own opinion.

The fact most of them pass - is annoying for sure, especially when you see people have fun there, but reasonable tech questions, where one not necessarly can suck an answer from a finger, are closed faster than one can count 1,2,3

Or questions like that What biological functions robots will never be able to replicate no matter how advanced robotics become? (not the best for sure, but fresh)

It is not worse than some anatomically correct half burn match. If one does not know the difference between high tech robot and a human then - do not get involved, do not vote, do not answer - ignore.

Same as I do for that anatomically correct stuf - add the tag to ignore and see it never again. So that inro of @Tortliena is very good.

No need to reduce fun, people have it - okay, let them, the annoying part is that tech stuff gets trown under the bus regulrly, partially for reasons it often harder to creatively suck an answer from nothing, sometimes it harder to understand the question, sometimes it require some specific set of knowledge to intrperet the question in a meaningful way etc. Unfortuntly this is a fundamental problem, changing it may be possible, but it does not require reshaping in this way, and this way not a good way for WB.

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-3
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Kill it.

The number of recent entries that are not a good fit for this site is too high. Most of the questions that do fit with site policy are low quality "How would the anatomy work for a man with a bull's head?" has a trivial answer in the question itself, "Well you have a bull's head and a man's body, just like you described".

Stack Exchange was intentionally designed to create a repository of high quality answers, that are meaningfully useful to later visitors, at the expense of some questions. That's why every site closes duplicate, overly broad, subjective and opinion based questions. They're not conducive to good answers. There are other opportunities to ask questions about worldbuilding online. What makes this site unique is the promise of the Stack Exchange model's more structured format.

If you read the tour you'll see what the site promises. When we allow low quality questions to still be asked for historic reasons we're breaking that promise. It sets a poor example for other new members of the site. It creates an inconsistent standard of review.

We should not formalize and sanction any line of questioning that leads to frequently closed posts and low quality answers. This doesn't mean that we should prevent people from asking new, high quality, questions about anatomy, just that we should hold every question to the same standard of review.

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  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Killing ACS doesn't do anything to encourage either high quality questions or answers. I'd argue that giving the ACS a solid structure will encourage both. Regardless, the only valid answer to this problem is "deal with the low quality questions!" In my assessment, shutting ACS down will only shift low quality questions out into the general population. Rather, we could leave ACS open and use that as a test bed to improve the quality of questions. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 15 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ If that was true you'd expect to see a similar rate of bad Qs around other tags. Something about ACS is different. Probably the list of ACS Qs and the lax standard of review. You can browse Wikipedia select a random critter from folklore and ask a low effort ACS Q. No other tag enables Qs spam the same way. Since low quality is excused for ACS questions it's harder to get them to stop, and it's easier for them to ask creative an attractive nuisance. We can't stop every bad Q but we don't need to make it easy to do. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 15 at 23:57
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I agree with sphennings. It's as if ACS is drawing the worst out of a small handful of users and making life miserable for the rest of us. Far too often they're out trolling the detritus of human mythology looking for crap they can toss out for rep fodder. If we think banning those abusive users would solve the problem, I'd be all for it. But I suspect I'd have a harder time getting that through the community than this. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH This answer is all presuming that the tag is the exact source of the problem. There needs to be a proof it's this tag's fault in particular, as much as there's no evident proof people act differently with this tag. Perhaps you do, but I don't and many users who don't look at tags or meta probably don't. Out of the 50 newest questions, there are 12 who got closed, with a minimum score of -4, almost the same as all ACs questions, even when counting the recent ones. You need to have data to know, otherwise that's just plain opinion-throwing. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 16 at 6:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena I haven't suggested that the tag is the problem. I have suggested that over the course of two years it's become obvious that the tradition suffers from degraded value. It was bad enough when people were submitting characters from (of all things) Minecraft. But today it has devolved into, "here's a picture, how would this evolve?" If I could trust the community to self-moderate this problem, I wouldn't be here. Frankly, I think it's time to solve the problem with a hammer. Posting the closure of the ACS so that a hammer can be brought to bear, IMO, will bear fruit. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Just focusing on the tag for clarity, but the same can be said about the principle in general. You need to bring proof that the community has issues moderating with this kind of question in particular because it's this kind of question. So far I see contradicting statistical hints to what you're moving forward. Do you have proof of the contrary? $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 16 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Are you joking? The fact that crappy questions aren't getting closed to satisfy your desire for statistics is proof that the community can't be trusted to self-moderate the problem. Assuming you've taken the time to review two years worth of lousy ACS submissions, please find a better reason. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 6:19
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH "The fact that crappy questions aren't getting closed to satisfy your desire for statistics is proof that the community can't be trusted to self-moderate the problem." You're giving intents to an attempt at a reasoned approach which happened after the fact. Even if there was a link, this is reversing the cause and the effect. I'm not joking here, as Elemtilas rightfully said, it looks like there's a need to take a step back and think first if there's a problem, then what and where before solving it. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 16 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Even Elemtilas agrees that we've a plethora of low-quality questions. Where he and I disagree is that I believe the last two years prove a new set of rules won't fix anything. Your own posted ACS question highlights the problem. You did very well! Now go compare it to the last 50 ACS submissions. You'll quickly find the statistics you're looking for. Please find a better reason. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH You mean, compared to the top-most voted AC one? Looks like they just took a wikipedia page and worked from it. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 16 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena (a) That was two years before the improvement to the rules and one of the reasons why the rule enhancement (which failed) was made. (b) Popularity has never been a measure of correctness. The fact that a hundred lemmings run off a cliff doesn't make the first one right. Popular questions get closed for violating Stack rules. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 16 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Perhaps it's better to compare with this one/this one then? It's from 2015-2016, still a good +46/17 with no apparent calls for closing. The point is that perhaps it's not the questions themselves which are low-quality (in which case most of ACs are), but the viewpoint having changed. It's a nuance to account, one that could strikes the issue better than a few users repeatedly asking bad questions -in any tag-. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jul 16 at 7:34
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, all tags "allow" for tag spam. ACS only seems to attract it because it is a special sub-forum within WB. That and there are a bajillion mythical creatures out there. And you do make an excellent point about attracting low effort queries. That's a problem that stems from the nature of ACS itself --- good but not clear rules, no real expectations, only one obvious rule. ACS is also a microcosm of WB in general. It could be a really great place to try and see how the combination of clear expectations along with community engagement and Moderator activity work to clean up bad questions. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 16 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I'm going to argue that ACS benefits from better rules than the rest of WB. From the page we read, (a) "questions about documented myths and legends of Humanity and creatures thoroughly designed (other than lacking anatomical fulfillment) for a fictional world of the OP's own creation." (b) "Links to specific examples of the creature in question are encouraged, but may not be used alone. A specific description of the creature is required or the question will again be closed as 'Unclear what you're asking.'" (*Continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ ... (c) "Creature descriptions should include important behavioral attributes and a clear physical description. It is the questioner's responsibility to invent the creature" (d) Unlike the rest of WB, there are even specific expectations for what can get the question closed. At this time I reject the belief that the problem can be solved with more rules. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 17 at 21:27

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