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I'm a firm believer in quickly closing questions that need improvement — but I'm also a believer that the "Opinion Based" VTC reason is the least useful, if not completely useless, reason to close.

Regarding https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/236410/40609, posted as the first question by a new user. It was quickly closed and almost as quickly deleted by the OP. Closed so quickly, that I was unable to post available research pertinent to answering the question before closure.

Am I complaining because I couldn't post that comment to help the OP? Honestly, yes. But I'm also complaining because the Opinion Based VTC reason is ridiculous. We all know it's ridiculous. And any question closed because of it probably deserves an internal review here on Meta to better understand why that VTC reason was used because, based solely on the results of a 10-second Google search, that reason was used by people who did not perform any research, but simply believed (I suppose) that no research could exist, and therefore only unsubstantiated opinion could result.

Although not alone, I for one have wondered a number of times what to do about the Opinion Based VTC reason:

Official Debrief: Given that...

  1. I quickly found an authoritative online resource that would answer the question and,

  2. The Opinion-Based VTC reason descriptive text reads, "This question is likely to be answered with opinions rather than facts and citations."

What rationale was used to justify the VTC as Opinion-Based and how can we avoid using this VTC reason (on a Stack that's defined in part by providing answers that can't be supported with facts or citations) in the future?


Closures since this question was first posted:

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    $\begingroup$ A user deleting a closed question and a question being closed are not the same, and that is not the close reasons fault. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Topcode I did see some people questions deleting their question due to the negative reactions about said question. And this doesn't change the main point : the question was closed too hastily and not enough searchily according to JBH. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Topcode That's not the question, either. I pointed that out because WillK isn't wrong, at least in spirit. We closed that question quickly, but for what appears to be a bad reason. The consequence as I started writing the post appeared to be the OP had abandoned the Stack (been chased away). My note at the bottom confirms that what he really did was try to circumvent the rules. But the premise is unchanged. I advocate closing quickly, but we need to be right. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ I had to look through the link's name, to know what the question was about (can't read the deleted questions :) ). In case some are wondering about what it was, it was this : Is it plausible for one's own vivid imagination kill them?" $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ You're misrepresenting the question in the state it was in when it was closed. Instead of asking if someone's imagination could be harmful to them, they were asking "Can you kill someone with something that isn't real". I VTC'd the question around edit 4 when it was definitely inappropriate for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings Thanks, I see exactly which question it is about now :). $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH You're all over the map with what you're talking about. Constructive comments when close voting, using the correct close reason, delaying closing questions, angry that you didn't get to answer a question that wasn't suitable for this site. It's hard to meaningfully engage with you when you keep changing the topic of the conversation. I'd like to be able to hear what you have to say and meaningfully engage with it, but currently you're making it extremely difficult. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH commenting an answer violates site rules, but alright, dig your own grave. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ I've found that when I'm irritated about a bunch of things, attempting to talk about all of it at once inevitably leads to confusion miscommunication, and unsatisfactory results. Try to talk about one thing at a time and stay on topic. Your question above is not asking "why did people VTC POB instead of other close reasons?" Constantly shifting what's being talked about leads to confusion, frustration, and dismissal. That's great if you're wanting to stir the pot, but pretty inconvenient if you're wanting to engage in good faith. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH We're here to answer all the non-POB questions that this site is intended for. This site promises that it isn't a discussion site, or a brainstorming site. It promises structure. And when there are answers that are suitable for this site I like answering them. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH “the only possible solution” no, that would be editing and improving the question. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH - additionally, remember that once you post content anywhere on SE, it is public, and can be edited by anyone with enough rep. No permission is needed - and I think one of the edits improved the clarity of your post. The other one maybe wasn't as useful (the comment/answer edit) $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 22:50
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH “a point: the OP deleted the question in less than two minutes.” Which isn’t the fault of the close reason. “I didn't need to edit or improve the question.” You thought you didn’t, but the consensus was against that. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH - you may disagree that they were improvements, but remember the community is the ultimate arbiter of these, as posts are community property once you post them - the primary aim is to benefit the future community of visitors, and it is possible that will clash with your aims. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH you can disagree with the current reopening system, however that is site wide and should be discussed on meta se. $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 23:02

1 Answer 1

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Was the opinion-based close vote reason "ridiculous" for the question you read? Probably yes.

I am the first one to have voted to close, exactly for this reason. Wait, there's a contradiction, isn't there? Welp, It's just that I voted to close for the 1st revision.

I don't know what happened to the question after my vote, but knowing it leaped from "How can you kill someone with something that isn't real?" to "Is it plausible for one's own vivid imagination kill them?" implies there were big changes meanwhile. Therefore the close-vote reason is likely to be at least obsolete, if not the closure in its entirety.

Also note that because official closure reasons are not exhaustive and because they're chosen by the majority, they are explained very often nowadays. I do it every time, and if I didn't, I upvoted the comments that matched the closest the reason I chose. For this question, it was something akin to this :

Disregarding the logical impossibility depending on how you look at it (Willk's lies is a neat example1), it looks more like you're brainstorming, something SE isn't really good at, as per the help-center says. To focus on a more specific issue, perhaps start by giving more details about what you mean by "not real" and who and from whom the crime is about?
I put in italic the words I'm not sure anymore, it's copied from my butterfly/goldfish memory 🦋.

Was and is the opinion-based close-vote reason "ridiculous"? No.

And I mean both for the 1st revision and in general. If you wish for an official SE source, the best one I think is this one : Good subjective, bad subjective. But it's 12 years old now so likely outdated to the new norms and it's not exactly the way I think, anyhow :). I do entirely agree on this very sentence though :

Most forums and chat rooms have a scale problem. As in, they don’t. The more people that join the discussion, the more noise each of those connections bring. So the forums get progressively noisier and noisier, and suddenly one day … you stop learning.

From my personal experiences in both forums and real-life as a tutor, the more you give to someone at once, the less they actually receive. There's a limit to how much someone is able to learn, if not even willing to learn in a information overloaded world 📙⚡😖.

As such, this site is a lil' bit different from others : Ask questions, get answers, no distractions. Well, this is the ideal, at least 🐶. Point is, the site is designed with that motto in mind, going from "game-like" mechanics like score to how and which questions are displayed to the readers. Opinion-based questions in which every answers are equally valid strongly lends towards distracting discussions and prevent clear categorizations. Unless you want page-long comments arguing on what wants the asker or disappointing feedback that it's not what they want "just because", it's a thing to part with, both sadly and for good measure.

In this question's case, the querent wasn't providing any context to what they wanted to achieve, they basically asked the question in title. This makes the question unnecessarily a brainstorm regardless if it was answerable or not, because it would have needed very subjective intrepretations in order to nail an answer, biases which doesn't represent the actual question behind. If I wasn't closing for opinion-based, I would have closed for either being too broad or lacking details, with a very similar advise at the end; Indeed, these two other reasons complemented opinion-based, as no clear goal was given : What's important to them when they want to kill someone that way? Is it efficiency, mass-murder, speed, sneakiness? Something else? What should be prioritized? And what is already existing, in order to determine by the opposite what can be answered?

Subjectively

But most importantly -and that's where the objective part leave the stage for my viewpoint-, since they haven't showcased a choice made on the starting point and a direction, how can one reliably answer and not hinder their creativity ? Not giving anything highly suggests they're still in the stage of choosing than inducing, ie. brainstorm.

Issue is I don't know them, nor do I know their project -if they have one-, and so the choices that will attract them the most. Supposing that Willk's example is the correct interpretation, that the crime tool just needs to not be "material" or "physical", giving the possibilities I could think of would inherently restrict the choice they would make. Yes, even if am -or was 🦋?- able to reverse the chessboard most of the time. I would limit not because of rational thinking based from facts about the world, but because I will necessarily impose my viewpoint on what they should do from what I, the "expert at worldbuilding" would do. Problem is, I'm not an expert of their world.

I'm not here to restrict the end choice they are free to make, and I think anyone else shouldn't, either. It's a very quick-sand way of drowning one's motivation, their inner goal not being the same as the world they're creating. It's the most important thing, ever2. In other words, it's the most counter-productive way of helping someone build their world.

This is why I intimately think opinion-based is a valid close-reason. Are the official statement unclear or wrong? Yes, I do agree it's very misleading, and the help-center telling every answers are equally valid is a much better explanation. Does it mean it's unfit in its entirety? No for the above reasons.

It's annoying, but we have to compensate its usage with a comment explaining why. But remember it's like any other closure reason, wherin we need to give which timeframe the reason is valid in case of major changes, and just what exactly is the issue and what should be done to improve the question 🐨.


1 : Willk's example was a link to lies spread for the Covid epidemy, which in turn led to deaths. For them, it was something "unreal", but I contradicted saying that the fact in the lies don't exist, but the lies did, and it's the latter which killed people.
2 : For a complementing reference, the very last and most important objective of "The Art of Game Design" book by Jesse Schell ends with this : "Why do you do this?". My book is an old edition, but I doubt it has changed in the newer ones.

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