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This is the question.

I don't know why this question has been closed - the reason given is "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center" and when I check the help center I can clearly see "World building includes geography, culture and creatures for the world, not to mention magic and planetary physics, in short, everything from the physics underlying your reality to the entire universe you want to build." - literally any fictional setting that involves the destruction of a world can benefit from the answers given there - why is a civilization building a Deathstar-esque device considered to be off topic, but Santa using GDPR or Facebook summoning Cthulhu is considered to be on topic? - and how is this question not included in the wide ranging definition of "the physics underlying your reality to the entire universe you want to build"? The question is science-based, so physics is key to destroying a world, and universes are filled with worlds.

Is there any possible way for me to get an explanation of why this question asked 7 years ago is now suddenly considered to be off topic?

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    $\begingroup$ This is unfortanate, but it happens. Your old question doesn't meet current Stack policies. Then someone linked it to a current question as a possible duplicate of the current quesiton. This brought it to the attention of current users, which led to its closure. All of Stack Exchange has a policy that old questions cannot set precedent against current policies and rules, but none that I know of actively hunt down old questions to close them to make that point. I'm afraid that yours happened to get noticed and that led to the closure in the queue. C'est la vie. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 20, 2022 at 2:44

4 Answers 4

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We close old questions that are no-longer appropriate under current site policy. Keeping them open leads to confusion. We want to avoid new members needing to ask "Why was my question closed when this question asked 5 years ago wasn't?"

I wouldn't worry about it too much. Many old and well received questions get closed as site policies get changed around them. That's not a reflection on the question, or the person who asked it, just a reflection about how site policies grow and change over time. Stack Exchange has a special historical lock for questions that are important to the history of the site but should no-longer be considered appropriate or interacted with.

As to why your question was closed. You seem to be asking a very open ended question, that is more about actions in a world rather than building the world itself. Neither of these are particularly appropriate for questions on this site. Additionally you don't do much to specify the capabilities that you have that could be used to destroy a planet.

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    $\begingroup$ Are questions about the actions that could be taken by a fictional character or society really off topic? I would like an answer to that question because just at a glance I can see dozens of questions simply about actions that can be taken by fictional characters or societies - should these be marked as off topic too? And I didn't specify the capabilities because I wanted to design the society and technology around the most efficient way to destroy a planet. The answers to this question have become a principal building block within my own fantasy setting. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Oct 19, 2022 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Your question doesn't do anything to indicate that you're wanting to build a society around efficiently destroying planets, just that you want to destroy planets. Had you demonstrated that in your question we'd still be left with the broad and underspecified nature of the question, but it would clearly be about worldbuilding which it currently is not. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 19, 2022 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, my bad, I assumed that because I had posted the question on the World Building site that others would automatically infer that I was talking about my own world building - I do hope nobody jumped to the conclusion that I was looking for ways to destroy a world in real life! Regardless, I have now edited my question - I hope this is acceptable enough to reopen my question? $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Oct 19, 2022 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ We have tons of questions asking about the actions of characters that were they rewritten, could be about worldbuilding. Questions about any topic could be related to worldbuilding, but that doesn't mean that they are about worldbuilding. There are other issues with your question it's too broad, and underspecified. The best way for a K1 civ to destroy a planet will be different than that of a K2 or K3 civ. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ I wanted to decide on whether to make my fictional civ K1 or K2 or K3 etc based on how it would be most efficient to destroy a planet ("best" isn't what I was looking for, as I stated in the question - I was looking for efficiency - your use of best here makes my question appear vague as "best" is entirely subjective, and I hope that isn't intentional on your part). I placed plenty of stipulations down in the question itself - if I am creating a civ that can efficiently do X, I need to know about X in order to detail that civ $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ It could be argued that the most efficient way to destroy a world is to wish it destroyed and have it instantly be so. So a writer, or omnipotent being, will be supremely efficient. Efficiency is a relative metric, something isn't efficient in isolation only when compared to some other mechanism. As such asking for "Most efficient X" still has every X as a valid answer to the question. Remember that valid does not mean good or best. With the absence of meaningful constraints this question is too broad to be suitable. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ Also, destroying planets is a common trope in many scifi and fantasy works - I am confused as to how anyone here can seriously consider that world destruction isn't a part of world building. Being able to create something surely gives you the ability to also destroy it? With so many already existing devices, powerful entities and races throughout fiction being able to destroy planets - not least of which is the iconic Death Star - surely a question about being able to recreate this concept in your own world building is on topic here? $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ The issue isn't that your current question isn't about worldbuilding, (your edit has addressed that concern). Your question has other issues. Your question is too broad, enumerating every possible way to destroy a planet isn't a suitable question for this site. That doesn't mean that you can't ask about destroying worlds here. For instance asking "How big a rock would my civ need to throw to crack an earthlike planet?" or "How big would a fission reactor need to be to power a laser capable of destroying a planet in a single shot?" would both be an excellent question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ "It could be argued that the most efficient way to destroy a world is to wish it destroyed and have it instantly be so." - advancing to a point where your technology is indestinguishable from god like actions is not what I would call "efficient" - but by suggesting this aren't you answering my question, joining in on the discussion of how to efficiently destroy a world? The question was closed because it wasn't about world building - and here we are talking about building omnipotent beings capable of destroying worlds... sounds like world building to me. $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ "Your question is too broad, enumerating every possible way to destroy a planet isn't a suitable question for this site." No - I am looking for the most efficient way - I stated this clearly in the question - I want a single efficient way to destroy a world - check the top answer and check the comments to my question - all of this is already explained. Why, 7 years later, do I have to re-explain all of this? $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Site policy has changed. Under current policy it is not an appropriate question. It's not a reflection on you. There is no penalty for old questions being closed. If you haven't received a suitable answer in 7 years and 33 answers, how about you try asking a more focused question, that fits with current policy. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ Efficient is a relative quality. Something in isolation is neither efficient or not, it's only by comparing two or more things that you can begin to make statements like A is more efficient than B. Imagine if someone is unaware of A then they will in good faith suggest B as an answer. A reviewer also unaware of A would look at the answer and conclude that it was a valid answer to the question. If someone then comes along and suggests the more efficient A as an answer, that doesn't mean that B should be deleted because it no-longer answers the question. The result is any answer will be valid. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 19, 2022 at 17:55
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It just went by the close-vote queue

This is another way of telling what Sphennings said : Old questions get closed to avoid people confusing what's accepted now vs what was accepted before.

To keep people from overworking, closure generally only happens when someone else points to the old question in a comment, it's already in the closure queue, or it receives an answer which puts them in the top of the list. I think I remember it was the last case for yours, followed by the closure queue I was looking at ^^.

Why off-topic?

I always tell what could be improved when closing, even if I don't explicitly tell the reason I close1. In this case... Here !

The question isn't clear on what is available to perform mass-destruction; indeed, how can we know what's the easiest way if we don't even know if the destruction should be natural, human made or ultra sci-fi aliens made resorting to known science?

I believe I just voted for lacking details or clarity, simply. I ruled out opinion-based because the intentions and constraints were clear enough. Then there was possibly "lack of focus", but it's not like your question would require 3000 pages to answer. Well... If you give enough details, that is ^^. Therefore, lack of details seemed to be the closest... Close reason of the most important issue in your question.

As for your "official" closure statement, the question matches the simple definition of worldbuilding I use and, hey actually the one you quoted! Unfotunately, this means it's a mystery I cannot solve entirely, only bravely induce πŸ”. This happens, sometimes πŸ˜“.

Is it bad if it stays closed?

Not necessarily πŸ¦‹:

  • Questions really quickly get down in popularity, like movies or video games at launch. Getting a new answer gets really rare after the 1st month, so the chance you'll miss a new, very good one is quite improbable.
  • Then you accepted an answer, so I believe you already found something very helpful for your world 😊.
  • And as Sphennings told, it helps new users to get more easily acquainted to the current community and ask better questions. When I vote to close, it's more often to give time to think on what you want to know and how to get more and more accurate answers. A old, closed question is like a path with a warning sign then : It's possible to take it -and sometimes beneficial-, but you should think how and why you have to take it :).

If you want a more exact data on how well your question is received, just check the score : +85 vs -1. Your question really made a hit πŸ†!


1 : Telling a simple yet very effective "VTC:Opinion-based" is not really my taste. Too formal for me and it doesn't match my viewpoint of what the site is for.

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Everything Old Is New Again

As for the technicalities, Sphennings hit the nail on the head with an appeal to "current site policy". Enough community members considered your query to be off topic that they closed it. The problem with the policies of any corporate group, such as ours, is that they are all subject to the interpretation and implementation of the individual.

And as you know, your query has been reopened. And again, this is all a matter of "site policy". Five people thought your question was off topic and closed; five other people thought your question was on topic and reopened it.

The answer to your query is quite simply: This is how Stack Exchange works. This community exists as a varied and polydimensional aggregation of individuals. When all the right people are in the right place at the right time and looking at the right question with the right attitude, the result is that they apply WB.SE policies in a way that results in your question being closed. And then, when the right other people are in the right place at the right time, the result is that they apply those same WB.SE policies in a way that results in your question being reopened.

Policies are not black letter law and users are not robots responding to programming. Sometimes this kind of situation can seem non-sensical! How can a community work when 10 people look at the same data and come to two diametrically opposed conclusions?

But this is exactly the point of SE! The community of interested experts (in our case, experts in worldbuilding) determines the usefulness of your question. They also determine what the rules are, how to apply them, when not to apply them and when it might be best to ignore that we even have rules.

As to why your question was reopened, it is clearly "a worldbuilding question" as it focuses on a fictional world or setting, requires some knowledge of the underlying reality in order to answer well; it's not a matter of narrativity or storybuilding or character development; it's not opinion based and not open ended. Your question might be old, but it has one strikingly modern feature, and that is the list of conditions that a good answer would have to address; these conditions limit the opinions and turn this into a relatively short list of things (rather than an infinite list of things). This is not a mere fishing expedition, but is a pretty well written question that has, obviously, withstood the test of time and the vagaries of policy!

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Old and valuable

Jimmery's question was reopened after a few edits. I like the outcome and I disagree with the close reason in the first place.. Why would a topic about "world destruction" be off topic here, and not part of world building? why not? there are e.g. questions about hand guns I don't regard as on topic on WB but according to many peer mods they are. In a sense, the notion of something being "off topic" is very dependent on the opinion of 1500 peer mods on SE, about their own community and the scope of it.

The edit made it worse, the question is now violating three other current rules!

Two small sentences inserted by the author seem to have solved the issue, maybe because Jimmery's edit indicates he seeks worldbuilding advice: the answers would shape the society he is building. Jimmery now states his entire society would be derived from the answers! But that statement also changed the question into a very "unfocused" one.. as well as a "no best answer" case, and a violation of the "book rule". All methods of planet destruction apply, because we know nothing about the enemy society that wants to blow up a planet.

So I don't see the logic of the reopen: either this question should remain closed, or it should be tolerated because it is appreciated and so many folks have participated in it !

Proposal: tolerate successful old questions

This question about planet destruction has 11.000 views, many answers and many upvotes. In fact, if I were admin here, I would always tolerate a 7 year old question with interesting responses. I would advocate never to close successful old questions. Leave large content in peace, allow for very late and very genious answers.

Could it be possible, to devise a rule for "old and valuable content"? when a question is e.g. more than X years ago and it has more than Y answers, it was apparently according to the rules. It may not be so now, but the only one who can take a decision about it is a (real) moderator, there is no "close" link. It could be built in..

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  • $\begingroup$ I haven't read the new question, I might need to take a look again :). If your proposal is accepted, there'd need to be some site mechanisms in place; Indeed, I really often skip the dates and tags when reading questions or answers πŸ‘€πŸš«... $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 24, 2022 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ It's long been established site policy that every question on this site is subjected to the same current standard of review. To do otherwise would be to constantly confuse new members who look at existing questions to inform their understanding of what is and what is not appropriate on this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 24, 2022 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with Goodies - a policy of tolerating successful old questions should be employed - Sphennings point of "To do otherwise would be to constantly confuse new members who look at existing questions to inform their understanding of what is and what is not appropriate on this site" is irrelevant when both myself and Goodies have already pointed out several questions that seem off topic - Again, World Destruction seems highly on topic in a group about World Building - and I am happy to edit (or unedit) my question to make it fit in with the rules of this site... $\endgroup$
    – Jimmery
    Oct 25, 2022 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Jimmery We don't hunt for old questions to close. However if you find a question that seems off topic you should vote to close it. The whole reason we have the policy of closing old questions is to prevent people from using them as justification for their own question remaining open. To quote Monica Old questions resurface periodically and we've seen questions here on meta from people asking "why was this close when that other one is open?" -- the answer often being "nobody noticed that other one" $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 25, 2022 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ Note how by saying "myself and Goodies have already pointed out several questions that seem off topic" is a demonstration of how inconstant application of the rules leads to confusion. If we granted an exception to the rules for sufficiently old questions, we'd be creating a system with more inconsistent application of the rules, not less. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 25, 2022 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings imho you see problems with old content that don't exist.. A valid objection you put was people refer to them to support incompliant new questions.. Now that can easily be solved with a disclaimer. If needed (IF needed !) put a grey banner on top, explaining that the old question is incompliant, and its existence cannot be referred to in discussions about closure or other rules. It will be rare anyway, so why worry ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Oct 27, 2022 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies It has long been established site policy that we review every question using the current standards of review, and close old questions that don't meet current site standards. No disclaimers. No special historical exceptions. Just a consistent standard of review for every question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 27, 2022 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings this place is not only its content. It is people also, a community, a forum, quite old-fashioned online club. Some of us are dinosaurs that have produced a stack of content, in many years. Respect the old content please, and stop imposing a selection of "currently established rules" on the past ! WB will need some amusement value to survive, along with quality. We need both. As strange as it may sound, the topic of planet destruction is quite funny to think about as a world builder, maybe that's the reason that old topic has a lot of appreciation. Let it be. Please. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Oct 27, 2022 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ @goodies We are not a forum. We were never designed to be one. We're here to ask and answer well written questions. If you want a forum try Reddit. If you want less structured QA try Quora. This site's mandate has always been clear. Before this site was established the community had to show that it could work within the SE model. That included showing examples of questions that wouldn't be appropriate. The community has continued to create and refine policy. If you want to change our policies you should post a question proposing a change. Pleading in comments won't change anything. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 28, 2022 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings you're right about the initial quality measures and the good intent of SE, but the "refinements" have become too much ! If openers need to read all these "refinements" and discussions on meta about all aspects, no time is left to put the actual question. These "refinements" are mostly science philosophy formal constraints, rather than practical rules for members. Formal reasoning, completeness, and objectivity/subjectivity are Interesting meta debates, we agree, but I wonder if they are accepted as rules. You should post rules links, not meta links to claim a rule is established. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Oct 28, 2022 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ @goodies Like I've said before you don't like them then work to change them. Make a post on meta outlining the change you seek and why the community should adopt a different standard. Until the community adopts a different standard, we expect that you follow current site policy. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 28, 2022 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ I've put my advise, in this answer and to you specifically, in the comments. Rest my case. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Oct 28, 2022 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ There has been a lot of over-moderation recently. Moderators seem to think they must save the site from the dangers of edge cases, when the real danger is them running off users by nit picking. $\endgroup$
    – JamieB
    Dec 20, 2022 at 21:17

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