Proposal: Worldbuilding

Certain questions are on the list of example questions that are quite broad and open to a lot of differing answers that all could be considered correct. A good example of this is our currently highest voted question:

What impediments could prevent civilizations' technology from ever progressing past a medieval stage?

This question could have a lot of different answers, and lots of factors come in to play making most answers speculative. Whether the description of the question could improve it, I'm not sure. But one thing is for sure, it's an open ended question.

Another question that brought this up, and prompted me to open this discussion is:

What environmental factors could prevent a society from developing electricity?

In my experience of SO these types of questions do not fit the Q&A format we have here well. Questions should be answerable without becoming lists or essays. Whilst I understand that it is my opinion the above question will do this, I believe this warrants further discussion as to what we would consider too broad for a question before the site goes into beta.

  • I think this is a very difficult one. While I do see them as potentially quite open ended I feel the voting mechanism will work very well to determine the better answers. Picking a definitive answer may be down to the choice of the original poster. I do worry that by disallowing this sort of questions we limit the usefulness of the site.
    – Liath
    Apr 29, 2014 at 11:42
  • 1
    I think Beta will help a lot in this regard.
    – James
    May 9, 2014 at 15:35

3 Answers 3


I guess my thought here is that some specificity is required.

With your example question:

What impediments could prevent civilizations' technology from ever progressing past a medieval stage?

This could be any myriad of things...the possibilities are...maybe not endless but many and varying.

I think the first question here is:

What technological advancements allowed humanity to progress past the medieval era?

This is far more specific and more importantly it is an answerable, source-able question.

But then there could be a host of more specific follow on questions:

Given that X was necessary for mankind to progress to the Renaissance, what scientific (or political, or technological, depending on the topic) constraints could keep that from occurring?

  • There's been some talk about keeping answers to research questions to sources of information and not trying to become a repository of anything a writer could write about. I think this question is a perfect example of one that would be on topic at another SE site and thus probably shouldn't be answered here. Apr 29, 2014 at 19:15

I don't think it is generally possible to decide whether a question would be too broad just based on the title. The very same title may be put on a question that is as broad as the title allows, but also on a question that gives lots of specifics which could never be put in the title, and which make the question quite narrow.

  • This is a very good point...
    – James
    May 5, 2014 at 14:22
  • The problem I'm seeing here is that that extra detail provided in the description will narrow the question so much so that the answer (likely hinging on multiple details of the description) will more often than not only be valuable to the OP, thus making the question Too Localized. :( Jul 26, 2014 at 22:29

Also if we restrict broad questions, we might find users asking Could A prevent E ? Could B prevent E ? Could C ...

Maybe we do want that, and then group them together under another question "What could prevent E?".

But I think that if we managed to find a way to keep them all in the same place, we gain in creativity and we'd minimize redundancy.

Is there a way in SE to allow for multiple answer to be accepted by the OP ?


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