Why are there inconsistencies with closed question?

This question, The Matrix, taking both red and blue pills? is clearly what people would regard as a speculative question as there is no possible way of knowing what would happen, hence the speculation.

Following the link in this notification (https://scifi.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic) you are pointed to another link here:

What questions are on-topic, and what questions are off-topic?

In an answer it points to link on:

Again in this Meta question Questions that provide speculative answers…

This answer:

These are forum-style speculation questions, and should be closed.

So why are some questions allowed to stay open and others are not? This is not an isolated occurrence and these kinds of inconsistencies are rampant here.

It seems that by and large, if the group collective likes the question regardless if it is a speculative one, no one will close it. How does that work? And why is it allowed?

Personally I think speculative questions should be allowed, but that is not what I am here asking today.

  • 7
    That question isn't closed because nobody's voted to close it yet. If you think it should be closed according to site guidelines, vote to close it. You have that power. (For anyone with <3k rep reading this: you can still send a question into the Close Votes review queue by flagging to "recommend closure".)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 15:37
  • 1
    Speculation is a fuzzy grey area. So it's going to generate fuzzy grey opinions in different people. Rand's right, throw your voice into the mix if you think it's important. I'll try to write an answer to this if I get better words.
    – Radhil
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 15:54
  • 1
    Like I said I don't mind speculative questions. My issue here is the inconsistency that this site has. The question is liked by the masses and it gets a pass, if not it is closed pretty quickly. Shouldn't moderators be filling in these inconsistencies gaps?
    – KyloRen
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 16:00
  • 12
    @KyloRen It's not the moderators' responsibility to close every question that needs closing. That's what you, the community, get rep-based moderation privileges for.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 16:27
  • "Why are there inconsistencies with closed question?" Given the large variation in people's thinking process and opinions, I wouldn't be surprised if close voting is well modeled by some slightly biased random number generator. =) Why would you expect any consistency?
    – jpmc26
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 0:07

3 Answers 3


Speculative questions aren't necessarily off-topic: in-universe speculation and extrapolation is on-topic. It depends on how much speculation is required. Some speculative questions are off-topic while others are on-topic:

There are good speculation questions and bad speculation questions. I invite you to read the section “What kind of questions should I not ask here?” in the site's FAQ, and to follow the link to Robert Cartaino's six guidelines for great subjective questions.

The questions you cite are self-labeled “wild mass guessing”. Wild guesses are firmly in the bad subjective category, because

  • “every answer is equally valid”
  • “we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question”

On the other hand, puzzling out what an author meant from actual clues can be good subjective:

  • an answer should explain why the interpretation it defends is likely (Robert Cartaino's guideline #1)
  • an answer should not just make one out-of-context citation, but explain how the interpretation fits the work (and ideally reconcile the in-story justification with the meta-justification) (guideline #2)
  • an answer should make it clear what is directly deduced from primary sources and what is speculative (guideline #3)
  • an answer should make sense on its own, not just in the answerer's mind (guideline #4)
  • an answer should be built on primary sources, and infer from them (guideline #5)
  • an answer should cast the work in an interesting light, not just be a random “what if” when there's absolutely no indication that there's any connection between the speculation and the contents of the work (guideline #6).

This particular question is the on-topic kind. We know what happens when someone takes the red pill and we know what happens when someone takes the blue pill. All this is spelled out and linked to other posts on the site in Valorum's answer. It's a rather small logical leap to extrapolate what would happen if someone took both pills.

This isn't a wildly speculative "Gorilla vs. Shark" or cross-universe type of question. Such questions are entirely subjective because there's no clear objective basis for making an argument.

Ultimately, it's a judgment call whether or not a question is too speculative. If you think a question should be closed as too speculative then you should cast a close vote or flag. The community will decide whether or not the question is too speculative. Even a question which seems wildly speculative may turn out to be answerable by a subject matter expert who is aware of an obscure canon source which provides an answer.

  • +1 to this. Wild speculation is closeable, reasoned speculation isn't.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 17:20
  • I just woke up this morning and I see the question is now on hold. That was not my aim here, I just want a more understandably perspective on things. As it stands the On-topic link does not give you an option like you have explained. I certainly can entertain the fact that a lot of questions do have a degree of speculation.
    – KyloRen
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 21:59
  • @KyloRen I re-opened it. Thanks for the heads-up.
    – Null Mod
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 22:27

Because to err is human.

There's no automated system to close off-topic questions, or even to bring them to the attention of those who can vote to close them. Moderation of questions - deciding which to close, which to leave open, and so on - is done by the community, following the guidelines established on meta. So if there are inconsistencies, it's all due to human error. Some questions which "should" be closed are seen by those with the power to close them and some aren't.

What to do about it? Well, that's easy: use your close-vote privileges! You are a member of the community, and you have the power to help with closing questions that should be closed. You've already asked about how to use these powers, and I gave you a detailed answer. To quote bleh's succinct answer to another of your questions here on meta:

You! And the community.

The fact is, you have more than 3K rep.

It is in your power to [close or] reopen anything.

  • If you think a question needs closing, vote to close it.
  • If you think a closed question needs reopening, vote to reopen it.

Either of these actions will send a post into the relevant review queue, to be voted on by your peers.

  • If the reviewers disagree with your vote, you can then post about the specific question on meta to get more input on whether or not it should be closed.
  • If you wish, you can also debate the broader policy on whether or not certain whole classes of questions should be closed, here on meta.

Per my answer to another related question, speculative questions are fine if there's a reason to presume that there's enough canon information to make a reasoned speculation. If there's insufficient information, then the question should be closed as 'too speculative'.

Unfortunately that fine line is only really apparent to experts in the tag, and somewhat subjective even then.

Close Reasons: “What if ______ happened?”

I think the implication of the caveat against "what if x happened?" questions is that they should only be asked if they're supportable (e.g. that there are sufficient in-universe reasons to think that something would have happened had something else not happened or if there are good reason to presume that there will be out-of-universe sources to draw on such as Director interviews). They should be neither open-ended nor require large leaps into the hypothetical.


    Q. Would Yavin have been destroyed if Luke hadn't blown up the Death

   A. Yes, almost certainly. It was about to happen when Luke blew it up.


    Q. Would Yavin have been destroyed if Leia had been taken by Obi-Wan?

    A. Deeply unclear. No canon reference support this version of events.

The irony is that it's not always possible for a non-specialist to tell the difference and often it doesn't become clear that an answer is possible until after the question is closed.

  • Like I said, I don't speculation to a certain point. Obviously the outrages questions like, who would win, Hulk or Superman. But, the guidelines are very vague.
    – KyloRen
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 22:01
  • @KyloRen - I don't like unfocused speculation.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 22:20

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