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Recently a question was asked about a website (Baen's Bar) which, as far as I understand, is/was a discussion forum for fans. There was some discussion in comments about whether or not this question should be considered on-topic here, with some people saying yes because it falls under fandom information, and others saying no because it's not a fandom question about SF/F itself but about a forum. The comments were getting quite lengthy, so I'm bringing the discussion to meta.

Should questions about online SF/F fan forums* be considered on-topic or not?


* Other than SFF.SE, of course. Questions about that particular SF/F fan website belong right here on SFF meta.

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  • I've always found the "fandom information" on topic bullet to be used inconsistently, though I can't recall any examples right now. It seems to be it's on topic unless it isn't. It may be that it just isn't defined enough. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 18 at 9:59
  • I did not know it was a thing to discuss about websites themselves. – Clockwork Feb 19 at 8:26
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I would argue that they are, although we should probably apply some sort of 'notability test' in practice if people start asking questions about very small websites or individual chatrooms.

In this instance the forum in question is directly attached to a publisher's website that specialises in publishing purely science fiction and fantasy, the forum itself has a wide fanbase which included a significant number of the authors they publish and the bulk of the chat is directly related to the books they publish. I would argue that represents a fandom (e.g. 'Baen books and the books they publish') all of its own.

Baen's Bar is quite different from the websites of other publishers: Baen, his editors, and many of his authors actually frequent the chatrooms daily, host their own forums, and are quite open and friendly, and "just folks." Of course, if you are friends with an author, you run out and buy his or her books in hardback right away...and, oh my, Baen's hardback sales have increased tremendously. Baen's Bar has several thousand active members, and averages over 900 posts a day in all of its forums.

Baen's Bar, A Successful Community by Walt Boyes

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    Agreed. Just because it's not focused on one specific work does not mean it's less on-topic than Pottermore. – DavidW Feb 18 at 14:03
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    @DavidW - That was my thought. This site is both notable and largely focused on scifi. That seems to meet the criteria of fandom to me – Valorum Feb 18 at 15:34
  • " I would argue that represents a fandom (e.g. 'Baen books and the books they publish') all of its own." I would argue that's one step too removed to be on-topic here. – AncientSwordRage Feb 18 at 15:44
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    @AncientSwordRage By that metric no convention-related question is on-topic either, since the collective interests represented at most conventions are diverse. Just the presence of persistent author-lead chatrooms (like extended coffee klatches) means that potentially significant discussion might take place there. – DavidW Feb 18 at 15:47
  • @davidw it's not a moratorium on anything discussed there – AncientSwordRage Feb 18 at 15:49
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    @AncientSwordRage OK then Baen's Bar is a site that contains dissuccions on several (many) books. the 1632 series, Vorkosigan series, Honor Harrington etc . Each of those sepaaratly would be on topic if Potterverse is. It also includes a slush pile of things that people would like to be released as books. – mmmmmm Feb 18 at 21:46
  • @DavidW - The convention point is well made. We've have had "behind the scenes" questions about what went on at conventions before and no-one batted an eyelid. – Valorum Feb 22 at 9:18
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The question, in question asks about:

Apparently, Baen's Bar, a popular and long-running "virtual convention" for sci-fi aficionados.

Baen's Bar is a forum, calling it a long-running virtual convention is overly generous.

As such, it's only tangentially on-topic. See this previous question, (the second linked in the main post) it also applies:

In the context of this question, the key phrase is "about science fiction or fantasy". This means Questions about motivation, influences and writing/acting styles would on topic. Questions about what they do in their personal lives, unless it can be specifically linked to a work of SF&F, should be off topic.

I don't think the question about the forum can be specifically linked to a work of SF&F. If the question had been about the delay of a book being published, or something more closely tied to SF&F, then it may have had a chance.

Again, the question discussed in the first meta post linked:

Into which house was Rowling sorted?

Ties directly into the Harry Potter fandom; understanding which house she is sorted into informs you about the work in question.

But questions about a forum itself, is like asking about the web technology behind Pottermore or the convention building itself. It looks like out and (common co-tags with bear this out, as they're more directly linked to the works in question.

For instance Why was the old Pottermore shut down?, is on topic as the website directly relates parts of the harry potter franchise. Baen's Bar is just for the discussion of the works in question.

There will be questions that involve Baen's Bar in the future, but this one is not it.

In conclusion, the question isn't directly tied to a sci-fi or fantasy work, so it should not be left open.

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    (Most) Conventions are not tied directly to a single SFF work either, are those off-topic now as well? – Skooba Feb 19 at 12:48

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