With respect to Robert Cartaino's answer on the hilariously-titled question, This site is doomed and will curl up and die — the sunshine-and-hope thread, SciFi.SE needs to come up with an elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a short, 1-2 minute (although Robert suggests 5-10 seconds) schtick you can memorize and deliver to someone in an elevator when they ask, "What is the Science Fiction Stack Exchange site about?"

It's meant to distill down the core essence of the product so a person, before they get to their floor, fully understands what it is you're trying to do and, ideally, is convinced what you're trying to do is awesome and immensely worthwhile.

So what would be our elevator pitch? What is quintessentially SciFi.SE material, and what is categorically not? Why would a layperson who wasn't involved in the proposal ever want to visit and keep coming back?

  • I put together a set of links to the elevator pitch questions for the SE sites that have launched, in case anyone else wants to read them and doesn't want to search themselves: tonyandrewmeyer.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/… - however, note that these are the 5-10 seconds (at most - many are <1 second) variety.
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Feb 11, 2011 at 7:05

4 Answers 4


The Sci-Fi Insider's Guide

Behind the scenes and between the lines

Wondering about those loose threads the series left you with? We have the answers.

A few of us had a long conversation about this and basically agree that in order for this site to provide something both useful and novel (i.e. "make the internet a better place"), the motto/tagline/pitch needs to express three key concepts:

  1. The site is for serious, dedicated fans of a work or series. Good questions are normally about a single work or "universe", not "What books should I read?" recommendations or author bios.

  2. Questions trivially answerable from a single primary or canon source (i.e. one book, film, or episode) do not belong - hence "between the lines".

  3. Questions are also not supposed to be entirely speculative. In other words, something that's actually reasonably answerable either via supplementary sources (like the TNG Technical Manual) or clues left in the work itself (e.g. Who Killed Asmodean?).

This represents a considerable change from the style of question that's been asked so far and also represents a very specific niche; however, it is the best way to make the site unique and keep questions at what could reasonably be called an expert level (a requirement for all Stack Exchanges).

  • With regard to point 2: perhaps "questions wholly answerable from..." such sources are what should be banned. If a question requires putting together research with expert/enthusiast knowledge, then it might be a good question. Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 23:39
  • Speculation: I agree with your stance on this. There will always be some speculation in putting the pieces together, but let's try to ground it in the facts/explanations as given in the works in question. We should reverse the polarity of the neutron flow in a consistent manner! :) Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 23:40
  • 1
    @neil: There's probably some ambiguity in the language; when I said "trivially answerable" I did not mean "able to post a trivial answer" (as you probably interpreted it) but rather "trivially easy to answer". In other words, if the answer is blindingly obvious just from watching episode 3, it's a low-value question. I don't mind editing this answer but keep in mind that everything below the fold is just my personal notes and explanation, not necessarily intended to accompany the pitch itself.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 23:47
  • @Aaronaught - Perhaps that can be looked at as the part of the pitch you could get into if you had more time. Looking at the above-the-fold part: "the word "series" says to me "TV series", although there's no reason it can't mean movies or books. Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 23:54
  • This seems like a basis for good questions, but can it generate sufficient original questions? Serious fans are probably already participating on sites specifically dedicated to the works they are fans of, and have compiled extensive pages of analysis based on the primary sources, so what will bring them here?
    – sdobie
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 0:43
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    @sdobie: You could pretty much say that about any topic. But do those people do it in a good Q&A format that's easy to find, or is it strewn about various forums and blogs? I find your comment a little silly given that the majority of mindless trivia and list-building questions here are the furthest thing imaginable from being original. If you want this site to compete with other SF boards then the smartest thing you can do is carve out a niche to minimize that competition.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 0:50
  • @Gilles: Did you even read any of this post? The whole point is that the site (not "my site") is not supposed to be for trivia. Trivia adds no value, and it's not something that real enthusiasts would be interested in. In order for a site like this to survive it has to answer questions that you can't already answer with a 5-second Google search or by just watching the movie.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 2:03
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    (expanded from my earlier deleted comment) So your site is a trivia site: a site to discuss fine points of specific works. I think this can work, as a site for fans of popular series, especially since you're excluding trivially-findable trivia. But it's definitely not what I'm interested in.
    – user56
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 2:13
  • 4
    @Gilles: No, it's not a trivia site. Come on man, read the whole thing!
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 2:57

SF discussion sites, the “good parts” version

The questions and answers format and the voting system highlight the good stuff, prevent off-topic or meandering discussions and keep away spam.

(Only pick one or two bullet points unless you're going to a very high floor.)

Note that this represents what I think would be a good Science Fiction Stack Exchange site. I do not think it represents what scifi.se is at the moment.

  • The hard sf concept angle is perhaps the only cream in that crop Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 16:25
  • 5
    I think "help me remember" questions are generally a no-no for most SE sites.
    – Slick23
    Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 17:11
  • 2
    @Final: see my view on “help me remember” questions on the relevant Meta thread. I think it's the one thing that's absolutely needed for a successful SF.SE.
    – user56
    Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 17:27
  • 2
    I'm not disagreeing at all. I think the ban is ridiculous. But it seems to have come from on high.
    – Slick23
    Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 17:29
  • 5
    The word "discussion" does not belong in the elevator pitch/tagline for any Stack Exchange. This pitch says nothing of substance, and the fact that one of the examples is literally officially banned across the network makes it one of the worst pitches I've ever heard. I agree with @Eight, the Hard SF one is one example that's decent, but the pitch itself only seems to highlight the serious scoping problem here, not solve it.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 18:11
  • @Aaronaught: On “discussion”: that's the whole point of “the ‘good parts’ version” — but if you have a good suggestion for a different word (not a phrase that's not immediately comprehensible like “questions and answers site”), please contribute. On the ban on identification questions: where do you get that it is banned? You're not the first to tell me this, but no one seems to have a source (FAQ entry? Meta post? Blog post?).
    – user56
    Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 18:23
  • See What is the point of “help me remember this game” questions? for the origin of that policy. I think people presented some decent counterarguments and am not necessarily of the mind that there should be an all-out ban; however, it's really a very poor example to use for the pitch. Even if the questions aren't banned, they should be discouraged. See The Pee-Wee Herman Rule.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 18:31
  • 4
    As for contributing something of my own, I really honestly wish I could. I'm eagerly watching the front page for something worth using as an example or even upvoting, but it all seems to be lists and trivia. I was interested in this SE too, from its Area 51 origin, but now that I'm actually seeing it play out, I just can't see the point.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 18:33
  • @Gilles - I agree with a lot of the reservations here, but thanks for trying! Giving us something to tear apart is a great way to get started. Commented Jan 22, 2011 at 23:42
  • @Aaronaught and others: There is no ban on identify-this questions.
    – user56
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 11:02
  • That is exactly what I said, @Gilles; no outright ban, but strongly discouraged. Respected contributors may get a free pass once in a while, but you don't want to sell the site on that basis.
    – Aaronaught
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 17:48
  • 1
    @Aaronaught: On the contrary, I do want to sell the site on that basis. It works for other SF discussion sites, and it's ideally suited to the Q&A format.
    – user56
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 18:04
  • The whole point is that Stack Exchange isn't a discussion site. If this site is nothing more than a recommendation service and simple trivia, it has little value Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 20:58
  • I agree with you for the most part, but it's a great format for other things, like Stack Overflow. Apparently it's going to fail for this subject. Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 11:50
  • It's fun to look at this from a "five years later" perspective. The fourth bullet point got moved to Worldbuilding, where it is much better suited.
    – Adamant
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 5:14

DVD extras meet user generated content.

Imagine if you could set the questions on the DVD extras for your favourite TV show or movie – or if you had extras for your favourite book.

You get answers about what, how and why things happened both in-universe, and in reality, from people who are intimately familiar with not just that one work, but the entire science fiction and fantasy genres – people that can pull together expert and interesting answers about how this work relates to other genre fiction and to the world. They’ll even explain what stories you should move to next if you loved particular aspects of this one.

Note that this is community wiki for anyone that would like to improve it.


Since we include Fantasy in our site, I think we should review our Tagline, so here's my proposal.

From Dragon To Aliens

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