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I've been thinking lately about ways in which we can expand our reach and provide more value to the SF&F community. And I've seen a few questions like this one lately:

Are there any redeeming characters in Game of Thrones/SOIAF?

Which is from the point of view of someone who has yet to fully dive into the material. These questions, while potentially loaded with subjectivity, can be asked in ways that would probe a work for details to help people decide if they are right for them.

SFF.SE need not only be for people after they finish a work, right? So how can we better serve this type of question? How can we ensure they stay objective but are still valuable to the community? How can we keep them free of spoilers and advertise to people looking to first dive into a work that it is spoiler free?

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Technically, you cannot avoid spoilers systematically: If you ask me whether or not I believe you like, say, Firefly, every information I provide that will significantly help you, will spoil, at least it will spoil the pilot. And if you didn't enjoy the pilot, chances are this will effect an overall dislike of the show.

Conversely, every information that is guaranteed not to spoil (e.g. it's science-fiction, there are actors) is next to useless or is only applicable to one person / a very localised group (e.g. I could say: Oh, so you like series whatnot, that means you'll enjoy Firefly). It doesn't help future visitors, because the number of examples you have to provide me will be so large, it will only apply to you.

What point is there to ask whether you'll like a show, anyway? Watch the pilot, assume the characters will grow over time and determine whether you are likely to enjoy the rest.

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  • I don't think we should focus entirely on non-spoilers. I mean spoiler-free in the larger sense. I'm more interested in finding a way to designate questions as ideal for people just getting into a property, or otherwise support these kinds of questions better. Perhaps something in the FAQ.
    – DampeS8N
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 18:19
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I think there's a couple of elements here. The first is the question - while the one you linked to is couched in subjective language, the actual question(s) are pretty straightforward.

Is this true for all the characters? Are there any with redeeming qualities? Will I find myself loathing them all? I find that I favor characters that you could generally call "heroic" - will I find any in Westeros?

With the exception of the loathing question, the rest can be answered reasonably objectively. If the question is asked in such a manner, that's fine. If it's asking purely for opinions like the loathing question, I would then argue that it is too subjective to be answerable. How would we know who you loathe?

As long as subjectivity is avoided in the actual question, I don't have any issues with the questions.

The second element is the answer, and here I don't think we have the responsibility to avoid spoilers. We're being asked about some nature of the work that they haven't read, so technically any information we give can be spoilers. On the other hand, they are actively asking for spoilers. So I think go ahead and include spoilers, though make sure they are tagged/hidden as such.

There's no need to hamper our own ability to give a meaningful answer arbitrarily, especially when anything we post could be taken as a potential spoiler.

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