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For example, this question https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/1223/terraforming-new-planet-turns-out-its-a-gas-viable

This is an interesting question - and could spur a lot of discussion which I would love to read and even participate in. I agree that it is probably not quite science-fiction, but unless there is a speculative science SE site, couldn't we allow these kind of questions?

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  • I think that the missing link is the connection to science fiction. I reworded the question to refer directly to one specific fictional terraforming technique, and got a good definitive answer that addressed exactly what the original question was asking while maintaining the science fiction purpose of the site. (scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/1282/…) – Martha F. Jan 24 '11 at 15:20
  • I actually voted to close that because it wasn't really clear at all what was being asked. The second question is much better worded, but possible still a bit unclear. – PearsonArtPhoto Jan 24 '11 at 18:24
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What's wrong with broad questions is that they tend to generate extended discussions, back and forth with the asker as they give more details, or between answerers as they have different interpretations of the question or cover different topics. Extended discussions don't fit in the Stack Exchange question and answers format. The format is designed to keep all answers in one place (just below the question they're answering) and all questions in one place (the question list), avoiding what tends to happen in free-form forums where information is spread all over the place and hard to find. See also the origin of the “overly broad” close reason.

There are other concerns with this question, which is that induces science speculation. It hasn't yet been decided to what extent questions about the science behind the science-fiction are on-topic here (though we have bigger concerns at the moment). Also speculation is a slippery slope, because it can get subjective, and subjective questions leads to argumentative answers, which also don't fit the questions and answers format.

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    There are plenty of questions that are broad in scope - the 'hidden features of x' on stackoverflow itself, for example... – HorusKol Jan 23 '11 at 23:31
  • @HorusKol: I think “hidden features” kind of questions are frowned upon now. – user56 Jan 23 '11 at 23:33
  • not exactly -- the hidden features questions are discussed on meta but I would say we are ambivalent about them, not frowned upon meta.stackoverflow.com/search?q=%22hidden+features%22 – Jeff Atwood Jan 24 '11 at 2:26
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Broad questions waste people's time and are costly in attention. If it's one that also sparks of debate and back and forth, that's not ideal for the Stack Exchange software, designed to deliver definitive and authoritative answers to well thought out and concrete questions. Being broad is ill-defined and unsuitable, much like one lacking any value information is not a real question as people would just be guessing.

That question in particular is not meant to kick off discussion.

It was one requiring some extrapolation on whether or not terraforming, an oft-used device in science fiction, requires the planet to be solid in order to work. Some extra leg work was required.

Ideally the best answer for that question would be one where you would cite or research different/multiple franchises and properties to definitively say that yes, or no, it is possible to terraform a planet that isn't your standard rock base like Mars.

What it's lacking is a franchise to tie it down to to make it easier to look up and point to a single source.

It's not a question meant for those who want to answer with a single link to Memory Alpha or the Flash Gordon database.

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  • "It's not a question meant for those who want to answer with a single link to..." - so, what you're saying is that only questions that already have pre-canned answers on other websites are valid questions? – HorusKol Jan 23 '11 at 23:21
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    @horus you should also note the relationship between the asker of that question and the answerer of this question – Jeff Atwood Jan 23 '11 at 23:23
  • @Jeff hehe - oh, yeah – HorusKol Jan 23 '11 at 23:29

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