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Are questions similar to ones posed here http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WMG/HarryPotterAndTheMethodsOfRationality

considered appropriate for this site?

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    I don't see any questions there - just some rather confusing speculation about seemingly unconnected Harry Potter material. Could you add a specific example to your question? – Tony Meyer Jan 29 '11 at 5:18
  • Imagine that the speculation was instead listed as questions here, and discussed in posts - for example, (this is a bit contrived) "Here are all of the unresolved questions in the last Harry Potter book - how do you think they will be resolved in the next one?" – blueberryfields Jan 29 '11 at 16:01
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Here are all of the unresolved questions in the last Harry Potter book - how do you think they will be resolved in the next one

I see three separate problems with this - one that's easy to fix, one that will probably lead to close-votes, and one that's very likely to lead to closing:

  • It's too broad. Presumably there could be dozens of unresolved questions, so you're asking for dozens of answers within each answer. Long answers are great, but it's best when they are answering a single question, not many small questions. This is easily fixed by asking several questions along the lines of

(Harry Potter spoiler)

Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?

  • There's no way to definitively answer this (e.g. which answer do you accept?). There are other meta questions that discuss this, e.g. 1 and 2). I think the outcome here would depend a lot on the question. If it was possible to give answers that drew conclusions based on the material (and possibly other data), then the question would probably survive. If the answers were all just guesses, with little or nothing backing them up, it will probably be quickly closed.

  • Questions that age badly aren't generally liked. As soon as the next volume/episode is out (which in some cases could be only a few days) the question becomes rather pointless, since there is a definitive answer. If the question was speculation about something that isn't going to have a future volume/episode (e.g. about something that was left unresolved at the end of a book/movie/TV show), then this wouldn't be an issue. For cases where there presumably is going to be an official answer, my guess is that the closer that date is the more likely the question is to be closed (e.g. if it's about next week's episode of BSG then it's certain to be closed, and if it's about a Harry Potter book to be released in 3 years, then it will get a few close votes, but not nearly as many).

(There's also the open question of question fantasy is on-topic, but I'm assuming that the choice of Harry Potter isn't relevant here, and that the question would be the same with more sci-fi material).

  • How are questions that age badly handled on SO? I imagine a significant % of questions will age badly (take a hypothetical question about problems with gmail - which google subsequently fixes) – blueberryfields Jan 31 '11 at 1:08
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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).

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