Since this site is in a Beta phase, I thought this would be a useful discussion to help enhance the site: What questions do you upvote and why? and then, by inference, What makes a great question on Science Fiction?

During this beta phase I've ask several questions but I can't yet see a pattern in what questions will get lots of up votes and which ones won't.

For example (high votes):

(Adding examples from other people)

My examples:

(I think this question will also help us get clarity on the closing of questions.)

4 Answers 4


Well, we need to start with the basic SE requirements. The question should have a definitive answer that can be chosen. (This is why so many people vote down list questions.)

As I've said elsewhere on meta (This site is doomed and Appealing to Heinlein/Asimov), I find most interesting and valuable the questions that ask about the science behind the science fiction. Either analyzing how a particular thing works in fiction (see Why phaser beams are different colors, Rate of mutations for Waterworld, Human power in the Matrix, or How Star Trek became chashless/commerceless) or how the particular concept described would work in other situations (Would the terraforming techniques from Red/Blue/Green Mars work on other planets).

I also feel that questions about obscure or uncertain facts from SF are worthwhile. (The role of the Tunnels & Cruciform parasites in Hyperion, Is Klingon a fully realized language, Why does the Enterprise dedication class say "Starship Class, and Why do anthologies play such a big role in the history of SF.) (The two questions you mentioned above are of this sort.) The trick here is to have the question avoid the too trivial mark while still remaining interesting.

There is a strong division about recommendation questions and list questions. I like them both, particularly the focused list questions such as Books that deal with the Fermi Paradox and Fiction that relies on P=NP. But we'll have to wait and see the will of the community on them.

In addition, there is a division about whether to allow "help me remember" questions. Again, I like them, but the community has no consensus (beyond the decision from gaming.se, which still appears to be controversial as applied to SF).

Even if these three types of questions are disallowed, there appear to be a number of questions which would be useful.

  • @Martha - yes, I wholely agree with your response. I like the "could it really happen?" questions and the discussions about the science in the science fiction as well. But about the strong division in recommendation & list questions - we have a problem that it does not require a majority but only a tiny minority to close these questions. Finally, if I may make a tip, avoid using here and this multiple times for links - it makes it harder to scan for people looking for links (and I have to click on each link or check out each tool tip). Jan 31, 2011 at 18:22
  • @Wikis, I've changed all the here links to unique numbers. Does that help? In addition, while it only takes 5 votes to close a question, it also only takes 5 votes to re-open a closed question.
    – Martha F.
    Feb 1, 2011 at 0:13
  • 1
    @Martha - I think Wiki's intent on the links were to give more meaningful link text, i.e. the actual title of the questions, instead of just a link that has no relevance to the linked content.
    – morganpdx
    Feb 1, 2011 at 1:43
  • @morganpdx - correct, thank you. Feb 1, 2011 at 7:26
  • @Martha - please see reply to morganpdx. Yes, you are right about re-opening. Feb 1, 2011 at 7:27
  • 1
    Okay -- fixed. :-)
    – Martha F.
    Feb 2, 2011 at 3:40
  • @Martha - oops, only just seen it now. Thanks, I have now accepted this answer. Feb 4, 2011 at 19:19
  • Interesting to see how much the site has changed since this post was made. Science questions and list/recommendation questions are both now off-topic.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 13, 2017 at 21:02

Well, certainly one characteristic is that they aren't too trivial or easily answered by a general reference site.

  • 3
    yes, that answers "What is not a characteristic of a great question?" =:-) Jan 31, 2011 at 9:30
  • I like this characterization - another way, for me, of getting the same measure, is to consider how much original content the question provides. A link to wikipedia won't get an upvote, while a question asking what an author was thinking when writing a work of fiction, answered by the author himself, will get as many upvotes as I can muster Feb 1, 2011 at 3:50

I think the fact that you're linking upvotes of questions to quality of questions is a poor assumption.

In many cases, if a question gets a good and correct answer quickly (such as your R2D2 question), it won't receive much attention (or votes); simply because it's been answered, and other people viewing the question don't have anything to add.

Whereas, if a question is more open-ended (such as "Give me a list" questions or your Millennium Falcon question, which had more controversial/speculative answers) then they'll get more attention as people think "yes, that's a good question, but I have my own different answer", or "that question has several different answers, I'll vote for it and the answers I think are more correct".

On the other hand, a question will also get more attention if it goes unanswered for a while, or is obscure enough that people read the question and the answer and think "hey, I didn't know that" (your C3PO question fits here)

In both of the above cases, the fact that a question gets answered will bump it up the page, making it more visible again, and encouraging more people to view and vote for it. Hence a question which gets several answers over time, or has a few hours between being asked and answered will spend more time towards the top of the page, and receive more views and votes.


My approach to upvoting is pretty simple. If I read a question and think "Wow, great question!" I will upvote it. If there is a well-formed answer to that question, I'll probably upvote that too.

Regardless of the quality of the question, if an answer is well-thought out or well-researched, I'll upvote that too. Especially if it's a question that I answered, and the answer is better than mine. ;)

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