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There are certain questions that are in a peculiar situation:

  1. The question is about a canon in-progress (either the series continues, ala JRRMartin, or Enderverse; or the author is publishing an ongoing canon reference - ala Pottermore).

  2. The question has no good answer in canon TO DATE.

  3. There is a reasonable non-trivial chance that in the reasonably specific date in the future, related areas of canon WILL be expanded due to #1.

    To re-iterate, this is expected in a reasonably defined amount of time - e.g. we know Pottermore will be finished in 2-4 years; and the last book of Enderverse will be published in 2 years).

In such a situation, should we have a policy which strongly encourages posting a very explicit note - accompanying "no info in canon" answer - in the form of:

Please note that there is no canon information on the topic as of MM/DD/YYYY. However, it is expected that a new part of canon () will be released on date MM/DD/YYYY, at which point this answer should be revisited to verify if the question was answered via new canon.


This note would serve four purposes:

  1. Let people know that "not all is lost" - e.g. the "no info" answer may not be final.

  2. It lets people know precisely when the answer (possibly) is no longer correct. E.g. it puts an expiration date on it; anyone reading past that date would know not to rely on "no info" answer without checking new canon.

  3. It would be a wonderful resource for improving the site content - people can collect answers with such notes as "TODO" lists and verify the info once the canon is expanded on a given date.

  4. While I'm wishing for a pie in the sky, may be JKR will read such a question on SFF.SE and decide to include the info into Pottermore just because we noted this :)

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    this would seem to be solved entirely by the fact that when new information becomes available the old, no longer true answer will receive downvotes while the new, now true info will be receiving upvotes. – sarge_smith Apr 1 '13 at 12:44
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    @sarge_smith: Yes, but DVK's point is that this is purely based on luck. If nobody stumbles over the post nobody will notice. – bitmask Apr 1 '13 at 13:34
  • @sarge_smith - you are making an entirely unwarranted assumption that people reading the post in the future would be aware that new canon info came out. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 1 '13 at 14:43
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    @bitmask if no one notices, then who cares? No eye-balls means that it really doesn't matter, and if there are eyeballs on it, somebody is bound to notice. It's sorta the entire system. – sarge_smith Apr 1 '13 at 19:50
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    @DVK are we all going to wash our hands and say "Whelp, no more enjoying the stuff we love"? We are supposed to be experts here. Some quantity of those future folks reading that question will be future us's, who are supposedly experts on the topic. What kind of experts are we if we can't realize new canon info has come out that changes the answers? – sarge_smith Apr 1 '13 at 19:58
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    @sarge_smith: Most traffic comes from search engines (i.e. Google) and only a fraction of people who see posts are actually active and can be bothered to vote, let alone fix it. It's all about Broken Windows and pre-emptively avoiding them. – bitmask Apr 1 '13 at 20:23
  • @bitmask there are a lot more broken windows then this one if you want to get into that. This is the sort of thing that adds even more overhead, while still not being a robust system to solve the problem. – sarge_smith Apr 1 '13 at 21:25
  • @sarge_smith - explain how it adds overhead, and how it's worse than not having this system? (there's a difference between "shouldn't be there" and "not 100% necessary") – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 1 '13 at 21:30
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    @dvk it's one more thing to not get done... that's the site overhead. Adding systems that don't actually address core problems wastes people's time. Tagging or commenting so people can go back and edit later is time that could actually be used, you know, editing the wrong stuff. This particular problem could be handled with a meta wiki that describes what the word canon means and then left to the devices of the community. We aren't here to curate the internet. – sarge_smith Apr 1 '13 at 21:37
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    @bitmask If nobody stumbles over the post nobody will notice. - The new answer bumps it to the front page, so any regular who's interested in the topic should notice it... I know I skim through old questions when they get bumped, to see what the addition was. – Izkata Apr 2 '13 at 2:05
  • @sarge_smith - you don't like it, you don't do it. Being against a non-required system because it isn't a productive use of YOUR time is a wrong reason to oppose that system – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 2 '13 at 14:22
  • @dvk I absolutely disagree, I am a member of this site, and care about its health very much. I don't believe it's a productive use of anyone's time. We already have a bunch of poor practices in place in this site and I will fight against all future poor practices, since I previously stood silent. My previous attitude of only open your mouth when you are completely sure doesn't seem to have provided optimal results on this site, so I'm going a different way now. – sarge_smith Apr 2 '13 at 21:00
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I don't think this is feasible on as grand a scale as you propose ...

Adding a notice to every answer of the form "this is unknown as of now, but may be revealed in later canon" in order to put a timestamp on when that later canon is likely to be published would be a pretty big operation, and probably not feasible.

... but maybe in one particular setting.

When we close questions as off-topic because they're about future works, the OP often doesn't get any specific feedback since the standard close reason to use for this is "primarily opinion-based". One or more of the close-voters may leave a comment to say:

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about a future work.

but usually without a link to the relevant meta consensus or anywhere the OP can learn more.

In cases where the community goes to the trouble of closing a question for being about future works, why not also go to the trouble of adding the date when this future work is schedules to appear, as a suggested date for reopening? We could recommend, if not require, that when voting to close a question due to the future works policy, users should use a custom VTC reason and mention an approximate date when the question will be reopenable and answerable:

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it conflicts with our future works policy. It will be reopenable in March 2017 when [...] is set to be released.

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Leaving aside the "Including the answer in the question", which is really bad form for these kind of things since it makes it look like people support the solution even if they upvoted because they think it is a problem.

This proposal is a bad idea. It's not selective enough. The problem it seeks to fix isn't an actual problem. Even if it was a problem, this wouldn't fix the problem. Let's dive a little deeper and I'll explain.

It's not selective enough. Any canon question whose rights are still active falls into this category. Orson Scott Card has written the "last" Enderverse novel three or four times, just name one example. Any universe with active rights or a living author means that somebody can purchase those rights and throw some work out, which will either be made canon or rejected from the canon. That means the subset of questions that this "problem" applies to is every single canon question on the site, unless the work in question is over 60 years old with zero refreshes. Even then, new canon could still come out, since the rights are now public domain. Basically, canon evolves all the time, which might invalidate some content, but that's why we have edit buttons and votes.

This isn't a real problem. We aren't suddenly awash in formerly correct canonical answers. Most questions of this type aren't great content anyway. A large number of the questions that cite a need for canon responses fall into a few categories:

  • There are multiple canons in play, depending on your level of involvement, and the various canons aren't in complete agreement. An example of this is Star Wars, or Marvel / Ultimate comics. This is a valid and useful reference to canon.
  • People use canon to shoehorn a bad question onto the site. The scope gets limited to make a typically poor question fit the format. Examples of these kind of questions are the "Did x author talk about this subject, canon answers only" or "List all the things x, but canon only"
  • People are trying to limit the responses to a specific work or smaller subset. Also a valid and useful appeal to canon. Things like "Only book quotes" or "Show the scene, please" tend to mark these appeals to canon.

Only two of the uses commonly used are actually valid for the site. These are also the ones that are least likely to have negative responses, as any real problem question is likely addressed in the canon. (The ones that aren't seem to be so nitpicky as to be unlikely to be addressed in the future.) Unfortunately, DVK didn't include a date set of questions that he felt met his criteria of problem children, so the above is subjective and subject to change with the addition of data.

The meat of my argument is simply this This has no chance to actually solve the problem described. Comments aren't searchable. You can't use them to filter. People who are interested in correcting old answers are going to still have to use the exact same process to find the content to fix if we did this or not. That is not a good system. It does not fix the described problem. That is enough by itself to burninate the whole thing.

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    I understood the suggestion to be including the note in the body of the answer, not as a comment on it, so it would be searchable. – Anthony Grist Apr 2 '13 at 12:07
  • Re: not selective - I intended it to be only applicable to situations which are NOT ambiguous. As of 2012, we KNOW that the next Enderverse book is already scheduled for publishing. We KNOW that Pottermore will cover PoA this year. The proposal wasn't about some nebulous "well there will be more Star Wars books in the future, guaranteed, since Lucas has to make money". – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 2 '13 at 14:16
  • On your second point, about canon, would you mind expounding a bit and explaining why, for example, it would be considered a poor question to ask, "Has J.K. Rowling explained why Sirius Black lived in a cave during Goblet of Fire, instead of taking up residence at Grimmauld Place?" Or any other question you want to throw in there. I don't know why it's poor form to ask if an author has discussed his or her own work ...? I mean, there are some really obscure interviews out there. – Slytherincess Apr 2 '13 at 16:28
  • @aSlytherin I know the Potterverse is a weird deal, most other canon's don't have reams of author interviews included. That said, the FAQ clearly states that questions asked for curiosity's sake are the kind you shouldn't ask. That's the sort of question that would be much better served by hacking the first part off. If there is an interview, some expert should know about it and use it in their answer, otherwise you would get the normal speculation answers. Either way, without it you get a slate of answers with little possibility of a straight negative, with it you not only increase the(cont) – sarge_smith Apr 2 '13 at 21:10
  • @aSlytherin chance that you are asking for information that doesn't actually exist but you also cut down the chance of a great answer. Your example question is the kind that somebody asks when they already know the answer, not the kind they ask when they are actually looking to have the world make sense again. – sarge_smith Apr 2 '13 at 21:13
  • @AnthonyGrist that introduces it's own set of problems in that it makes the answer wishy washy, it makes it seem like you don't know what you are talking about in reference to the universe. On top of which, it's going to artificially bump questions when people edit it in, generating more false rep. I would still like to see the dataset that has the "problem" questions in it, so we could discuss specifics. – sarge_smith Apr 2 '13 at 21:24
  • @DVK We also know that there's a new star wars both book and movie and new star trek and all the other canon's. Canons are constantly growing. It is assumed by the nature of the beast that this is true. I would argue that any canon that isn't growing is unlikely to generate questions. – sarge_smith Apr 2 '13 at 21:27

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