21

The question How was the Basilisk so stealthy? was closed as Not Constructive. Based on the wording of the question, I don't know that I 100% agree with that, but I get the argument.

This comment from Slytherincess caught my attention though.

While this is a question that I also have wondered, it is not answerable by canon and calls for pure conjecture. I hate to VTC, but in this instance you're asking us to speculate and basically list plot holes. This is not a site for theories. This is a site for definitive answers that can be substantiated by canon. Sorry, but I feel a VTC is appropriate.

This is where things start getting fuzzy for me.

I agree that we should try to avoid speculation whenever possible, using canon to back up our answers. But does this really mean that all questions that can't be 100% answered with canon should be closed? Sometimes new material may be added to the canon, or sometimes the answer is just incredibly obscure, or sometimes there just isn't an official answer.

Consider some of the following questions which cannot currently be 100% answered via official material.

I feel like automatically closing questions which either don't currently have a canon answer, or probably don't have one, may discourage users from asking questions that may actually HAVE a canon answer.

For example, I never would have expected some of these questions to actually have canon answers or answers that could be reasonably derived from canon information.

  • Would the new [on hold] designation be useful for "not constructive" questions that are not answerable yet? Perhaps a site-specific close message could indicate such might be answerable in the future. Just my 2 femtocents. – Paul A. Clayton Jun 25 '13 at 16:40
  • 3
    The "on hold" designation, as I understand it, is more for giving posters a chance to edit a question to improve it or keep it on topic before it's fully closed. Closed questions disallow new answers, so that would require someone to monitor those questions and re-open when they feel it can be correctly answered. That just sounds like a terrible idea to me. – phantom42 Jun 25 '13 at 17:23
  • The issue wasn't so much that there is no canon answer -- because the answer to a question can be "There is no canon answer." My issue with that question was that the OP directly asked for theorizing and speculation, and that is not encouraged. I dunno ... if you don't think a question should be closed, then don't vote to close it. If I were to pick out one sentence from my comment it would be: This is not a site for theories. That is my issue. My issue is not that every question should be answered by canon. If I worded it unclearly, I take responsibility for that. – Slytherincess Jun 26 '13 at 1:12
  • The "theories please" (which has now been edited out) is the part that I took issue with as well, but that aside, it's no different from any other question on this site. – phantom42 Jun 26 '13 at 1:57
  • OK, you are right that such abuse of [on hold] would not be practical. (Especially given: 'Questions not re-opened within five days will revert to displaying as “closed,” to serve as a clearer signpost going forward.') Anyway it was just a stray thought. – Paul A. Clayton Jun 26 '13 at 12:58
  • @phantom42 - Yeah, with the "theories please" edited out, I have no issue with the question either. – Slytherincess Jul 1 '13 at 15:55
38

I agree with PearsonArtPhoto, questions should not be closed on the grounds that they don't have a canon answer, and I want to specially emphasize one particular point: the only way to know a question is unanswerable given canon is to know all canon in a universe, an unreasonable bar to set for most topics asked about here. Even I have seen questions here that I thought had no canon answer, which eventually did receive one.

In a universe with a very large amount of canon (LotR, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.) how is an asker to know whether a particular piece of information is in canon? We don't require users to have read canon before asking about it, so how could an OP know that it wasn't answered in canon?

23

Absolutely not. Half of the questions on this site do not have a canon answer, which would be detrimental to close them all. And making the determination as to if there is a canon answer before asking is extremely difficult as well.

However, I do think if there is a question that is way out there, and should be closed. Of the questions you asked, there is one that I think is in that category. Could the Enterprise beam a vampire into a house she didn’t have permission to enter? That question is mixing universes, in a way they were never intended to be mixed. That is what I would define as off topic by speculation, there's just no way they could mix, and there is no possible answer. If there is a possible answer, even if that answer is unknown, I feel like we should keep the question opened.

Asking questions that don't have an answer is okay. Sometimes an answer will pop up given enough time. Sometimes reasonable guesses can be found, if combing through the data. If possible, sources should be provided, but if not, then using the best information possible can often help, even if there isn't a particularly good source for that information.

  • Yeah, I hesitated putting that in there as I personally felt it should be closed as off-topic, but the community seemed to feel differently. – phantom42 Jun 25 '13 at 13:40
  • For the vampire question, the universe mixing issue might not be a problem if vampire canon(s) had handled magical teleportation. Multiple inconsistent vampire canons muddies the issue. In vampire universes, basic physics seems to work. Transporter technology has also interacted with complex physics (advanced technology/magic). The question does seem potentially answerable via reasoning. – Paul A. Clayton Jun 25 '13 at 17:13
8

+1 for each of existing answers, and here's another one based on "canon" information:

I just asked a question on ELU.SE asking if a word has an English translation.

The people there started closing it as "Too localized" because the word had no translation known to them.

After a bit, a site moderator posted the following comment which seems quite relevant here:

Just had a discussion with a group of moderators, and the consensus is that if the answer to a question is "There is no answer to this" (or in this case, "There is no word for this in English"), the question doesn't deserve to be closed, but should be answered as such.

Therefore, this approach (not closing) is not only a correct one for this site, but seems to be in sync with other sites as well.


To confirm @phantom's point:

  • @Slytherincess at least once answered a Harry Potter question with a canon answer (which eluded everyone) several months later.

  • I have (for unrelated reasons) been compiling a list of Harry Potter questions that have no clear canon answers. I came up with at least 50 total I'm aware of.

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