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There have been numerous debates on what we consider on-topic for this site.

To show some prime and highly debated examples:

We even have an FAQ version What questions are on-topic, and what questions are off-topic? but that has not been updated since 2011.


This got me thinking since there has been discussion on how we score our tags. Does SFF need/have an objective way of scoring tags? (although this idea was not well received).

Would there be someway to bring some objectiveness into how what works we determine on and off topic? Or is this something that will have to be handled in a discussion format when new works have questions about them?

If not could an update to the FAQ question linked need an update? (At least one current discussion Policy on questions about which genre or subgenre a given work is in? makes one point on the FAQ debateable.)

Is any attempt at objective consistency futile?

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    Ah, but then we'd need an objective method to determine what objective methods to use. – Valorum Jun 13 '16 at 20:51
  • @Valorum HAHA, yes, see my last question/point... Am I new optimism to your old cynicism? – Skooba Jun 13 '16 at 20:52
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    This is the only universal way of determining whether a work is on-topic or not. We've been trying for 5 years to come up with something objective; we're unlikely to succeed in the next 5 years. The genres of science fiction and fantasy have never really had clear objective definitions. This is the wrong rabbit hole to go down :-) – Rand al'Thor Jun 13 '16 at 21:09
  • @Randal'Thor I thought it might, but maybe it will at least add to documented discussion on such things? – Skooba Jun 13 '16 at 21:12
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Yes (as in, it is futile).

Not simply because it may well be impossible (i'm not 100% sure of that), but because it's not worth the effort and cost compared to the pay-off.

  • We have VERY VERY few works that are significantly ambiguous as to need to be scored in the first place.

  • Most of those works are easily scored by their overall, well-discussed genres (e.g. 007 type films)

  • And the few that aren't, can be discussed individually on Meta, at a fraction of the cost and effort to come with complicated scoring generic system applicable to ALL works.

So, we should simply have some broad stroke rules that are almost universally applicable but simple; and handle anything that doesn't easily fit them on case by case exception basis on Meta.

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When answering questions about topicality, I tend to refer to three key elements;

  • Does the film contain substantial elements of science fiction or fantasy?

  • Was the film marketed as being science-fictional or fantastical?

  • Do those that were involved in the production (cast and crew) consider the film to contain substantive elements of science-fiction or fantasy?

Unfortunately, while the latter two are objective, the first (and most important) of the measures is largely subjective, since we've never been able to come up with a single clear-cut definition of what consists science fiction or fantasy.

In short, I don't think we can come up with an objective system, nor do I think we should invest our energy in trying to do so.

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