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A question I just stumbled upon, Why is the ending of Death Note in the anime so different from the manga?, is an example of the generic question type: "Why did they change X?" or "Why did they write it that way?". The only person that can answer these questions are the writers, resulting in any such question being unanswerable if there isn't an answer posted somewhere on the internet. As is outlined in the FAQ of every Stack Exchange site, You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Since the vast majority of these questions won't be answerable, they should all be closed. After all, any answer not based on an official statement from the author would be 100% speculation.

I'm sure someone will raise the objection that since some of these questions have answers somewhere on the internet that those ones should be opened. However, since there is no way of knowing if such an answer exists until someone posts it, then that means we can't know if an answer is answerable when the question is posted. If we can't know a question is answerable, then it's unanswerable.

For the sake of argument, let's assume we did allow these questions when an answer from the author exists. Since we still can't know if the question is answerable when it's posted, it means we would either need to:

  • Assume an answer exists until the question goes unanswered for a certain amount of time.
  • Assume an answer doesn't exist until someone finds it.

Neither of these situations is acceptable. Assuming an answer exists for a set amount of time will result is likely to have the question be forgotten about, and never closed (clogging up the site with questions which should have been closed and deleted). In addition, any time we chose would be completely arbitrary. Do we wait an hour? A day? A week? If we need to start making arbitrary rules up to allow a question that's a clear indication the question should not be allowed.

Assuming an answer doesn't exist means we'd need to close the question, and then leave it on the site in a closed state indefinitely, until someone posts a comment saying they found an answer. Frankly, this is a completely ridiculous course of action to take. Having a bunch of closed questions floating around is just as bad as having a bunch of opened questions which should be closed.

Furthermore, closing is meant to be a temporary state, where all questions will either be deleted or re-opened (in the latter because the author fixed them). Closing isn't intended to be used on a question we never have any intention of re-opening unless a specific event eventually happens. After all, if we're just going to keep the question around forever, what's the point of even closing it in the first place?

In conclusion, "Why did they write it that way?" questions should be deemed off-topic since they are not answerable.

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    As a side note, the only exception to the "temporary state" rule for closing is duplicates, which are kept around for the sake of navigation of SEO (aka making things easier for users) – Wipqozn Dec 13 '12 at 18:31
  • +1. I agree wholeheartedly. – fbueckert Dec 13 '12 at 18:34
  • I upvoted this question because it's important to make it clear, but I disagree with your conclusions. On StackOverflow I gained the Necromancer badge, a silver one. It's about answering a more than 2 month old question. Do you hear a bell ringing? Not only a similar workflow is allowed, but it's actively promoted by the badge mechanism. – chirale Dec 16 '12 at 21:03
  • @chirale I don't see how the Necromancer badge is relevant to my post. There's a difference between a question not having been answered, and not being answerable. – Wipqozn Dec 16 '12 at 21:38
  • In 4th paragraph of your question you are asking how much we have to wait to consider a question unanswerable (I'm misinterpreting?). I tell you the SE system actively promote answering questions older than 2 months. So, for the system, waiting for a proper answer is not bad. And I'm talking about a SE about software, where 2 months are a very long time. – chirale Dec 16 '12 at 21:54
  • @chirale Yeah, you're slightly misunderstanding what I'm saying. What I meant was that due to the nature of the questions, it's impossible to know if they are answerable until someone answers it, which is just as bad as being unanswerable. In my fourth paragraph I was outlining that a rule where we keep them open for X amount of time in order to see if they are answerable just wouldn't work, since any time chosen would be arbitrary. Something else (which your example made me think of) is that we don't deem questions unanswerable just because no one has answered them, which would also... – Wipqozn Dec 16 '12 at 22:02
  • ...mean that waiting X amount of time just wouldn't make sense. – Wipqozn Dec 16 '12 at 22:03
10

I mostly agree, but it's a bit of a slippery slope to say that all questions should be off-topic unless they definitely have an answer. If we want to restrict ourselves only to those questions which are definitely answerable without speculation, we'd miss a lot of potentially good questions. For instance, many questions about a potential plot hole falls into this category. Consider this question, and imagine if Oda-sensei had never thought about it, and there was no good reason why the Straw hats couldn't just go the other way. Then this would be an unanswerable question by your definition, but still not a bad one I'd argue.

Quoting from Shog9's answer on Should we explicitly allow discussions?,

Questions where the answer is obscure or difficult to obtain (relies on knowledge in an author's private journal, protected by a non-disclosure agreement, guarded by a dragon). These can be ok, if folks are disciplined about not answering when they don't have access to information. If they degenerate into idle speculation, they should be shut down as with #1.

I do think that these questions are usually not great questions, but they are not always off-topic IMO. What we should definitely not do is allow speculation in the answers. If an answer seems to be entirely speculative, then you should downvote it and leave a comment.

We do need to draw the line somewhere, or else we're inviting a potentially unlimited number of questions like this. "Why did they write it this way?" will almost always be unanswerable, so I think it's a reasonable place to draw the line, but we may need to come back in the future to rethink this.

1

Yes, they should be either off-topic or not-constructive, that's mostly based on the wording of the question.

The answer is unanswerable by any means. It's very rare that this sort of information is voluntarily released by the mangaka or the production team.

So I believe we should generally and inclusively disallow them. Of course, there would be cases where the answer is answerable. But the line must be drawn.

1

What you've cited is a question that is perfectly, but difficulty, answerable: if an interview or a document with/by the author of the manga or the director of the anime is available.

Here an example about Mohiro Kitoh's Bokurano:

In closing, I have to post what I don't want to post: the director of the animated version of Bokurano dislikes the original manga.

Q: Why Bokurano anime end differently from the manga? A: Because the director of the anime dislikes the manga (quote)

The answerers have to search sources by original authors before starting speculations, looking for evidences about the creation process of that precise work.

Actually, answering this question correctly requires a high level of expertise and a deep knowledge of the work by a author, so with some fix it's a very attractive question for SE.

  • Any constructive answer will be welcomed. Please consider to motivate downvote. Thank you. – chirale Dec 16 '12 at 14:51
  • I disagree. See my comments on SF's answer. – fbueckert Dec 16 '12 at 17:22
  • See and replied. I cited a real example but nobody tell me what it's wrong with that. – chirale Dec 16 '12 at 20:46
0

And what if the correct and satisfactory answer appears within first hour or two, before even the question reaches enough votes for closing? Still delete?

You make an awful lot of assumptions about the answer being unavailable. Following your logic, all questions ever should be closed because if you don't know the answer, you can't be sure it exists.

Of course speculative answers should be downvoted, but... what about a normally commonly acceptable question that doesn't get a satisfactory answer? I'm active on quite a few .se sites and you'll hardly ever see my accept rate on any to be 100% - sometimes I ask difficult questions and don't get valid answers at all. Not because they don't exist but because nobody who saw my question knows them. Does that make my questions wrong? Should I know a'priori before asking if the answer is available?

Making up a rule that depends on the asker knowing a whole lot about the answer is pointless: you ask questions to which you don't know answers.

Making a rule that forbids a question because the answer might be impossible to attain is throwing out the baby with the bath water. A whole bunch of good questions will be forbidden on basis that they might be unanswerable.

If you really feel so sick about leaving some questions unanswered, delete them a month after they received their last unsatisfactory answer. But personally, I'd leave them - just for people seeking the answer to be able to find out:

The Answer Does Not Exist Or Is Uobtainable.

This is a satisfactory answer if it's true. There is no point to consider the question invalid simply because that is the answer.

EDIT

Just to make it clear, repeating my comment here: Yes, authoritative answers to these questions can only be obtained from creators. BUT WHY DIRECTLY?! They are the very daily bread for these creators, appearing regularly in their blogs (frequently buried 20 pages in, of an obscure site), in panels from conferences (often recorded as Youtube videos) or in articles posted on niche magazines many issues back. Oh, and more frequently than not they are posted in Japanese.

That means they are very frequently available, obtainable, possible to locate - but not by a single person. You can't google a sentence uttered in the middle of a hourly panel in youtube video. You can't google contents of paper magazine you don't even own. You won't pick out the author's post on his own site from a thousand similar posts filled with speculations if you don't even know what is his site.

But then, if you post such a question, it will immediately ring a bell with a fan who saw/read the author's answer in the past. They have the blog bookmarked and limiting Google search to that single site they can find it in a minute. Typing conference name and the author name will bring up the video of the panel in Youtube search immediately. Finding the article in the pile of magazines under the bed will take a while but then the answer is there and can be retyped together with the issue number and page for reference.

In other words, LOCATING these answers is possible primarily through community effort.

Do you think forbidding this kind of answers is right, just because there is a chance that the author never did answer this question in the past?

Excuse me, let us close all General Relativity questions on Physics.se because Albert Einstein isn't willing to answer them in person. The fact these answers are contained within his journal? But gasp! what if they are not?!

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    No. Absolutely not. You're missing the fundamental point: these questions cannot be answered by anyone but the creators. These questions don't fit well with the SE network because it's supposed to be a source of authoritative answers. Questions that cannot be answered without creator intervention are bad questions. – fbueckert Dec 14 '12 at 15:28
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    @fbueckert: Yes, only the creators. The creators have obscure blogs, reply in interviews to magazines, make talks in panels of conferences (recorded on Youtube) and so on. These questions and answers to them are their daily bread. Now locating these resources and these answers is often beyond power of a single user (you can't google a sentence uttered in the middle of a hourly panel in youtube video!), while a large community should be able to pinpoint that easily and cite/link given authoritative answer easily. – SF. Dec 14 '12 at 15:37
  • The problem is that there is no guarantee whatsoever that we'll be able to provide any answer to these types of questions. Having to rely on a tiny group of people in order to be able to answer it flies in the face of being able to provide authoritative answers. At that point, we stop being experts, and we're just mouthpieces for the creators. – fbueckert Dec 14 '12 at 15:42
  • @fbueckert: Are you not an expert for being able to tell the book name and chapter where given very obscure piece of information is made known? And what a kind of expert are you if you discard a valid question only because neither you nor any of other experts might not know the answer? It's like a teacher who tells the kid "Sit down, your question is wrong" for being asked something from an area where knowledge is full of gaps and they're not sure they will be able to find the answer. – SF. Dec 14 '12 at 16:04
  • Your analogy needs some work. This isn't a teacher telling a student to sit down for asking something that they might not be able to answer. This is a student asking a question that the teacher cannot answer. It depends on pure luck if the person who CAN answer it, HAS answered it. That doesn't make me an expert in the subject matter, being able to find an obscure blog post. That makes me an expert at trawling the internet, which is a completely different expert. And to address your edit: Yes, forbidding these answers because the author might never answer it is right. – fbueckert Dec 14 '12 at 16:16
  • Then we disagree here. I believe it is better to have ten questions with three answers than zero questions with zero answers. You seem to think seven unanswerable questions is more of a negative than three answered ones are of a positive. For me it's nothing but throwing out the child with bathwater. – SF. Dec 14 '12 at 19:23
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    Indeed we do. The SE network is based off of increasing the signal to noise ratio. Unanswerable questions increase the noise, and are exactly the sort of thing we shouldn't be allowing. – fbueckert Dec 14 '12 at 19:27
  • Cut signal to decrease noise. I get it. I don't agree, but I get it. – SF. Dec 14 '12 at 19:36
  • Increase the noise? With such a trend, anime and manga se will totally refuses to answer questions about creative processes, filling the site with only questions about universes. – chirale Dec 16 '12 at 14:57
  • @chirale Which is exactly what anime.SE is for. This isn't animeproduction.SE, mangaproduction.SE, or anything of the sort. This is to ask questions directly related to anime and their universe, not, "How was anime X made?" – fbueckert Dec 16 '12 at 17:21
  • @fbueckert: You are entirely wrong here. discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/2942/… - 11 votes for, no votes against. – SF. Dec 16 '12 at 17:37
  • I see your area51 link, and match it with a meta link on our own site: meta.anime.stackexchange.com/questions/6/…. 11 votes for, two against. And one against your suggestion of allowing it. I'd think our own site takes precedence over an area51 discussion. And there's not even a dissenting answer on yours. – fbueckert Dec 16 '12 at 17:40
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    @fbueckert I think you're missing the difference between questions about generic tools for production and a question about creative process behind a given anime. The reason given in the question you linked is all too clear: that particular question is a better fit for a different site. Now where would you "flush" answers to the examples from the one I linked? – SF. Dec 16 '12 at 18:05
  • @fbueckert I agree with SF. Question you cited is not something you can see black or white, it's about seeing the difference about "hey, I want to make an anime, what software I can use?" (off-topic) and "What software Makoto Shinkai used in his first self-made movie?" (ok). If Anime and manga SE doesn't allow question like this, it'll became a mere index for Wikia. – chirale Dec 16 '12 at 20:37
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    @fbueckert: NO! I gave up on that long ago! Have your way with "Why did they?", if you must - I still say this is throwing out the child with bathwater but if this is the policy here, all right. I'm addressing your opposition to all questions about creative production, your notion "This isn't animeproduction.SE, mangaproduction.SE". I gave good solid examples where production questions are on-topic and 100% answerable. Any issue with that? – SF. Dec 17 '12 at 15:37

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