Do we have a distinct policy towards the separation of TV works, and the details of the books/comics/source material?

I say this not only for 'spolier' purposes, but because books and their developed media content often offer different continuities, which can result in inaccuracy.

The MCU is a good example of this (borrowing certain elements from different books) but perhaps more pertinent is Game of Thrones.

If someone asks a question about the TV show, is it good etiquette to put anything referring to the books in spoilerboxes, or at least draw attention to the distinction between different medium?

I say this because not only do we have cases of people bringing in book continuity details to explain plot points within the series, but they are also liable to create conflicts of information as the TV series develops slightly differently from the narrative of the novels.

As the Sci-Fi stack has plenty of GOT material floating around in it, have we established that our ostensible remit is to discuss the live action series (although referencing the books is at times highly appropriate, if not encouraged), but try to redirect content about the Books over to Sci-Fi?

Do we feel that something like this would in some way impede of limit the M&TV site?

I'm all ears as to what the community thinks, but I think something needs to be codified to separate the distinction between the Series and the Books: they do, after all, have separate Wiki's for this very purpose, should we effectively fall in line?

I think we would need to be careful to ensure questions do not get closed (this shouldn't be manifested as pedantry!), but are modified accordingly and users reminded of this etiquette, if indeed we agree to implement it.

If anyone is still unclear, I think this is a very good example from SystemDown of striking that balance: he provides an answer that recognizes the difference in continuity, and takes steps to hide spoiler material from the books, also.

Even TylerShads answer is perfectly acceptable, as it includes information from the books that doesn't spoil the TV series, only enhances it. Two successful approaches towards the same problem, but successful because they recognize the difference of orientation between content.


Particularly after hearing Keen's response to the Proposition over on Sci-Fi and Fantasy I've realized that people may be misinterpreting the goal of this discussion; perhaps in part due to my unsuccessful clarification.

In order to remedy this, I'm including an anecdote about my own experiences to provide a frame of context. Hopefully, this will render the situation in a relatable way, and explain that this isn't something being pursued for dogmatic or Bureaucratic purposes, but in order to protect a certain experience.

My first exposure to Game of Thrones was the TV series. I tuned in, not expecting a great deal, and (to be honest) it took me a few weeks to really understand how superior it was to any of its contemporaries. I was suitably impressed: not only with the plot details, the political allegories and the existential ruminations on the locality of power, but in the way the series was constructed.

As someone coming from an background of Film Academia, I'm often interested in the construction and craftsmanship involved in such work, and was immediately charmed by the way in with GoT demonstrated not only an awareness of but also a wilingness to manipulate the perspective of the Audience to give momentum to the plot.

It was bold, non-condescending and brilliantly rendered. I was defenseless to its charms.

I had questions about minor plot points, and like so many people who come here, I was directed to the books for answers, which I duly began to read. This was between seasons 2 & 3, overlapping into the start of Season 3.

The books were incredible, I was hooked and fascinated, and they truly did render the world in starker (sorry for the pun) detail. I loved them, and resolved to complete the series...

Then this happened:

enter image description here

I had never experienced anything like my reaction, it was unprecedented. Stunned, with my hand over my mouth, I watched with baited breath as it happened. I wasn't alone. I still remember finding myself stood up in front of the TV, with no memory of actually getting to my feet.

It wasn't neccesarily the revelation contained within the episode (although, lets face it, it was fantastic), but the way it was enacted that caused such an incredibly visceral reaction.

The look on Michelle Fairley face utterly disarmed me; it was such a human reaction to utter despair, total loss. There is something called the 'wow shot', used (particularily by Spielberg) to try and align the reaction to a spectacle of the audience with the characters on screen.

It's often attempted and rarely successful, but I still maintain that this scene was the quintessence of it's purpose.

Catelyn's surprise totally mirrored my own, and her eventual fate just felt like it had been numbed by the few minutes preceding it. It was a perfect positive example of 'starting with the head'...

enter image description here

This is, from my experience, perhaps the most effective scene in TV history. The situation is built by aggregate, and actual images of barbarity are unprecedented.

I would give anything to experience something like that again. It was such a unique and devastatingly traumatic (in a good way) encounter; and rare to see it so well done.

I walked into work, and could immediately tell which of my colleagues had anticipated (through reading the books) this episode, and to which it had been (like me) a totally debilitating surprise. The latter were identified easily as the ones climbing the walls and rolling around in agony.

In gauging the different experiences, I resolved not to read any further into the books. I wanted to find myself climbing the walls again, I wanted to see if GoT would ever elicit that incredible "wow" reaction in my gut again, so I made the conscious decision to stop reading.

I recognized the difference, and realized that (while the books were awesome), they would never be able to provoke anything near that reaction. It's an experience exclusive to the Film medium, because it employs imagery in its craftsmanship, and privileges that experience like no other visual medium.

Although this example just pertains to GoT, I know there are plenty of other examples where this distinction is important.

I value that moment so much, I would do anything to sustain it, and to protect it. I'd like to think I'm not alone, and others are as passionate as this; even if they don't want to come here and vote directly on it.

  • in my opinion both worlds should be separated until the asker explicitly asks for other sources. especially game-of-thrones questions are not a-song-of-ice-and-fire questions. if we establish(or continue) to mix both then there is no point in asking about a series and instead ask about the entire work. or to be more precise: only questions about specific differences between the sources will pop up.
    – Wandang
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 10:59
  • @Wandang, so you'd vote for total separation, as opposed to discretionary monitoring? could you post as an answer, so your points can addressed/voted by the community? A little elaboration might help your case, too. Thanks. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 11:03
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    Mmmm - I don't have time to read and answer this fully today, but I would personally be far less inclined towards Total separation. Movies are often adapted works, from comics, plays, novels, short stories, video games, board games etc - its perfectly good to refer and contrast approaches taken with the story. I did migrate a question this week that claimed to be a Game of Thrones, but in fact was totally relating to the books, and could not have even really been asked never mind answered without the books, but that was an extreme situation in my mind.
    – iandotkelly Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:19
  • However having seen the recent GoT question - I do think that using spoiler markup is appropriate for spoilers between media - if you are effectively using the books to "look ahead" in an answer that you were not expecting.
    – iandotkelly Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:32
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    There are 3 different things to consider: (1) Things which have already happened (timewise) in the book and series but are simply not mentioned in the series (aka background), (2) things which would have already happened in both book and series but which didn't happen in the series (aka divergence between the two) and (3) things which have happened in the book but haven't yet happened in the series due to the books being "ahead of the series" (aka the uncertain future). All 3 need different answers; personally I would say only (1) has any business being in an answer, maybe (3) in spoilers Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:10
  • To shed more light on my motivation/intention of the question that started the discussion: I just did not get the reference and thought this may be some american expression (purple wedding). I did not expect information from the novel because this is not SciFi-SE. At the same time i am not an excessive user of this SE and therefore not familiar with similar questions. Otherwise i might have expected the spoiling (if this was normal).
    – Wandang
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 6:58
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    @Wandang: To be honest, I think you've raised a good discussion. Spoiling is completely common here, but it's not often something gets asked about an ongoing series like this (in fact, it's only really Hunger Games and GoT I can think of off the top of my head that this applies to). It's definitely worth discussing. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 14:56
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    @AndrewMartin, it's much wider than those two examples, its just about common sense and a bit of initiative. Even though The Hobbit has been a book for years, If I were to say 'Smaug eats Thorin' (not neccesarily true!) it would be a spoiler because of the ongoing narrative of the Movie's active audience, because they could only be familiar and wanting to discuss the Movies, Hence coming to M&TV and not S&F... We just need to recognize the distinctions as and when they occur, using common sense. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:25
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    @JohnSmithOptional: But what question are you envisaging being asked? If someone asks "why does Smaug hate dwarfs?" or "How old did Thorin live to be?" (when he may have died for example), they are highly spoilerific questions and in my opinion it's the fault of the OP for not expecting spoilers. I agree with iandotkelly I suppose. Use them for suprises depending on the way the question has been asked, eg Wandangs original question which I unfortunately spoiled - but most of the time, I wouldn't use spoiler tags. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:30
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    Still, we could go back and forth all day on this (as indeed we have done, for two days!). I suppose it's just being careful - but I do not want to overdo spoiler tags. In the majority of cases I imagine I'll still not use them. It'll only be for very spoilerific content I will, such as this question I answered yesterday. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:32
  • The examples you give are questions that are soliciting spoilerific information, so obviously it would be entirely appropriate to give those answers. We're seriously undermining my point about "common sense" if we're still struggling to understand that distinction, lol. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 17:40
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    Related? post on Meta.SF&F.SE: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/q/3547/1027
    – user209
    Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 16:32

6 Answers 6


There is a lot of good discussion here, and I have voted on the posts in the direction that reflects how I feel about these issues.

On reflection my position has not changed a lot from the initial comment that I made yesterday (but please read the closing remarks below). I am firmly against a strict divide between movies and TV and the material that they are sometimes adapted from - be that novels, short-stories, plays, video games, board games. There is a good reason why screenplay awards are often split between 'original' and 'adapted' as its an important factor in the skills required and is often an important part of the viewers appreciation of the content. Yes, some people approach a Movie or TV show unaware of original work, but many people will enjoy that adaptation specifically, or enjoy an answer enriched from details from the original work.

There are examples of questions that are exclusively about the original work, e.g.:


This question is about a character that is almost never referred to in Game of Thrones, never named, and she's referred to in the context of her having died giving birth to Tyrion. The question refers to an incident that (to date) is only referenced in the book. It was clearly (to my mind) unanswerable in the context of the TV show - so I migrated it to an appropriate site.

Ok, so on to the issue of spoilers. My policy to date has been (using Star Wars as an occasional example):

  • Avoid spoilers in titles and the top of questions (which appear in some summaries)
  • Spoiler markup is mildly annoying on a PC, and positively difficult on a tablet, so should be kept at a minimum.
  • Spoilers that directly relate to the material being discussed should not require spoiler markup. If you are reading a question clearly about Luke Skywalker's parentage, or about The Return of the Jedi - someone who has not yet seen the movies should simply avoid the question
  • Unexpected egregious significant plot spoiling statements - e.g. in a question about "movie fathers", a statement about Luke Skywalker's parentage could be in spoiler markup.
  • In terms of TV series, spoilers 'from the future' be that future seasons, or other material such as books, can be added as additional material, but should clearly be called out as such - and if revealing important future details, these should be in spoiler markup. Be sensible here, but I would argue that being polite to readers, this should not just be current series - in the days now of Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix be considerate to anyone watching from the beginning.

I am personally not in favor of a spoiler tag - because of that last point. Everything here could have a spoiler tag on it for someone that has not yet watched the material. My advice is to be sensible - use spoiler markup for 'surprise material', but use it judiciously.

As an closing remark - I've been asked to make a comment as a moderator, but I think that shows a bit of a misunderstanding of the role of a moderator of this site. Yes I have an administrative role to deal with flags, and occasionally resolve disputes and deal with the fortunately rare troublemakers - but the primary role is to help ensure the smooth running of the site.

However even in that role I don't think it is correct for me to set the policy of the community, it is my role to accurately reflect the policy that's been set by all of 'us' - and in that I am only one voice in many.

  • Thanks for your answer. I only meant a response from a moderator as you are committed users of the site and the more responses from experienced users, the better! I think part of the issue that arose when this question was asked yesterday is that it took me quite a while to fully understand why I had spoiled anything on the original question. I hadn't kept up to date with the series and didn't realise that info wasn't known yet. Usually in that case, I do spoiler mark up as previous answers of mine show. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:03
  • Anyways, despite the multitude of responses and comments on here now, and the confusing nature of upvotes and downvotes for them, I think there's a general consensus to be try and be courteous in situations like this, but not overuse spoiler tags for other situations. I do emphasise the I think bit though! Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:04
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    @AndrewMartin - there is a lot of material here, but I think you are correct in that interpretation :-)
    – iandotkelly Mod
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:05
  • @AndrewMartin - and I appreciate your comment about the moderator issue. Sometimes I don't want to stamp my opinion as the first answer - as I should be flexible to change my position if the overall community of committed users thinks otherwise (and the people on this post are the most active).
    – iandotkelly Mod
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 15:07
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    This, a 1000 times, this. The end.
    – Tablemaker
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 14:50

To be succinct: I think we all know what a spoiler is, and I think by-and-large we can distinguish between when it is likely to poison an ongoing narrative for a user, and when it is simply drawing reference material to support an answer.

iandotkelly has already made the distinction that questions referring exclusively to the books are automatically migrated to Sci-Fi and Fantasy, so we're all clear that our own remit is under A-Game-of-Thrones, and not A-Song-Of-Ice-And-Fire.

I would propose we simply agree to Spoiler-Box any text drawing on the book to deploy information not yet revealed by the TV series: especially plot elements, rather than context explanation and analysis.

If we agree to remain vigilant and proactive at simply editing posts which breach this etiquette by 'Spoiler-boxing' (not close-voting) content, and leaving a comment directing here explaining the edit, I don't see this as any epochal shift in what we're already naturally doing here.

There will be room for discretion in this, and it will ultimately lay in the hands of moderators as to whether an answer/reference is in some way 'poisoning' or 'looking ahead' within the TV Narrative, but I think most users would be obliging and (with a little common sense and discussion) we could be respectful and accommodating to Users who come here for help, and not force them into exile like Wandang.

The reason SpoilerBoxes are vital to this site's operation are, I feel, demonstrated by the particularities of Wandang's original predicament:

If the solution proposed by Andrew Martin is implemented (that users who don't wish to incur spoilers from the within the book they remove GOT from their feed) sets up a hierarchy that excludes any user from participating in questions around the GOT TV series unless they have read the books/don't mind having the plot 'spoiled'. Considering we are a M&TV Q+A, this seems counterproductive to me.

The situation itself proves that there are distinctly separate fan bases for respective TV series and Novels, and whilst information can be freely exchanged between the two, it should not automatically be assumed that a user is participating in both: especially as the narrative of one directly informs the plot of another.

It's just, as I see it, common courtesy to not 'ruin' the plot of a TV series unless the user specifically asks for it: the best way to give users this choice is, in my opinion, through the deployment of Spoiler Boxes.

Richard Tingle has summed up the need for 'discretion' and variation excellently:

There are 3 different things to consider: (1) Things which have already happened (timewise) in the book and series but are simply not mentioned in the series (aka background), (2) things which would have already happened in both book and series but which didn't happen in the series (aka divergence between the two) and (3) things which have happened in the book but haven't yet happened in the series due to the books being "ahead of the series" (aka the uncertain future). All 3 need different answer [with the latter requiring spoiler-boxes].

So I posted a propostion over at S&F to understand if they had a similar problem, and the result was a un-animous "we don't care", largely in cadence to our size and status within SE.

It's useful to know that A: they won't co-operate and have no interest, so anything we instigate will only be monitored from this side, and B: they consider themselves in direct competetion with us, as M&TV are on topic for S&F.

I'm a user of both, but didn't expect this level of dismissal, but as I've said it's still useful information moving forward with a decision on this.

Our mandate to protect our Users interests is unchanged, however, so it doesn't directly affect anything said here. Just something to be mindful of.

  • So was the question only about "spoiler blocks for book info, yes or no?" and not about the bigger picture of distinguishing between movies and books (I might admit that I haven't completely got the essence of the question in this case)?
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:57
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    I think iandotkelly has made the distinction clear, but it is in recognition of the 'bigger picture' of acknowledging this distinction: They must be treated as separate properties, and in looking after the interests of our Users we can't assume that a participant in the TV show is automatically a participant of the Novels, and must acknowledge and respect that separation by clearly signalling/spoilerboxing content that is likely to ruin the experience for those whose only interest is the Show: which is why they've come to M&TV, not S&F. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:02
  • Hmm, I might tend to agree, even if still being rather sceptic about the value of hidden and optional information. But I see your point. So then you have answered the question of distinction and on-topicness implicitly already?
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:06
  • I Hope so, but it remains to be seen how it is deployed by users, if this does get accepted by the community. I imagine there will be refinements as come across possible exceptions, but as a general rule of thumb it seems like a solution going forward: we just agree to find a answer within the M&TV universe, but if it requires information from the books, there is an established precedent to hide sensitive material. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:23
  • @JohnSmithOptional i like your approach. It hits the core of my opinion (users will be afraid of asking about series if they didn't read the book). I think your solution would fit best.
    – Wandang
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 7:02
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    Well, I consider Science Fiction & Fantasy as direct competition, too, because of our smaller size and activity and the perfect on-topicness of movies there (and because I'm not active there). But I (having read the other discussion and upvoted Keen's answer) still wouldn't see this as harsh and completely understand their viewpoint. Of course they won't migrate on-topic stuff to some aribtrary other site just because that happens to overlap in some parts. A SciFi-movie is as much SciFi as any SciFi-book, even if only a movie...
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 19:09
  • ...As a similar example we're in turn not going to migrate any animes to Anime & Manga either (and neither do we want them to rename it into Manga Only.SE). But as you said yourself, that SFF proposal and its outcome doesn't (and shouldn't) really influence the conclusions on this discussion here.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 19:12
  • Totally. I made the post trying to let them know that we're basically orienting ourselves around the TV, so if they get a user bemoaning that they only want to hear about the TV series (and not get spoilers), that's what we're accommodating. I understand and agree with Keen after hearing their perspective; the way he presented it was I think pretty funnily not a measured response to the question I was asking, lol. Commented Apr 27, 2014 at 21:17
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    As an active member of the scifi community, I have to clarify the addendum here. The comments that we "don't care", have "no interest" in "cooperating", and consider ourselves "in direct competition" are... lacking in accuracy, for lack of a more polite way of putting it. We were presented with one proposal: all GoT book questions come to us, and all show questions (including the ones we have now) go to M&TV. It was explained quite clearly why that wasn't A) practical (no migration paths could be set up), and B) appropriate (the shows are clearly on-topic at both sites).
    – Beofett
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 12:57
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    @JohnSmithOptional We'll have to agree to disagree. One of the dangers of overly-elaborating simple ideas is that the key points may sometimes get lost. In your question, you asked "questions which directly refer to the Book continuity are automatically migrated here. I was wondered what this community would feel about reciprocating this distinction: If a question is being asked here which implicitly state they are referring to the TV Show (as in this example), they would be considered for discretionary migration to the M&TV site.". That is what the answer addressed.
    – Beofett
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 13:04
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    That one quote seems directly in contradiction to the idea that what you were really saying is "we don't want this", and at no point in your question did you ask "do you have any policy in recognizing the distinctions."
    – Beofett
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 13:05
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    @Beofett "One of the dangers of overly-elaborating simple ideas is that the key points may sometimes get lost." - Nailed it!
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 14:33
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    Once again, totally misreading the objective by skimming over the concept of 'discretionary'. Whilst I agree entirely that this is a 'simple' idea (and personally, I think it's common sense), there is a compelling need for clarification. I will elaborate my intent on SF&F, as clearly there is still a misunderstanding of what we're proposing. Reciprocating THIS DISTINCTION, not reciprocating this policy!!! Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 15:42
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    Since you didn't elaborate on what you meant by "discretionary" in your question, how was I supposed to do anything but skim over it? Also... what is "this distinction"? The current top answer does not appear to be substantively different than sci-fi's current policy, particularly in areas where the OP has clearly indicated that they don't want spoilers. Clear writing does a lot more for alleviating misunderstanding than capitalization, bold fonts, exclamation points, or tangential imagery.
    – Beofett
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 17:17
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    @JohnSmithOptional Honestly, the "derpy-derp" version is a lot clearer, and probably would have garnered very different responses. Fun fact: around 2005, a study was conducted, and found that 43% of American Internet users had "low literacy" levels. This means they have difficulty understanding content written at a high school level or above (13-14 years old and older, for those not familiar with the U.S. school system). On SE, it might be reasonable to expect a higher level of literacy... for the native English speakers. But we're an international audience.
    – Beofett
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 12:39

I think any separation between TV series/movies and their source material would be difficult to maintain and damaging. Here are some reasons why:

Firstly, there are events in movies that may be cryptic, but can only be answered at the current time with reference to source material. For example, at the end of The Avengers movie, a character appeared (see this question). Many people quite obviously wondered who it was. Going purely on the movies, i.e. the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this question was impossible to answer. We didn't know. But to anyone who has read the comics, the answer was simple. Whilst I'd be happy with an answer pointing out this knowledge comes from the comics, not the movies, it's not really essential. Ultimately however, it's silly to pretend we don't have knowledge as to who the character is, when any knowledge of the comic books immediately lends the answer.

Another example building on to the above is Game of Thrones. It seems illogical to pretend that we don't know the answers to certain questions in the TV series whenever the book series is beyond it and has already covered many of the answers. I agree whole-heartedly that differences between the series and the books should be highlighted, but often these differences are minor and don't detract from the overall purpose of the question. Nevertheless, giving an answer about both the series AND any differences in the books is perfectly acceptable to me. For example, this question, asking about the location of an army during the events of one of the episodes. I provided one of the answers to the question, referencing both the books and series.

Secondly, many questions are intrinsically linked between both the movie/series and the books. For example, any question regarding Katniss' motives for a particular action in The Hunger Games, or why Bella felt as she did in Twilight, or who the family of Jon Snow is in Game of Thrones - any of these questions can be given some form of an answer based on the TV series, but far more heavily supplemented by the books. I dislike the idea of giving a "half answer" to a question, with the expectation it should be revised later when the TV series catches up, when the knowledge is already known. This site should be a straight forward question and answer page where this isn't an issue. I don't mind putting content in spoilers (as some have said, for "current" shows) - but what happens when the show is no longer current? I've answered hundreds of questions. I don't want to have to go back and edit them all to take out the spoiler tags. Of course, you could argue that these tags should be left in permanently then, but again that seems to run contrary to the purpose of a simple question and answer site, such as this.

I should point out that if someone asks a question about the meaning of a line in the first Hunger Games book, or what the description of the character of Tyrion in Game of Thrones means, I consider it totally off topic. Those questions are related to the books and nothing else. They should be migrated to the Sci Fi site. But any question regarding the series surely must have some reference to the books. It's commonly accepted that books for a series/movie (if created first) are canon and due to the narrative structure of novels will often provide much more explanation as to why characters act and think as they do (as a character's thoughts are much harder to portray in film).

Finally, I will comment that this site has changed my views on a lot of things. When I first came here, I found the spoilerific content infuriating. I'm not sure when things changed, but now I actually both accept and like it, as it seems more fitting for a Q and A site. Introducing a need for spoiler tags creates issues such as how long after a movie/series release they're necessary for? If, for example, someone had asked about the fate of Gandalf after the Fellowship of the Ring, would the answer (known since the books had been released half a century earlier) really need to be spoiler-tagged? How long would it need to remain so?

The question that appeared to spark this meta question off was this question. I provided the accepted answer and a debate ensued about whether it was appropriate. Although I've now enclosed it in spoiler tags, I still don't really see what they add or why they in any way provide spoilers. Anyone asking a question like that must surely expect these sorts of answers. At least in my opinion :)

Ultimately, to wind this rather long answer up, I think there are very few questions where this issue of spoilers has come up and caused any sort of issue. I am happy to spoiler-tag events that have not yet happened, but there are very few questions this applies to. Largely, most questions on the topic ask about already known events (e.g. Red Wedding/Purple Wedding in GoT) and simply ask for more explanation, which the books can supplement.


  1. Books are essential when answering questions regarding movies/series based on them, but if their content differs that should be made clear.
  2. Spoiler tags have some use and I will use them if questions are asked about events that haven't yet transpired in film - but I honestly think this is quite a rare occurrence. Can anyone point me to questions where this is a serious issue?!
  3. All other questions I'm simply going to continue to answer without spoiler tags and in keeping with the Q and A model of the site.
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    If I asked the question I would expect information from "the past", be that from the series or the books (things in series often gloss over fine points from the book and the OP probably expected this had happened here). I'd be suprised to see information from the future (at least not without warning) Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:18
  • "Anyone asking a question like that must surely expect these sorts of answers." - Exactly!
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:20
  • To be honest, I get what you mean, but this very rarely happens. Far more common is someone who has watched the first series of three or four and asks a question which is later answered in the series. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:21
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    This answer assumes certain intentions on the Users behalf, which I'm unable to support. Whilst I too prefer the inclusion of supporting material from the books, I think if we are to recognize the distinction between TV and books, we must also recognize the distinction of audience and not assume the two are in pursuit of the same information. At least spoiler-boxes provide that choice without in any affect to authorial intent: to disregard them is to undermine their purpose. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:58
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    @JohnSmithOptional: Can you give an example of when a user would not be in pursuit of such information? Surely if a user asks for the motives of a character, or an explanation of a plot element, they want an answer? I'm not sure I agree with your approach. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:59
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    The original question that spawned this meta provides a sufficient example: the user didn't want to know about the additional plot element you mentioned, as it had yet to be revealed by the TV continuity: of which he was following, and not the books. Your answer 'spoiled' his relationship with the TV show, which is not what we're here to do. If we can avoid it, we should. It's just courtesy and etiquette, not removing the information entirely, but presenting users with a choice. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 14:16
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    @JohnSmithOptional: I'll bear that in mind in future. However, given the nature of the question, I think the user should have expected answers that would contain spoilers. I think it HAS to be expected that when asking a question about a plot detail in a show, you get answers that reveal info you didn't previously know - whether from books or the show. Perhaps the onus should be on the asker to state they don't want spoilers? I can use spoiler tags in future, but I'm not up to date with GoT, so wasn't aware it hadn't been revealed. I just knew the answer from the books and thus gave it Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 14:22
  • What we're asking here is whether posters should observe the possibility that (as they have come to M&TV and not S&F), they are asking about the series, and err on the side of caution by spoilerboxing any content so far not revealed by the series. Your additional information was helpful, but not requested, and of a sensitive nature. In such a circumstance, we're asking that you give the User a choice as to whether they want to be exposed to spoilers. That's all. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 14:40
  • I'll include the spoiler tags, but I can't see this becoming regular amongst all users. As its a q and a site, people will fire out whatever answer they have. We can obviously moderate the site and be vigiliant, but even if an answer is up for a minute or two, it would do the damage. In future I'll use blocks as a courtesy, as you've said - but I can't see how this can really be enforced Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 14:50
  • Furthermore, to take the GoT question that started all this, I hadnt realised it hadnt been revealed. Since many answerers do what I do an answer about movies or series they may not be up to date with, I think spoilers will naturally come out. I do think in future good courtesy could try and curtail these, but I cant see how it will become community wide. Then again, I'm an eternal pessimist.:) Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 14:53
  • 1
    'but I can't see how this can really be enforced' the function of this discussion is to accomodate this process - if we agree to hide sensitive information pertaining to an ongoing series, when posts are edited they can be pointed here to show the consensus found. Nothing has yet been confirmed, but it's about finding a best-practice and agreeing on it. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 15:06
  • I suppose. I just meant that spoilers are most damaging to the OP and so even of we are vigiliant in spoiler blocking them, if the answerer doesn't do it it's already spoiled. I suppose time will tell. For now, there's only five or six of us involved in this discussion. Hopefully more of the community will share their views soon. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 15:18
  • @AndrewMartin "For now, there's only five or six of us involved in this discussion." - Well, that's far beyond average meta acitivity already. C'mon, 4 friggin detailed and diverse answers after 6 hours? That's what I call a meta discussion (not saying it couldn't be better)! ;-)
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 16:45
  • I agree it's absolutely fantastic! I was just saying!! Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 16:46
  • You are saying that editing the questions after the series ended is to much work. I would doubt that. For GoT (one of the most popular series) we got 53 questions. Those could be edited casually in a week by one user or in one day by two active ones. Other series like lost for example have 15 questions. That would be a day max. How often does a series end? The amount of questions to a series may be proportionate to the amount of episodes which means that short series have short editing time and big ones do not occur often.
    – Wandang
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 7:09

I cannot speak for Game of Thrones, knowing nothing about it, but in general I would not go as far as Wandang's kind of "total separation". If the question is in any way explicitly about the movie, there is absolutely no need to migrate it to "that other SE movie site".

Of course we should clearly distinguish between the book/comic/whatever and the movie/TV-show and questions concentrating only on the book are off-topic, but questions explicitly acknowledging the difference and asking for e.g.

  • Is ... different from the book?
  • Why did they not include ... from the comic?
  • Who is ...? Is there any further information about him in the source material?

are perfectly acceptable and we already have very good examples leading to insightful answers.

And in the same way as migrating questions relating to the movie would not be helpful, deliberately ignoring the source material when answering a movie question (even a movie-only question) wouldn't either (even if maybe not required for a good answer).

But answers have to clearly distinguish between the movie and the source material and if they give answers based on the book, then they have to acknowledge that it is from the book and the answer still has to relate to the movie in some way (be it only by saying that it wasn't answered in the movie at all) and the book answer should not contradict the movie (here are two very bad examples failing to make a connection to the movie or downright contradicting it). Even as a complete GoT-ignoramus I agree with you that SystemDown's and TylerShads's answers you give as positive examples are exactly that.

As far as spoiler blocks, I haven't thought much about those, especially since I have a clear "don't care"-attitude towards movie spoilers. But I agree that the book can offer quite a bunch of additional information that people having seen the movie might not know (and not want to know yet). But I guess I would still go with the current "do as you like"-approach on spoiler blocks (which to me are rather a technicality), even if only because I don't know any better.

  • I do not get your core point. If i understand you correctly you would be ok with spoiling content of the book as long as it is relevant to the movie? The problem is this: You want a "clear distinguish" and at the same time you like the "do as you like" approach. those statements contradict themselves a bit. If you do not know any better (as claimed by yourself) why not go with recommendation of spoilers (until a better method is found) instead of do as you like? You wanted to have a clear distinction.
    – Wandang
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:46
  • @Wandang The "do as you like"-approach only applies to explicitly using spoiler blocks for spoilers. This does not contradict the clear distinction in any way. I just don't care that much about the spoiler blocks (which to me are rather a technicality) to "know any better" but to me this wasn't the important part of the question anyway.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:50
  • @Wandang In general (there are always exceptions) I think spoiler blocks to be rather counter-productive. To me it is not a good idea to hide important information (or even whole answers) behind an empty yellow box and thus make its consideration optional.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:04
  • 2
    "consideration optional". you seem to have the opposite reaction to a spoilerbox then i have. to me it screams "danger danger, important information you do not want to read yet". at least on this SE. on arqade i use spoilerboxes for more detailed but optional information. i would assume that most people react like me to spoilerboxes on this SE
    – Wandang
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:12
  • @Wandang True, but the problem is that you don't have to read it, making the answer to some degree incomplete when not hovering over it. But I see your point (that's why I'm not completely against them (at least if not the whole answer is empty) but rather ignoring them).
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:14
  • @NapoleonWilson: I'm pretty much completely in agreement with your answer. And like you, I've no issue using spoiler boxes - it's just I don't really care that much about them. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 13:15
  • "answers have to clearly distinguish between the movie and the source material". This is the most important point to me. If I'm caught up on a show (such as GOT), I will read spoilers boxes for the show, but not the books. As far as the show itself is concerned, there is no way for me to know the information contained in book spoilers because it hasn't been "written" yet. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 14:52
  • I'd hope that whilst the pair of you 'don't care' about spoiling, you would concede that there are users that do care about it. It is for their benefit this discussion is taking place, and we must decide whether these users are to be catered for. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 15:09
  • @JohnSmithOptional Well, I more and more tend to agree with your views on spoiler blocks for unrelated (i.e. book) material in constrast to the movie/TV-show asked/answered about (and have thus upvoted your answer, and the definitely fruitful question, of course). But in the same way I'd rather see it as etiquette to be enforced on everybody's own behalf than by strict pedantry. But I'm not much of an avid reader and probably unlikely to ever write a spoiling book-answer in the first place anyway.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 16:40
  • @NapoleonWilson: I'd like to think the fact that as spoiler boxes don't affect authorial intent it wouldn't be perceived as pedantry, but its initially going to have to be monitored to make sure it isn't misused. I'd like to think eventually consideration of such distinctions will organically find its way into standardization, but that's wishful thinking on my part. Still, the point needs to be discussed. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 16:51

There are four answers already to this question (including my own) and as the constant upvoting/downvoting shows, none of them really have overwhelming support. This seems to be a fairly divisive issue.

To succinctly suggest what I THINK is the most common consensus (vote this answer up if correct, down if not):

  1. For current series, spoiler tag any content from books not yet revealed in movies/series.
  2. For completed series, post as normal.
  3. For any series/movies, make distinction clear when providing answers drawn from books as opposed to the series/movies.

Possible problems:

  1. At what point do spoiler tags get removed, if ever? If they are removed who does this? Moderators? Individual users? (I don't feel I have the time).
  2. Whilst there is a lot of interest in this question, it's only been viewed 61 times to date and this site apparently has over 15,000 unique hits a day - therefore, will the solutions above really be workable? Or will the majority of users continue to post spoilers which, even if moderated and corrected, will spoil knowledge for the OP.
  3. There could still be problems if the answerer hasn't kept up to date in the series (for example, in the GoT question that started this, I didn't realise that the content I posted in the answer hadn't been shown in the series yet (and I realise I haven't said it yet - I am very sorry to the OP for any possible spoilers that were revealed). I know I'm not the only one to answer questions on movies/series without having seen them, so this could be an issue.

Largely though, the above are minor points and if the community feels it is workable, the three suggestions above could be implemented (by regular users at least, and hopefully in time by more casual visitors).

On a final note, it would be good to see a moderator's comment/answer on this.

  • 'For current series, spoiler tag any content not yet from books.'... you mean not revealed by the TV, not books, right? I wouldn't worry too much about implementation though, its easy enough to lead by policy on here, and as you've said it's not too common an occurance, but damaging when it does happen. I think we're all here to agree to a consensus: its execution will be monitored, but I think there's little point in speculating about the minor issues. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 9:55
  • @JohnSmithOptional: I've amended it. That's what I meant. I think implementation is important. I see little point to all of this if it can't be implemented. If spoilers continually get posted before they are tagged by a moderator/more experienced user, then the system is pointless as the OP gets their question spoiled anyway. But that's my opinion and I'm happy giving it a trial and seeing how it goes. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 10:11
  • @JohnSmithOptional: Out of curiosity, were you the downvoter? Do you disagree with the three points, or the part after? If not you, could downvoter share any comments on what is right/wrong? Thanks. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 10:12
  • I'm not the downvoter, no, we'll have to wait to see if they come forward with why... I'm not belittling the value of implementation, I'm just suggesting worrying about it at this stage is rather like putting the cart before the horse. This would be an etiquette that would attempt to adjust behavior, and as others have said its not entirely unlike what we're already doing. It's just the acknowledgement and codification of common sense: don't spoil the TV show for people by assuming they want to know about the books. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:03
  • @JohnSmithOptional: Fair enough. Although having look over this Meta question, I wish some other community users would leave comments/answers as there really does seem to be a divergence of opinion on the issue! Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:04
  • I'm still waiting for iandotkelly♦ to confirm, but I think it looks as though the most pragmatic solution is simply to observe the separation between users (those who are 'fans' of the book, and those who are 'fans' of just the TV show) and exorcise consideration when discussing sensitive information. As for your point about not knowing where the show was up to; well, there's no one else to be blamed for that I'm afraid, its just an oversight on your part. Hopefully your apology will be accepted by Wandang. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:14
  • @JohnSmithOptional: Yeah, I'll keep an eye out. I am sorry, but to be honest it's not going to put me off answering questions like that in future. Will just have to be a bit more careful with spoilers I suppose. I've become rather numb to them around here :) Breaking Bad, Lost, House of Cards - I've lost track of shows that I knew all about before I even began them! Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:18
  • While I'm not the downvoter either, I'm not sure how much this adds to John's (seemingly consented) answer, as it just summarizes that one (which would be the reason for the downvote, seeing that John's answer has one, too). While I understand the motivation for standardization and summarization, I'm not sure it's benficial to have another answer as a summary of an already (currently) top-voted answer. Maybe rather than that, John might be able to include the more general consensus about book-info being on-topic but distinguishable into his more spoiler-box oriented answer.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:20
  • @NapoleonWilson: I wanted a single, simplistic answer with bullet points that were clear - largely because this is a change in policy for the site and it seems a bit ludicrous it could happen based on an answer with two votes, on a question with 71 views, on a site with 15000+ unique views a day. Therefore, I was hoping there might be some consensus on just those bullet points - but alas, even that hasn't happened! Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:23
  • I should add again in case it isn't clear. I'm totally happy doing this and don't in any way want to sound grumpy, or unhappy, or anything other than apologetic for any issue caused by the answer I originally posted. I'm just very aware that for a change on a site with this many users, there's been very little input on the change, that's all. Often meta answers can pick up a fair few votes as they are considered "the way to go". There doesn't appear to be a commonly agreed on way to go here, which is what bugs me a little!! Solution? More comments/answers till we get one :) Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:26
  • @AndrewMartin I see your point. But apart from that "it seems a bit ludicrous it could happen based on an answer with two votes, on a question with 71 views, on a site with 15000+ unique views a day." - Well, that's democracy. It's easiest to complain afterwards when abstaining from voting (that more as a tongue-in-cheek comment, I know that the problem of low meta-acitivity is not entirely to blame on a lack of dedication on the users' side).
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:27
  • @NapoleonWilson: As a former Politics student, I'll not get into a debate on democracy with you :P Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:28
  • @AndrewMartin "There doesn't appear to be a commonly agreed on way to go here" - Yet that's rather due to the low activity. The, 4 to 5 people that are active and answered/commented here seem to agree that John's approach is a viable (or even the most viable) one (even if they didn't all express this through voting, as you know, people don't like to vote as much as they (dis)agree).
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:30
  • 1
    "I'm just very aware that for a change on a site with this many users, there's been very little input on the change, that's all"... I think this is the crux of your problem: its not a 'change' at all, or a 'rule'. Its just a courtesy that most people already observe. All this seeks to do is codify that courtesy, it doesn't require any integration, just vigilance. If they aren't 'followed', it causes problems (like this one) and we simply rectify it. If questioned, we are able to point back here, to the consensus. Its the very reason we have Spoiler Boxes. I can't stress that enough Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 11:50
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    Perhaps people disagree with the criticism you are sewing in your possible problems with my answer, as well as the fact it doesn't contribute much more than it. In response to calls for clarity, I will at some point ammend my answer to counter the perceived problems, as well as appeasing anyone else's doubts. Commented Apr 24, 2014 at 18:59

Total separation

I am for separation of both worlds. Questions on this Q&A are normally directed towards the movie and not the book (or any other non film source).

Edit: I mean the book that a movie is literally based upon (filmization of a book). If a movie takes symbols or context from literature then the literature should be mentioned and explained. For example greek mythology or the bible.

Assuming mixing

If we continue mixing both up there might be many wrong answers (if both worlds differentiate in unreleased content) and therefore speculation at some point.

Furthermore there is no real reason to ask for the TV-Series/Movie anymore if we put the different sources into it as well. We could instead just ask for the entire work in the first place. This would be better fitting to SciFi&Fantasy stackexchange in my opinion.

Under these (mixing both worlds, questions about the entire work/art on SciFi-SE) circumstances the only valid questions for this site would be "What/Why is the movie different from the book in this part?" which i think are valid but we would lose a lot of good questions specifically for the series (since people are allowed to throw other sources in).

Edit: not even those questions would then fit Movie&TV-SE.


An tolerable alternative would be to link to the SciFi-SE for more information, keeping both worlds separated and linked at the same time. Users with fear of spoilers will be thankful and people who want the deeper answer can get a lot more information on SciFi.


To be clear: My approach would remove the need for spoilers. People who ask about a series that they did not watch fully/up to date should expect spoiling content.

Positive example

The Game Of Thrones Wiki does a great job informing on the newest content up to the newest episode. They do however include book info that does not spoiler for additional information.(Differences to the book for the most part). Here is an example of the Purple Wedding Article (Spoiler for those who did not watch up to date GoT-TV-Series)

  • The only problem I see with total seperation is that it requires the assistance and co-operation of Sci-Fi & Fantasy: we need to redirect book based questions to them, but they must in turn leech M&TV series based questions over to us: otherwise we're just hemorrhaging content into another site, and the distinction will break down. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 11:35
  • @JohnSmithOptional only if we would apply the linked method. The question is: Do people really want the complete answer from all sources? I normally do not. It was just a proposal to make everybody happy.
    – Wandang
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 11:57
  • I have an example in my head that i do not know how to handle. What about Frankenstein/Dracula movies? They are most likely based on the original book and i am intrigued to reference the book because of it's cultural and temporal impact
    – Wandang
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:07
  • 2
    -1 for "not even those questions would then fit Movie&TV-SE." - Total separation would be too strict a limitation, I think (and not only because I don't care the slightest about Science Fiction & Fantasy).
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:24
  • 2
    I imagine this would be fine, considering the age of publication and the fact it doesn't poison the viewing experience for an active audience. If it were a more recent adaptation with an ongoing narrative (such as The Hunger Games), it would be handled entirely differently. I see this as a discussion of etiquette, not content. It would be unhelpful to separate books entirely, but when referencing source material this distinction should be made clear, and anything likely to poison the experience for others should be spoilerboxed. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:28
  • 1
    "It would be unhelpful to separate books entirely" - Exactly.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:30
  • @JohnSmithOptional i think the age is a very very important point. Ongoing series should be treaded differently then old/finished ones.
    – Wandang
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 12:47

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