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There are many questions on the site of the form of "could this work". These questions generally propose a solution to some real or imagined problem and ask if the solution would work. Would it be generally useful to have a "speculation" tag (or a tag named something else) for these questions?

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  • $\begingroup$ This is interesting. identify-this-object is an example of a tag that classifies a question without being a topic itself. A benefit is that it lets people know that it is potentially okay to ask "what is this" questions. The existence of something lilke a "could this work" tag might be an invitation to ask even more of them. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 8 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ Good point, I love identify-this-object questions. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jan 8 at 4:21
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    $\begingroup$ Completed according to this answer: space.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1170/58 $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Aug 19 at 14:29
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Another alternative tag suggested by Tristan:

Here's what I see that tag capturing:

That's all but a couple of the questions that I have under . A pretty good catch, I think. "Alternatives" moves even further away from "speculation" than "hypothetical". I think it is a major improvement.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes I agree, I think this works nicely. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 11 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ This is helping already! Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jan 19 at 14:32
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Setting the name "speculation" aside (which I've expressed my opinion of in the comments of JCRM's answer), my main issue with this idea is that it is too broad. "Could this work" applies to too many questions to really be much of a useful category. In fact, it would likely end up being pretty opinion-based, which sounds like a nightmare.

Some possible alternatives:

I can still imagine a draw of problematic questions to these, but it at least doesn't seem to promote them in name. We could add some language to the tag wikis to specify the standards we require of such questions, and we could police these tags to close poor questions.


Let's consider some questions that might go in each category.

For :

For :

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  • $\begingroup$ How far would the Mars L1 Lagrangian Point be from Mars? begins I am a sci-fi writer, and I've heard about the concept of... and comments below the question shows that this is one (of several) examples of the site helping an author. She deleted her second question (not sure why). I know there have been many more, but searching for story, plot, script, or writing returns too many results (no tag to search with). I wonder if plot-assistance would be useful? (plus a vet-my-idea or vet-my-scheme or vet-my-concept or vet-my-invention) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 10 at 1:49
  • $\begingroup$ Presumably there are scifi-philic users who might be genuinely interested in the first while less interested in the second $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 10 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ other writing questions: L2 point in multi-moon system and Calculating acceleration to various altitudes straight up and Hyperbolic orbit: correct? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 10 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh I'm not sure a writing focus tag would be good, because it could potentially apply to any question, depending on whether or not the user was a writer. That seems like a bad way to categorize questions. The "vet-my" tags all sound more or less like hypothetical-invention to me. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 10 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ Organic Marble's proposed use of these tags is becoming more attractive. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Jan 10 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM That's a good thing. If there is general community support for some of these questions, but a subset of the community finds them irritating then it makes sense to use the ignore tag feature. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 10 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM Also, to be clear, regarding any questions on my list under the tags that are closed or downvoted, I'm not suggesting reversing that trend simply because they have a new tag. They will be subject to the standards of this site as usual, so if they are, for example, closed as unclear or opinion based they should remain that way. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 10 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a little concerned about how the word hypothetical would be interpreted, because it sounds quite open and inviting... "suppose momentum wasn't always conserved" or "suppose the EM drive's thrust were larger" but maybe the definition in the balloon that pops up can head those off $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 10 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Yes, that's the idea is that we set strict requirements and then enforce them. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 10 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ I went ahead and added If specific impulse is directly related to exhaust velocity, would a ion post-accelerator improve the Isp of a propulsion system? because the opportunity arose and it seems like such a perfect use-case. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 14 at 11:22
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Swapped the tag for the new one: design-alternative. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 14 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage I think that's what my intention was (after railing against the word "hypothetical" so much) but one of my two brain cells had gone on the fritz. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 14 at 13:27
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A "speculation" tag would risk encouraging questions that:

  • don't have a clear answer, in which case

    Avoid questions that are primarily opinion-based, or that are likely to generate discussion rather than answers.

  • or are of the form "oh, I wonder what would happen if..." : in which case it is likely to qualify for the "This question does not show any research effort" button

It has been suggested that as both of these types of question already exist (and I'll add that some such questions receive a number of upvotes) and so this means the such questions are obviously OK here. Others may state that this is a slow stack with but a handful of questions each day, and so being more relaxed about the quality of questions and answers is a good thing. I strongly disagree with both of these conclusions.

It has also been suggested that adding such a tag would allow the "ignored-tags" feature to be used. I agree this would be a tiny positive; but it in no way justifies adding it. Adding a "moon-landing-faked" tag would have the same "benefit"

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree. I'm not altogether opposed to a tag, but perhaps "speculation" is not the best way to phrase it. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 8 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ Do people look for tags before they write questions? And, we have a lot of these questions now, so obviously they are ok here. One use of this tag would be in the 'ignored-tags' feature. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jan 8 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage I've updated this answer in response to Organic Marble's comment. As it now stands, it is not only against "speculation" as the name of the tag (which I would strongly oppose) but also about the general intent (which I'm not keen on). As such you may wish to retract or qualify your support. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Jan 8 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ @JCRM Nope, I'm still in agreement with you. I would say that some of these questions are acceptable, but that a tag termed "speculation" would tend to invite more problematic questions than acceptable ones. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 8 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble People may not look for tags before they write their first question, but during posting their first question they have to look for at least one tag. I have noticed that many people find tags on a theme and ask many more questions on that theme (on SE in general, not necessarily SX in particular, though I do think it applies here). $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 8 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ My main motivation is to allow me to hide these from my feed using the 'ignored tags' feature, since the community does not close them. But if no one else feels that way, so be it. I 100% agree that most of them should be closed as opinion based. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jan 8 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Sometimes these mistakenly get left open in the hope of improvement. If you see some old ones that should be closed, feel free to flag them and I'll take a look. New ones you should feel free to close vote on as you normally would. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 8 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble thoughts? comment $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 10 at 1:56
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I'm onboard with anything that lets me hide the junk questions. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jan 10 at 2:15

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