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A recent question included the following line:

Note that this question was translated into English by my father, who is the one typing it. I'm eight years old and I don't use SE unsupervised.

Every question asked by this family probably doesn't need that sentence - I think it would get distracting. But the context that OP is eight years old is important when determining the level of detail to use in an answer.

This got me thinking. I like the idea of having a set of questions folks can show their kids to get an extremely basic (but also accurate) intuition for a complex subject. After all, what little kid isn't fascinated by rocketry? Is this within our scope as a community? For the record, I think it should be.

I took a quick look through the existing tags, but didn't find [basic] or [learning] or anything like that.

So how about it? Do we get enough of this kind of question for a tag?


For anyone who might not know, the (half-joking) name in the title is a reference to this xkcd.

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  • $\begingroup$ We've certainly had a couple of questions along those lines in the past. I agree we need some kind of canonical approach. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Feb 2 '17 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ Where are the pictures during the time the pictures are sent from space to home? is a good example. $\endgroup$ – kim holder Feb 2 '17 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of a tag like this, but we can't use an in-joke as the tag name. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Feb 2 '17 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ Even Physics -- which is probably one of the strictest sites in the network, or at least one of the strictest sites I regularly visit -- has a homework-and-exercises tag, and it's the second most used tag there at the moment with 10,893 questions thus tagged out of a total 90,702 questions (which are visible to me at a lowly 600 rep). It's not exactly the same, but I think it's close enough to be a reasonable comparison. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 2 '17 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes I agree, as fun as it would be I don't think up-goer-five or eli5 are good tag names. Maybe simple-english, à la Simple English Wikipedia? $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Feb 2 '17 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage I agree up goer 5 is bad; especially since it's REALLY hard to understand the sky bag air things if you are a kid. However; explain me like i'm 5 goes a bit beyond simple english. $\endgroup$ – Antzi Feb 8 '17 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Antzi I agree that eli5 goes beyond simple english, but I'm not sure we should make the tag that specific. I think simple-english would be enough. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Feb 8 '17 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ The way in which a question is asked (that includes language used, though that may fade out because of edits) is already an indicator of the complexity of the answers wanted. If the question is full of references and formulas, expect an in-depth answer. $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Feb 10 '17 at 11:24
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While I like the idea, I think you have the wrong five.

There's a subreddit called "Explain Like I'm Five" exactly for this kind of thing. My only concern is that it would be a meta tag, which are a no-no. Or is it? I mean, consider the similarities to this and the Beginner tag that used to be on Stack Overflow.

That being said, the target market of this site and SO are different. Generally, kids aren't asking programming questions. (Unfortunately...) But they are asking space questions, which is awesome! (I myself have a first grader who is asking me where the Earth, Moon, Sun, and universe come from. Things are only going to get trickier!)

I'd hate to invoke the Slippery Slope logical fallacy by saying "If we allow this meta tag, we have to allow all meta tags and our lovely site will be ruined!" Because that's wrong. However, I would caution that if this is done, it sets a precedent of not simply allowing meta tags, but rather allowing carefully curated meta tags that have been individually evaluated for what they bring to the site. Further, their health should be regularly checked up on by the community. It should not be a one-and-done decision.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think the OP had the wrong five. The Up-Goer-Five reference was intentional, but you are right that this concept is more like ELI5 than Up-Goer-Five. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Feb 2 '17 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ I thought of the idea of meta tags recently - I had no idea that it was already "a thing". Is this 2010 blog post the last word, or are there more recent discussions (besides this)? I have a hunch the concept has a hidden fatal flaw somewhere, but I can't put my finger on it. stackoverflow.blog/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 3 '17 at 11:02
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I'm not necessarily opposed to my idea of a tag for this purpose, but there is a potential problem I see with this concept. This tag would open us up to having "simple" duplicates of every question.

For example,

Is there any reason to send space probes along the plane of our solar system instead of perpendicular to the plane of our solar system?

and

In simple terms, is there any reason to send space probes along the plane of our solar system instead of perpendicular to the plane of our solar system?

The OP of the latter would say that it is not a duplicate because the second is a question, while the first is not.

I'm not sure I see an easy way around this problem.

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    $\begingroup$ I suppose we could mark it as a duplicate anyway, and then add either another answer or a "in simple terms" section to the answer of the original question. $\endgroup$ – Bear Feb 8 '17 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Hopefully people would only open such duplicates if the original question was so technical that it was of no use to them; in which case, it seems legitimate to ask for another explanation. $\endgroup$ – Bear Feb 8 '17 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ That route requires a lot of intervention. It would be better for folks to ask for a simple answer to an existing question. If they are asking a question fire the first time, include a request that a simple explanation be included in the answer. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Feb 8 '17 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ This makes me wonder if we shouldn't instead root for a vulgarisation stack exchange... $\endgroup$ – Antzi Feb 9 '17 at 2:12

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