I think it'd be nice to have a place to steer some of the most-obviously off-topic "What If," as I mentioned earlier. Turns out, there was a proposal in Area 51 for some type of speculative-yet-science-based Stack. Curious as to its fate, I sent this e-mail to the community managers:

Hello all-

It seems that a scientifically-based speculation Stack—a WhatIf.SE, if you will—has been proposed in Area 51 and subsequently deleted. Is there a record of why that proposal failed? Specifically, was it lack of support, or a perceived incompatibility with Stack function?

I ask because Worldbuilding.SE is going through some scope-pains recently. To put it briefly: the site seems to attract a lot of really curious querents with interesting questions, answers full of an amazing breadth of expertise, sometimes having little to do with worldbuilding. (That’s just my personal characterization.) See, for reference, meta discussions one, two, three, four on the general topic, along with any number of “why is ___ on/off topic?” meta questions.

I believe that these questions stem from two base human urges: (a) curiosity & (b) sharing. People are curious about how to outrun a nuclear explosion or what a market for words might look like. And others have expertise they bring to bear on these topics, or would like to bring to bear.

I mentioned in a recent WB.meta post that it’d be nice to have a place to point these querents. Frankly, I think the world would be well-served with more than just Randall Munroe answering “What if…?” (No offense meant, Randall. We love you.) And while WB.SE isn’t that site, we’re attracting some of that material. If we had a place to point (or migrate) these questions it would make it easier to maintain WB.SE’s core scope while still serving those querents.

So, if the previous proposal withered due to lack of support, perhaps we need to consider marshaling support around here for resurrecting that proposal. However, if the proposal was judged a fundamentally-flawed concept for SE then you’ve already hashed out many of the ones we’re facing, and we’d love to hear your experience.

Many thanks for your attention,

-[real name redacted] (nitsua60)

I'll let you know if I hear a response.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Nice work. Be interesting to hear what comes back from it :) $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ It's back up. If you can concisely answer the only active discussion question "How is this different than Worldbuilding?", you should take a shot. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ Whereas arguably, reductively, each SE meta site is its own 'what if' realm ('how can we be better prepared for _____', at the least abstract level of generalization), I propose [contingent on a WhatIf.SE ever actually launching] that, as a courtesy, 'What If meta' shall be perpetually inaccessible due to implosive recursion. $\endgroup$
    – N. Presley
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 12:03

3 Answers 3


Well, now there's a WhatIf proposal again. If you think it's worth having a stack like that around, I suggest you go follow the proposal.

The first question in discussion of the proposal is how is this different from worldbuilding? If you feel that WhatIf and Worldbuilding really are different topics, please weigh in on this meta post.

I've never been involved in a site proposal before, so don't know how else to advise one to be supportive. If any of you, dear readers, do know what would be good, supportive actions to take please consider crafting an "action-list" and posting it as an answer here. Pretty please?


Answer from the community team, 2/15/16:

Hello, Area 51 proposals which have been sitting in either the definition or commitment phase for more than 1 year are subject to immediate closure, and they will be deleted shortly after that. You can read more about that here: Closing a Proposal After 1+ Year in Definition or Commitment – This is what caused the proposal you linked to be both closed and deleted. Regards, Stack Overflow Team

Now that the proposal is re-active and has 9 followers (!) we'll see what happens....

The proposal hs moved from Definition into Commitement phase as of 16 June 2016. Even if you've no interest it might be worth taking a look to chime in on a couple of discussions that reference WB.SE:

And in September of 2016 the proposal was shut down by SE staff. If interested you can find the closure-message here. Be aware, though, that this post sits attached to a deleted proposal--there's likely no point in commenting or voting. Some of the enthusiasm for "WhatIf" moved over to a Speculative Science proposal, which as of this writing sits in definition phase.

  • $\begingroup$ What happened to this? It's deleted again. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Oh, yeah. This. The A51 proposal got pretty far along then was axed by SE. I'll see if I can scrounge up the parting message and add it here as an update. $\endgroup$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 21:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Fabian here you go =) $\endgroup$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 15:06

A need for dissociation

I think it's fair to propose that a lot of people (Some call them noobs, but not me personally,) believe that WB is the proper place for "what if" questions, regardless of whether or nor that is the real intent of the site. You will often find that new users will post questions such as:

What if your legs would not stop moving in the walking motion

What if humans were shorter?

And yet we see that some questions under that 'base idea' that are actually quite fun to read and answer, such as:

What if there was no coffee anymore?

I feel that there is certainly a certain amount of good clean fun to be had in a 'what if' context, but first you would need to find a good way to indicate to people in general that WB is not necessarily a place for such things, and that the dissociation is necessary, and also that these questions can be useful and interesting, using questions perhaps misplaced but high-voted on various SE sites.


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