A source of confusion that I've often seen is the exact purpose of the tag, and its relation to and .

As I understand it, based on this question and others, is that is used to specify that you would like to know whether or not a part of the world you have built is 'realistic', which I take to mean scientific/logical/self-consistent/etc.

What I'm wondering, though, is why we need a tag for this.

  • You can't really be an expert on reality-checking, as it can be paired with literally any other tag on the site; a reality-check expert is the same thing as a Worldbuilding expert.
  • You shouldn't ever want/need to search specifically for reality-check questions. If you are having a problem with a part of your world, you would be much better off searching using other tags more specific to the problems you're having.
  • The tag is a meta-tag; you can't or shouldn't use it on its own, you have to use other tags with it. I think it'd be just as descriptive to leave it out altogether
  • As I said, its usage is confusing, too often it's assumed to be a tag, which is not something we want to encourage (all answers should have some level of scientific/logical basis).
  • It's one of our most-used tags, which implies it's not specific enough.
  • No one needs to be told that a question is reality-check. If anything, we need a tag that specifies when a question is not reality-check, that is, a question that does not want answerers to say whether or not what the OP has already built is consistent. Reality-check questions simply don't have anything else to answer about, all they are is "I have x, does it make sense?".

So, am I correct in thinking that this tag is useless and only adds unnecessary confusion? And, if so, should anything be done about it?

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, remove it. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Aug 22 '17 at 20:13
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    $\begingroup$ Fortunately, only (!?) ~50 questions have [reality-check] as their only tag. (Queried with select id as [Post Link], body from posts where tags = '<reality-check>') Regardless of if we decide to burn it or not, these questions should not have it as their only tag. $\endgroup$ – Laurel Aug 23 '17 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Laurel A lot of them shouldn't even have reality check. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Aug 23 '17 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ I'm mildly against the removal - but I'm open to hear alternatives; in particular how to correctly, visibly and easily distinguish questions asking a binary "is my solution viable?" versus open-ended "How to solve this?" $\endgroup$ – SF. Aug 24 '17 at 8:50
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    $\begingroup$ @SF. As one of our mods Monica said under this answer the querent can just clearly state his intentions in the body of his question. See for example What's wrong with moving cables for a Space Elevator?: the querent explicitly asked "What is wrong with this scheme? Why is this not taken into account (at least I haven't found references to it)? Please cross-check my proposed design." after proposing something. He didn't need the reality-check tag. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 24 '17 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ What about questions about magic tagged with reality-check? Where OPs are querying whether their inworld assumptions or logic stands up to scrutiny. While it would be nice if realism always meant science, but that ain't so. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 24 '17 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android They can just ask if their assumptions or logic stand up to scrutiny. They don't need a tag for that. How would adding the reality-check tag change the answers? $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 24 '17 at 13:49
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  • $\begingroup$ As I understand it Reality Check has always been a check of internal consistency, science-based is based on science but only cursory support is expected and hard-science is...well pretty obvious. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 28 '17 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ I like it as part of the three teir system personally. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 28 '17 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ Although no one person can be an expert in all reality checks, individuals can be in a few, and it does NOT have to be science. I can tell you if your university faculty char is realistic. My brother can tell you if your chef char is realistic. My niece (a social worker for 20 years) can tell you if your crack addict is realistic. The same goes for chars fireman, cop, computer hacker, prison guard, ad infinitum. NOT all Q "should have" a science/logic basis, some need real life experience and authors can't have it all: Hence their need for "reality checks", and the reason it is used so often. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 2 '17 at 20:19

11 Answers 11


Obviously people are voting to get rid of it, and obviously people are inappropriately voting down other opinions just because they disagree, but I'll take the hit: Keep it. I use it. There is a distinction.

hard-science means (to me as a PhD that has done it) known science, it is a request about actual engineering, actual materials, actual known math or physics or geology or evolutionary theories.

science-based means springing from hard-science. Faster Than Light travel is impossible in known science, and anything springing from known science, all mechanisms for it presume the existence of things that are completely speculative (like other dimensions or negative mass or wormholes or what happens in a black hole).

reality-check is, to me, more about whether a fictional idea is ludicrous or not. There does not have to be hard-science and it does not have to be science-based, it can be 100% about how the world works and humans behave and society reacts. It can be about human emotions, human psychology, or even perhaps the behavior or capabilities of specific animals like dogs or tigers.

Suppose I have an idea about how a new kid, a genius and sociopath, moves into a new neighborhood, and immediately begins plotting how to take over the local criminal gang. But for plot reasons I want this to be the youngest ever gang leader: Could he be 14 years old and succeed?

Or, I can have my little sociopath do these various cruel and violent things, including murdering a few people, and here are the consequences: Are they plausible IRL?

There is no science-based way of answering such questions; it requires some knowledge of how criminal gangs work and their social structure.

reality-check should be for when an author worries about jumping the shark or in more technical terms, doing something that ruins suspension of disbelief. Is it plausible for armies to be composed entirely of women? Can a large 1st World industrial or post-industrial country be entirely nudist? Can a culture accept a hard limit on age; so everybody insists that people commit suicide (or be coercively killed) the day after their 50th birthday?

We don't have hard science or a science-based answer, but we can give our thoughts on such questions, explain our reasoning, use analogies, and perhaps give the questioner some plausible justifications for what they want to do in the world they are building. Or provide alternatives because what they want is to "unrealistic", or just explain why we think their proposal is too unrealistic.

reality-check is about reality, and that is not just about science, it can be about the human experience.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure, but did you read the tag wikis? The tag wiki excerpts say that science-based is "for questions that require answers based on hard science, not magic or pseudo-science, but do not require scientific citations"; hard-science "requires answers backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc"; and reality-check asks whether something is "realistic in a given context. Answers should say yes or no, with supporting info". $\endgroup$ – user Aug 27 '17 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling We only need one science required type of tag, but "realistic in a given context" does not demand a scientific explanation; it could apply to realistic human nature, or realistic depressive thought, and so on. Supporting info can be similar examples. Or consider the AI question I answered to detail differences in Consciousness, Intelligence and Self-Awareness. there is no Hard Science, but I can tell you how we are thinking about Thinking IRL. We have two tags demanding "hard science" and one suitable for human experience realism. It should be kept. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Aug 27 '17 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ Could we categorize things that are not hard-science, but are part of "how the world works" (i.e. reality), as soft-science? $\endgroup$ – DLosc Aug 31 '17 at 4:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Amadeus I fail to see how you have argued for keeping the reality-check tag. You haven't specified how it's any different than not using the tag at all, only how it's different than other tags. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Sep 5 '17 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh The fact that it IS different from other tags means it is searchable, when I would like to answer questions that specifically deal with what is plausible IRL, whether it is scientifically justifiable or not. It is different from no tag because questions here are not required to be about real life plausibility. FTL travel, magic systems, telepathy and telekinesis, aliens and spaceships (and many more) are entirely imaginary, and questions about their internal consistency are part of world building, and do not automatically warrant a reality-check. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 5 '17 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ In that case, have you looked at the question that use the reality-check tag? Because not a lot of them are about IRL plausibility. Which is why I want to get rid of the tag, everyone has a different understanding of what it's for, so it ends up being no better than simply not using it. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Sep 5 '17 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ Obviously people are voting to get rid of it, and obviously people are inappropriately voting down other opinions just because they disagree, but I'll take the hit: Keep it. I use it. There is a distinction." - Upvoting & downvoting in meta discussions is for showing that you agree / disagree with an answer aka opinion. This is no inappropriate but the very purpose in this context. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Sep 7 '17 at 20:48

Based on how the tags are used (not necessarily how they're defined)...

Hard Science

: answers provided without specific supporting mathematics or attributed empirical evidence are unacceptable and prone to deletion. Frankly, it should be impossible to mix the and tags.


: answers are specifically expected to demonstrate the OP's question is "reasonable" within the context of the experience of our own lives. Often results in a remarkably valuable list of "it works because of..." and "it doesn't work because of..." responses. The question can be (and sometimes is) about probable reactions in a real world to fantasy concepts, like magic. Can be mixed with either or tags.

Science Based

: No magical answers allowed, but doesn't require the rigidly stringent proofs of . Likewise, can't be mixed with .

Frankly, is the only useful tag in the lot. It's the equivalent of "does this make sense?" which is quite a bit different than "can you prove this works?" Without it, answers that don't make natural sense are permissible, even if they don't reflect magic but only a "bending" of how things work to help the OP facilitate a story element.

is held to such a high standard in the community that it's better to invite the OP to not use it because they often don't understand the burden it requires and I'd bet rarely can use the provided information (but that's just my humble opinion). In too many cases, the question would be better asked at biology.SE, astonomy.SE, or physics.SE. However, it is the equivalent of "can you prove this works?" and that has value, no matter my opinion.

is almost worthless because everything on this site is either or whether the tags are used or not, with the former outnumbering the later by the proverbial 10:1. It overlaps both and , but neither of the other two overlap each other.

We should be having the discussion of whether or not to burn .


A voice of disagreement, I think you are jumping the gun.

Hard-science as tag for real science problem? Nice.
Science-based answers should be preferred as answers if no tag is given? No problem.

What bothers me is the example of Secespitus:
"Do I want real-world hard science?"
"No, quite the opposite - here's what's different!" -> magic


Magic is NOT the opposite of hard-science!

I can give offhand some examples which have absolutely nothing to do with magic, but are not also not remotely hard-science (and have been used in countless stories).

  • Unexplained abilities based on real-world experiences (psionics)
  • Universe location with other natural laws
  • Pocket dimension
  • Dreamworld

You can argue in the first case that it is "magic", but new users won't understand it this way. A story of e.g. a detective which has precognition can be completely based in a real world scenario unlike Harry Potter. And the last three examples simply do not fit for the magic tag at all.

Stories are told mostly in-universe because the reader knows or believe to know ("Realistic is unrealistic") how the world is supposed to behave. Most of the users asking questions fear that they oversee something in their world which breaks the suspension of disbelief ("If X is so powerful, why don't they rule Y instead being a suppressed minority").

While science-based answers are fine, it could be that a non-science answer can offer such an ingenious solution to the described problem that it is in fact superior to a science-based answer. But if you want to enforce science-based answers in contrast to suggest it as preferrable, you are chaining yourself for no discernible reason (at least for me) and it is bad because most stories are really, really not science-based or hard-science. I can in fact live even with flawed concept of a world as scientist as long as the story itself is well narrated.
Even Sci-fi takes much poetic license. The reason that is seems that we do not need "science-based" or "reality-check" is mentioned above: Writers do like to use the "normal" world because it is easier to describe.

As I said, its usage is confusing, too often it's assumed to be a soft-science tag, which is not something we want to encourage (all answers should have some level of scientific/logical basis).

Why should it be not encouraged if the question demands it? If something is a dreamworld or an outer dimension, why should they based on a scientific/logical basis? While an author introduces rules to avoid confounding the reader, he is not obliged to hold his world to a specific standard we are setting.

If you really want to press newcomers per default into a scientific corset, please add at least "non-scientific" instead/as superset to "magic".

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    $\begingroup$ And if a user tags their question, say, [non-scientific] but gives no other details; how are we to know what kind of answers they do want? As opposed to, say, the user stating in their question "in my universe, telekinesis is a universal ability of all creatures capable of fine physical manipulation, and works by an unspecified mechanism by the individual focusing mentally on the new state of the object in question; the bigger the object, the harder this is". That latter may be magic, and it may be non-scientific, but it works for us: it explains how the ability works and its limitations. $\endgroup$ – user Aug 27 '17 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ The reason 'soft-science' is discouraged is because there's no good way to judge answers. If literally anything is possible, then there are infinite possible answers. Which is not a good fit for the Stack Exchange format. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Sep 5 '17 at 14:10

No. In short: The absence of a science based tag is a reality check question.

Since apparently I was the one who wrote the first reality-check wiki, my point of view might be worth something considering that the beginning and the most important part is still the same I wrote in 2014. The initial wording might not have been great and contained many typos (thank for fixing them).

I did not follow all the discussions going on with the tag nor how the tag evolved overtime. Back then, the hard science tag did not exist, we just used the science based tag instead and it was enough. Now that we have this 'New' tag, reality check seems less useful. My view on the tag might be really outdated.

Basically, the distinction was that science based required a more scientific approach using mathematical models, equations and citing scientific works. Reality check does not require it explicitly but adding sources is always better. It's mostly about the kind of answers the askers wants.

While a have a good education, I do not consider myself a scientist. I'm certain that I'm not the only one in that situation. If I ask a question, It is possible that I don't want to have complex equations to a simple problem. Some might find it fun to answer a simple problem with mathematics it is useless to me if I can't understand it.

Yeah, maybe it's still not clear. I'm going to give an example to explain what I mean.

I have a book written by Joseph E. Stiglitz, an economics and winner of a Nobel prize. He talks about various economic topics and uses formulas and graphics to complement the text. To me, that is science based because if you can't understand algebra (of one of several things), you can't understand even when reading the text. Take away the equations and graphics using only words to describe what supply and demand is and it becomes reality check.

Reality check does not exclude science but it is not mandatory. It is more meant as a discussion. Well, not really. The actual word I have in mind is dissertation. The French meaning of the word, not the English one. This is not a university research of several hundred pages. It's what we learn in High School. It's an analysis based on argumentation supported by logic and sources when it's possible.

It also does not exclude magic. I've read some of the other answers and some people agree that science is not always opposed to magic. I agree with that. One use of the reality check is that it imply that magic is possible. On the contrary, if I use the science base, I don't want an answer with magic unless I specify it. But most answer involving magic in a reality check question might be considered handwaving as magic can be used as an easy solution to circumnavigate a problem. That answer could get deleted and is rarely useful. So, much like science based, a question with the reality check tag should be used with the magic tag when the asker is interested in having magic as part of the answer.

In conclusion, that was a summary of what reality check meant for me when I created the wiki. The meaning of the tag today might have changed. However, I did not create it and I have to say that it might not be very useful to the site. In the absence of a science based tag, we can assume that the question has the reality check tag by default. Also, it does not replace the magic tag, they need to be used separately. It serves no purpose.

Still, I'm wondering on the effects it will have to get rid of the tag. Askers and new users in particular are not always aware (or they might not agree) of the the definition of a specific tag. The use of meta tags, especially science based, will probably increase as people need to figure out how to fill that void under their question that Stack Exchange require them to fill.

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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me like, to some people, the meaning of the tag may have changed over time. But from what I understand of your explanation, I don't see how reality-check would be any different than an untagged question? That is, if it's just 'not science-based', it seems redundant. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 28 '17 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh exactly $\endgroup$ – Vincent Aug 28 '17 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ However you may have intended it, I and others have taken it to mean "check if this story element is too far out to be believable". reality-check specifically is about the audience's suspension of disbelief, and not all questions are. It is broader than "science based", it can be about things not amenable to math: Serial killer motivation. some judge's ruling. The political evolution in the USA (& all other major countries) in the months after Washington DC is nuked during a State of the Union address. i.e. "is this [character, emotion, invention, outcome, approach] plausible, or laughable?" $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Aug 31 '17 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Amadeus yes, it also means that but many science based questions are also asking about plausability exept the have higher requirements. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Aug 31 '17 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent Exactly, but my point is that we should have something that means is this a "realistic" scenario, a realistic reaction, a realistic religion, a realistic reason to go to war, a realistic court outcome, a realistic sabotage of an aircraft, a realistic ability (like a person holding their breath for five minutes?), a realistic way to escape when buried alive in a coffin, a realistic con game, a realistic coup, a realistic mental ability. Some need knowledge a writer or developer may not have; others are requests for real-life experience. Revise reality-check to cover that. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Aug 31 '17 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @amadeus It can be easily said in the question whether you want it to be a reality-check. We don't need a tag. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Sep 2 '17 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon Then we don't need science-based or ANY tags, by that logic. The value of the tag is sorting and searching for posts. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 2 '17 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Amadeus The value of tags is indeed to aid searching but reality-check does not really do that. Reality-check defines the type of answer not the content so is almost useless as a searching device. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Sep 2 '17 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon No, reality-check does do that. Reality check is precisely the kind of question I like to answer, because I've been a scientist for 40 years in fields that impact many areas (statistics and mathematics) and as a result I know some stuff. Reality check is used by the questioner to describe the type of answer they want, and the type of answer I can often provide. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 2 '17 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Amadeus Reality check shouldn't be used to mean maths and statistics. It should be used to mean "this question is about any subject I just want people to say yes this works or no it doesn't". You can't be an expert in reality check if it was used as originally intended. Now it often is used as a science type tag but the tag that should be used in those situations in science-based. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Sep 2 '17 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon Are you just being argumentative for the sake of it? I have said numerous times it should not be. My numerical profession exposes me to many fields of study, and I am not some moron incapable of learning anything but maths. I also know the limits of maths, in psychology, neurology, sociology, artificial intelligence, emotions, war strategy, even literary analysis. I am a published author, I can answer questions about writing and world building that have nothing to do with math. Of course what I know is not the limit: Others know more, to answer whether some idea is realistic. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 2 '17 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Amadeus I wasn't saying you didn't know other things all I am saying is that you cannot be an expert in the topic of reality check as it could be about anything. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Sep 2 '17 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon But it isn't about anything, it is about whether the idea presented by the questioner is "realistic" within the setup given by the author. Your objection is too broad because many tags, like "science-based", also apply to the same amount of anything as reality-check. Further, what I know hardly matters: This is a collective site with experts on many aspects of reality. There are women here if I need female character realism, As a professor I could help with university faculty realism, I might want some top-end restaurant worker realism or political campaign work realism. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Sep 2 '17 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Sep 2 '17 at 20:30

I vote we keep it. I'm a newbie here (joined today) but I find the tag refreshing. It allows me to specify whether I care about a realistic grounded approach, or screw it all because of the rule of cool. Here's how the answer could change:


I want to have plasma weaponry like Fallout 4 but at a loss as to what kind of power source would work, suggestions?

Answer: If reality based was check, I would tell them that plasma weaponry is impractical and would advise rail-guns as a more plausible weapon or even good old .45's, then would advise fission/fusion batteries or a batter pack on the back depending on my research. If reality check was NOT checked, then I would just tell them fusion batteries.

Also if there's a logistical problem that came-up, such as fusion/fission, but only a few people can have the guns since we only have so much plutonium, I would tell them that with reality based, otherwise I wouldn't bother.

Science-based answers alone wouldn't cover this 'cuz they would only tell you if it's POSSIBLE, not if it's FEASIBLE, reality based deals with feasibility.


We don't need this tag and should remove it.

Having meta tags complicates the site with unwritten rules that are confusing to newcomers.

It doesn't prevent people from challenging the premise of questions that aren't tagged with . The recourse for someone challenging the premise of a question, downvoting because it does not answer the question, is the same regardless of if the question is tagged or not.

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    $\begingroup$ Askers are also free to specify in the question itself what type/degree of input they're looking for. What's the difference between "is this realistic given X, Y, and Z?" and "is this realistic given X, Y, and Z?" + reality-check? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Aug 22 '17 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ I had the impression that the etiquette, from earlier discussions, was not to query the premise of questions if they weren't tagged with reality-check. This doesn't necessarily stop challenges to a question's premises. It was not the done thing. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 24 '17 at 13:06

Burninate reality-check

The way a user asks his question in the body of his post already makes clear whether he wants people to point out mistakes in his proposed method or needs information about how to solve his proposed problem. The tag won't help here.

Furthermore it is only confusing users because it seems to belong into our Big Three science/burden of proof meta tags with , and . See for example the discussions:

Burninate science-based, too - use based in science as the implicit default

is suffering from the same problems. The description even states that answers normally are supposed to be based in science on the site. This implies that we should only mark the exception from this general rule, which is . A Mod from RPG.SE even asked Is “science-based” a meta- or otherwise-problematic tag?. The most notable thing about this discussion was that one of our mods, HDE, responded by stating that we should burninate science-based. Currently a user has to ask himself "Do I want real-world hard science?" to which the answer according to some members of the community, myself until yesterday included, can be:

But as "based in science" is the default on this site we can just ignore the last two points. The author of a post has to describe how much handwaving is allowed anyway. He should only clearly state when he wants something completely different from science, meaning , or a lot of citation, meaning . There is no need for further meta tags on WorldBuilding.

This would also bring us nearer to the standard of saying that meta-tags are bad, which is something we want to discourage as you can see in the discussions:

all of which were downvoted by the community ranging net from -2 to -8.

Based in Science as the default is the current policy according to older Meta discussions

The question Should our default position be that answers should be science-/logic-based, rather than magic-based? (+23/-2) has the following highest voted answer:

I totally agree. Unless the question says there is magic and gives a decent description of what is possible, I assume we are sticking to real world physics. Science fiction and steampunk stories have enough variety already, adding magical answers with no knowledge of if magic exists or how is just unproductive and isn't likely to be useful to the OP.

The vote count is currently +20/0. The other answers are (paraphrased and summarized by me) +15/-3 saying that VTCing as "unclear what you are asking" is better than assuming magic is allowed, +3/0 saying "using magic if it's not defined explicitly is meaningless" and +3/-3 arguing that worlds with magic may very well be the majority and therefore advocating the use of to make it explicit.

Another hint from Michael Kjörling is our current site pitch (emphasis Michael):

Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for writers, artists and others using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings."

Keep magic and hard-science as the edge cases

I still think there are cases where meta-tags can be useful to show what an answer should be like. But these should be edge-cases, like and that explicitly state that something should be different than normally and we should be careful in using meta-tags as they prevent people from using tags that tell others something about their content. You can only use up to 5 tags on any question.

And the biggest problem of meta-tags is that they are used different from all other normal tags, which confuses users and regularly leads to discussions about things like:

is going a similar way.

It's enough to confuse users with , we don't need to add more confusion by stating that you can use the default of the site with or a lesser version with a specific question format with , where the description is so unclear that this bigger discussion involving a lot of senior users starts.


We should strive to use the least amount of meta-tags on the Main Site as possible - burninating and would help us a lot in accomplishing this.

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    $\begingroup$ Removing science-based will confuse new users. They don't know it is the default for questions and how can they find it out without appropriate. Also, removing it will shift the default to magic. The value of science-based are for questions clearly wanting answers focused on science not some arbitrary set of concepts. The problem is communication. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 24 '17 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ How do meta tags differ from normal tags? What improvement might result from reducing the number of meta tags? $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 24 '17 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android Than you are getting back to the discussion about Tags to identify flexibility of questions, which is something the community doesn't want. As HDE wrote in the linked answer: Today, the phrase "science-based" seems to just mean that you can't use magic or handwave away too much, not that you have to use science. and cites The culture of the site is now well enough established that I do not think it is needed any more $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 24 '17 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ OK I've read the Death to meta-tags post on MSO. It's obvious he doesn't understand what he's talking about. The comments display a lack of knowledge about classification, cataloguing and indexing. Its conclusions are founds upon an erroneous belief all tags should be at the same level. This is a failure to recognize there can be a hierarchy of tags ranging different levels of global right down to uniquely specific. Combination of levels of tags can produce higher levels of specificity which will greatly aid searching for useful questions & answers. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 24 '17 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ For general problems about meta tags see the linked article The Death of Meta Tags: The reason meta-tags are a problem is that they do not describe the content of the question. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 24 '17 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ "The culture of the site is now well enough established that I do not think it is needed any more" Communication: how newcomers find this out? An established culture needs to be communicated, so how will this be done? $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 24 '17 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android How would you communicate that these tags are working different from normal tags? That's what lead to the discussion about reality-check: confusion from new and established users. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 24 '17 at 12:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I am not going back to the Tags to identify flexibility of questions discussion because it seems irrelevant to issues about reality-check. A red herring. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 24 '17 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android I already cited the reason for meta-tags being different from normal tags: they are not describing the content of the question. They are describing the form of the answer. That's not what tags are supposed to do. We are misusing the feature. The culture of the site is communicated in the way the community handles questions and answers through commenting, voting and flagging. That's the voice of the community and what everyone coming here hears. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 24 '17 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ Both tags are confusing and should go. I'm never sure whether I should add science-based to my question about astronomy or biology or whatever; I mean, those are sciences and it should be clear already, right? If somebody (particularly a new user) asks a question where the intent isn't clear, we should ask for clarification. We might be able to beef up some of the help too, though don't assume people read that before asking. We're a friendly, welcoming community; can't we help people with this when needed? Just yesterday I saw somebody guess wrong on hard-/-based; I know I've seen it before. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Aug 24 '17 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ Your citation seemed to be about problems with meta-tags not what was the difference between tags & meta-tags. However, you are right which is why you are wrong. Meta-tags ( an inept term really) are about how questions are answered. Why shouldn't there be tags that do that? It makes sense, after all, this is a question & answer site. This is thinking about the feature in the wrong way. Consider there are two types of tags. Those about the content of the question and the other about how the question can or should be answered. What's bad about that? $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 25 '17 at 2:08
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android why are you relying on tags for your zombie question? The question itself needs to make it clear what the parameters are, or the question is likely too broad. Given that clarification in the question, tagging it creature-design + supernatural/magic/whatever is sufficient. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Aug 25 '17 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android Then maybe we need to push our site pitch a little more. "Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for writers, artists and others using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings." My emphasis. $\endgroup$ – user Aug 26 '17 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I definitely agree about pushing the pitch more. While personally I greatly prefer science-oriented questions & answers, I'd hate to exclude fantasy related material. Perhaps if we added "logic, critical thinking, commonsense and analogy" to what is used too. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 27 '17 at 4:51
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android Whether and how our site pitch can be improved sounds like a relevant separate question. I encourage you to go ahead and post that. $\endgroup$ – user Aug 27 '17 at 8:10

Status quo

It's better to keep it unless a better solution is found.

We don't have a consensus on getting rid of the . Many believe we should but there is a strong opposition as well.

For those believing the tag is not useful: just ignore it. Each question can have 5 different tag, it's not a big deal. The tag doesn't cause any harm to the site.

The tag is very important to some users who really enjoy answering this specific kind of questions. This outweighs the little annoyance I have with the tag.

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    $\begingroup$ I take issue with your last paragraph, since the tag is so poorly understood it is often misused. If most people don't agree on what the tag means, it becomes unlikely that using the tag will help anyone. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Sep 7 '17 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh Amadeus post is the most up-voted and he suggest to keep it. My point is that we can't get rid of it without alienating users. Also, people (especially new users) use tags however they want without knowledge on how the tags are used. Reality check is not an the only misused tag. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Sep 8 '17 at 15:37

Adding to the other voices:


but keep the others. While communicates the requirement for backing an answer with actual facts and prove (which is always nice especially for scifi worlds or works that describe a real or fictional process in detail), describes an approach to be taken when considering what info to include in an answer - it helps the to guide the tone of an answer into the direction the OP is looking for.


I stumbled onto the site yesterday and may have not posted a Q to begin with were it not for the reality check tag.

Possibly your answerers are seasoned users, and know how to navigate the site. I am rather puzzled by basic features, like how I am earning badges while fast asleep. Lolz, I need a virtual vest for my new badges.

Devil's advocate: Instead of removing reality check, what about adding contrasting tags at the same hierarchy:

Reality check vs. Culture check vs. Philosophy check vs etc.

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    $\begingroup$ That we're having this discussion in the first place should hint at why adding more such tags might not be the best idea. Don't be discouraged by the downvotes, though; on Meta, particularly in [discussion] questions, downvotes are very often used to indicate disagreement, not that there is anything wrong with the answer per se. $\endgroup$ – user Aug 26 '17 at 20:58

Personally I'd say we do; I find the Science-Based tag is the really problematic element not Reality-Check. There is a built-in, and unspecified, assumption that if you don't use any of the Reality-Check, Science-Based, or Hard-Science tags you mean to get a scientifically sound answer. This would be fine, if it said this anywhere outside of the Science-Based tag information, but it doesn't.

So assuming a Science-Based default we can remove the optional tag but we'd still need the Hard-Science tag so we can specify that we want the nitty-gritty facts, figures, and scholarly literature to back a particular position, and on the softer side we need something to say basically "relax I just want to check my thought process here" which is what Reality-Check does, or is supposed to do.

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    $\begingroup$ "This would be fine, if it said this anywhere outside of the Science-Based tag information, but it doesn't." It does. Should our default position be that answers should be science-/logic-based, rather than magic-based? That's from way back in the beta period, probably all the way back into the private beta period (but I'm too lazy to check). There are newer meta answers that reference that, too. $\endgroup$ – user Sep 5 '17 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ As @MichaelKjörling pointed out in the comments under my post it's even in our site's pitch (emphasis from him): "Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for writers, artists and others using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings." $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Sep 5 '17 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling That's not part of How do I ask a Good Question? though; until it makes it into the basic site guidelines it's optional, and thus problematic. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 5 '17 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus I've never seen that, anywhere. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 5 '17 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, I think the only page in the help center that we can readily customize is What topics can I ask about here? It might be worth mentioning some of these things there. We did have a fairly lengthy discussion early on about what should go there; it might be time to revisit that. On the other hand, there is the very current discussion on which, if any, meta tags we should have in the first place. I'd think the best approach might be to finish hashing that out, and then discuss which changes we might want to the on-topic page. $\endgroup$ – user Sep 5 '17 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Good luck to you, I've tried raising this issue several times, let me just say that the score I have here is encouraging compared to the reception I've generally gotten. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 5 '17 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash Click on the "StackExchange" logo in the upper left hand corner and type into the search bar "World". Then you see our site's pitch. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Sep 5 '17 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus Nope just takes me back to the questions tab. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 5 '17 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash Above that in the row where your reputation and your badges are located. The StackExchange logo you use to browse between Meta and Main and other sites. There is a search bar. By just typing "World" it starts to search. Don't hit Enter there. You will see the site's pitch. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Sep 5 '17 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus Ah I see, the pale, almost unreadable bit. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 5 '17 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, the one that informs people about what site they are about to visit. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Sep 5 '17 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Secespitus I was looking for something like what you get when you pull up a Stack you're not a member for the first time, not a question from the Stack but the Stack "front page" as it were which is usually a paragraph or so long. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 5 '17 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash Try logging out for a moment and visit the Main Site. I tested this in private mode and it shows this excerpt in a big box to everyone who is not logged in. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Sep 5 '17 at 15:19

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