I read this question about technological advancement in an alternate history.

It was closed as too broad, and rightly so. It was too broad.

Thanks to @MichaelKjörling for getting an accurate count of the hold rate. I only looked at the first page.

If on-average an question has an 31% chance of being closed, should we discontinue the alternate-history tag?

Please note that I think the question I linked to was badly worded. Had it been cleaned up (something along the lines of, "What changes would be needed in Earth's history such that the Roman Empire continued into the 1600s and what technological changes would have occured?") I think it's quite answerable (I don't equate "hard" as "too broad"). I wonder if we're closing questions so quickly that OPs don't have a chance to improve their questions... but that's just me.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Questions like this will still be asked even if the alternate-history is removed. While closed questions can be edited by their OPs, they then go to the reopening queue. Closure is often too quick to allow improvement first. The speed of closure may discourage OPs from bothering to try and improve. I agree many questions do need cleaning up. OPs should be advised accordingly, as it's better to improve than close. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 1:46
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ 367 non-deleted questions are tagged alternate-history. Of those, a grand total of 115 questions are on hold or closed. While a 31% closure rate is still high, it's a far cry from 85%. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 7:19

3 Answers 3


I say we should keep it

It's a good way to describe what you are asking about and if the people can't narrow the scope of their question down enough than it's not the fault of the tag. I wouldn't want to miss questions just because people were not able to take a tag and then focus on an aspect like they are supposed to do.

All tags are too broad. That's because they are tags and supposed to group different kinds of questions together. To take some numbers from a comment from Michael Kjörling:

That means roughly 31% closure rate. Pretty high, but let's look at some other tags. Like .

That makes for roughly 34%. That's a bit more than .

How about ?

That makes for roughly 26%. Not where is, but still quite a lot and pretty close.

I think those numbers are high. And it would be good if they were not that high. But something around 30% closure rate is no reason to ban a tag and thereby discourage people from asking about these topics.

Maybe we should think about making the rules more specific by stating them in the tag excerpts. For example currently the tag excerpt from reads:

For questions that ask what might have happened if history had taken a different path.

The tag wiki on the other hand specifies among others:

These questions often fall in the "What if ... ?" category and are at risk of being too broad. When asking the question, people should focus on only one or a small amount of aspects.

By mentioning that people should only focus on one single aspect we might reduce the numbers a bit. But we will probably never reduce them to something like 10%. People will misuse the tag like they misuse any other tag on the site. The difference between and other existing tags is not that big that we need to intervene immediately and especially not by removing the tag altogether.

Granted, my examples are on the often-closed end of the scale and a lot of other tags are far below these numbers. But I don't think that the numbers should be the sole reason to get rid of the tag.

About your comment at the end: I think closing questions fast is a good thing so that people don't answer stuff that will get changed. New users often don't ask clear questions or have a clear idea about what they need to know and what they need to communicate for that. It's important to state how the OP can improve his post and mention that you are voting to put it on hold until those edits are made to improve the quality of the answers you will receive or something along those lines.

But this is getting a bit of off-topic and might warrant (another) Meta discussion like here or here or here.


I think the tag should remain as is

While many of the tagged are rightly closed as too broad, usually starting with "what would the world be like now if this major change happened thousands of years ago", many of them are good questions about whether minor differences could have taken place. "Could X have won Y battle" or King John acting boldly and opening churches - would this work?, inviting good answers based on expertise of the period which even in small numbers would validate the existence of the tag.


Alternate history or revisionist history ?

An interesting new (or new for here ?) type of alternate history topic has popped up.. It is not even tagged as "alternate-history",

How to form an "international alliance of nationalists"?

This topic was the first one, for which I took a first vote to close it. I'm normally far too tolerant.. but in this case, I really wonder what the intent is, with the title (in the first place). It could be some fishing for ideas by neo-nazi's, asking for things already arranged, suggesting they are not organized (?)

The content is even more strange. Apparently the talking point is not really about the question itself. The opening is confusing.. and in the comments, the opener keeps talking about nazi's and jews, disguised as "N's and J's" as if he thinks no one would understand what "N's and J's" are. But I do wonder in this case, with this premise/claim about radical jews in the opening, are we supposed to generate scenario's for some nazi-revisionist history, where communist jews were to blame for the destruction of Europe ?

When a thing like this can happen on WB, tagged or not, I really feel "alternate history" is a dangerous path, especially alternate modern history. Suppose someone would make that "plausible"..

The J's world on Earth was destroyed, there's nothing to be built or reinvent, nothing to be changed, or undone. I wonder why the topic has not been deleted yet. It was closed, it now has 3 reopen votes..

This is my view: please keep WB the escapist place as it is now, let it be about fictional worlds, involving fictional creatures, with fictional climates and fictional races, in fictional times, or thousands of years ago or thousands of years in the future, on Earth if really needed. Medieval is fine, WW-II is not.

My proposal for this tag would be: if an alternate-history is presented on Earth, put a limit of (at least) a century in the past.. or future stuff..

  • $\begingroup$ It's impossible to impose a restriction like the one you suggest. On top of that, just because you don't appreciate what the OP is doing doesn't make it off-topic here. We periodically get questions that offend people down to their toenails - but we also subscribe to the premise of Free Speech. Frankly, the question (regardless what ethnicities & religions are associated with it) is interesting. So, (a) if you think this is a valid issue, it probably deserves its own question and (b) try to avoid judging the backstory. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yes appreciation is at the center of the difference between "alternate-history" and "revisionist history". The latter, especially regarding topics concerning nazi's and jews, has been very unappreciated, even legally.. to the point that some of these stories are to be removed from any website, to make sure you comply with the law in countries where SE-WB is hosted. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ In this case, the revisionist aspect is the assertion, the nazi's were facing "radicalized jews" and the remark (under another answer) about jews allegedly being hated because they were communists. That has always been the nazi view, especially after WW-II, where someone else had to be blamed, or the jews themselves had to be blamed. Do we have to tolerate straight nazi propaganda and revisionism on WB ? that is the question I'd like to put in this answer. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 0:05
  • $\begingroup$ "Revisionist History" is a phrase that applies to people and/or groups in the real world who are trying to change the world's perception of actual, real world history. The result is that actual history changes. The phrase is inappropriately used here. By definition, anyone who disagreed with the intent or consequences of a work of fiction that described an "alternate history" could wrap themselves in their particular choice of flag and cry foul by uttering the words "revisionist history." But the phrase doesn't actually apply to fiction. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ But the topic does refer to the real world, that is my objection.. and that phrase is really fiction. The idea which is imposed on the reader 3x in that topic, is that "the radical jews" would in some way be responsable for communism, implying they are to blame and they should be fought a war against. How do we unite ? seems the question. This is no WB, it is a political rant that smells bad. It quacks like a troll, it wiggles like a troll.. suppose it is a troll. What does WB do about trolling ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ As I said, if you think this deserves anywhere near the effort you and I are putting into it, it deserves to be its own question. Frankly, I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill (and that's coming from someone who believes the Holocaust took place and has both Jewish and Black friends). Maybe it's because I'm in my 50s. Blowing up a 1500 year old Buddah is "revisionist history." The current "Cancel Culture" is "revisionist history." The linked question isn't and your answer doesn't really add to the question I initially asked. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ I always avoid personal qualifications JBH, it would help if you would do that as well. So let's pull the plug on this now and do some merfolk instead ? really ? before I loose my good mood on this. I actually think these objections are not understood by you, nor anyone else not of my generation and background. There's no Buddah destroyed, nothing is being cancelled by me. I proposed a close, no one deletes it, nothing is cancelled.. But I will repeat my Nie Wieder ! There is a real history of jews in Europe, which should not be forgotten, nor become subject to revision. Not here or anywhere. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ Your generation isn't that hard to understand, but you won't understand that until you're about 35. Star Trek: Enterprise (Storm Front), e.g., isn't revision. It's just fiction. But to make a point: a friend of mine was once approached by someone from your generation and told that his use of "Ma'am" and "Sir" was gender hate speech. We just shake our heads and remember being your age. Eventually you'll grow up and realize that using the framework of our history for fiction or to discuss ideas is common and often necessary. In the mean time, keep in mind - you're the troll. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ My generation ??? hahaha I would be younger than 35 ? really funny joke JBH.. thanks for the compliment, really enjoyable perspective, but I think I'm actually a few years older than you are. Again.. these objections are not understood anymore, nowadays. Everything goes, apparently, even antisemitism disguised as "world building". We are all members here, calling ourselves "peer moderators". We don't moderate actually, we put our votes and close votes according to our personal preferences, and devise the rules afterward. I voted to close out of disgust, actually, not for any rule. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ Then have the courage to choose A Community-Specific Reason -> Other and say that. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ @JoinJBHonCodidact there's trouble in paradise, for these RL nationalist folks, fishing for ideas on WB.. There is a topic on meta discussing "my" issue - I did not involve in that topic, because I don't have the permissions to see my deleted comments on the deleted answer - and that meta topic got locked now.. apparently, there are some policies considered, around the subject? no wonder.. what about e.g. misuse of creativity of WB members :( :( worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9630/… $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Jan 28, 2022 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ I would not support a "non-contemporary" tag because it a) it wouldn't solve the problem; and b) it would stop some really interesting alternate world explorations. Racism isn't new, moving the goalposts back a hundred years wouldn't stop people discussing the anti-Jew pogroms in Russia or black slavery in Europe and north America. It would prevent discussions of cyberpunk societies such as the background to Shadowrun and I would hate to see the next alternate universe like that die for lack of attention. We can deal with bad questions appropriately, regardless of tag. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 we disagree.. this particular "bad question" became a political discussion and it was reopened within hours, and then it had to be cleaned up, because of the political remarks. I think politics and political opinion on WB should be avoided,. Alternate history in a contemporary setting, involving N's and J's is always revisionism and revisionism always takes place with political intent. If you want to put a scenario like that, don't refer to WO-II N's and J's. Find another analogue. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ To get an idea how this opening with N's and J's had to be cleaned up by a peer-mod, two days after the opening was put, see worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/posts/222980/revisions $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 18:51

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