Today I looked at the four "alternate_X" tags: , , , .

From my point of view, one or two of these could be different, but as they read in their descritpions, they're almost all the same thing:

This tag is for questions relating to radically changed Earth. This alternate Earth could be a post-apocalyptic Earth, or Earth with major changes in the current social/political/economical schemes.

OK, that's our planet with changes to lifestyle or socio-political structures.

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

OK, that's our planet with changes to lifestyle or socio-political structures.

For questions in which reality is different than it is in real life. This may range from small, historical changes to absolute revisions of the laws of physics.

OK, that's our planet with changes to lifestyle or socio-political structures.

For questions about worlds other than Earth that are significantly different. This could be a water, ice, barren or other planet. For questions about planets similar to Earth with specific differences use the earth-like tag.

This is the only one that's different. But, honestly, I can't think of a reason to use it. It would apply to every question about a planet that isn't specifically about Earth. I'm sure we have plenty of other tags that are better suited to that purpose.

Question: Can we either (a) make some of these synonyms of each other, (b) use some better than they are being used, or (c) burn one or more of them?

Ultimately, this might be better suited to four separate questions, but I wanted everyone to see the big picture first.

I have posted my recommendations as answers per Vincent's suggestion.

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    $\begingroup$ You neglected absolute revisions of the laws of physics with alternate-reality. Now that's radically different. The "alternates" place different emphases on how different those hypothetical worlds are. The term "alternate" is actually wrong, it should be "alternative" but that's another story. You're an electrical engineer, you know what is alternating current. Think what that would mean for alternate worlds. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 30 '18 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ The question in the title of your question is: are the four alternate tags synonyms? No, They're related terms in the sense what they are about is difference from the quotidian, but they're different kinds and degrees of differences. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 30 '18 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Aug 31 '18 at 3:21

Proposal: I propose simply burning the tag, applying appropriate replacement tags as necessary to the connected questions. I don't believe it brings enough context to a question to make it easier to answer.

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    $\begingroup$ Alternate worlds, burn. Earth-like is very important, do not burn. With this tag you can talk about a planet and not need to specify 20% oxygen, average temp of 15C, oceans, plate tectonics etc. It is widely applicable to questions on this site. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 29 '18 at 11:29
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion, that's a good point, I'll remove the comment, which should have been its own proposal in the first place. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 29 '18 at 14:09

Proposal:  Change the tag to reflect the parallel-universe/multiverse context.

I was tempted to bundle in as a synonym with the and tags, but I wonder if it wouldn't be better served to broaden its scope to incorporate the "multiverse" or "parallel-universe" idea proposed in this Meta question. The entire pocket-universe/parallel-universe/string-theory/underverse/multiverse context is simply an "alternate reality" from the perspective of world building.

  1. If we think it can be used as described, then we need to update its wiki.

  2. If we don't think it can be used this way, we need to propose another use, make it a synonym of the first two (above), or burn it.

  • $\begingroup$ Reading the alt-reality tag above in your question, I'd suggest replacing "historical" with 'environmental". I'd suggest relabelling the tag as "alternate-cosmos" for hypothetical realities. Not perfect, but a bit better. Bundling alt-reality with parallel universes/multiverse is a conceptual narrowing and excludes realities that are somewhat to wholly hypothetical. Again the tag description needs rewriting. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 30 '18 at 5:05

Proposal: as suggested in a comment, change the excerpt to say

For questions in which reality is different than it is in real life. This may range from small, environmental changes to absolute revisions of the laws of physics.

This differentiates it from . is fine as is.

This makes the three:

From this proposal, we have:

  1. What would Earth be like if gunpowder wasn't invented?
  2. What would Earth be like if the sun was blue rather than yellow?
  3. What would the U.S. be like if Stonewall Jackson lived?
  4. What would Australia be like post-apocalypse?

These might need to be narrowed to actually work on this site.

  • $\begingroup$ You have me convinced to burn alternate-earth. You can't have an "alternate" future condition (that doesn't make sense) and we already have three future tags (future, near-future, far-future). alternate-earth is, at best, a very narrowly focused version of alternate-reality. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 31 '18 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ I think I'd recommend deleting this answer and asking it as its own question, linking back to this one. It'll be a more efficient way to nail down a good wiki. As proposed, it doesn't come close to meeting all the needs I think this tag is good for. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 31 '18 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ Alternate history is a very well-known and well-established genre. It is a basic requirement of alternate history to have a defined point of divergence. As such, "what would Earth be like if gunpowder wasn't invented" is not alternate history. Alternate history would be what would happen if Pope Clement IV, instead of stimulating Roger Bacon to write his Opus Majus (= Greater Work in English), had him declared a heretic. It could have happened. No Opus Majus, no gunpowder in Europe in the 13th century. Without a defined point of divergence alternate history is just historical fantasy. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 1 '18 at 8:33

Proposal: the tags and should become synonyms of one another.

In my mind, it doesn't matter if the premise is (a) what would Earth be like if gunpowder wasn't invented? (b) what would Earh be like if the sun was blue rather than yellow? (c) what would the U.S. be like if Stonewall Jackson lived? or (d) what would Australia be like post-apocalypse? These are all alternate-earth/alternate-history to me.

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    $\begingroup$ Disagree strongly with this one. Alternate history implies that the physical conditions on Earth are the same, but history takes a different path at some point in the past. Questions with that tag should be phrased as 'what is the minimum change to get result X'. Alternate earth is a proposal of an Earth that could be different from ours in some physical way. By the way, all 4 of your questions are too broad, from the title, so not great examples. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 29 '18 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion, Are you basing your analysis on what the current tag wikis say, or what you think they should say? Another proposal suggesting the two tags be preserved with new wikis that make their use clear is certainly valid. (And by the way, my four examples are there to make a point, not meet all site expectations, if you're having trouble seeing that....) $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 29 '18 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with you that the tag descriptions need improving. Your (b) could be an alternate-earth or an alternate-history, but (a) & (c) are alternate-history. While (d) could be alternate-history or a possible future, depending on when the apocalypse happen(ed)/(s). I can see how your examples could be alt-earth/alt-history to you. However, your proposal to collapse them together reduces the precision of the two tags. Better to refine & rewrite the tags for clarity & precision. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 30 '18 at 4:53
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion I agree with you that alt-earths are generally physically different. It can include Earths where humans didn't evolve or a version of our Earth with a binary star. Alt-history assumes a departure from history as we know it not a wholesale change. It's the tags that need rewriting. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 30 '18 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion, in your opinion, what would be the difference between a question tagged alternate-earth and another question tagged alternate-reality and earthlike? $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 31 '18 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ Alternate history is a well-known and well established genre; typically it involves the exploration of the consequences of a limited change at some point in the timeline. The change itself may be intrinsic (e.g., William de Longespee's charge succeeds in taking the bridge of Bouvines in 1214) or extrinsic (e.g., alien space bats send the American town of Grantville in 1632 Thuringia); but the essence is that history follows real history up to a point and then diverges. Alternate Earth is a very different and also well-established genre; think Gor or Destroyermen. There is little overlap. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 31 '18 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH I just pondered this, because I used alternate-earth for my noah question. I don't know what you would tag with alternate-reality. IMO, that is the one out of the four that should go away. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion, why wouldn't your Noah question be tagged alternate-history? $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 31 '18 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Alternate-history implies, to me, only changes in the course of human history. No choices of man could have caused a divine flood, so that wasn't the right tag. Alternate-reality did not make much sense to me (which is why I suggest burning) so I went with Alternate-Earth. Question seems to match the tag description best, to me. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 31 '18 at 20:29
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion, Ah. I see your point. In fact, that's pretty good insight for improve the alternate-history tag wiki (the choices we make). $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 31 '18 at 20:31

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