Proposal: What if?

I apologize for getting this out so late. I've been banging my head on the desk trying to come up with a more comprehensive, affirmative statement to help proposal authors understand when their proposals COULD work here. There are so many poorly-supported, ill-conceived ideas floating around, it's sometimes troublesome to watch them posted at all.

"What if…" is a bit different. I don't actually disagree with the idea, in principle. I was impressed with how the story developed from a presumed-duplicate of World Building into something a bit more tenable. Unfortunately, it took several pages of bewildered questions to get to this point where (maybe) a handful of people understand the premise at all.

And that's the main problem with this site.

"What if…" is a deceptively simple subject that looks like it has no bounds. Obviously, that is not the case, but folks not privy to these discussions will be lured into a deeply confusing premise understood only by those familiar with the long back story that created it. The price of admission will be reading a long string of meta debates fleshing out what will actually work here. That debate may never end. It creates a poor end-user experience when every other question has to be closed as too broad or off topic.

I won't bore you with how Stack Exchange sites are typically scoped — I want to avoid a circular argument that says this site can't work because Stack Exchange wasn't designed for it — but when a site is available to the general public, the purpose and subject space it covers has to be clear. But for all the stories, explanations, and debates pushing this subject around, we still have a network listing that *looks* like "anything starting with 'what if…' goes here."

World Building came into existence thorough a premise of speculative fact checking so writers and artists could assure their fictional worlds were at least plausible. Even then, they've been struggling with how to deal with questions based on a misunderstanding of their scope. But they have a scope, and not allowing these boundless questions is sort of… by design.

I can appreciate that folks have "other" questions that don't typically fit other Stack Exchange sites. It's not that "what if…" questions are inherently unfit to ask, but such mind-stretching exercises are better discussed in an interactive forum where ideas can be debated and teased out for their own sake. It's not like the world's statisticians will actually come flooding in to calculate What if the entire stack exchange network went down? To even bother asking is all in a bit of fun and learning, but the debate and camaraderie needed to make this exercise useful is squashed by a Stack Exchange-style Q&A format.

  • Please, address the concerns in the answer and comments. Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 14:43
  • Just because it is called "What if...?" doesn't mean all questions that start with "What If...?" will be accepted. Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 0:51

1 Answer 1


This site has been in the top five sites by progress and in the hot sites for months now. It is really not reasonable to close it now, just when it is about to go into private beta.

There is a restart of this site called "speculative science". As far as I know, it has approximately the same scope as this site (What if), but it has another name. Renaming this site to "speculative science" would be, I think, enough, to avoid off-topic/unreasonable What if questions.

There is really a need for a "speculative science" site, since they are not on-topic on the science sites we have (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Earth Science), and they are also not on-topic on Worldbuidling.

I don't know what we would be trying to achieve by having us do defintion and commitment all over again, just under another name.

Also, what would be lost if we try private beta and it will fail? Sure, some people will have put their time in it and that is gone then, but just closing it now (as you seem to suggest, although you haven't done it yet), will also disappoint people.

  • Unfortunately, the decision has been made to close the proposed site.
    – user157340
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 20:27
  • 4
    If the people involved in What If "do definition and commitment all over again, just under another name" then you're right: nothing would be achieved. Because the group of What If supporters would not have learned anything from a failed proposal. In the best judgment of SE employees What If wasn't workable, no matter the enthusiasm. The task remains to learn what from the proposal was workable, what was problematic, and (if interested) see whether a better proposal can be built from those components.
    – nitsua60
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 1:30
  • 1
    If "What If...?" went into private beta, we could actually learn something, and make a better proposal Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 1:20
  • A problem with deleting this proposal is: I have no idea how the scope of it was defined. So I can't really contribute much to the new proposal, because I don't know what has to change. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 15:37
  • @Fabian Unfortunately, all proposals that are closed for a month and did not reach beta, are deleted.
    – wythagoras
    Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 18:56
  • Then someone who was still access to it should post an FAQ about what has to be better in this one. Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 22:24

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