We get a fair number of questions that are simply people "asking" about their personal theory. These get tagged in all sorts of random ways, typically. I've just seen one suggesting a black hole powers every Sun and it's tagged "experimental physics".

I'm suggesting we have a dedicated tag for these kinds of questions ( "Personal Theory" perhaps, or "Not Mainstream" ).

This would be useful in rapidly and properly categorizing these questions, especially as they more often than not get closed as not being mainstream. We do this with "homework" type questions so I think it's useful to flag questions of this sort properly.

Obviously there's the issue of avoiding creating too many tags, so any thoughts ?

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    $\begingroup$ Aren't personal theories not within the domain of PSE? If so, why include a tag for something that you're not allowed to ask about? $\endgroup$
    – enumaris
    Oct 8, 2018 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ @enumaris So how do we tag questions that are of this type ? I'd suggest your approach amounts to sticking our heads in the sand and pretending they don't exist. Also, questions don't always get closed simply because they get lost in the flood of new question and no one does a final vote. $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2018 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenG I don't see the analogy. We certainly recognize they are questions, we just reject that they aren't acceptable for this Q&A site; I don't see how that's analogous to pretending they don't exist. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Oct 9, 2018 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ There is a distinction between “personal theory” and “non-mainstream”. Questions of the type “what would happen if...” or other highly speculative or contrived questions are not necessarily “non-mainstream” or homework but they are nevertheless of limited interest beyond the OP. What is needed is a “Not even wrong” tag ;). $\endgroup$ Oct 9, 2018 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think we get enough of these questions to actually need this: it helps with homework because anybody who sees a homework question can tag it as homework so it doesn't get missed, and then people can wade through them casting close votes on most. With non-mainstream questions, they're rare, so we don't need to try too hard. Also, there's the issue of the tag name: pretty much anything descriptive will have a negative connotation, and will never be useful for on-topic stuff. $\endgroup$
    – user191954
    Oct 9, 2018 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Chair Give it a year or so and you will realize that such questions are the bane of this site. $\endgroup$ Oct 9, 2018 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ @ZeroTheHero I think that the bigger problem is non-mainstream answers. I read that we stop non-mainstream questions to block random beach bums from speculating, but it's possible to try to sell gibberish in answers too: look at the huge supersolid dark matter answers which turn up every now and then. Answers can't be deleted easily on grounds of factual inaccuracy: all we can do is downvote and then leave it there. $\endgroup$
    – user191954
    Oct 9, 2018 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Chair You can flag obviously non-mainstream physics answers with a custom flag, with a link to the meta question on non-mainstream physics. In my experience, they usually end up deleted. $\endgroup$
    – Chris Mod
    Oct 9, 2018 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris there's no real need to link to site policies if it's just a custom flag. The mods know where the policies are. $\endgroup$ Oct 11, 2018 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ There are various ways to ask about your layman idea. You can't ask this: "This is my idea, how does it look?" But you can ask about the crucial points of your idea, one by one, how do they contradict or improve the mainstream physics. For example, you can't ask: "I think all the stars are powered by black holes, is it ok?" But you can ask, is a quasi-equilibric state of a star with a black hole inside possible, and would it be distinguishable from the ordinary stars. (Btw, the probable answer will be that it would be a short lived and very different object.) $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Oct 22, 2018 at 16:13

2 Answers 2


Questions about unpublished personal theories are not on-topic for us. Please flag as "should be closed > not mainstream." Or cast a close vote if you have that privilege. Then leave the question alone: the less attention off-topic questions get, the less likely they are to recur.

This is a different situation from because some of those questions are actually on-topic, so a tag is appropriate.

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    $\begingroup$ See my comment to enumaris's comment. $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2018 at 23:20

We already have a tag which covers the overwhelming majority of questions of this type:

question closure banner for non-mainstream physics

Questions about personal theories are rarely on topic here. Since many people see the existence of a tag for a given subject as strong evidence that the subject is on-topic on the site, adding a tag for them would send a completely wrong message about their topicality. To say it explicitly: it would be actively harmful to do so.

As for your comments:

I'd suggest your approach amounts to sticking our heads in the sand and pretending they don't exist.

It isn't. It amounts to saying as clearly as we can that we do not want those questions here.

Also, questions don't always get closed simply because they get lost in the flood of new question and no one does a final vote.

That last bit is completely incorrect. "No one does a final vote" isn't a reason why questions slip through the cracks - that's not how the Close Votes review queue works. If a question has pending close-votes on it, it will go to the closure review queue and it won't leave the queue until either it is closed or it gets three explicit Leave Open votes.

It can indeed happen, though, that a given off-topic question will get lost in the flood of new questions and no one does the initial vote which would kick-start the review process, and said off-topic question will remain open for months or even years. That's not a reason to give up, though - those examples are the minority and they should be fixed as and when they turn up. They're absolutely not a reason to bend site policy into harmful shapes just because our moderation is imperfect.

More importantly, though: your proposed tag is a meta tag. Meta tags are, in essence, tags that describe what a question is like, rather than what a question is about. During its initial years, Stack Overflow had a long process of dealing with meta tags, and the core lesson learned was that it is very hard to make them work appropriately and that they are very rarely worth the trouble.

This means that there isn't quite a complete blanket ban on meta tags throughout SE, but there is a very strong directive to only use them if they're really, truly needed. On this site, the only two meta tags are and , both of which cover a substantial number of questions and provide a meaningful tool for the mechanics of the site moderation, and both of which are under reasonably strict rules on their usage. Your tag proposal fails that first criterion - there simply isn't the quorum of on-topic questions in that category needed to justify the trouble of a meta tag.


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