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I was looking at this question earlier when a user pointed out that the steganography tag wasn't a good fit because its description said:

Steganography is the art of concealing a message

The answer wasn't a message.

So my question: Can we use the steganography tag for puzzles that hide non-messages?

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    $\begingroup$ First, let's define what is a message. For example, the Arecibo message (sent to space) is actually a picture. So why would the alphabet not be a message? If I talk with aliens and they ask for the English alphabet and then I send it to them - would it be a message? $\endgroup$ Aug 27 '16 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ I'd put forth the argument that you weren't trying to send anyone the alphabet and you didn't really give the alphabet some meaning to make it a message $\endgroup$
    – Areeb
    Aug 27 '16 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ If instead I hid the alphabet using some kind of cipher, would the cipher tag be inappropriate, too? In its description, it also says it is about messages. I believe the tags are for the technique used to create/solve the question more than whether the message is words, phrases, the alphabet, a name, or some other easily recognizable pattern as the answer. If it is gibberish, you would never know it is the answer, anyway. $\endgroup$ Aug 27 '16 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ That's why I asked this question on Meta. I think the basis for this disagreement is that tags also act as hints, and someone reading that tag might be heading in the wrong direction based on the hidden message aspect of the tag. I personally would consider your puzzle to be about steganography; however, with the tag description on here, it's slightly iffy $\endgroup$
    – Areeb
    Aug 27 '16 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ I am posting these comments to be considered not only by you personally, but by whoever might answer the question. And perhaps tags could be redefined? $\endgroup$ Aug 27 '16 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Areeb.  “So why would the alphabet not be a message?”  For the same reason a mug isn’t a beverage — there’s nothing there.  The alphabet is means, method, medium, or encoding scheme that can be used to formulate a message, just as a mug is a container that can hold a beverage.  But when it’s empty, it’s empty. $\endgroup$ Aug 27 '16 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ I believe that Maria’s puzzle should have been tagged [pattern] and [poetry], inasmuch as it bears a superficial resemblance to the “What is a ________ Word™?” puzzles, which are tagged [pattern].  See also Don't Quote Me On This, which is tagged [lateral-thinking], although perhaps it should have been [pattern] and [quote]. $\endgroup$ Aug 27 '16 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. @Areeb: Did you know that your name is one letter away from being an anagram of “agree”? $\endgroup$ Aug 27 '16 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ @PeregrineRook haha, I've never thought of it that way. That's an interesting observation $\endgroup$
    – Areeb
    Aug 27 '16 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ I might be wrong, but in its commonest usage, I think steganography indicates a puzzle where the final answer is some "message" (in the usual sense). One could possibly argue that the Alphabet is a message, but when someone tries to solve the puzzle, and finds that all letters of the alphabet appear as the initial letters, how does (s)he know that that's all concealed in the text? Seeing the steganography tag, it would be natural to expect ...(contd.) $\endgroup$
    – Ankoganit
    Aug 28 '16 at 3:02
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    $\begingroup$ ...that we need something more to do (like arrange the words in A-Z order, then read off the last letters or something of that sort) to extract a meaningful message which is (preferably) contextually relevant. $\endgroup$
    – Ankoganit
    Aug 28 '16 at 3:02
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Yes, it should. We should amend the tag to say "concealing information" rather than "concealing a message". Steganography can be used to conceal all kinds of things - eg images - which are not "messages" in the most literal sense.

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  • $\begingroup$ In a broader (and more usual) sense, "messages" include all sorts of communicated information, be it words, images (e.g. "Snapchat is an image messaging app"-Wikipedia), or even abstract (e.g. "This painting conveys a social message"). In the context of the question linked in the OP, I think non-messages refer to some hidden pattern or property in a piece of text, which is not usually expected to be some information to be communicated. $\endgroup$
    – Ankoganit
    Aug 28 '16 at 2:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Ankoganit I take your point - but I'd say the presence/absence of a hidden pattern or property could be a "message" in that wider sense. Haven't yet succeeded in thinking of a real- world example but will get back to you if I do. ;) $\endgroup$
    – A E
    Aug 28 '16 at 6:42
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    $\begingroup$ I would support updating the steganography tag, but do patterns or properties really count as information? Especially within the context of the example, most people wouldn't consider the Alphabet to be information or a message. $\endgroup$
    – Areeb
    Aug 28 '16 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ Deusovi and I have just fixed the tag wiki and tag wiki excerpt to say "data" instead of "messages". $\endgroup$ Aug 30 '16 at 1:11

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