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I was surprised to find out that and are marked as synonyms of .

This seems wrong to me. Sure, such questions are all going to be about cryptography, but the words are antonyms in the English language so I don't think we should be lumping them together like this. The problems and errors users face when encrypting are different to those faced when decrypting.

Can anyone offer a counter-argument why this might be useful to have in place? If not, can we remove it?

Some example questions that would benefit from this split:

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  • Can you give some example questions where decryption would be better than encryption?
    – Stijn
    Jan 30 '14 at 8:29
  • @Stijn Sure, see edits above. Jan 30 '14 at 8:35
  • Most users can't tell if their issue is actually with encryption or decryption. Many of the "I can't decrypt" questions actually boil down to "I messed up encryption, so decryption can't work". These tags have the same experts as well, I don't want to check yet another tag. The [cryptography] vs. [encryption] split is already annoying enough. Jan 30 '14 at 8:49
  • @CodesInChaos A good counter-argument. Would you prefer we try and condense the tag space down even further then? Perhaps having most things synonymous with cryptography? (Note: I fear that reads sarcastically but I'm genuinely asking). Jan 30 '14 at 8:52
  • The tagging between [cryptography] and [encryption] is a bit inconsistent. Since [cryptography] is a superset of [encryption], in theory every [encryption] question could be tagged [cryptography] as well. There is a related question What is the difference between the cryptography and encryption tags? and as an overview of all the crypto related tags: Cleanup cryptography related tags Jan 30 '14 at 8:56
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The problem I see with this is that decryption is not really possible or useful without encryption. And in many if not most occasions the encryption method is as likely the cause of any issues (and thus questions) as the decryption.

Furthermore, I do think that there are already enough tags that have to do with cryptography. In the end we should not so much worry about the exact meaning of the word. Instead we should be worried about the visibility of the questions (and thus answers). Having to check yet another tag is not going to help me for sure.

Finally, a question can only have 5 tags. As there are many questions that would merit both the encryption as well as the decryption tag, I'm afraid that users will run out of tag space.


For these reasons I've also nominated (439 followers) to be a synonym of (over 11K followers, about 25 times as many), even though both are not identical in a linguistic sense. There's just too many questions "flying under the radar" as I like to call it. Once in a few weeks I clean up those kind of tags, but I'd rather not and some users have to wait for weeks to get an answer.


The difference between and on the other hand is entirely practical. Most questions that have to do only with encryption are correctly tagged with and most questions that have to do with anything else are tagged . That's useful to me and both have enough followers to merit a split.

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  • Thanks for your input. You've made the same argument as CodesInChaos regarding encryption being to blame for most decryption issues, which is likely true. Perhaps I would feel better if encryption and decryption where both synonyms of some word that encompasses them both. That way it won't feel like decryption has been trumped, in some sense. I'm not sure there is such a word, so perhaps I just have to get over it! Jan 31 '14 at 7:25
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    Eh, cipher? No, that's joking :) Even if there was another word, people would not use it. I agree with you that it does not feel right to use encryption for decryption but I'm pretty used to life's little surprises by now. We can only go to practical most of the time - and that's a bit strange for something that is entirely deterministic in nature too :P Jan 31 '14 at 11:00
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Encryption is useless without the consideration of decryption. It is in this sense that they are grouped.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encryption for example. It mentions both topics.

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  • So encoding is useless without decoding? Decompilation is useless without compilation? Where would the synonyms end...? Jan 30 '14 at 8:28
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    No, decompilation is not a necessary step in a compilation process.
    – Bathsheba
    Jan 30 '14 at 8:29
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    Nor is decryption a necessary step in encryption. Jan 30 '14 at 8:29
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    Round and round we go.
    – Bathsheba
    Jan 30 '14 at 8:29
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    Why "round and round"? You provided an argument to why decompilation and compilation are not related and the same argument applies to encryption and decryption. Can you explain why it doesn't? Jan 30 '14 at 8:41

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