absolutely nothin'

Seriously, I have nothing against tags per se, they have their use but why does EL&U need that monolithic "Watched Tags" box on the right-hand side? The two boxes take up so much S…P…A…C…E.

This is what users (will) see on the new theme when it rolls out.

enter image description here

Can we get rid of those chunky binoculars, please? No one on EL&U is a tag watching enthusiast, this is not Stack Overflow.

On EL&U (and ELL) tags are useful for categorizing but useless for discovering intriguing thought-provoking questions.

Correct me if I'm wrong, I don't believe EL&U users select questions according to tags but on Stack Overflow they do. SO users answer questions on the programmes they specialise in. It makes sense that they have a list of ignored tags and can have the option of hiding questions they feel unqualified to answer.

On Meta, the new Watched Tags has generally received favourable reviews by users who are primarily contributors on Stack Overflow

• I like this. I've had a love/hate relationship with Internet Explorer for about 2 decades... I follow the "#InternetExplorer" related tags to see what crazy things appear and to help out lost souls that venture into IE quirkyness... but "favorite" was always a bit weird... IE is not my favorite.* @scunliffe

• I do not want to be a "Negative Nancy", but the new tag->flyouts are hideous. When I scroll down the page with the mousewheel, the tags pop-ups are annoying as heck when you momentarily pause. Next the "Watched Tags" and "Ignored Tags" now take up 5 times the vertical real-estate than the original simple tags widget did. Why do you people think making the page pop-out like neon on the Vegas strip is wanted -- or even a good idea for that matter? We have now lost 2-full questions of space at the top with the latest change there, bigger is not always better. If it's not broken -- don't fix it. @David C. Rankin

• Adblock-Block Element-Poof – @TaW

• I really like this update. The tag description is easier to read and interact with, the layout is lighter, and makes Watched Tags more understandable in general. @DarkCygnus

But what about users who are not active in the following communities: Stack Overflow, Code Review, Cross validated, Math Overflow, Mathematics, Server Fault, or Super User? What about the users in the other 160+ sites that do not exploit or track tags in the same way?

Moreover, when you do select which tags to "watch" and which to "ignore", the boxes do not disappear. The white search boxes with the red "add" buttons are eye-catching, so obviously the developers want to encourage users to fill that tank with tags, and then what? Questions containing those tags are highlighted in that barely noticeable yellowy tone

enter image description here

Can you see which questions are highlighted above? How many users even know that graphic element even existed?

Wouldn't those tag filters be put to better use on the page that is actually dedicated to tags rather than being permanently on display?

Here's an idea, place the "Watched Tags" and the "Ignored Tags" boxes on the right-hand side of the tag page.

Would EL&U and ELL users miss the Watched Tags boxes on the main pages?



  1. Watched tags: design flaw
    (the aesthetic problem appears to have been resolved under the new theme.)

  2. 'Favorite Tags' is now 'Tag Watching' (SE Meta)

  3. Put the right column into the new theme's left column (Lawrence's feature request on SE Meta)

  • 1
    Look at you, professional Meta-question-poster and feedback-giver! Go ML-A! If you had your preference, what would you put in the space recovered by removing or shrinking these tag elements?
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 16, 2018 at 11:55
  • 1
    @DanBron how about a short list of the most common questions asked on EL&U? e.g. present perfect vs past simple, dash vs hyphen, a "fun" vocabulary component, e.g. SWR for someone who uses too many words, and links to the most upvoted answers. They can be rotated on a weekly basis.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 16, 2018 at 12:28
  • So the FAQ? I’m down for that! We’d have to make the list, but that sounds like a useful project in any case (also, you know this already, but the -1 wasn’t me, one of the +1s was).
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 16, 2018 at 12:30
  • 3
    @DanBron The FAQ also, and an actual VISIBLE link to the help centre, instead of relying on veteran users to post comments suggesting newcomers read the help centre page.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 16, 2018 at 12:31
  • Maybe put those suggestions in your Q? Or ask for suggestions for space usage in As?
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 16, 2018 at 12:35
  • 1
    It's not just EL&U. I just checked 2 other SE communities and they have them as well.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 17, 2018 at 2:37
  • 2
    A click on a tag in the "Watched Tags" box filters the list of questions displayed. That's very handy. I'm not, however, defending the design; rather, the utility of the mechanism.
    – JEL
    Sep 17, 2018 at 5:13
  • 2
    "No one on EL&U is tag watching" Unless it's a hyperbole, there are 297 watchers of SWR tag though. As for the design, it definitely could be improved. As for FAQ/other ideas for sidebar, that's a different question (certainly limited to SE development resource).
    – Andrew T.
    Sep 17, 2018 at 9:37
  • 2
    Actually, all those items in the right-most column could be transferred into the collapsible left column. This would free up lateral space to allow bigger font sizes for the question titles which are, after all, the raisin d’être of the page.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 17, 2018 at 14:08
  • 4
    That graphic always makes me think there's a robot cotillion going on somewhere. The two adolescent automatons holding one another at arm's length while awkwardly shuffling around the floor in the stardust of an unseen disco ball make me nostalgic for school dances...
    – 1006a
    Sep 17, 2018 at 19:06
  • 2
    @DanBron Thanks for the push. Done. :)
    – Lawrence
    Sep 18, 2018 at 9:46
  • 1
    I don't always watch tags. But when I do, I still don't watch them at all.
    – RegDwigнt
    Sep 21, 2018 at 12:19
  • 2
    Personally, I would not miss it if tags disappeared altogether. They appear to be hopelessly jumbled and disorganized. I tried to use them when I first started here but gave up in frustration and learned to ignore them, like the badges. The idea of trying to improve them strikes me as wasted effort, but it's not my effort, so go for it. Sep 26, 2018 at 23:17
  • 1
    @1006a 'Robot Cotillion' - not a great punk band name, but a great metaphor for something. 'Kabuki theater', the Matrix, whatever, I'm going to use it.
    – Mitch
    Sep 27, 2018 at 15:34
  • 1
    I was just on the main site and well outside my habit chanced to look to the right, and holy crap that tag watch list thing is awful, takes up almost all the useful space for ELU. But on other sites, I can well imagine the utility of choosing a subset of tags. Would I bother? I don't know. But I can also imagine setting them and seeing the chosen list... not taking up good space on the front page.
    – Mitch
    Oct 5, 2018 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


Too long to post as a comment on MariLou's comment. I was intrigued by the statement "297 watchers of SWR tag is a pitiful number, it just proves my point that tags on this and on ELL's site has a limited use", and I thought some further (very basic) research on the top tags at a selection of SE sites might be instructive.

The first number is the number of watchers for that tag. To be able to compare between different sites, the number after the tag name is the number of watchers per 10,000 users (from the "total users" given in the reputation leagues page)...

EL&U (228,904 users)

Meta Stack Exchange (213,441 users)

Physics (146,750 users)

English Language Learners (63,613 users)

From this limited selection, it seems that the proportion of users watching tags is roughly similar on ELU, ELL and Meta SE, but all three sites have less than a third of the tag-watching activity of Physics SE. My suspicion is that other "specialist" sites would have high levels of tag-watching as well. [Yes, sadly I'm consigning EL&U to the "generalist" category. It would be interesting to compare EL&U with Linguistics SE...].

  • These statistics mean next to nothing. A user could have favourited 10 tags five years ago but no longer be active on the site. Unless they delete their account, those tags will be included in the stats. And I suspect much the same goes for the number of users, users who posted one single question 7 years ago are still counted today. Tags are pretty useful (or essential) but only for users in the sites I mentioned.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 27, 2018 at 5:42
  • 1
    "next to nothing"? Somewhat terse. The issues you raise are valid, but they apply more or less equally to all sites, so to that extent the stats still provide some level of comparison. Perhaps you could find a less caustic way to respond to people. Sep 27, 2018 at 6:22
  • I'm sorry if I'm blunt but I supported my statement. If someone could figure a way of calculating the ratio of active users who have favorited/watched tags on EL&U and ELL with users on SO, SF and Code Review that would either support or crush my proposal to move those boxes to the tags page, where I think they belong.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 27, 2018 at 6:33
  • Nice data analysis. Tags are useful under some situations; not as much in others. As to @Mari-LouA's suggestion of moving the tag box on the front page to the tags page, I don't think your analysis changes judgment on it; I still think if you're interested in tags than go to the tags page.
    – Mitch
    Sep 27, 2018 at 15:31

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