I've recently felt that my work in the Unanswered queue has hit a stable point and have moved on to helping fix up the tags. My first attempt was to scan through the tags looking for overlap so we can merge tags that are not providing a useful distinction from other, already existing tags.

The first target was as noted in this meta discussion: Can we merge [single-word-requests] and [phrase-requests]?.

Despite getting generally positive support for the merge, the synonym request was apparently voted down after I reminded people that tag merging can be voted on. So that's brilliant. Yet again, a small but active minority has blocked progress on this site.

So this is a rant. If you, as a general community, feel it is appropriate to just downvote tag synonyms because you see some minute technical difference then I have no idea what you think tags are for. I have little interest in helping clean up the tags on ELU if people want to keep a bunch of demonstrably useless tags around. Especially if people feel it is appropriate to actively fight me during the voting process.

Therefore, you tell me what you think the tags are for. Tell me:

  • Why we have tags
  • How to determine the usefulness of a tag
  • How to determine whether two tags should be synonyms
  • Which tags are commonly misused

I have personal opinions on all of these points but I don't feel like arguing with you lot anymore. All you do is complain about the state of things but then fight the few people who are actively making an effort to improve the state of things.

But, foolishly, you never seem to realize that there are differing opinions based on nothing but hunches and you will never reach an actual consensus. And now that you feel it is necessary to block tag cleanup from occurring, you are doomed to leaving the tag situation the way it is.

So here is your last chance to figure it out. And when, inevitably, a significant portion of you is outvoted suck it up and realize you have two choices: (a) throw a fit and block progress or (b) let the site move forward even if it isn't in the direction you prefer.

End rant.

  • I suppose in the circumstances I owe it to you to take some time and actually decide for myself whether I endorse the "rejected" merge or not. I just thought it looks like such a big one compared to most others that the total number of votes and opinions expressed on the discussion page didn't really represent a legitimate quorum for action to change the status quo. Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 19:35

1 Answer 1


I have a great deal of sympathy for MrHen. I know he's put a lot of effort into clearing the Unanswered queue, and if he's willing to attack the tags mess with antthing like that gusto, we should all be supportive.

But I think he picked the wrong battleground with merge and . I do actually lean in that direction myself, but knowing there's a certain amount of debate on that particular proposal, I refrained from voting one way or the other when I went through endorsing all the other outstanding proposals here.

What caused me to stay my hand on that one was mainly the fact that there are currently almost 1000 phrase-request questions, most of which don't also have the single-word-request tag (which is itself on over 4500 questions). I assume if we merge those two tags, that's a lot of cases where the distinction will be lost forever. I think there should be a lot more attention (i.e. - votes cast) on the relevant meta question before we take such an "irrevocable" step.

  • At this point, I don't care about single-word-requests. The point of this post is to gather enough information that I can continue to work without getting blocked by ELU's penchant for standing around bickering about any and all attempts to improve the site. I chose the "battleground" of single-word-requests was because I was operating under a set of expectations regarding what a successful tag was. phrase-requests was contributing absolutely nothing to the site based on those expectations.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 21:34
  • 1
    To say it another way, the specific goal of this post is to remind ELU that nothing will improve if people are more interested in preventing any progress that they see as not completely, utterly perfect. A colleague of mine frequently warns, "Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good." ELU desperately needs to heed that warning.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 21:35
  • 1
    All I know at the moment is tags and search facilities don't actually work very well, so I end up relying on memory and Google "site-specific" searches to find duplicates. Your "Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good" aphorism is extremely persuasive in the circumstances, so I've re-proposed the suggested merge. It would be good if all the mods were to post short summaries of their personal positions on the meta debate page for that one. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 11:50

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