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I am suggesting to create a guideline post describing how to tag specifically for the ELU taxonomy. The discussions in chat and all the posts and comments regarding tags on meta lead me to believe that such a guideline could massively improve the state of our taxonomy going forward. If it's well accepted we might link it on the ELU tagging page. Here we go.

I am suggesting to create and use a tagging guideline, offering this as a first draft. A guideline that represents the taxonomy as it is. Such a guideline can help the editors and users to choose the proper tags. Let us move discussions on the validity of single tags out of this discussion.

I guess my question is, do you agree that a tagging guideline would be helpful for ELU?


ELU tagging guideline

Tags for questions looking for

  • ... words, phrases, idioms, expressions. These request questions are our quiz or reverse dictionary questions. The appropriate tags are
  • ... a decision on a choice between given alternatives. These choice questions are those which require the question to contain all alternatives. The appropriate tags are
    • when deciding between two or more given words and
    • when deciding between two or more given expressions.
    • Those two are mutually exclusive.
  • ... explanation of meaning of something given. These meaning questions need to contain what they are asking about and sufficient context. The appropriate tags are
  • ... clarifications about the usage of something given. These usage questions need to contain what they are asking about and an explanation what's unclear about the usage. The appropriate tags are

Tags for questions regarding

The two groups above make the bulk of our tags and every question should have at least one of those tags. The following groups of tags offer additional information on the questions but cannot stand on their own. This is either due to the fact that they are not sufficiently able to describe a question or that they are hyponyms that should also be tagged with their hypernym tag. (Remark: I expect this last sentence to be controversial.)

Tags describing further question information

Tags that refine the main question tag

Common pitfalls

There are some commonly misused tags even though the tag wikis describe their usage differently. Those are

Do not create or use meta tags under any circumstances!


For now I'll leave it at that and wait for some feedback. Of course, this can be enhanced and refined. I think this will give our editors a fighting chance to adhere to the taxonomy as intended. After all we are editing two-thirds of all questions anyways. Here's the query. If we make an easy guideline available to the people editing the questions and raise some awareness to edit the tags as well, we should be able to dramatically increase the ELU tag precision.

A second activity should be to improve the tag wikis, starting with the top 30 most used tags. I'll suggest a structure in another meta post which can then also be used as a blueprint. (EDIT 09/09/16: Blueprint suggestion)

  • What about expression-requests? I did ask about it on meta once. – NVZ Sep 4 '16 at 11:23
  • @NVZ that should in my opinion be merged with the phrase-requests since that is referring to colloquial phrases anyways and not the grammatical ones. – Helmar Sep 4 '16 at 11:45
  • I like this. The tag info should probably also be updated. Single-word-request and translation are already pretty good; perhaps the others listed here could be brought up to the same standard. Explaining the difference between grammar and grammaticality to those who don't know what grammaticality is is not easy! – Andrew Leach Sep 4 '16 at 11:55
  • @AndrewLeach I agree, enhancing the tag wikis is a parallel task. I enhanced word-usage recently and would suggest a similar structure for all the wikis for a high recognition value. Maybe we should provide an example structure in a meta post. In my view a tag wiki should contain an explanation what it is about, a checklist if the question fits, example questions and optionally commonly confused tags. – Helmar Sep 4 '16 at 12:04
  • Of course, most of the structure is adapted from the swr tag wiki. – Helmar Sep 4 '16 at 12:05
  • What, if anything, should be done about the simple "usage" tag? – NVZ Sep 5 '16 at 13:23
  • It is not a good thing to have so many word-/phrase- pairs. Most of them should be merged together. – curiousdannii Sep 5 '16 at 14:01
  • meaning should either be banned or merged with meaning-in-context. There should be no contextless meaning questions - any such ones should be answered with dictionaries and not asked here. – curiousdannii Sep 5 '16 at 14:02
  • @NVZ, I would like to separate the topic of is a tagging guideline helpful from a discussion about specific tags. – Helmar Sep 5 '16 at 15:21
  • @curiousdannii see my last comment. We should discuss single tags separately. – Helmar Sep 5 '16 at 15:22
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Sure, we might as well try.

Some possible advantages, in my opinion:

  • help users choose the right tags. (Not a big advantage, since most users will probably never see this Meta post.)
  • help editors choose the right tags. (A much more significant advantage.)

Possible disadvantages:

  • One more thing to keep updated in addition to the tag wikis. If it gets out-of-date, that's confusing. But people can always ask questions about it on Meta if they aren't sure if a certain part is up-to-date.
  • Question: do any regular contributors or high-rep users of ELU make any regular or significant use of tags? I know I don't, and their primary use on SO is to create sub-communities, which is helpful because SO is vast and the world of software is vast. – Dan Bron Sep 5 '16 at 23:47
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    @DanBron They are useful in explicitly communicating when particular rules have to be followed. For example: if you ask a word/phrase request then you have to give sample sentence(s) with placeholders where you'd like the word to go. Rules like that can be mentioned in the tag wikis and the wikis can link to Meta discussions. – curiousdannii Sep 6 '16 at 0:41
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    @curiousdannii I don't know about others, but I don't think I've ever read a tag wiki. That may be due to being principally a mobile user, and maybe they're buried deeper in the mobile interface than the web interface. But from my experience, rules and guidelines are most commonly and most prominently communicated by high-rep users and mods commenting under questions. I doubt newbies who don't know the rules first learn them from tag wikis. Though I suppose they're a good place to record such things, if one wants an "official" place to cite. – Dan Bron Sep 6 '16 at 0:45
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    @DanBron Yeah I wasn't thinking they would effectively inform new users, but more that they could be used to say to argumentative askers that "you have no grounds to dispute your question's closure - it's in the tag wiki". It can be hard to tell what the current policies are on Meta (there are so many posts, and the most recent may not be the most accepted, neither may the most upvoted), so tag wikis are good to record them. – curiousdannii Sep 6 '16 at 0:52
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    @DanBron the tags wikis are abysmally underrepresented in the mobile app. That's true. In my view that's another reason to have a meta post that can be easily used as a reference for tag usage. A meta post can also be better used as a reference than tag wikis when commenting on a post. – Helmar Sep 6 '16 at 9:16
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    @Helmar Thanks. I did just check, and it takes 4 clicks, one of which is unintuitive, from any given question to read the full wiki for a tag. That said, I wasn't asking so much about the utility of tag wikis as tagging in general on a site the size of ELU. We don't get enough questions on a daily basis, nor are topics here so orthogonal (as eg Java is from PHP), to have sub-communities here, which so far as I can tell, is their primary use on SO and other sites where tags get a lot of use. In my experience, the best/only? use for them here is personal blacklisting and dupe-finding. – Dan Bron Sep 6 '16 at 12:36
  • I use tags mainly to hide certain questions from feed. – NVZ Sep 6 '16 at 14:56
  • @NVZ Yeah, that's what I meant by "personal blacklisting". – Dan Bron Sep 6 '16 at 16:57

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