Media tags in general
Media tags, and their value and usage patterns, have been debated on this site ever since it was founded. From Should we do away with the media tags (books, novel, TV, movies, etc.)? back in February 2011, to the very unpopular suggestion during the 2015-16 tag cleanup to remove them from all non-story-ID questions, to How do we actually use tags? and CreationEdge's excellent summary of many of the details of our tagging system. In one of his answers, he attempted to sum up our current practice on how media tags such as books and tv are being used on this site:
I found Media and Genre tags to have some interesting things going on with them. They're rarely used alone, and tend to be attaching to some type of Probing tag. The most common example being story-identification [...] The percent of Media and Genre tagged questions that include story-identification is 60.5%.
Although comics seems to be an exception to the Probing connection, a cursory look at those questions shows that the tag is often used to specify that a question is only about the comic-book version of events or characters, instead of the entire franchise which may include movies and TV shows. This is how Media tags are used in general: they are almost never used alone, and make the most sense when used in conjuction with other tags to narrow scope.
SQB also wrote about this in even more detail at Tag Wars: cleaning up redundant media tags:
Media tags in action
We haven't reached a decision yet about what to do with the media tags. There are two main uses for them:
- On story-identification to specify what the OP is looking for (example: "I'm looking for a book I read as a kid")
- To differentiate between works released in different media (ie: "I'm looking for an answer from the Harry Potter movies specifically")
I'm not proposing to touch any of these uses. However, I found there is a third and a fourth use that are both unnecessary and often redundant.
Missing work tags
- Questions about specific works that do not have a this-work tag. [...] I propose giving all questions like this their proper work and/or author tags.
Department of redundancy department
- Questions where the media tag is simply redundant, because it's used together with specific tags for the work, author, series, franchise and so on, without falling under use 2 (differentiating between different media for the same work or franchise).
This is the best summary I've been able to find on how we actually use media tags. Uses 3 and 4 have been slowly cleaned up; questions about a specific work should always have the tag for that work, and there's no point in using media tags with stories like babylon-5 or wheel-of-time which are only told in one medium anyway. Uses 1 and 2 remain as the main/only ways that media tags are/should be used.
Other cases for comparison
Besides american-gods, many of our other tags are for stories which have been told in more than one medium, and we don't usually use different tags for these different adaptations.
A glaring exception to this general principle is the a-song-of-ice-and-fire and game-of-thrones tags. There is no one overarching tag for this universe, and the book and TV versions have two separate tags. This approach has led to multiple disadvantages in practice:
- Searchability: you need a more complicated search to find a list of questions relevant to this story/world, because there's no one tag to cover them all.
- Division of expertise: many people answer both - obviously, being knowledgeable about one likely makes you knowledgeable about the other too - but their scores in the respective tags don't reflect this. I bet we would've had some gold tag badgers by now if there was one tag to cover the whole thing.
- Unclarity in questions: many people don't even know the difference between the two, e.g. using "Game of Thrones" to refer to the books, and so tagging isn't even a reliable way to tell which medium the OP is asking about. Often a question bearing one tag will actually be seeking answers from the other, or from both. This necessitates a lot of tag edits and requests for clarification in comments.
We should stick to the current system: using a single universe/franchise tag american-gods to cover both book and TV series, with the option of using medium tags to clarify which one is being asked about if that's really necessary.
Most questions about American Gods will likely be general questions which could apply equally well to the book or the TV series. If we had separate tags for the two, would we need to tag all of these questions with both? What if someone only cares about the book but their question is also relevant to the TV show? What if someone's only seen the TV show but their question is answered in the book? What about questions asked before the TV show existed - should they retroactively be tagged with the other tag if it's relevant? Separate tags would just lead to confusion.
Also, people who know a lot about one of the two adaptations of the story are likely to know a lot about both. Let's make it easy for them to find questions which they can answer or which interest them.
American Gods is a single franchise, which deserves its own tag. It makes no sense to use separate tags for separate versions of the same story.