I recently noticed a question with a lot of other tags, and I remember instinctively trimmed them down, as they seemed tangential to the I'd question. I can no longer find that question though. Nothing seemed amiss until I noticed others, and realising it might be more common than I thought started to look for prior meta discussion.

The "Am I Out Of Touch?" Meme, showing principal Skinner looking thoughtful, which is originally captioned "Am I out of touch? No, it's the children who are wrong." This version is captioned "Am I out of touch with tagging practice? No, it's the users who are wrong.
"Am I Out Of Touch" meme

That's when I came across this four and half year old post:
What should we do about tags on story-id questions?

In summary:

Q: Should we only tag questions with tags that are specifically for story-id (, , , , , etc), or have other tags as well (such as , , etc)?

A: I think that it comes down to one of the purposes for tags, namely expertise. Someone who's an expert in is likely to have the background to answer story-identification questions about them.

I don't think this is bad necessarily, but there's probably a limit to what's useful. Adding a lot of tags like which are also used outside of questions might end up making searching for non-id questions less user friendly some how? I think this might be especially true for some tags where being an expert in that topic doesn't necessarily mean you'd be good at identifying stories about them, say , which covers a wide range of questions.

But I'm not sure if our users actual experience. I'm also conscious that our site has changed a lot in the last almost 5 years, so add some recency to the discussion would be good.

What is your reaction when you see an identification question posted with lots of other tags? Trim them to the bare essentials (e.g. the id tag, relevant media-tags and 1-2 others), strip all but the id tag and media-tag? Leave it be?

For reference, here are some SEDE queries that show how tags are used with our identification tags:


I'm at least partly asking, as I noticed we don't have any advice on our How to ask a good story id question? meta-post.

  • 1
    I know that user14111 (one of our story-ID gurus) is strongly in favour of using non-media tags like [time-travel] or [robots] on ID questions.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:20
  • 2
    I find that in a lot of cases the additional tags added by users are basically worthless or simply repeat some of the text in the questions
    – Valorum
    Nov 12, 2021 at 16:57
  • @Valorum as do many tags, but it might be relevant to somebody else who uses the system differently to us.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Nov 12, 2021 at 17:31
  • 1
    @AncientSwordRage - Aye, hence why it's a comment not an answer. I'm pretty ambivalent to tagging things in general and happy to go with whatever is the consensus among those who care
    – Valorum
    Nov 12, 2021 at 17:35
  • @Valorum that's pretty fair, but at the same time you've got the accepted answer here so I would still like to hear your opinion in an answer, even if it's a really short post.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Nov 14, 2021 at 10:03
  • I vaguely agree with @Laurel, enough to upvote and move on with my life. That being said, my views on tags (in general) are pretty well known.
    – Valorum
    Nov 14, 2021 at 15:41
  • 1
    Suppose you come to the site with a story-identification question, and it's a time-travel story you're looking for. Of course you'd like to know if your question is already on the site. Needless to say, you don't know the title or author. Would you rather browse through 18,693 questions tagged [story-identification] or 697 questions tagged [story-identification] and [time-travel]?
    – user14111
    Nov 14, 2021 at 23:43
  • What possible use do tags such as [aliens] or [robots] or [time=travel] have outside of story-identification and history-of questions? Do you want to abolish those tags altogether?
    – user14111
    Nov 15, 2021 at 0:53
  • @user14111 - Do you honestly think that someone is going to slog thought 35 pages of questions any more than they're gonna slog through 1000, before they ask their question?
    – Valorum
    Nov 15, 2021 at 8:25
  • @user14111 - And yes, those tags are almost entirely useless and should be abolished.
    – Valorum
    Nov 15, 2021 at 8:30
  • I honestly think I might slog through 35 pages of questions if I think the question has been asked before. Besides, have you considered the possibility that those 35 pages could be cut down with another search term? @Valorum
    – user14111
    Nov 15, 2021 at 8:44
  • 2
    @Valorum By the way, what do we gain by abolishing those allegedly useless tage? How much does it cost to keep them? As for uselessness, isn't this whole site useless, except for story identification?
    – user14111
    Nov 15, 2021 at 8:48
  • @user14111 - We gain or lose nothing by keeping them, other than that they're a distraction
    – Valorum
    Nov 15, 2021 at 9:15
  • @user14111 I do wonder how many people search for story-id time-travel though? I agree it's how tags in general work, but I couldn't say that somebody asking about "A movie with a car that can fly, and hoverboards" would tag it with time-travel even though somebody else could ask about the same movie might remember the time travel aspect. AFAIK we don't retroactively add tags to story identification questions. I have no intend to abolish those tags, but they could be made better use of (watch this space).
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Nov 15, 2021 at 17:14
  • @user14111 I'm also trying to think of how new users use the site differently to experienced users like yourself and Valorum, both for asking and answering. My complete guess is that new users don't use the search functionality at all.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Nov 15, 2021 at 17:15

2 Answers 2


Here's how I search.

Finding possible duplicates:

  • I search for the name of the work. If that's too many results I make it more specific with some of the following: , is:a, the author's name or year published. No other tags are used consistently enough to be helpful here.

Media tags:

  • I use media tags sometimes when searching for ID questions to answer (because there are specialized tools to help find certain types of media, such as anidb for ).
  • I feel like is a solid, helpful tag. I don't use it much when searching though because we don't get many fanfic questions.
  • I don't ever use media tags otherwise

Generic tags:

  • I rarely search for them. When I do, it's with a franchise tag. Generic tags are applied too inconsistently to be helpful. (However, having these tags on the post may help the post show up even when the words don't appear in the post. That can be helpful.)

Personally, as someone who posts fairly often (curse my failing memory...), I habitually add media tags and often do add some of the non-media tags if I feel they're a major part of the story I'm looking for.

Part of why I do this is simply because they're there. Part of it is that, especially for the media tags, this serves as a failsafe for me in case I was so excited about getting to explaining the fragments of plot I remember that I forget to mention it was a comic book. Some of it is that I'm never entirely certain how much of the "Related Questions" is based on text and how much on tags, so I figure the tagging makes it more likely that, if someone starts posting a question about their vampire story (or researching a query), they're more likely to see the extant vampire story question on the sidebar of related questions if it's tagged. I know it's worked for me before.

I think the key point for me in using the non-media tags is whether it's integral. If I'm asking a question about a warrior in a fantasy world, adding the tag usually doesn't help because sure, there's magic, but it's not an integral part of the plot. Now if I were posting, looking for a book that involves a unique magical system that's important to the plot, that tag makes sense. Ditto that it doesn't necessarily make sense to add for every science fiction story that has aliens somewhere in it, but a book about a particular race and how they're so alien to humanity does deserve the tag.

And I do occasionally use the media tags explicitly for searches, although it's usually for a "let's get a dozen specific results to see if I can get an easy answer here" situation before I start paring down the query to be more general.


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