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Many users (bother mods and non-mods) at one time or another expressed the point of view that "unnecessary" tags -- tags which are highly unlikely to be used for filtering in/out of questions, or search) are a Bad Thing.

(with a possible exception of character tags when many questions deal with that character).

What exactly are the reasons to NOT want to have the extra tags (for example tags for characters that aren't major, but still have >1 question)?


Just to be clear, I'm only asking about "unambigous" tags - again, using minor characters as example ("ambigous" tag is defined as "it's hard to decide whether to use it or not on any given question").

It's pretty clear why having an un-necessary tag which is ambiguous is a Bad Idea :)

I'm willing to see an answer "too many tags unnecessarily slows down the data server and full system", as long as that answer honestly backs up such an unlikely assertion with hard performance profiling.

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  • A lot of the time I feel they confuse people or sole users use those tags instead of genuinely helpful ones. For instance, tagging something amy-pond Instead of dr-who – AncientSwordRage Dec 7 '12 at 6:30
  • @Pureferret - OK, way outside my knowledge. What's wrong with that one? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 7 '12 at 12:32
  • This probably doesn't happen with that one but if someone uses amy-pond without dr-who it means I can't find those (obviously) dr-who related questions when I search for dr-who. Equally we have some similar ambiguity over the comic/{marvel,dc}-comic/comic-book character tags. – AncientSwordRage Dec 7 '12 at 12:53
  • Do you know the price of those tags boxes? – DavRob60 Dec 7 '12 at 13:08
  • @Pureferret - then go and upvote this proposal of mine :) meta.stackexchange.com/questions/45438/… – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 7 '12 at 14:47
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I'm sure this has been discussed in other places, probably including meta SO, but I'm just going by my opinion:

The problem with tags in general is that the more you have, the less likely they will be used consistently.

Tagging in general can be confusing to people who aren't familiar with the SE platform, so keeping fairly obvious tags makes it an easier decision for them, and cuts down on the "clean-up" other users will have to perform.

Even people who are familiar with SE and tagging can find it confusing when coming to a new SE community and finding that they have a whole bunch of specific sub-tags that are expected to be used.

It's not going to be intuitively obvious that a Doctor Who question focused specifically on Amy Pond should be tagged with both and (or even ).

The more tags you add, the more likely tags are to be missed, and the more likely a question will not be able to accommodate all of the tags that are relevant.

For example, let's ask a question about the conception of River Song and the involvement of the Silence. Now suppose we have all kinds of specific tags. There's a limit of 5 tags per question. So how do we tag it?

Too many choices, and too many to fit on one question.

The only way tags serve a useful purpose is if they're used consistently. If some questions could have a tag, but don't (because no one noticed that the tag existed and was appropriate for the question, or because the question didn't have room for the tag due to other tags already in place), then the utility of being able to search, favorite, or ignore is broken.

The best way to do this is to limit tags for important distinctions, that directly support what people may reasonably be expected to want for facilitation of search, grouping, and ignoring. Part of this is admittedly semi-arbitrary, as one person may want to favorite all questions relating to a specific character (e.g. "I love Pinkie Pie from MLP!"), but few other people who participate in the community may be interested.

That's why it is best to bring specific instances to meta if there's even the slightest doubt. If the community decides there should be a tag, then so be it, but if the community doesn't agree on it, chances are it won't be used consistently.

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  • Should this be limited to the section of the community active in a given tag cloud? I don't feel even remotely qualified to make judgements on ponies related tags. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 7 '12 at 14:50
  • @DVK I'm not sure its practical, or even necessary, to limit the decisions to a subset. If people don't feel qualified to make judgements, then they should simply abstain from voting. That's what I do when I'm not familiar enough with a topic to feel comfortable. – Beofett Dec 7 '12 at 14:52
  • @Beoffet - you're in the minority. We have plenty of people DVing and VTCing (as NARC or NC) perfectly valid questions on main site who obviously don't know anything about canon since the questions have absolutely crystal clear answers from canon. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 8 '12 at 1:25
  • @DVK I think that is somewhat less of a problem on Meta. You'll notice that a lot of the tangential questions get far fewer votes than things like getting rid of General Reference. Still, if you have an alternative method of determining what sub-tags would be valid, while eliminating tag bloat, I'd be interested. The tag hierarchy thing you proposed sounds interesting, but requires functionality changes that don't exist yet. – Beofett Dec 8 '12 at 2:14

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