It's quite clear to me that all the media tags are meta tags: they can't stand on their own, at least on open questions, and they're not tags you'd search for. Moreover, they're applied only spottily.

So, how about we burninate them?

Here are the several media format tags that I could find:

  • story is a poor tag in general. Note that it has two closed questions and no open ones. There's only one open magazine question, and it's asking about magazines in particular.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 20:28
  • movie and film only had one question each, movies had 37, so I've consolidated those.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 20:30
  • There are two video-games questions. One belongs on gaming.se not here. The other is discussing the game media, not a game itself, so the tag is appropriate.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 23:44
  • The only audiobooks question is closed. There are only two animation questions, and both are closed.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 23:47
  • Neither the novel or book tags exist (they are novels and books). These already have a meta question about merging (meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/62/tags-novel-or-book), so discussion of discouraging/removing the tag probably belongs there.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 23:48
  • Note to mods if a tag removal is decided: moderators currently cannot kill a tag.
    – user56
    Mar 2, 2011 at 19:38
  • @Gilles: When did you lose the ability?
    – Borror0
    Mar 2, 2011 at 19:58
  • 1
    @Borror0: Before I got interested in the question (i.e. more than half an hour ago).
    – user56
    Mar 2, 2011 at 20:03
  • Did we come to a consensus on this?
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Apr 15, 2013 at 21:22

6 Answers 6


The argument for the existence of a tag should be that it can stand alone: that someone would actually want to follow just questions with the tag. Otherwise, it's a meta tag and meta tags are bad for all the reasons Jeff Atwood outlines on the Stack Overflow blog.

With that in mind, I can potentially see the case for some of the media tags (e.g. , , ) that correspond to types of "geeks": a person could definitely be interested and an expert in comics, or TV SF, or SF video games.

But the others can't stand by themselves and should be purged with fire.

  • 5
    I agree -- these tags are basically meaningless, in they describe a very abstract "is this animal, vegetable, or mineral" which is not useful. If a question is about the TV show Fringe then tag it [FRINGE] not [TV]! Feb 4, 2011 at 2:45


  • - This tag is waaaayy too broad, and there are more precise terms that can be used.
  • - Even more broad than books in some ways.
  • - This tag doesn't seem like a good word choice.

I wonder if a dev will burninate these tags for us, and bring order to the land.

I don't know the about the rest, I leave that to others for the moment.

Here's my old view for laughs (Feb 3, 2011):

Some of them should probably stay, I mean it helps to identify what material source the asker is referring to.

But on the other hand, those tags beat out all other ones and get injected into the title. Which is probably very bad from a google search point of view, because it tells google and others only a vaguely related fact about an article, instead of a useful meta hint.

  • 2
    I'm not sure why you think that "it helps to identify what material source the asker is referring to." Shouldn't that already be explained in the title or the body of the question?
    – Borror0
    Feb 3, 2011 at 16:58
  • Also, if you think some of them should stay, don't just say "some of them." List them and say why those ones are valuable, unlike the others.
    – Borror0
    Feb 3, 2011 at 17:00
  • 1
    @Borror0 - first comment - I believe that Tags are a great way to get redundant information out of the title, which often tends to get cluttered up with ancillary details. However you have a point about placing such information in the body of the question, that's why I mostly agree with you. Feb 3, 2011 at 17:01
  • @Borror0 - Frankly, I'm having a hard time deciding which ones fit and which ones don't. Feb 3, 2011 at 17:08
  • 1
    Note that many of the example tags have no open questions, so nothing really needs to be done with them.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 23:50
  • I like this tag when people want to reference the book universe rather than the movie universe, etc. Like with HP. Feb 9, 2012 at 3:37

I would say it depends.

If the tag is used merely because it's a question about some story that happens to be in book form, then yes, I'd say the usage is irrelevant.

If however, it's about the specific medium's relation to the topic - say, for instance, the completely bogus question "Why are there so few Science Fiction miniseries?" - then the tag is completely relevant.

Furthermore, is there some issue that will be resolved by burnination?

  • 2
    Can you think of a valid and interesting on-topic question about a media format, which could be answered objectively?
    – Borror0
    Feb 3, 2011 at 19:28
  • 1
    Can I? Perhaps, if I thought about it (which frankly I don't feel like doing right now!). But the real question is could anyone?
    – morganpdx
    Feb 3, 2011 at 19:31

No, but they should rarely be used.

As I pointed out in the comments, many of these tags don't exist or are only on closed questions. For the rest:

  • there's only a single example question, but it seems an appropriate tag, because the question is asking about the video-game medium, not just about a video game.
  • two example questions - one is asking about the comic book medium, so seems appropriate. The other is a "is this SF", so will presumably be closed.
  • one example question, asking about the medium.
  • one asking about the medium, three story identifications. The former seems useful, the latter not.
  • I'm not really sure what this tag means - it seems like essentially all SF/F gets written.
  • I don't see the point in this tag, but it's not a "media tag", either.

That leaves the "major" media: , , , and . I think in some cases (where the question is about the medium) these are definitely appropriate. In others, where it's just identifying the work, they are a bad idea.

The worst part of these tags is that because they are common, they will be the first (primary) tag. This gets used on as the hashtag for the tweet, and other such things.

Another problem is that if the tags exist (to go with or for questions about TV/Comics/etc in general), then they'll get thrown in with a question that shouldn't have them and need to be edited out. Even if the tag wiki says not to do this, people will still do it.

  • I'm pretty sure that tags are ordered in order of frequency: the most used tag is listed first. If that's the case, since media format apply to literally all questions on the site, they'll always be first if used properly.
    – Borror0
    Feb 3, 2011 at 20:30
  • @borrow0 I checked and that's correct (it explains why the order cannot be changed). That's unfortunate, but it doesn't make these inappropriate tags (I'll edit the answer). The tag in the title is ugly and hopefully will go away with a Google fix. The tweets ought to have all tags, really (but that's a very new feature).
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 20:34
  • I disagree that these tags tell you anything of value. It's not like you'd ever search for them or if it be common place to add either of those to your favorite or ignored tags. Knowing this, why what's their use? They're not ever used on half the questions that they should theoretically be applied to!
    – Borror0
    Feb 3, 2011 at 20:36
  • 1
    I'm not really interested in sci-fi movies, so that tag is in my "uninteresting" list. I'm a comic fanatic, so that tag is in my "favourites". I'm interested in the ST books but not TV series, so I'd do searches that excluded the appropriate tag.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 20:39
  • 1
    @Tony: "I'm not into scifi, I just like fantasy. Let's deburninate that tag so I can filter." There's a point where a tag is too generic. I think that they reached that point.
    – Borror0
    Feb 3, 2011 at 20:49
  • 1
    @borror0 scifi/fantasy would likely apply to over 40% of questions. These tags do not come near that.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 23:40
  • @Tony: I disagree. The novel and TV tags, alone, would cover nearly all questions on the site, with most of the rest going to the movie tag.
    – Borror0
    Feb 3, 2011 at 23:49
  • @Tony: Here's another good argument: "New/casual users aren't going to know that these should be added and so it'll need too much work from other users to go through and tag all the questions appropriately. If we don't tag them all as best as possible, then the tags are of little use anyway."
    – Borror0
    Feb 3, 2011 at 23:56
  • 1
    @borrow0 I disagree with that. Even if you are correct, ISTM that there is more to be gained by waiting and seeing what happens with the tags than to remove them now. If it turns out that two/three tags practically all questions, we can remove them then. If they turn out to be useful, we need to do nothing. How does removing them now benefit anyone?
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 23:57
  • @borrow0 that the tags are common shows that new/casual users do indeed intuitively add these tags.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 3, 2011 at 23:59
  • @Tony: Even the most generous estimates put the number of questions currently tagged with a media format tag at 33%. That's over 50% of questions that are missing a tag, if not more. And my name is Borror.
    – Borror0
    Feb 4, 2011 at 0:40
  • @borrow0 if my two typos of your name offended you, I'm very sorry. I can no longer edit the comments, but I'll remove and re-add them if you like. I imagine it's a common error given the similarity to a common word, so probably very vexing. (Of course, you typo'ed my name in your answer, so ... :) )
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 4, 2011 at 2:12
  • @borrow0 As for the discussion here, I don't see any value in this comment discussion. Let's see what happens with answers to this post.
    – Tony Meyer
    Feb 4, 2011 at 2:12
  • @Tony: It's not that it bothers me. It's that I have to check if you replied because I don't get notification. ;)
    – Borror0
    Feb 4, 2011 at 11:15
  • If tags are assigned because it's asking about the medium, shouldn't “medium” be the tag? I don't see the point of having tags with 1 question each, but then again I don't visit the site frequently so maybe that's OK. Dec 28, 2016 at 3:58

Tony Meyer makes an argument against the fantasy/scifi tags that, I believe, applies here as well:

New/casual users aren't going to know that these should be added and so it'll need too much work from other users to go through and tag all the questions appropriately. If we don't tag them all as best as possible, then the tags are of little use anyway.

Of the 51 last asked questions, only 25% of those eligible for media format tags have been properly tagged with them. That percentage drops further if we're less generous and decide that questions about the Star Trek universe require a TV tag. Additionally, of the ten that had all the necessary media tags, two questions had the proper tag(s) added by another user.

Also of note, I'm using my own, more forbidding, rule with regards to novels. If I were to use the official rule, three or four more questions would be missing an extra novels or books tag...

If we do decide to keep them, we'll need to be zealous about retagging questions.

Here's the data:

Missing at least one media format tag:

  1. What exactly were the Prophets?
  2. How does Animatrix storyline relate to The Matrix movies?
  3. Who or what was Tom Bombadil?
  4. How they got the working dream share device inside dream in Inception?
  5. What are the different forms of FTL travel and how do they interact?
  6. After Star Trek: The Next Generation, can I skip to Voyager without watching Deep Space Nine and not get spoiled?
  7. How come the Federation did not routinely use projectile weapons against the Borg?
  8. Are there any scientific projects currently pursuing Uplift?
  9. Any tales about the Vanilla Needle and Jacob Demwa?
  10. Start Wars: Does a “Phantom Edit” prequel trilogy exist?
  11. Puppeteers' homeworld heat a major problem?
  12. Trying to remember the name of a female, Canadian, children's sci-fi author from the 80s
  13. Do the wheel of time books contain entire chunks of writing, repeated almost verbatim?
  14. Back To The Future Flaw
  15. Trying to identify a book with an entertaining foreword by the author
  16. How accurate were (are?) Jules Verne's predictions?
  17. Is the movie rendition of the Golden Compass significantly different from the book?
  18. Was Gary Mitchell the first officer on the Enterprise?
  19. Does a story or book exist which combines elements of a scarcity future, with cryo-preserved present time people?
  20. SciFi books written for the youth market that are worth reading
  21. As a newly minted Dr. Who fan, which DVDs of the older episodes should I start with?
  22. I'd like to watch pre-“Special Edition” Star Wars, what is the best source/transfer?
  23. Trying to identify a book with an entertaining foreword by the author
  24. Was the Millennium Falcon too slow?
  25. In Inception, when Cobb had to flee the country, why didn't he take his kids with him?
  26. What is the chronological order of the Dragonriders of Pern series?
  27. I'm looking for authors similar to early Spider Robinson can anyone help?
  28. Moorcock reading order, Can I start reading Moorcock with the Dancers at the End of Time series?
  29. Are there any authors that write in a similar style to Heinlein?
  30. I'm trying to identify a book, where the main character (a private detective, I believe) speaks mostly in e-prime
  31. Which science fiction books, if any, are good examples of a rationalist approach to reality?

Not missing any media format tag:

  1. The Lost Fleet Book 1: Dauntless - which is the 2011 version?
  2. Can someone identify this book, where children are bred for specific jobs?
  3. Fringe: What exactly are the 'voids' in the parallel universe?
  4. Who plays the observer on the Fringe TV show?
  5. What happened to the Doll disruption tech?
  6. In what order should the Star Wars movies be watched?
  7. What modern popular science terms originated in sci-fi books or short stories?
  8. What 80s movie features a mad scientist building an inter-dimensional portal in his attic?
  9. Is there anyone like Terry Pratchett in the sci-fi world?
  10. Book recommendations that deal with the Fermi Paradox

Does not require a media format tag:

  1. On the personal relation between Phil K. and Robert Heinlein
  2. Who comes up with all those Star Trek facts??
  3. Can anyone explain the Star Trek geography (i.e. quadrants)?
  4. How come cloaking devices in Star Trek allow the cloaked ship to continue to observe its surroundings?
  5. Does any sci-fi deal with invisibility causing blindness?
  6. How realized is the Vulcan language?
  7. What factors influenced the evolution of Klingon cranial ridges?
  8. What is the difference between a parallel universe and an alternate timeline?
  9. What is a good example of a progression from the current state of Cryogenic freezing, to a working system used for interstellar travel?
  10. Have bodily functions been abolished in the Startrek universe?

I can see them being relevant for some things.

For instance, The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy comes in book, radioplay, movie version, and others all of which contain differences - even the ones authored by Douglas Adams contain differences as he revised for each medium. It's entirely plausible that someone asks a question that relates only to the radio-play scripts, and not to the book version because of a change that the author made.

  • 3
    That can easily be covered in the body of the question.
    – Borror0
    Feb 27, 2011 at 18:13
  • Sure, but the body of the question doesn't show up on the main page, tags however do show up. Let me use another example - A Series of Unfortunate Events has a movie adaption which differs significantly from the books it is based on. I might not want to click on a question about the movie adaption as it could contain spoilers for the different ending that I may not have seen yet. (And although there are spoiler tags, their use is somewhat dodgy - can a 6 year old book be considered to have spoilers, especially if it is a series?) Feb 27, 2011 at 18:17
  • 2
    No just the body, if the medium is so important, it can be in the title. Also, if you hover your mouse over the title in the front page or visit /questions, the beginning of the question body appears.
    – user56
    Feb 27, 2011 at 19:01

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