I was reviewing the review queue just for my own edification and I've noticed what seems to be a trend in adding more and more extraneous tags to questions that already appear appropriately tagged. Do I need to make a list of examples, or am I being clear? I'll make a list if you all would like one.

I've always tried to keep tagging to a minimum, while still addressing the subject of the content of the question. I find extraneous tags to be kind of patronizing -- yeah, yeah, I get it! The Butterbeer question ... is indeed about Butterbeer and was not explicitly tagged as such. I thought the title of the question -- Does Butterbeer have alcohol in it? -- would be a sufficient alert as to the topic of the question, and "Butterbeer" is easily searchable.

I would have preferred to see a tag over a tag, because it's more easily shared among the different canons we ask about at this site. It seems to be a pretty small, specific group of users who have gone tag crazy, but I'm wondering what SFF users as a whole think.

Pros? Cons? Other suggestions?

I am truly not against tags -- don't get me wrong. I just believe they ought to be used judiciously (I know I use "judiciously" a lot, but it's fitting in so many situations that crop up on SFF.se.). Do we want to get to the point where we have , , , or as tags, and more and more, ad nauseam?

So, thoughts?

  • 10
    -1 not enough tags
    – alexwlchan
    Apr 28, 2014 at 14:26
  • But yes, I agree the tags have got a bit silly. Is there a review process for new tags?
    – alexwlchan
    Apr 28, 2014 at 14:27
  • 1
    @alexwlchan Yes, there is. The link Slytherincess included shows, though, that butterbeer went through review and was approved.
    – Beofett
    Apr 28, 2014 at 14:30
  • 6
    What butterbeer tag? :-)
    – Kevin
    Apr 28, 2014 at 15:01
  • Similarly, the single-use tags chamber-of-secrets and order-of-the-phoenix have both disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
    – alexwlchan
    Apr 28, 2014 at 16:15
  • I have to confess that I tagged that question, although I didn't create butterbeer itself.
    – SQB
    Apr 29, 2014 at 6:27

1 Answer 1


This answer on meta.stackexchange.com provides some general guidelines for what tags are for:

  • They are used for (weak) statistics. For example, you can't look at the currently 51,715 questions tagged c# and say there are that many C# questions, because some C# questions will simply be tagged .net and some question that are only very loosely C#-related (more about the .NET API, for example) will end up tagged that way. But you can compare the c# tag to other language tags like php or java for relative popularity on Stack Overflow or track the growth of the c# tag over time.

  • Tags connect experts with questions they will be able to answer. If you tag your SQL Server question 'mssql' instead of 'sql-server', odds are it won't get near as much attention and may not get a good answer or as good of an answer, because frequent users who use SQL Server have settled on the 'sql-server' tag. They know to watch the sql-server tag for questions they can answer, but are not watching for mssql. A good rule of thumb is that any tag used less than 10 times is almost certainly wrong, and any major language or product tag used less than 100 times is almost certainly wrong.

  • Tags are used in searching. You can search within a specific tag by enclosing it in square brackets, like this: [java] generics. That would search for all posts tagged "java" with the word "generics" in them. Additionally, if you search on any one of the top 20 tags, it's automatically converted to a tag search.

  • Tags can award badges. Earn 100, 400 or 1000 upvotes in a specific tag, and you get a badge for that tag. Also, if you click on a tag there is a stats tab where you can view top users within that tag.

  • Tags are for sorting your question into specific, well-defined categories. Each tag should by itself refer to a specific category. If a tag only makes sense when used in combination with another tag (like '2005' with sql-server, 'visual' with 'studio', or '3.5' with .net), it's a bad tag.

I think the most important, for us, are the second, and the last.

In the example of the tag, I feel it fails to meet either of those criteria.

The experts aren't "butterbeer" experts. They're most likely experts, or possibly food or cooking experts, although that really is more the purview of the experts at cooking.se.

Nor do I consider "butterbeer" a specific, well-defined category. To me, a specific, well-defined category is something that could easily wind up with dozens of valid, on-topic questions. I find that hard to imagine with butterbeer... but I could be mistaken. However, I would rather wait and see if we wind up with far more questions than I anticipate, rather than adding a tag now in anticipation of a flood of butterbeer-related questions.

"Wait and see" seems generally to be the right approach to sub-tags. In some cases, it's obvious that a new tag is needed: if there aren't any tags that properly describe a question, or the only tags that describe it are incredibly vague (e.g. ), then sure, go ahead and create (or request) a new tag.

But if the question already falls under a well-defined genre tag (such as , , , etc.), then I'd be careful about adding new tags unless there's already a large volume of questions dealing with that specific sub-genre.

For related discussion, see this meta on character tags.

  • 3
    The post you link to is about two years old and I was amused that at that time I loved tags -- "The more, the better!" I said, back then. I've come full circle with tags: As few as possible, not extraneous, and straight to the point. :) Oh, and thanks for including the info from meta.stackexchange.com -- really good stuff. Apr 28, 2014 at 15:31
  • 2
    "any tag used less than 10 times" I think you have to take into account that SO has waaay more questions than us.
    – ike
    Apr 29, 2014 at 15:31
  • @ike True, I don't the "almost certainly wrong" part applies to us, but I think that if a potential new tag only applies to less than 10 current questions, it likely falls into the "wait and see" category.
    – Beofett
    Apr 29, 2014 at 16:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .