There are 113 questions tagged .

  • It seems to be a meta tag (which as a concept is frowned upon on SE).

  • Used extremely inconsistently (113 Qs tagged; and I'm quite sure there are at least a thousand if not more on the site that are about plot explanation)

  • It doesn't seem to satisfy any of the purposes of tags

    • Useless for statistics
    • There are no "plot explanation" experts
    • There seems to be zero reason to either search for "plot explanations" (since 25-50% of the site would fit that) or ignore them.
  • Related: meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/3351/…
    – user8719
    Apr 30, 2014 at 19:26
  • Also, I just noticed plot. And I used each of them once, on different questions - the "plot" one would have been a bad match for how I view plot-explanation, though
    – Izkata
    May 1, 2014 at 0:43
  • @Izkata - should we tag every question lacking "plot" tag with "porn"? :) (obligagory TVTropes link, go waste 12 hours of your life if you dare) May 1, 2014 at 1:02
  • @DVK Really, I'm not sure what should be done with plot. I used it sort of as a background-information meta tag, with the thought along the lines of "how did the author design the plot?" (which might be of interest to would-be writers here). Haven't looked at the other questions that use it, but I'm expecting it to be even more haphazard than plot-explanation
    – Izkata
    May 1, 2014 at 2:21
  • @Izkata - that's my issue with these 2 tags. First, they are meta (actively bad as far as SE says). Second, their actual application is beyond crappy (I'd be surprised if more than 10% of questions that need them have them). A great deal of questions on this site are about plot explanations May 1, 2014 at 4:11
  • Aside from anything else, don't take Jeff's word as gospel. I've noticed he has a tendency to overreact, and skimming the comments of that blog post, this was one of those times.
    – Izkata
    May 1, 2014 at 4:33
  • @Izkata - on most of the big-ticket things I like Jeff's take more than many other people, for some reason (e.g., story-ID questions, relative value of questions vs answers on SO) May 1, 2014 at 4:52
  • Curiously enough, I'm 100% MPD on the topic of questions. My views about them on SO are in some ways 100% opposite of my views on them on SFF May 1, 2014 at 4:53
  • 1
    Over at Anime & Manga, the "plot-explanation" tag was slain early on for precisely the reasons cited in the question.
    – senshin
    May 13, 2014 at 23:47

3 Answers 3


I say burninate it.

If we need a tag, do we also need a tag (we actually have , which has been used a grand total of 15 times, despite there being countless questions that are basically asking for character motivation; the irregular and inconsistent use is an argument against it being valid, imo)? How about ? ? (note that this, too, exists as , and it has been used only 7 times)?

These, to me, represent some of the broadest categories of the most commonly-asked questions on the site. Most questions, imo, fall into one of those categories, or .

The few that I mentioned in that category are inconsistently and rarely used.

and are used far more often (about 100 times each), but I would argue that there are far more questions that they could be applied to than actually have the tag, which indicates that the tag isn't really effective.

Instead, I feel that they're being used as a fallback, when the OP doesn't know what else to use.

I say get rid of , , , and .

They're all meta tags, and aren't doing anything productive as currently implemented.


Keep, but it needs some cleaning up.

The way I see , it's best used for situations where the asker expects the answer to be in the source material somewhere, but either didn't understand it or thinks they missed it.

For example, with the one time I used it: How did Buffy's glitch allow the First to enact its plan?

The episode was the first that mentioned the disruption, which was what triggered the events of the final season. However, so far as I could tell, it was never actually explained. And I found that weird. So I asked the question, expecting someone would find something I missed during the season, that explained why the First couldn't enact its plan earlier, since the disruption didn't seem to actually hinder it in any way.

When looked at this way, here's what I think are some good usages of the tag:

Here's some that I think are bad usages of the tag:

And some borderline:

Looking at those questions, if I had to boil this down to once sentence, I think I'd go with something along the lines of:

I think this is a plot hole, but so much is based around it that there must be an explanation somewhere that I missed.

  • I apologize, but your answer suffers from the same issue as Richard's: you very clearly explained why and when someone would add the tag... but not what the point of having the tag added is in the first place (namely, how would that tag be used by future visitors in any way shape or form, functionally or informationally). Having the tag on the question doesn't tell you anything about the question that the subject already won't... nor will someone search for "All plot explanation questions" (at least not based on your answer) May 1, 2014 at 0:58
  • @DVK The same can be said of water, death, powers, magical-theory, magical-items, names (all of which I've used on my questions). I'm not saying that someone would go and search for them out of the blue like with harry-potter or star-trek, but more that they add interrelated context between questions that are more theoretical. One can easily inform another, which then leads to someone clicking into the tag and seeing what else they can apply their specific knowledge to.
    – Izkata
    May 1, 2014 at 1:14
  • @DVK Right now, plot-explanation is all over the place (and overlaps with plot), hence my "narrow the focus" suggestion to keep it.
    – Izkata
    May 1, 2014 at 1:15
  • sorry, I see "water" or "death" as completely different. I can see a reason to search for water related questions in Harry Potter (done similar things). They are in-universe concepts. "Plot-explanation" is entirely outside universe AND incredibly wide (almost every second question can be considered a plot explanation question). But my main rebuttal stands - is it likely that someone would want to view ONLY plot explanation questions and not non-plot explanations when searching for what to answer? May 1, 2014 at 1:17
  • @DVK If the tag was more focused and applied better, it is one of the things I would search for - trying to close such possible holes something I like. For example: 1, 2, 3, 4 (all of which would fall under at least "borderline", if not "good", in the list of examples of how I'd like to see plot-explanation applied)
    – Izkata
    May 1, 2014 at 1:26
  • OK, I can buy into that modus operandi being attractive to someone, strange as the approach seems to me from observing most users on this site myself included. May 1, 2014 at 1:48

I think it should be left on. The plot-explanation tag is generally used by people who're familiar with the source material (the film or TV show or whatever) but simply didn't understand some aspect of why a particular character acted in a certain way.

I think the use goes beyond the speculative and my experience has been that these questions tend to be readily explicable, hence the large number of "oh yeah, I didn't notice that!" responses from the OPs

  • Sorry, but this doesn't explain why the tag has any point, only in what circumstances it is added. The question doesn't ask whether plot explanation questions need to be removed, only whether there is any point in having a separate tag marking 1/10th of them Apr 30, 2014 at 11:20

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