Current Context

We seem to have wound up in a position where we have some weird tag hierarchy issues on this site which have lead to inconsistent tagging practices.

I'll point out some specific examples, but I think it would be helpful to establish a clearer overall policy for the site.

The main question is: how do we want to handle tagging when there are a variety of tags specific to a franchise that range from very general to very specific?

In previous discussions, I've seen both the suggestion that specific tags should only be used for very popular titles. For us, this clearly includes things like , , and , as well as some others (although "very popular" isn't very well defined, in my opinion).

However, I've also seen an answer implying that franchise tags should only be used for questions that cover multiple titles within the franchse, and, in fact, that's exactly what the tag wiki for says:

American science fiction franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. Use this tag when asking about multiple series in the Star Trek canon or as a whole.

However, this qualifier is not applied to , and the franchise tag seems to be applied to everything related to the franchise, regardless of whether the question is relevant to a single work or not (e.g. 30 out of 31 questions tagged are also tagged ).

Similarly, has no such disclaimer in its wiki, and, in fact, there do not seem to be any title-specific sub-tags... but there are a bunch of sub-tags that aren't specific to a single title (e.g. , , , etc.).

This issue also extends to include how we handle author tags:

Yet clearly we aren't using that way. Out of 1677 questions, only 30 are tagged with the author, even though many of those questions are specific to books.

Of course, that raises an additional question: should author tags be used for movies or shows based off of those books? Does it matter if the author had direct input into the creation of the show/movie, such as George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones?

Because of this, which seems rather a mess (at least to me), I believe we need to clarify our policy on the following points:

Moving Forward

  1. Should franchise tags be used in conjunction with more specific tags that are sub-sets of that franchise, such as , or title-specific tags, such as ?
  2. How should author tags be used? Should they apply to every work directly written by the author, questions that are actually about the author (e.g. "Does J.K. Rowling deny writing fantasy?")? Something else?
  3. Do we want to continue using specific sub-tags such as or , and, if so, do they get used in addition to more general tags, or instead of, in cases where the tags are generally redundant?

My hope is that we can get a good, clear policy as an answer here, and then implement it, at which point I'd edit out the "Current Context" section in the hopes this could become a tag FAQ question.

  • 1
    I'm sick of seeing spoilers for Game of Thrones (the TV series) because people only tag their questions for the names of the books
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 16:59
  • 1
    IMO, for Harry Potter specifically, most of the subtags that are currently frequently used are pointless, and most Harry Potter questions on our site shouldn't need any more tags other than [harry-potter]. This differs from Star Wars or Star Trek.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 8:57
  • We have come full circle meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/1563/… Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 14:33

3 Answers 3


Franchise Tags / Universe Tags.

I think the current system should be made more clear. Tags should "drill downward" from the largest possible catchment to more specific tags with Series tags used to cover an entire canon universe;

For example, a question about a specific lightsaber fight in Phantom Menace should have a tag as well as a and possibly a and tag.

That'll allow people to locate questions about their own interest areas more easily.

Author Tags

I think that "Author" tags are pretty useless and should only be used on those rare occasions where the question is actually asking about the author themselves (for example this)

Sub Tags

Sub tags should be used to reflect specific topics that are likely to have a reasonable level of interest. Any tag that's only had one question "hit" in say, 6 months should be considered for closure or merger.

  • 8
    Re: "author" tags... imho, the utility varies greatly depending on how many different titles the author contributes. For example, J.K. Rowling only has the Harry Potter world (at least as far as relates to SciFi/Fantasy), but authors like Heinlein, Dick, etc., have dozens and dozens of titles, many of which only have the author as a common factor. I see utility in have author tags for the more prolific writers. I might want to look through the Heinlein tag for ideas for other books of his to read, for example.
    – Beofett
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 17:42
  • I would like to note that this answer seems to match how we've been tagging up until now (with the exception of the author tags, which seems inconsistent). However, this system has led to our current incredibly inconsistent use of most of those more specific tags. If this is the policy the community decides is best, then I don't see how this would work without implementing tag hierarchies. If consensus becomes clear that the community favors this, I'll re-propose that feature request here on our meta.
    – Beofett
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 13:11
  1. Should franchise tags be used in conjunction with more specific tags that are sub-sets of that franchise, such as , or title-specific tags, such as ?

Franchise tags should be used for all questions on a franchise. Sub-tags, including tags for specific titles or series, should not be used.

I believe that franchise tags should be used for all questions that fall under that franchise. Sub-set tags should be removed, or made as synonyms of the franchise tag. Same with title-specific tags. Out of over 1000 Star Wars questions, we currently have 66 questions tagged , and that's one of the more popular tags. We have 887 questions tagged that contain the word "Jedi", but aren't tagged with . This is an excellent example of why these sub-tags don't work.

Individual title tags should also not be used. does just fine without . Star Wars and even Star Trek can do just fine without those tags, and if you're asking about a specific series within that franchise, try and include it in the title, or, failing that, just mention it in the body.

People interested in questions on Sith, or The Clone Wars, can simply use the search functionality (with or without adding the franchise tag).

Star Trek makes a bit of a better argument for series-specific tags, at least in theory, but in practice it is a failure. At least, that's how I'd describe it when there are currently 391 questions that have the word "original" in them, and are tagged , but don't have the tag. Yes, quite a few of them aren't about TOS, but I find it hard to believe most aren't. Certainly many of the top results are clearly referring to the original series.

2 . How should author tags be used? Should they apply to every work directly written by the author, questions that are actually about the author (e.g. "Does J.K. Rowling deny writing fantasy?")? Something else?

Author tags should only be used for questions about the actual author, and not their specific works.

This one is tricky, and I really want to have author tags associated with works from the author. It would be great, for example, to quickly find all questions on the works of Phillip K. Dick, which are numerous and generally unrelated. Search won't work for that, since we can't count on people to say "In the movie version of Phillip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly...".

Unfortunately, it just isn't practical to expect all questions on an author's works to include that author's tag. There are currently 206 out of 374 questions that don't have . 486 out of 697 questions on don't have the tag.

Story ID questions further complicate this. If there's a question to identify a book, and it winds up being a Phillip K. Dick novel, should the tag be added? Would the OP know to add the tag? Certainly not. Would anyone who does know notice that the tag is ready to be added? Unlikely.

3 . Do we want to continue using specific sub-tags such as or , and, if so, do they get used in addition to more general tags, or instead of, in cases where the tags are generally redundant?

No, these sub-tags should not be used at all. Instead, users can search for those keywords.

Again, as nice as it would be to be able to search on the tag (and with 149 questions currently with that tag, it would seem like it should be possible), it just doesn't work. Even with 149 questions with that tag, there are still 934 Harry Potter questions that discuss Voldemort, but don't have that tag.

Without the addition of enforced tag hierarchies (which seems to be something that won't happen), sub-tags simply don't work, because they aren't used consistently. No matter how useful they seem in theory, in practice, the best they could do is cause people to miss relevant content because only a fraction of people use them as intended.

  • 2
    887, 934! unbelievable... Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 14:25
  • 1
    In general, I agree. There is one problem with search keywords though: you can't easily use them to highlight questions you want to watch. For example, suppose Professor Dumbledore is reading Sci Fi SE and is particularly fierce about keeping all information about Horcruxes and the Dark Lord's past secret. In that case, he can add the [voldemort] and [horcrux] tags as favourite tags in his settings, and then most related questions will be highlighted for him.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 14:59
  • That said, topical tags like those probably aren't worth to use in large series like Harry Potter. Thematical tags like [telekinetic] or [dragon] or [pirate] may be beneficial in story-id questions or in questions about individual short stories by barely known authores where no big franchise or author tag applies.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 15:00
  • @b_jonas My concern is that even with tag favourites, Professor Dumbledore could not do what you're describing. There are 88 questions tagged "horcrux", and 150 that mention "horcrux", but don't have that tag. If we want to use sub-tags like this, there are going to be hundreds, or thousands, of tags that will have to be fixed in order for it to work, and it will be difficult to keep it consistent moving forward even if we do. Search is the only way to ensure that you'll see the desired content.
    – Beofett
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 15:13
  • This answer is consistent with other sites on the network; Arqade ended up nuking their subtags for game concepts like classes in MMORPGs and so on, preferring to just tag with the game and then mention the details in the body. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 17:42


I've been thinking for a long time that tags should work like categories in MediaWiki. For example, if I add to a question, then when I click on that tag it should only show me questions. However, if I create to be a sub-tag of , then when I click on it should include questions.

This will reduce the redundancy of tags, therefore making tagging easier for all. Eg, someone new to this site may add a sub-tag and they get the appropriate "higher tags" for free.

Note: you could have multiple higher tags. So might be a sub-tag of both and (which in turn is a sub-tag of ).

  • 1
    Complicated dependency graphs and taxonomies are great in theory, but in my experience, work on them is inconsistent, so people stop trusting the hierarchies. Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 9:11
  • @AvnerShahar-Kashtan - where is your experience? Wikipedia? Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 9:15
  • Mostly organizations - schools, companies and so forth. I worked on several knowledge-management projects that started with a lot of enthusiasm, but organization activity tapered off. Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 9:19
  • I do hope it can work. Just warning if potential pitfalls. Broken Window syndrome hits data-organization scenarios pretty hard. Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 9:20
  • @AvnerShahar-Kashtan - and how did the software compare with Stack Exchange? I think that with the right incentives and perhaps visualising the hierarchy, this could work very well. Agree about broken windows, yes. Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 9:21
  • Note that I proposed a request for tag hierarchy functionality. The response was... not positive.
    – Beofett
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 18:31
  • @Beofett - and that only yesterday, what a coincidence. I've been thinking this for ages... glad I'm not the only one! Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 20:11

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