Based on the recent, upvoted answer to the old character tag question:

Why is there a voldemort tag? Is there a criterion for character tags?

If suggest reading the full post for background information, and some of the other, many discussions on character tagging.

If it takes an acrimonious discussion for every tag to establish whether or not it's appropriate, the test you're using is broken. You're letting the perfect become the enemy of the good... Find a simpler test, one that folks can apply in common cases (release of a new book / movie) without having to tear each others' throats out here on meta.

This statement is made because our currently policy is fairly unclear. It uses terms such as "lots of questions", "significant fraction", "do you think", which lend themselves towards subjectivity, and the arguments we have.

@Shog9 clarified further in his comments:

Tags are a utilitarian form of organization, @Aith; they're messy by design. We have some rules in place to help avoid complete chaos, but utility should always take precedence over organizational ideals that can't easily be achieved in practice. This is my problem with the status quo: folks are apparently wasting more time arguing about which tags are unnecessary than they are on adding those which are useful.
A folksonomy is only useful if the meaning of a tag emerges based on how it's used; you can't assign a meaning other than what emerges naturally... and if none emerges, you can't force it to. As with language itself, you have to be willing to examine how people use it to understand what they're saying.

Based on that last part, I would think it could be a good idea to design the test around how people actually use tags, or want to use them, if possible.

I'm not aiming for this to be a discussion about whether or not we should have a new simple test. I'm aiming to see what types of solutions we can come up with towards our problem. Perhaps later we can vote as to whether/when to implement a suggested change. Let's play it hypothetical and constructive to start, and see where that gets us.

So, what should our new, simple test be for character tags, which can be easily applied in our common cases?

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    how is this different from the discussion a few months ago?
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 5:58
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    @phantom42 All the other discussion seemed to be about creating general guidelines and arguing the merits of character tags. I'm not asking for guidelines, or to rehash old thoughts. If it takes a page of text to explain, I don't think it's simple. If it sufficed, I don't think we'd have continued arguing about it since then. I don't think a CM would have to step in, again, regarding arguing on our stack. I posted this to give his suggestion a shot, since in received positive attention, but no one else was doing anything from that, and it was hidden in a much older thread.
    – user31178
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 6:30
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    But honestly, if there's a better way to go about this, let me know. I'm not personally vested in this outside of being sick of hearing about it all the time, and getting sucked into the arguments which are lasting forever in chat. I've been avoiding it lately because it feels like every time I get on there's some argument regarding meta.
    – user31178
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 6:36
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    mike's answer may be too complicated, but i don't see how the question is any different.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 6:44
  • Pre-emptively closing the linked question as a dupe if this. Hopefully that will redirect traffic and wet can get a new agreement on this.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 8:54
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    My final word on the matter, since I'm clearly suddenly in the minority. For many, many years, regardless of the details involved, the overall principle we collectively agreed with has been "character tags are generally bad, try not to have too many." The current discussion is heading towards the complete and total opposite of that. If we decide that character tags are somehow special and need to be treated differently than other tags, just make sure we're doing it intentionally and not just so everyone will shut up about it.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:57

5 Answers 5


I don't see the need to ever have tags about specific characters.

The name of the character should be used in the question anyway, so it's still easily searchable. If the name isn't included (outside of spoiler text - I don't know if that part is looked at for search results), then it's either a very badly written question or it's attempting not to spoil anything - at which point adding a character tag is just as much of a spoiler as using their name. Asking "When was it decided that this character was the father of this other character?" isn't any less a spoiler if you then throw darth-vader and luke-skywalker tags on it.

It just strikes me as a bit too much unnecessary categorisation. If the only reason to have the tag is because the character has been mentioned, it doesn't need to exist at all. At that point you're tagging just for the sake of tagging, and there's no actual gain in terms of functionality to users.

Disallowing character tags means that:

  • there's no disagreement on whether a specific character warrants a tag, the answer is always "no"
  • there's no confusion on when a character tag should be created, the answer is always "never"

If we absolutely need a test, then I'd propose this:

10 or more users - who don't already have the accompanying franchise/series/movie/whatever tag favourited - have expressed a desire to add the tag as one of their favourites, because they consider themselves an expert on and/or especially interested in that character in particular, but not the rest of the work.

That's the only time the tag actually adds functionality to the site that can't otherwise be achieved. By design I can't see that being a test that is ever passed, though.

  • 2
    How many people ACTUALLY use favorites on a level granular enough to be on a level of a character tag? If you're interested in a character, you're 90%+ likely to be interested in the whole franchise, so you'll favorite the whole franchise instead of going through the trouble of favoriting individual characters. Sorry, -1 Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:21
  • I have very specifically provided evidence elsewhere that character tags add useful functionality (which has nothing to do with following). Blanket-stating that they don't is not correct. I would cordially request that you clarify all such statements in your answer with "this is my opinion/usage" type clarification, because as it is it sounds like you're stating an undisputed, categorical truth which it isn't. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:24
  • @DVK I'd be interested to see your evidence that character tags do, in fact, add useful functionality. As it stands, with my understanding of the mechanics of the SE network, I don't see how they possibly could. Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 9:15
  • "How many people ACTUALLY use favorites on a level granular enough to be on a level of a character tag? If you're interested in a character, you're 90%+ likely to be interested in the whole franchise, so you'll favorite the whole franchise instead of going through the trouble of favoriting individual characters." Yes, that's the entire point. It's a test designed to not be passed, though still allows some room for a(n unlikely) shift to our user base and the way they utilise tags in the future. Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 9:21
  • Unless we rename all eponymous franchise tags, the no character tag idea can't exist without chronic confusion. Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, Something needs to be done about that naming convention before we can really think about trying to get rid of character tags.
    – user31178
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 3:19
  • @CreationEdge , I might be misunderstanding your statement, so I would like to ask for clarification. Do you feel that someone would read a question about Ron Weasley that was tagged with harry-potter and be confused as to why the question was tagged by the series/franchise name as opposed to ron-weasley? I'm asking because anyone asking about Ron Weasley has to know about the fact that he's from the Harry Potter universe/franchise. The only time I really see confusion is if someone is asking, "Who is Ron Weasley?" without any knowledge of Ron's character origins.
    – Aith
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 4:26
  • @Aith I mean that as long as we have tags for franchises that are also character/team names, such as harry-potter, superman, batman, green-arrow, the-flash, avengers, etc., we can't really begin to eliminate character tags, or the confusion regarding the usage of them. So, it's more than just the idea of removing character tags, but rethinking our naming conventions regarding franchises.
    – user31178
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 4:31
  • @CreationEdge Thanks a lot for the clarification. That makes sense to me.
    – Aith
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 4:32
  • @CreationEdge I think we can quite easily. Explaining what a tag is to be used for is exactly what tag wikis are for (though not what we currently use them for - our tag wikis are awful). "This tag is to be used for questions relating to the franchise Harry Potter/Batman/etc. It does not refer to the character. See [some meta post] for our policy on tags relating to specific characters." Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 10:54
  • That said, I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to renaming, for example, harry-potter to harry-potter-franchise, provided that's feasible without retagging every individual question. Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 10:57
  • Mods can rename tags. Also, users don't obey tag wiki. If you look at the section on rules in my How do be actually use tags? You'll see that wiki rules are ignored.
    – user31178
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 15:45
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    @CreationEdge I imagine most users also don't read meta. I don't think the fact that not everybody reads tag wikis should be a reason to not use them properly. Whatever we decide regarding how we use tags has to be communicated to users as effectively as possible so that those rules continue to be applied going forward, and tag wikis should form at least part of that. Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 16:06

I'm posting Shog9's suggestion as an answer, since it was given already in the other thread:

If at least 10 questions have been asked regarding a character, create a tag for that character and add it to those questions.

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    I like this test because it doesn’t require me (or anybody else) to read a wall of text to understand it, and it can be applied unambiguously to solve a lot of tag disputes. +1 for simplicity
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 7:39
  • I like this test in theory but not in practice. It might make plenty of sense for us, but I don't think that this rule will be so transparent for newcomers to this stack. At least... not without some SF sitewide prompt that basically instructs them to hold their horses and count out 10 questions when they're tempted to character tag someone because they're 'missing' a tag and the user legitimately thinks they should be tagged.
    – Aith
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 9:08
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    @Aith brand new users can't create tags - you need 300 rep. plus, enough people monitor the chat feed that if a new bad tag popped up someone would likely catch and fix it.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 13:33

Just to provide some possibly useful raw data for this question I read through the first 10 pages of questions (oldest first, so I haven't even gotten to The Force Awakens yet) to see what characters were in them. If this seems like a reasonable set of tags for a single (admittedly large and expansive) universe, then the offically-dubbed Shog9-rule would probably work. If not, it may need some tweaking.

If we use the arbitrary suggestion of "10 questions" as a starting point, we need the following tags:

(I kept Anakin separate because he really is a different character in the prequels vs. original trilogy, and many questions were asked where that distinction was relevant, or even part of the question.)

Also, since that was only about 1/5 of the questions, there's a statistically good chance we'll also need (these are tags with 4 or more questions in the first 10 pages, obviously not all of these will actually hit 10)

Finally, , , and already exist, and have 30+ questions, but they are used very erratically (I didn't even realize some of them existed for several pages). Obviously, once we have a character-tag rule in place a massive retagging effort will need to follow.

There are also a lot of questions about , which could probably be made into a synonym of , though IMO that's a moderate spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen the prequels yet.

  • You didn't mention [kylo-ren], which also has 30+ questions :-)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 16:16
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    I did, however, mention that I have not gotten to any TFA questions yet :-!
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 18:16
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    Methodology question: did you only count the questions where the tag appeared, or the questions where the tag should appear? I'm almost 100% certain that r2-d2 has far more questions about it (him?) semantically, if you count by once-rejected tag, because I remember researching many of them. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:05
  • Re: sidious: we can always reverse this, and make sidious a synonym of palpatine, to avoid spoiling Ep3. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:06
  • @DVK 1. I only read about 1/5 of the questions, so I know there are tons more for those characters. You can easily multiple those #'s by 5 for characters in all 7 movies. 2. I read the title and the excerpt and tried to determine if the question was "about" a character, though when it was iffy I did lean towards the affirmative. It's just a rough figure, but the ones that have already hit 10 questions are pretty much a lock for getting their own tags under this proposal.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:38
  • Also, the rename + synonym isn't a bad idea; I believe darth-sidious is a current tag but palpatine and emperor are not. Emperor is a bad tag, though, so that one's probably out. The down side is, AFAIK in the OT no one ever calls him anything but "The Emperor"...
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:41
  • @MikeEdenfield - OK, that seems like a great methodology then (the fact taht you linked to character tag links confused me into thinking you counted the questions per tag, which is why I asked). +1 Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:41
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    @MikeEdenfield - simple. make "emperor-palpatine" a synonym. I just hope autocomplete can handle that Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:42

In response to CreationEdge's request:

Based on that last part, I would think it could be a good idea to design the test around how people actually use tags, or want to use them, if possible.

I would like to give my answer which can partially be found in the conversation that Shog9 and I had in the previous thread:

"tags are a utilitarian form of organization... but messy by design"

Organization and quicker identification and sorting - in other words, fully utilitarian - is how I always personally understood the purpose of tagging systems across various platforms - blogging, forums, offline data management, etc - and it is with this understanding that I myself utilize tags.

In other words, probably less of 'folksonomy' which Shog9 linked to and more of 'taxonomy' with logical hierarchies and connections with close to zero personal investment towards 'tags' created or not created no matter how social the setting is.

That said, I would rather go for a 'label them all individually' or 'label every character-related question with a generic 'character' tag' and be done with it because I see that though '10 topics' makes ideal sense in theory... it will be a different story in practice.

Differing opinions can be great, but not when they result in recurrent hamster wheeling (my opinion) and as recurrent discussions on character tagging have shown, people STILL will find reason to argue that a character ought to have a tag because of ABC and 123 situation.

Additionally, I have to agree that eventually, even the most minor characters will accumulate enough questions to hit the '10 questions' threshold.

And finally, though veterans to Stack Exchange and to the SF section in particular might think '10 questions' makes sense, I don't think newbies are going to think the same way.

To demonstrate: A new person sees various questions related to various characters and sees them all tagged with the appropriate character names. "Cool, that makes sense," they think.

When they see another question about another character that isn't tagged with the character's name, they go, "Oh hey, this character question ought to be tagged, too, since everyone else was... right? Right."

In such a case, the assumption made may not be correct which will inevitably result in tag creation conflicts and yet, how can we blame them for making that assumption in the first place unless there's some sort of prompt to remind them and tell them that, "Hey, you, character tagging doesn't apply to ABC person because they aren't popular enough... yet."

If we're actually interested in keeping the chaos of tagging down to a minimum, then my opinion is that the most utilitarian approach is the most logical.

Either tag everyone... or tag no one... or tag every character with a generic 'character' tag.

  • I'm not convinced that new users creating unnecessary tags is much of a problem. And if they do create it, a “10 questions or more” rule is an easy and simple to resolve disputes. We don't need to get it right immediately; we need a way to avoid squabbles when we get it wrong.
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 9:54
  • @alexwlchan Thanks for the 1K reminder. :) I guess my opinion comes more from the direction of 'prevention' as opposed to, "Now what do we do because we got it wrong." I like the 10 questions idea in theory; I'm just pessimistic - hey, I can be honest! - that it will do anything to avert chaos.
    – Aith
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 10:02
  • What would be the purpose of "character" tag? That's one tag that even I (who loves tagging) would find entirely not useful to me. The purpose of tagging specific characters is to search for the questions about them, but who and why would ever search for questions about ALL characters (and yet, want to exclude all other questions) Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:08
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    Tangential: I proposed a fairly-popular proposal on meta.SE to introduce tag hierarchies. It was well recieved vote-wise but SE refused to either implement it or even address the idea. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:10
  • @DVK There is already a characters tag with 78 questions.
    – user31178
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 3:38
  • @CreationEdge - looking through the first 20-30 of them, only 2 can be charitably assumed to need that tag (both ask for a list of characters). Every single other one I saw does NOT need or warrant that tag, as it simply signifies that the question is about A CHARACTER (or 2) Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 3:43
  • @DVK I don't think the tag is a good tag, and it would fail the tests in the cleanup thread. I wanted to point out that such a generic tag already exists. I'm glad you not only thought such a tag would be useless, but saw that your assumption was true.
    – user31178
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 3:46
  • @CreationEdge - I always like to test my assumptions. Scientific training never leaves one's habits :) Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 3:49

I found another suggestion, which isn't my own:

Any tag should be able to pass the "more than 2 questions will exist in a 6 month period" test, and the "will another human being actually subscribe to this tag?" test.

  • I'm not sure whether to upvote for "will", or downvote for "subscribe" :) "Subscribing" isn't the ONLY function of tags at all, and there's plenty of tags on the site with few/no subscribers but large # of questions (one reason is that, anyone interested in a character tag, would surely subscribe to the tag for the whole parent universe in the first place) Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 20:56

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