AskLO: Tag policy and approved/recommended tags

Hello site maintainers

One of the most daunting tasks on this site is to find relevant tags for any question. This task is complicated by the fact that there is no easily accessible list of “good” tags.

The basic recommendation is @oweng’ answer to Where can I find tag definitions to help me choose relevant tags for questions? but it only covers the mandatory tags case.

This is partially repeated in a more recent question: Meta vs common tags.

Users asking a question are faced with the difficult choice of tags. I won’t discuss here the case of newcomers who have not understood the role and utility of tags and repeat their question in the tag box. I’ll just talk about the adverse effect below.

In AskLO, anybody, including newcomers, can tag in any fancy way, creating new tags at will. Stack Overflow has a different policy: you need a high enough karma to create new tags, forcing you to use existing ones. This has the advantage of controlling the growth of the tag collection. But since the repertoire of tags is limited, a tooltip appears when you start typing one giving you a list of those matching the prefix (which imperfectly exists in AskLO) with the number of references and a description as a definition of advice of use. This latter part does not exist in AskLO.

The consequences of this uncontrolled capability is multi-fold:

  • typos make valid tags
  • singular/plural forms coexist for the same concept
  • nominal/verbal forms coexist for the same concept, e.g. print and printing
  • several tags for the same logical concept due to the “naive” use of spaces, e.g. libreoffice 6.4 instead of libreoffice-6.4
  • repeating the question as tags brings in “noise” words without semantic value like a, the, of, is or has with the added risk that a valid function name (I’m particularly thinking of Calc) be lost among them

The global outcome is a plethora of unique tags cluttering the list but still appearing as suggestions at time of tagging.

This is aggravated by the fact that retagging one’s own question afterwards when a mistake is discovered is not easy. The procedure requires to type twice Enter to record the changes. This is not explained, nor “natural”.

Retagging other’s questions needs a very high karma (see How do I add tags to a question or an answer?) out of reach of the majority of users (out of the users listed today in 2263 pages, only those in the first 2 1/3 pages can do that).

What makes a good tag? gives a good starting point for tagging but this supposes that newcomers (and even occasional users) take the time to explore the site for “good practice”. And usually, they are in haste for a solution rather than trying to find a similar question and even less the “how-to-use-this-#@!%*-site” rules which they often take for a forum.

So the question is how can we improve the tagging system?

  • The first task would be to clean up the present list of tags. This was already asked as [Feature Request] Remove unused Tags. At that time, there seemed to be a page with all the tags: but this link is now broken or the page has moved.

  • A good protection would be to require some karma threshold before anybody can create new tags (provided of course the list has been cleaned)

  • With a reduced list, adding description or usage recommendation could be done

  • When adding a new tag, tag acceptance is conditioned by mating it with a description (I am fully aware this could be tricked by simply repeating the tag in the description but it is worth trying)

And probably once again, a team of active moderators is necessary on this site.

Possibly this could also be interesting for @hynerian

this link is now broken or the page has moved

Can now be found at “en/s/get-tag-list/” until they move it again, of course. It continues to contain all the old problems.

More on the current list of tags:

There are 12,330 tags listed within that page.

Another way to obtain all tags is to use the tag-listing page. The default listing is tags listed by popularity. Currently (2020-08-17) there are 164 pages with 60 tags on each page. Curiously, 3 of those tags are currently empty (try page 53, the entry that follows ‘imagemap’ as just one of them), but there are a total of 9,828 working tags in that set of pages.

That means (duh, counts on fingers) that there are 2,503 obsolete tags in the listing. Of course, that does not include a huge mass of useless tags in the so-called active listing (4,875 of the current tags have use within just one question).