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I've been looking at the discussions on tags and off-topic tags and was wondering if it might be useful to have tags which exist but can not be used.

Why, you may ask?

The OP will type in what they think is an .
If they are fortunate, existing tags will show up and one can be chosen.

So far, so good.

However, if the tag does not exist, the OP can easily create a new one (assuming they have sufficient rep), which will then need to be checked by a moderator and if found to be inappropriate it gets removed.

This cycle could happen over and over again on the same tag.

If a tag is deemed inappropriate, my understanding is it can either be deleted or blacklisted. If the tag is deleted there is no systemic memory that it already existed. An example of this is the tag. It was there, got deleted, but no trace of it exists except in the Meta discussion.

[NB: I do not know what the process is for blacklisting]

However, if it would be possible to show the OP that, yes, someone has already thought about that tag name, and, no, it's not appropriate (since it can't be used), it might gently guide the OP to use a more appropriate tag.

On another level, tags like are possibly less useful than tags like , , or since a form of knowledge base is being built through the Q&As. Possibly finer granularity would be more helpful. It is true, this practice is already done by the more thoughtful users.

Under this scenario, the OP would type into the tag box and a plethora of tags would appear along with the tag. The tag itself could be highlighted in a different colour and would have a description saying to use one of the other more descriptive tags, but would not be selectable.

I could not find a discussion on this, but there seems to be bits and pieces of concerns in different discussions.

Would it make sense to do something like this?
Is it even possible?

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  • Personally, I think it is a terrible user experience to have certain tags mysteriously behave differently from other tags. – ColleenV Jan 26 '16 at 14:54
  • Here's the info for how blacklists work. I'm not really sure how this request is any different from blacklisting. So, if you want to request certain tags be blacklisted on ELL, you can make a request here on the ELL Meta and allow the other users to give feedback on the request. – Catija Jan 26 '16 at 15:17
  • As a note... tags don't have to be checked by mods... anyone with sufficient rep can edit out bad tags. – Catija Jan 26 '16 at 15:36
  • @ColleenV I understand the reluctance due to a perceived difference in UX, and it's one of the reasons for using a different colour just as there are grey and pink tags, but it would be one of the few ways to point people in the "right" direction automatically – Peter Jan 26 '16 at 15:50
  • @Catija Thanks for the blacklist link, a possible difference is that the offending tag would be visible when the OP is searching for tags (not sure if that's possible if it's blacklisted). And it was my understanding that mods get periodic lists of new tags, so I thought they were the guardians, appreciate the clarification – Peter Jan 26 '16 at 15:54
  • Mods don't get periodic lists of new tags. – snailplane Jan 26 '16 at 16:04
  • @snailboat: They don't? What about in 2k tools? – Nathan Tuggy Jan 26 '16 at 19:33
  • Note that it requires a certain amount of rep to create a new tag (currently 150, but that will double once we get our site design). See also meta.stackexchange.com/questions/125234/… for a well-received proposal along similar lines. – Nathan Tuggy Jan 26 '16 at 19:40
  • Well, I +1 and -1 this. +1 because your concerns are very genuine and your hunches are correct; -1 because this isn't the way to deal with those problems right now. The thing ELL's moderation needs most right now is more Jaspers. – M.A.R. Jan 26 '16 at 19:48
  • @NathanTuggy My point is that there is no list periodically delivered to moderators, so Peter's conclusion doesn't quite make sense. As you point out, there is a tool you can check if you have a little bit of reputation, but that's neither periodically delivered to anyone nor specific to moderators. But hopefully some regular users check it now and then :-) – snailplane Jan 26 '16 at 23:37
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This is actually how blacklisting tags works. There's a very similar feature request for adding custom text to blacklisted tags on Meta.SE.

Allow adding a specific message / guidance to blacklists

The answer reads:

Jarrod whipped this up last night. Check it out:

Trying to link to a porn site now explains why you can't

That's the first blacklist entry to have custom guidance added. We'll add more as needed.

So, each blacklisted tag should have some custom text explaining what tags to use instead. This custom text should probably be part of the discussion of whether a tag should be blacklisted or not, to make it easier on the CMs (who have to implement the blacklists).

Do note that blacklisting tags is not very common and requires a good amount of consensus of both the community and the CMs.

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I think this is a very extreme step that should only be taken if we have a tag that is causing us serious issues. What is the worst thing that a "bad" tag that was created in good faith can do to the site? I am a compulsive "tidy-upper", so I can understand why we would want to stomp out the less useful tags once and for all, but the community might change their opinion over time as to what tags they really want to have around.

Some other ways to work around this without blacklisting tags might be to create the tag with good usage guidance that suggests alternative tags and/or notes that just because you CAN put 5 tags on a question doesn't mean you HAVE to use 5 tags.

We could have an "adopt-a-tag" volunteer effort similar to "adopt-a-highway" programs in North America. A volunteer subscribes to the RSS feed for a problematic tag and spends some time re-tagging questions as they pop up. It doesn't have to be one person per tag. When I participated in adopt-a-highway I was on a team that got together regularly to go clean up our section of the road and we'd make a social event out of it.

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