I'm thinking of organizing something big. This is the last match, and I'd try my hardest to finally beat tags. This post might be the first of the many to come.

We need to know what we want our tags to be, this time step by step.

The main question of this series of posts is What kind of classification is deemed useful here?. We might come up with several categories, and that's fine. What that matters is to reduce overlap in the areas they cover to a minimum, and coming up with a system that's agile enough to allow for new tags yet comprehensive enough to cover the existing questions satisfyingly. The main question of this post is

Are distinctions such as [word-], [sentence-], etc. useful? In other words, is inferior in any way to ?

Notably, doesn't tell me much that already doesn't. None of the tags help searchability a lot, and I reckon anyone that lands on a question is coming from Google.

  • What is the record to date in the ongoing series DEAD v tags? Also, I tremble when I see a tag named "tags." It forebodes the creation of the tagged-as-tags tag and then we are merrily down the rabbit hole into a maze of twisty little passages, all alike... Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 1:46
  • Is there a doc somewhere that explains the SE tag architecture generally? What I wonder is: would a hierarchical system be practical, maybe? (e.g. under english are NAmE and indian-english etc.) Also, might not this effort founder on the shoals of factionalism? (e.g. clause No! it's a fremilac!) Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 1:55
  • 1
    @P.E.D there is no "architecture". It's merely like cloth tags, and in the case of SO it's a very simple feature that works very well. But that's there. There is already a meta.SE proposal about tag hierarchies but since the implementation would primarily affect SO and this isn't such a good idea there we don't have an official response on that request. I remember we discussed how useful tag hierarchies can be for ELL on chat some time ago.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


To me, the primary function of tags is to facilitate a fruitful search by the quærent, and secondarily, by the respondent. Not a Google search; an internal search. It seems to me that this ideal founders now on two reefs: anyone can tag a question with any tag (e.g. Is this sentence stylistically correct? (not grammatically)) and anyone can create a tag of their very own (as long as it doesn't contain an apostrophe.)

Of course, all my answer does so far is to rephrase the second clause of the italicized sentence in your question. In answer to Are distinctions such as [word-], [sentence-], etc. useful? I can say that to me, they have the potential to be useful, but any potential usefulness depends upon first eliminating the two problems I cite above.

Unless tag creation, usage and content are somehow governed by a policy and that policy enforced upon users, chaos is unavoidable. Imposing order on chaos requires The Authority. Is there one? If there isn't one, would The Authority have to be created?

  • Tag creation is a privilege and has a prompt as well. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 22:46
  • As far as The Authority, it's enforced almost entirely by direct peer review (in the informal sense, not the queue sense) — editors can and do fix mistaken tags, remove tags that are of no use, and so forth. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 22:47
  • @NathanTuggy True, but the bar is low at 300. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 22:47
  • Not that low. It's not something anyone can do first thing on the site; they have to gain at least 200 rep (and at least 200 rep on another SE site with similar mechanisms, or simply 300 rep here) before they can start throwing tags willy-nilly. That's far from an absolute bar, but it's not really trivial either. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 22:51
  • @NathanTuggy I wonder if this is an instance in which the peer model is not authoritarian enough. If tags are to be useful in the way that DEAD seems to want (and not just DEAD) then it seems to me that a more traditional editorial process is required. The constantly rotating population of peers makes this problematic, of course, but something like a "tag working group" could consider new tags. Membership in the TWG comes at N rep, and participation in N decisions is required to retain the privilege. (Just blue-skying here, don't apply the scalpel yet!) Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 22:55

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