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I was browsing through some of the lesser-used tags and came across many tags that were misused greatly due to either their lack of a description or to a low-quality description.

For example, with the "group" tag, you have a question like "How do I leave an iPhone group conversation from a non-iPhone?", which uses the group tag like this:

"Someone added her to a group conversation...".

And then you have questions like "How to resolve permissions errors on OS X Lion after Homebrew install" which uses "group" like this:

"Unix group..."

And you also have questions like "Utility to group windows for Mac OS X?" which use group like this:

"Is there a utility for Mac OS X that will group windows"

So in these three examples, you have three relatively different uses of the word group. I think that since the "group" tag is very generic and can be used in a multitude of situations, maybe it should be removed and more specific group-related tags created "Unix-group", "chat-group"/"group-conversation", etc. This would remove the ambiguity surrounding some questions with that tag.

Maybe there's a specific reason for allowing tags to be ambiguous that I'm not aware of, but to me it seems like we should either:

  1. Remove generic tags and create more specific tags that are related ("group" -> "unix-group" + "chat-group").
  2. Tag more accurately. For example, if I'm asking how to group windows, maybe I don't need to use a tag specifically dictating how I want to manage my windows; maybe I could just use a tag that's a little more general but not too broad like "window-management".
  3. Write specific descriptions for new tags. This way, if I'm thinking about using the "group" tag, I can read the description and see if it applies to my question.

Again, if there's a specific reason for this tag ambiguity, I'd like to know, but otherwise, I believe that one of my three proposals should be put into place. I'm not saying we don't already do this; on the contrary, we do a very good job at creating relevant tags with good descriptions, but for the future, we should consciously adopt a policy to further improve the quality of our tags.

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In the first example, subject to more review, it sounds like the tag is better off being deleted. Tags are not intended to be so specific. The group-conversation question is better off under something like , the rest should simply drop the tag.

It's not a matter of 'allowing' ambiguous tags, it's a matter of allowing users to fill in almost anything into the field provided they have 300+ rep, and cleanup only happens after the fact. The tag suggestions pop-up helps, only if the tag itself previously exists, has a description, and the user chooses to read it.

If you mean a technical policy wherein the user is brought to a tag-edit dialog immediately after their post their question, that is worse. Things like that drive users away from a site. And they can always close the window or click another link to bypass the screen.

I don't believe a policy of forcing users that create a tag to explicitly define it will help, primarily because when a user is focused on something like the content of their question, they'd likely describe the tag specific to their situation. There are a wide variety of cases such as where it applies to a handful of scenarios. The user could choose to talk explicitly about OS X Mail.app, or iOS Mail.app, when in reality it applies to any mail client, web mail sites, the act of transmitting mail, etc.

Bad data is just as bad, if not worse, than no data. I feel that the non-♦ users contributing tag edits lately are doing a great job maintaining quality. With the addition of the approval system to squeeze out the best possible improvements before approval, tags that are being maintained are consistently achieving high quality.

  • Thanks, great answer! Just one thing: I don't think I said "window-management" was too broad for my second example. I said that it was a fitting tag because it was "a little more general [then "group"] but not too broad". Anyway, thanks, I now understand better the tagging system. – pasawaya Aug 4 '12 at 8:59
  • Oh, I see. Yeah, English is weird and sometimes I just read it in the wrong direction. This was one of those cases. I've edited the relevant paragraph out of the post since I just plain agree with it. – Jason Salaz Aug 4 '12 at 9:17

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