We had a conversation in chat about the next few contest topics. We all agreed that a tag connected to Asian cuisine would be a good idea. But we were undecided about the exact scope. If we include geographic Asia, this would mean that the contest covers a wide range of cuisines, including several which people don't connect with Asian cooking, such as Turkish cuisine. The proposal that we center on cuisines of the Far East was generally accepted, but it carries the difficulty of a concise definition.

  • Saying "Oriental cuisine" is hard, because in several English-speaking regions, the word has negative connotations and can be seen as a racial slur
  • Saying that tags should be given on a country level and defining a list of countries which we accept presents us with an organizational problem - Laura would have to manually track all the tags. Two or three tags would be acceptable, but not more.
  • Saying "Far east cuisine" or some other invention of ours is problematic, because the people who write questions for the contest would have to look up an arbitrary definition created by us.
  • Saying "Chinese cuisine" only leaves us way too focused. We want to attract more questions with this content. It makes sense to have a broad enough topic, for example one which covers Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean...

So, we are faced with two decisions.

  1. Which countries' cuisines do we want to cover for a single contest? Is Indian & co sufficiently different from Chinese & co to warrant its own week? Or should we lump everything geographically belonging to Asia together?
  2. Which tag or tags should be used for the contest, such that they cover the cuisines we want, and don't make it confusing or hard for the askers or for Laura?

I mostly agree with rfusca's response but I'd like to add one really important factor for consideration.

I too, originally, wanted to see firm boundaries put around the contest, because I'd seen some bad things happen with similar contests on other SEs, for example Android. But after our first week on , it became apparent to me that I was looking at it completely the wrong way. Specifically:

  1. The sites that did have serious quality problems with their contests made some fairly serious errors in their process, in particular by (a) offering far too valuable a prize and (b) trying to jam every under-represented subject/tag into the same contest. By the time the contest came to Seasoned Advice, the promo team had already figured this out.

  2. Our problem is very obviously a shortfall of questions rather than any unusually low quality. Our contest questions have historically tended to be fine, at least relative to the quality of our questions in general. What we have a much harder time with is getting people to participate. Part of that is our inability to really promote the contest, but regardless of the reasons, it means that arbitrary and unnecessary restrictions are invariably a bad thing.

We just don't need to be this anal-retentive about our contests. Not at this point, anyway. That's what happened with the contest, there were initially a number of debates about what the tag should include/exclude but ultimately things went most smoothly when most of us said: what the f*** ever, we'll accept any reasonable definition for the purposes of the contest. We held up just fine.

We should worry about these little ambiguities and cultural differences when and only when we start to see a noticeable decline in quality and/or there are just too many "out there" contest questions to manage. That is not presently an issue, so please, let's just forget about it.

Creating the tag wiki is great and should be done before every contest. But let's follow the same principle as we've been following up to this point - that any reasonable interpretation of the term is fine for the purposes of the contest. We only remove the tag if the question either isn't about any kind of Asian cuisine or if the link is a tenuous one (e.g. a generic question about rice or noodles).

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    +1 completely - its about getting questions, not trying to fit people into some arbitrary definition of the contest. – rfusca Mar 3 '12 at 4:00
  • That sort of defeats the purpose of the tag, though. Ideally, an expert in Chinese-influenced ("Asian") cuisine could follow that tag, to see questions he/she is qualified to answer. I don't think a tag so broad there are no more experts in it than cuisine in general is useful. I don't mind an unfocused contest, but please lets keep tags focused. – derobert Mar 5 '12 at 22:46
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    To explain what I meant what I started the question: I am not afraid what effect the tags will have on the contest, I am afraid what effect the contest will have on the tag (possibly turning it into a meta-tag). I think this is in line with what @derobert says here. – rumtscho Mod Mar 5 '12 at 22:54
  • Also, I suggest looking at chat starting with rfusca's question for a discussion... – derobert Mar 5 '12 at 23:10
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    @derobert: If the contest really does muddy the tag (which seems incredibly unlikely), we can pretty easily clean up the tag afterward. What we can't do easily is fix a botched contest due to definition disputes. – Aaronut Mar 6 '12 at 0:17
  • @Aaronut I have no problem with us having a contest for all questions geographically Asian. Define the contest that way. Then we can just look at the question received (its not like there are that many) and add tags to the list as needed. – derobert Mar 6 '12 at 18:03

Whatever tag or set of tags we use, its they need to have tag wikis explaining how we use them on this site.

For example, if we use to mean Chinese-influenced cuisine, the summary needs to say that, and list the major ones (China, Japan, Vietnam). The long description needs to list the rest of them, and it'd be nice if described the characteristics of said cuisine.

Its far easier to write a sentence explaining our particular use of a tag, especially where there are multiple valid meanings one could guess, rather than trying to find the perfect word to describe it.

  • This seems tangential to the actual question though. – rfusca Mar 3 '12 at 3:30
  • @rfusca It's an answer to decision #2 (which tag to use). – derobert Mar 3 '12 at 7:40

We already have the [asian-cuisine] tag and I say we use it. If its defined by Asia, geographically, then I think its fine there. If we get some Indian or turkish food questions, we can also tag them more specifically, but its not like questions about Indian or Turkish food are going to hurt.

I say we go with the existing [asian-cuisine] tag, defined geographically and not really worry about if we get a Japanese cuisine question and an Indian cuisine question and be happy we got two questions.

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    Thank you. Seriously, who cares if we get a tiny handful of questions that aren't "traditional" Asian cuisine. The point of these contests are to generate good questions around a general theme. This whole discussion is infuriatingly nit-picky and any solution other than using the established and well-known term is just going to scare people away. If we get a few questions on Turkish cuisine, great, that's under-represented here anyway. – Aaronut Mar 2 '12 at 20:00
  • If we decide to use asian-cuisine in that manner, its hard to see there being an expert in it, any more than you could have an expert in cuisine. It'd be over-broad. – derobert Mar 3 '12 at 7:39
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    @derobert: I don't agree with that at all. Not sure what it's like where you live, but over here there are tons of pan-Asian restaurants, and I own a few pan-Asian cookbooks. It's not uncommon at all to find them all grouped together, despite the difference between regions. Of course, this is often trading breadth for depth, but that's OK. – Aaronut Mar 6 '12 at 4:05
  • @Aaronut Well, I have cookbooks that cover worldwide. And there are certainly restaurants that cook dishes from all over. But I don't think a earth-cuisine is useful. Those restaurants you mention, I've seen some—but they also serve European and American dishes. They're generalists, not really experts in any cuisine. Tags let people who do choose depth focus on areas where they've acquired lots of knowledge. – derobert Mar 6 '12 at 18:11
  • @derobert eh, you're really reaching here. Amazon has a whole category on it, and it's not a small one. It's even broken down further into specific cuisine categories: Thai, Indian, Chinese, Pacific Rim, Vietnamese, and Japanese (and whatever the "wok cookery" handwavery means). – Aaronut Mar 6 '12 at 18:48
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    @Aaronut Amazon also doesn't include Turkish, Russian, Middle East, etc. which are geographically Asia. Amazon also considers Mexican a region on the same drill-down level as Asian. Amazon is aimed at the layperson finding a book, not around any particular culinary reason. – derobert Mar 6 '12 at 18:58
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    @derobert: I find this all a very silly and nitpicky argument. If you need to narrow it down to a specific geographical region then call it "Southeast Asia", which is what just about everybody (including Amazon) already means when they say "Asian cuisine". But put the nitpicking in the tag wiki and use some weasel word like "predominantly" to cover our butts, don't change the tags. – Aaronut Mar 6 '12 at 20:44
  • @aaronut - I find the whole thing silly. – rfusca Mar 6 '12 at 20:52

I like the idea of the contest being about a single topic. The criterion by which we are defining the topic should make culinary sense for a cook. Even when there is a definition/clustering criterion which is easy to apply, if it doesn't make sense in culinary terms, it is not suited for our goals.

Therefore, I think that we shouldn't go with a purely geographical solution. It is easy to handle, but doesn't make much sense. While there is no clear divide between cuisines and many dishes get swapped across borders, it is still possible to cluster Asian cooking into different cuisines. Tags are here because they let people with a specific skill set easily find questions they are interested in. I feel that most people who are skilled in cooking Chinese have little experience with cooking Indian, and vice versa. And the cuisines of Turkey, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Russia are completely different from both Chinese and Indian. There aren't many people who specify in all of these at once.

This means that, if we are looking for a good cluster of cuisines, we should go for high cohesion within a cluster and loose coupling between clusters. Then we can have a topic which makes sense on its own and doesn't cover disparate skills or knowledge not likely to be found at one place. An umbrella "Asian" tag doesn't satisfy this part.

In fact, this is similar to the way the tag is currently used. Out of 64 questions, 3 are Indonesian and 2 are Indian. The rest is consistent with the cluster of nations I propose. It is also consistent with the usual understanding of "Asian" cooking - when I say "I will go to the Asian grocer", I expect that they will have rice wine and seaweed sushi wrappers, but not lamb legs for Turkish cooking or chopped buckwheat for Russian porridge. Making the contest about any geographically Asian country will prompt people to include the tags in questions which wouldn't normally receive it, which reduces the usefulness of tags and should be avoided.

I see a tag clustered around Chinese cuisine as the best one. Vietnamese, Korean, etc. are close enough to be considered together with it. Probably Japanese too, although they are more specific from a culinary point of view. Other, less common cuisines from the same geographic region (e.g. Mongolian) can be added, because I think they are similar enough. In the future, we can make new contests for Indian & co and for Middle Eastern cuisines.

I admit that I don't have a great naming solution for this cluster. I see a newly created tag as the least evil. is slightly cumbersome, but it overlaps enough with common usage to be intuitively understood by most people. The ones who are not completely sure if their question about Thai should fall under the tag or not, can read the community wiki. After all, it is the purpose of community wiki to tell us not what is the dictionary definition of a term, but what questions should be asked under that term. Which implies that it is OK and even wanted for us to define community-specific meanings of terms. And given the low volume of questions, mistagged questions will be retagged easily enough by the moderators. So nobody will miss their chance to win the contest because they left out a far-east tag on their question about Korean food, for example.

  • This kinda fits with rfusca's answer too: define contests in terms of good cluster of (Chinese/Thai/... south-east) cuisine, end up using the asian-cuisine tag, and just make sure that we tag questions as Indian cuisine if appropriate, and exclude those from the contest. – Cascabel Mod Mar 2 '12 at 18:31
  • If you 5 out of 64 are the ones you're 'worried about' - I'd say let it be and just use the asian tag. – rfusca Mar 2 '12 at 18:40
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    Terrible. I thought we already debated this to death in chat. "Far east cuisine" is not a real phrase and there's no way I want to see a contest preceded with some sort of mass retag/tag merge, in order to push some artificial nit-picky definition nobody actually uses. – Aaronut Mar 2 '12 at 19:59
  • @Aaronut I didn't propose a mass retag on old questions. We can use another word which describes the region better, if you can think of one. By now, I am not even sure that Oriental is derogatory, it was disputed. – rumtscho Mod Mar 2 '12 at 20:28
  • @rfusca I am not worried about the 5 old questions. I am worried about the fact during the contest, people will think of a dozen or more new questions which would have never gotten the asian tag before, but will be tagged this way now for the contest, against common understanding of the word. Which will muddle the tag. – rumtscho Mod Mar 2 '12 at 20:30
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    Considering the fact that they are in asia and there's not a specific cuisine for what you consider 'asian cuisine' - I don't see it as muddled. – rfusca Mar 2 '12 at 20:33
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    No one would ever find the tag 'cuisine of the far east' so it would never get used. we already have a serviceable tag. – yossarian Mar 3 '12 at 15:24

I am adding another answer, because it contains a different suggestion and should be up- and downvoted independently.

My reasoning and conclusion about the correct cluster is the same as in the other answer. What I would do differently is the tagging solution.

I think that we could declare next week to be East Asian week, and then give a long list of the tags relevant for the contest, one per national cuisine. This is not confusing for the askers - anybody who asks about a Vietnamese dish should know enough to tag it . The problem with this approach is only that Laura finds it hard to keep track of all relevant questions with the new tags. As it is my proposal to use this list, I don't think that Laura should have the disadvantage of dealing with it. Therefore, I propose that I make the list of relevant questions and send it to Laura to run it through the random generator. To make the whole transparent, I can make the list publicly accessible, e.g. in a Google docs document, or paste it here on Meta, so everybody can check that I included the correct questions and everybody had a fair chance of winning.

  • -1 - I don't think you should have to guess if you question will be 'accepted'. – rfusca Mar 2 '12 at 18:39
  • Shouldn't be hard to get a list of questions—see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/102484/search-for-2-tags-or – derobert Mar 2 '12 at 18:55
  • @rfusca: I'm not sure why you'd have to guess if it'd be accepted, it'd be clear from checking the list of cuisines included in the contest post. – derobert Mar 2 '12 at 18:58
  • 'Guess' was a poor word choice, but I just really don't think 10 tags or something is a good idea. – rfusca Mar 2 '12 at 19:00
  • It's not that it's "too hard" to track multiple tags (you can filter questions by tag) so much as fulfilling the goal of the contest. I feel like if I'm tracking more than 3-5 tags per week, that means we've picked too broad a topic; the point is to have a focus each week, and it seems like a topic that needs more than 5 tags is not very focused. – Laura Mar 2 '12 at 23:10
  • It is obvious that asian-cuisine, if interpreted geographically, is a much broader topic than Chinese influenced cuisine or whatever we would call our list. It is also the way the Asian tag has been used until now; however, we saw in at least two contests that people started adding the contest tag to questions only remotely connected to the topic, which would never have gotten the tag without the contest. So, if we use the Asian tag without further qualification, it will lead to a very unfocused contest. – rumtscho Mod Mar 2 '12 at 23:54
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    Unfocused according to whom? This is a made-up problem as far as I'm concerned. Odds are that the contest would be as focused as the tag is now, with at least 90% focused on Chinese/Japanese/Thai and similar cuisines, and the rest being India and surrounding regions. I have several Asian cookbooks which include both; it's not a problem at all. – Aaronut Mar 3 '12 at 1:09
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    The issue in previous contests of people adding the tag to indirectly-related questions is a different issue entirely. Adding the [vegetarian] tag to a tofu question or the [bread] tag to a banana question is not the same at all as using [asian-cuisine] on a question about Indian or even Turkish cooking. A more apt analogy would be adding [vegetarian] to a question about legumes, or [bread] to a question about flatbread or soda bread, both of which probably wouldn't have really upset anyone. – Aaronut Mar 3 '12 at 1:13

Just to make a different approach:

Perhaps we could make a tag for the contest, named or something like that. The tag would be applied to a question if three users agree it fits the contest. I don't think a new system is needed, there are quite a lot of users in chat, and there aren't that many questions in a contest, normally.

Doing it this way, Laura can easily see which questions are eligible. After the contest, the tag can be deleted.

(I don't know if you would consider this a meta tag or not, if so, feel free to downvote.)

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    I think this would be considered a meta-tag; I don't want to cannibalize the way the current tag system works by applying temporary meta tags. (Additionally, it's also possible that some people have unknowingly entered a contest because they happen to ask a question on that week's topic without seeing the contest announcement. I don't want to take away that fun, either. ;) – Laura Mar 2 '12 at 23:25

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