People often think that because there's a nutrition tag, nutrition questions are on topic. So:

  • Are there any on-topic questions which can be described by but not ?
  • Is there another better name? is good because it clarifies that we only discuss what things contain, not what effect they have on your health.
  • I propose [nutritional-properties] Dec 23, 2013 at 11:29
  • 1
    @BaffledCook The problem with that is that people will probably regard "makes you healthier" as a property, and still misunderstand.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 23, 2013 at 14:32
  • Good point. I say no more. Dec 25, 2013 at 11:19

3 Answers 3


Alternative proposal 2

This has bugged me for a long time. I recently had yet another problem with a brand new user genuinely misunderstanding the tag (described under Alternative proposal 1)and a title of a new question asked today showed a possible solution.

I think we can rename it to . The change is subtle, but I think it is important to the perception of inexperienced users faced with the tag for the first time. The words "nutrients" and "nutrition" are closely related, but I think that the second suggests a much more holistic concept of "being healthy", while the first one also has a strong association with the stuff which makes up food. The "composition" part is there basically for the same reason that Jefromi's "content" is, but to my feel of the language, "composition" is much more suggestive of a value-free analysis of the food's components. I don't know exactly why it sounds this way to me, possibly because we are bombarded with marketing messages which say "Contains no fat" or "Contains three important vitamins", but never hear "It is composed of 0% fat" in the context of the "eat healthy" propaganda.

  • I think nutrient-composition sounds better? But otherwise, yes, moving farther from the nutrition tag sounds great.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Sep 24, 2014 at 15:19
  • Hi Jefromi. I was waiting for your input before doing anything, because you had the idea first. But now I'm confused, the opinion seems to be roughly split between renaming and deleting. Maybe trying the rename first, and if it continues to create misunderstanding, delete?
    – rumtscho Mod
    Sep 24, 2014 at 18:05
  • We all know it's not a perfect solution, but it has my vote. Personally (see the recent discussion in chat: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/17826718#17826718), in a perfect world, I'd rather delete the tag altogether. But, that opens the door to a whole different kind of ambiguity. At least this way (changing to nutrients-composition ) leaves it easier to change later.
    – Jolenealaska Mod
    Sep 25, 2014 at 7:46
  • ...or nutrient, whatever.
    – Jolenealaska Mod
    Sep 25, 2014 at 7:53

Alternative proposal 1 (and background)

I recently had this happen (screenshot from deleted answers):

user conversation

This user probably thinks we are a bunch of jerks, or at least that I am a jerk instituting arbitrary rules. And I totally understand why - indeed, after this interaction, it would be very surprising if he thought anything else. And you know what? I hated to see him go, and he will probably never return.

He came, and added what, from his point of view, was a valuable contribution. He put some effort into it, writing a well-formulated text, and added a link to a source. He acted like a good member of the community, as he could not know our unusual stance towards nutrition questions. Indeed, if it hadn't been for that rule, I'd say his post was better than 90% of the first posts we get. And besides, it is one of the cases where the post does not seem to have the potential to cause harm by itself; I thought of leaving it there, but from bitter experience, it would only have created a precedent for other users arguing that, if that nutritional post is allowed, we cannot close their own what-is-good-for-you posts just because they are about nutrition. And they'd have a point.

I deleted with a very curt message, because I was at work and had no time to explain more. The user came back, noticed what had happened, and re-posted the answer, this time adding that the presence of the tag tells him that we do, in fact, deal with nutrition questions. It impressed me that he did enough research to find that tag, and also that he politely reposted the answer together with an argument for it, without showing any aggression. But the main point was: I had to explain to the poor guy that, we do indeed have a tag called "nutrition", but it is not used to label what most people expect under "nutrition". This is quite surreal to first-time visitors, and it is understandable if it leaves them confused and angry, and they decide to never come back to this (from their perspective) strange and hostile site.

Tags are indeed an important part of our site, and having content tagged correctly enhances finding the right information, which is one of the reasons why we are useful to people. So I normally support having a tag for a distinct category of questions. But I feel that this case is a real exception. Because of the unfortunate circumstances of our tag covering only "the part of nutrition which is not forbidden by our rules", and this fact being completely hidden from users who trust the tags, it does more harm than good.

Renaming it would be a good solution, but as Aaronut points out, anything which is close enough to "nutrition" will suffer from the same problem as the current tag. So, maybe we have to admit that completely removing the tag is the least bad solution available.

The downsides of the tag removal would be: - we couldn't easily find the questions which are related to nutrition. But maybe this also has a silver lining: if people search for "nutrition" first, and don't find good results, they might be more inclined to believe that we don't deal with nutrition. - we may end up with questions completely without tags. I hope that these will be isolated cases, and could be dealt with by the creation of tags which are not all that related to the main point of the question, for example labelling a "does vitamin C remain in kale after boiling" question with just "kale". It reduces the information richness of our content, but I think in this case, the loss is justifiable.

  • I say delete it and remove any possibility of misinterpretation. Sep 24, 2014 at 10:52
  • @rumtscho I've read this top to bottom and there doesn't seem to be any solution that will completely resolve the issue. I totally agree with deleting the "nutrition" tag. That said, I think that having a "nutrient-content" or "nutrient-composition" tag could work. Either way, there most likely will be questions that will be off topic but, by renaming, maybe valid questions wouldn't be completely discouraged, especially from newbies (like me). It would be impossible to predict or control an individual's perception or response but it seems better to go with the more user-friendly approach.
    – Cindy
    Sep 24, 2014 at 13:58
  • @CindyAskew thank you for your input. I wish I knew which approach will be more user-friendly :( But I think I will try the renaming first, it is easier to delete later if it doesn't work than trying to do it the other way round.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Sep 24, 2014 at 18:06
  • @rumtscho sounds like a good approach. You and Jefromi must have the patience of saints. I think what bothers me even more than the the off topic questions is the rudeness and lack of respect displayed by some.
    – Cindy
    Sep 24, 2014 at 19:18
  • @CindyAskew Thank you for the compliment. Compassion is like a muscle - it grows when exercised. And being a moderator gives us plenty of opportunity to strain ours a lot :) But in the end, that's what we are here for: to help the user, even when he is upset or just has an abrasive personality. It's our job to defuse conflicts, even if we have to absorb some unfair blows to do so. And in the end, nobody can browbeat anybody else into feeling respect; these people aren't going to change, so all we can do is to develop a thick skin, but also to understand them better. Getting to understand
    – rumtscho Mod
    Sep 24, 2014 at 19:36
  • the other person does wonders for reducing my own feeling of animosity over being unfairly attacked, even when I disagree with their view of the situation.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Sep 24, 2014 at 19:36
  • @rumtscho - I really understand it because for more years than I care to count, I've been in management. So I know how hard it can be to keep things in a certain perspective. Kudos to all of the moderators as you all do a great job. You've been very helpful to me as a newbie and I have a much better understanding of how things work on the site and why. :)
    – Cindy
    Sep 24, 2014 at 20:48

I'm OK with the rename, although going by past experience (e.g. with the renamed tag), I'm not sure if it will really have the effect that you intend.

Now, maybe "ingredient selection" was just not a good choice, but regardless, we renamed that tag from "ingredients" in the hope that people would stop using it as a generic tag for almost any food question, and particularly recipe requests. What ended up happening, and still happens, is:

  • People use for exactly the same thing they used for before; most likely, they just use the auto-complete and don't even pay attention to what it says; and

  • Several users who have enough reputation to know better, and unfortunately also have enough reputation to create new tags, end up recreating the old tag over and over again and we have to keep removing it. Again, just not caring or not paying attention.

So I'm just warning you that you may not see any improvement in the quality of questions. I think a lot of people will type "nutrition", see something that kinda sorta matches, and that'll be good enough for them until they get their question closed.

But as long as you don't mind the extra work - that is, keeping a watchful eye out for abuse of the new tag or recurrences of the old tag - then I think it's fine.

  • 1
    I agree, I don't think this will solve the problem. The main thing I'm trying to avoid is annoying the people who do take a quick look at the tag, then say, "Why'd you close my question? Why's there a nutrition tag if you don't take nutrition questions?"
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 26, 2013 at 17:09
  • @Jefromi: Is that the fault of the tag, or the person? I think we have to strike a balance between tag usability/discoverability and the occasional bit of confusion. We have a similar situation with the [equipment] tag - yes, we do allow questions about equipment, but not every question about it (repair, shopping, etc.) is on topic. That's what the tag excerpts and wikis are for - to explain what the appropriate uses of the tag are. If someone doesn't read it... well, no big deal really, we just close the question.
    – Aaronut
    Dec 26, 2013 at 17:20
  • 2
    A bit of both; I think it's understandable and unsurprising that some people just look for the tag name as confirmation, though. Sure, the excerpt/wiki should provide the full definition, but if there's a way to make looking at the tag name sufficient in more cases, why not do it?
    – Cascabel Mod
    Dec 26, 2013 at 17:27
  • Would it help to make the old tags ("nutrition", "ingredients") synonyms of the renamed tags? That way, at least they won't keep getting re-created every time a high-rep but inattentive user asks a question.
    – Marti
    Dec 28, 2013 at 14:19
  • @Marti: It would obviously eliminate recurrences of the old tags, but it would also pollute the new tag with irrelevant questions, since the whole idea of the rename was that the original tag was too broad. More often than not, the old tag simply needs to be removed, not renamed; blacklisting would be more useful, but not even moderators can edit the blacklist.
    – Aaronut
    Dec 28, 2013 at 16:11

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