So, the first 100 or so edits are all updated last by me. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a semi-organized checking/adding of tags on old questions. It has the side-effect of kicking up primarily answered threads for new eyes, although that wasn't the intention.

  • In the future please solicit community input before you edit hundreds of questions.
    – hobodave
    Jul 31, 2010 at 20:45
  • Who exactly comprises the "community"? I was of the impression we all were part of the community even if some have higher rep points than others. It seems Ocassi is trying to be helpful. From a user's standpoint, the rules here are not so clear.
    – apaderno
    Jul 31, 2010 at 20:55
  • We are the community. It's not a rule, but a polite request.
    – hobodave
    Jul 31, 2010 at 21:20
  • @hobodave. I'm fine with the edits. I made a hundred or so, then left a note explaining the changes. I thing they're primarily beneficial, maybe very. Again, you have a way of suggesting someone (me) is doing something they shouldn't that makes them (me) kind of wish they hadn't spent effort trying to improve the site. I don't necessarily disagree with your point, but I am inclined to look elsewhere for guidance when I find your approach a bit off-putting. I engaged fully with Aaronut to discuss the details, below. You're welcome to join in that discussion.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 1, 2010 at 3:44
  • @Ocaasi: I don't know how to say that any politer. It was also mentioned in Aaronut's answer below. The discussion you are referring to is regarding how to tag, which I'm not prepared to take part in.
    – hobodave
    Aug 1, 2010 at 5:59
  • And just to make it clear, I do appreciate your efforts in tidying things up. I didn't feel that they weren't beneficial at all. I just think it would be beneficial to discuss such grand undertakings before getting underway. You would have found out that moderators can do this quite easily without bumping everything, and likely had the discussions that are now occurring regarding how to tag which could have made your job simpler, and likely with some assistance.
    – hobodave
    Aug 1, 2010 at 6:59
  • @ hobodave. I didn't intend to disrupt your active-thread workflow. Indeed, that bumping problems remains with re-tagging efforts, even from mod-Joe. Having discussions before doing something productive can be a drag on initiative. It didn't seem particularly controversial to add tags (usually a somewhat undesired task), so I went ahead with the changes. Now the details are being hashed out. It seems little harm was done, so maybe I don't understand why the decision bothered you.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 1, 2010 at 18:52

2 Answers 2


First of all - thank you, it's great to have people committed to keeping the site clean.

That said, there are a couple of things you should know:

  • First off, if you ever need to retag a lot of questions, diamond mods have the ability to perform mass retags that don't bump the questions. So, if you're retagging enough questions that it's starting to get tedious, you should submit a retag request here on this meta.

  • Second, please don't add "meta tags", and please actually remove them if you see them. One example I noticed in your edits is homemade. I don't think that this tag has any semantic value. When you create a new tag or add one that's rarely-used, the question you should be asking yourself is: Can there be an "expert" on this subject? In other words, will it help somebody decide whether or not they can answer the question?

    There are likely to be those who are extremely knowledgeable about grilling, or about chicken, or even about specific foods like taffy. On the other hand, tags like fail, cost, comparisons, or recipe-problems are superfluous; they don't tell us anything about the question and nobody is going to search specifically for them. They also don't tell you anything about the question that's not obvious from the title.

Basically, tags are not "keywords". Yes, they exist to aid searching, but a very specific kind of searching, namely the category search. The site search and Google search are both full-text searches, so if a tag doesn't represent a category of question that anybody would search for in isolation, don't create the tag.

People can feel free to vote this response down if they disagree, but this is how it's always been on the trilogy sites and all of the other Stack Exchange betas. Meta-tags like subjective and beginner and best-practices have always been a major sore spot for those sites, and only a very small number of such tags are tolerated.

I realize that our current tags don't set a very good example - we have other unhelpful meta-tags like technique at the top of the list - but these need to go too. In fact, I'm about to put in a formal request to zap all of these tags.

So again, please don't take this the wrong way - I (we) really, seriously appreciate you taking all the time to do this, and most of the edits you made were great and helpful, but we all need to start being a little more conservative about tags, because it's starting to look like a mess.

Thanks again!

  • I'm intentionally avoiding giving any input on the "what makes a good tag". That said +1. I was very annoyed last night when the most recent 100+ questions were all victims of Ocaasi's tagging zeal. I didn't say anything because clearly the intent was good. 99% of my usage of this site is the active questions tab. Please let diamond mods do this in the future.
    – hobodave
    Jul 31, 2010 at 20:42
  • It is not my fault that the stackexchange software bumps whole posts when nothing changes but a minor edit to a tag. When I realized that was happening, I left the note for further discussion. I doubt you really want to discourage "zealous" users from attempting to improve the site.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 1, 2010 at 3:51
  • @Ocaasi: I know it's not your fault. This question's come up on MSO too, we've asked for a feature to perform non-bumping edits. I was on the "yes, please implement" side myself, but this actually highlights one of the detractors' arguments, which is that bumping the questions makes any questionable edits highly visible to other users. The general consensus has been to "throttle" tag edits to no more than 10-25 or so in an hour, and if it's more than 50 edits, notify the community first and request a mass retag if possible.
    – Aaronut
    Aug 1, 2010 at 13:42
  • And @Ocaasi, I want to repeat for the record that I (and hopefully others) really do appreciate what you're doing; it's just that people who are a little newer to the Stack Exchange system may need a lesson or two in how. As with so many features and "community standards", this isn't particularly well-documented and so it's expected that we'll have a few missteps until there's enough critical mass to make the site self-moderating. We just fix it and move on.
    – Aaronut
    Aug 1, 2010 at 13:45
  • Hopefully we can get back to content issues quickly. I just want to respond that my lack of experience with stackexchange 'specifically' doesn't reflect a lack of experience with online communities, information organization, of tagging. Maybe I don't have the "wrong" approach, but simply one that reflects my general experience from other websites. The SO community's experience would take some precedence, but I'm not convinced all of the approaches will carry over into every area, especially one as broad and popular as food&cooking.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 1, 2010 at 19:13
  • @Ocaasi: If you're not convinced, that's great, feel free to put forth whatever arguments you have here on the meta, we'll hear them. Just please don't do mass retags or any sort of mass edits without taking it up with other members beforehand. This is one of the few situations on Stack Exchange sites where we don't encourage people to just do whatever they think is best, because it's difficult to undo without causing further headaches.
    – Aaronut
    Aug 1, 2010 at 20:16
  • Maybe that was part of the confusion. I figured that at least at a mod-level, it would be fairly simple to take all of one tag and systematically a) remove it b)change it or c) consolidate it with another. Is that not the case?
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 1, 2010 at 21:22
  • @Ocaasi: Yes, but in this case you introduced a lot of new tags. If you'd brought the issue up beforehand, somebody would have probably (hopefully) mentioned that it's customary to only do this for one or two tags at a time.
    – Aaronut
    Aug 2, 2010 at 12:37
  • Yeah, I just didn't forsee a problem from what I thought would be more good tags (I also removed some bad ones, exchanged a few duplicates, etc.) Also, creating new tags is one of the easiest privileges to get (only 150 reputation points); maybe I got the inference it wasn't a big deal. As we've discussed in other threads, a more clear and prominent introduction to tagging policy will help, whatever its particulars.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 2, 2010 at 17:56

Great response.

1) I'm not so much re-tagging as adding more specific categories, like recipe-problem or shopping, if the question was about how to fix something, or where to purchase something.

2) Homemade is for products typically purchased at stores, not just anything home-cooked. Maybe there's a better tag for it. Not sure I see the need for expert designation on tags. For me it's just salient overlap. If a tag captures a group of questions with relevant similarities, I like it. But I might be missing something.

3) I think I disagree about 'recipe-problems' and 'comparisons'. People won't search for them, but people don't search much for tags anyway. If I'm not wrong, tags are mainly useful for the related menu. I didn't add 'cost' or 'fail', but I did use 'budget' and the aforementioned 'recipe-problems'. I think they're useful because they create a horizontal category that spans different types of situations with the same concern/goal. Budget, for example, could be about anything, but a user with little cash might find all of these entries useful.

4) Recipe-problems as well are "general", but they all share the very important characteristic of something in the cooking process that needs a fix. I find that inherently interesting, because there's so much to be gleaned from 'problem' situations.

I'll slow down the tagging until there's more consensus on this, but I personally think there's a lot of use in meta and idiosyncratic tags. My bigger concern is with tag replication (recipe/recipes, comparison/comparisons/food-differences) My general advice would be to wait on any tag overhaul until after beta with more data.

Just to be clear, my interest in tagging wasn't clean-up so much as usefulness. So I was much less concerned about too many tags than too few useful or interesting ones.

  • 1
    Simply because two questions share something in common does not mean that they need to share a tag. This is precisely the reason questions are hard-limited to 5 tags - so that people can't go crazy and try to stuff every single imaginable keyword in there. People do search for tags, especially when the site scales, and if we don't nip this in the bud now, people will become accustomed to using these sorts of tags and it will be impossible to extricate ourselves from them later.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 19:04
  • I do completely agree on the point of tag replication, and the solution for that is (a) manual retags for now, (b) moderator retag requests if they build up, and (c) tag synonyms if it gets totally out of control. Again, I really do appreciate that there are those such as you committed to the less glamorous aspects of this site, and please just keep in mind that tags are supposed to be semantic rather than cosmetic.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 19:05
  • 1
    Please also see here on How do I correctly tag my questions? - especially the point in the accepted answer that starts with "Don't try to summarize your question using the tags."
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 19:24
  • I agree with the stickiness problem--that patterns established now will be hard to break later--I just don't see the same problem you do with some of those situations. I'd 'like' to have recipe-problems as a consistent tag; that's why I started at the beginning of the stack. There's obviously more to discuss with this, maybe it needs to be done on a more tag-specific basis with some other input from editors and mods.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 31, 2010 at 19:32
  • Search is remarkable because it allows a proliferation of different categories without having to worry about getting lost among them; search finds. I agree that 5 tags is a reasonable limit. I choose the 5 best (if there are that many), starting with the most specific and subjectively useful/interesting. Maybe you can explain some of the downsides better, because I'm not characterizing the situation as you are.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 31, 2010 at 19:34
  • @Ocaasi: Please note the "interesting tags" and "ignored tags" features on the front page. That is the most common and most important use of tags on a busy SE site. The next most common is to do a tag search on the site. The last is to actually subscribe to a specific tag through an RSS feed. In other words, in order for a tag to be useful, somebody has to want to either follow it or ignore it. A lot of this is explained better in the FAQ I linked to in the previous comment.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 19:38
  • I read the link but find mixed ideas. One user commented, and I agree: "At some point too, we're going to have to tackle the tricky issue of what to do with a question specific to php 5.2.5 which will then need to be tagged with "php", "php-5", "php-5.2", and "php-5.2.5" - great, 1 free tag! Unless more implicit info is stored somewhere, this will be a problem (I've already seen similar examples; take a look at the number of posts with "sql", "server", "sqlserver", "sqlserver2008"...)" Over time, more specific is better, and a mix is best.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 31, 2010 at 19:45
  • This is from the answer, and I agree aswell: "You are limited to 5 tags, and you are generally better off trying to use all 5 of them." I 'disagree' that broad tags are better. At least one broad tag is necessary but after that, specific/useful/interesting tags seem the way to go. 5 tags is a lot, and easily leaves room for both kinds in most cases anyway. Broad tags are not always great when those categories inflate to the hundreds/thousands of queries.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 31, 2010 at 19:47
  • @Ocaasi: Specificity of tags is an entirely separate issue. An analogy for this site might be a [fruit] tag with an [apples] "sub-tag." Or a [knife-skills] tag with a [mincing] sub-tag. That's not the same as pulling keywords out of the question and chucking them in as tags.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 20:42
  • 1
    An example of a really useful set of the full 5 tags might be a question about how to season the meat in a Thai beef curry recipe by tagging it [beef], [curry], [asian-cuisine], [thai-cuisine], and [spices]. All of those are tags that describe an area of expertise and that somebody might actually follow, and it demonstrates the "1 general + 1 specific" tag combination.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 31, 2010 at 20:50
  • Yeah, we might be discussing straw men here, because I generally added tags which fit the description you are making. The exception is tags about budget, recipe-fixes, and food comparisons, which I still think can be useful. The bigger issue seems to be a technical one: that the site won't let me make the kinds of improvements to tags without bumping threads. If there's a way around that, my edits would probably be a non-issue or no more than a jumping off point for minor tag consolidation issues.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 1, 2010 at 3:50
  • Tagging is by nature a chaotic and uncoordinated enterprise. The most commonly used tags rise to the top. It's a distributed evolutionary organization scheme. It's not supposed to require excessive moderation or instruction. That doesn't mean regular cleanup can't help consolidate tags, but by nature they are "subjective". If you really want users to follow strict instructions, it's probably better to just remove the tagging capability from anyone but mods.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 1, 2010 at 3:54
  • @Ocaasi: You actually have a good point with the evolutionary point. And that is why you should be careful with massive re-tagging. If it's only you that see point in using a particular tag, maybe that tag is not so meaningful to a lot of people.
    – awe
    Sep 7, 2011 at 6:03

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