Alot was discussed tagging and retagging wise, and a few things changed this week on SE, so I'd like to recap and consolidate everything into one post, which can be used by those of us doing tagging and retagging work. If you have any disagreements with the content here-in, please post it as an answer, then the community will vote, and when they've spoken, we'll amend this document.

  • Tag synonym search was fixed.
    • Prior to yesterday, even if a tag was merged with another, a tag search for the synonym wouldn't instead do a search for the master.
  • Tag voting was clarified
    • Even when the community votes to synonymize a tag, that only fixes future instances. A merge needs to take place, which can currently only be done by a mod. Merge requests should still happen here in meta. Also, discussion tag removal and synonymization discussions are on-topic.
    • Here is th list of synonyms: https://cooking.stackexchange.com/tags/synonyms?tab=newest&filter=suggested You can can to it by doing any tag search, then clicking the "info" subtab of that search, then clicking the link to suggest a synonym. (Tedious, I know.)
  • Get rid of meta tags.
    • Read this post by Jeff Atwood on the official stance on meta tags. A lot is derived from our very own Aaronut. Kudos to him! The main points are:
      • From this point on, meta-tagging is explicitly discouraged.
      • These tags are useless: subjective, beginners, best-practices
      • If the tag can’t work as the only tag on a question, it’s probably a meta-tag.
      • If the tag commonly means different things to different people, it’s probably a meta-tag.
      • If a meta tag is the only tag on a question, retag it as untagged until you can come up with some better tags.
  • Plural vs. Non Plural
    • Plural should have preference unless a collective noun is more appropriate.
    • To make it easier to think about, use the tag in this sentence: "this question is about [tag-name]". It's obvious that "cookies" is better than "cookie". However, it's not so clear that "avocados" is better than "avocado".
    • I (Mike Sherov) am in the process of reversing these now, as I had originally goofed it.
  • Verb Tense
    • same "this question is about [tag-name]" applies... use "sautéing" and not "sauté"
  • American vs. British Spelling:
    • The most popular spelling should probably be used. However, not a ton of data is available at the moment.
    • Was already discussed on meta.stackoverflow.com and US English was declared as preference considering it was most likely to already be the most popular term.
    • Spelling really doesn't matter, because synonym tag search was fixed!
  • 1
    As plural is the preference for nouns, is there a preference for verbs? I'm of the opinion that it's better to use '-ing' form, eg 'sauteing' over 'saute', as it's more clear that it's a process, particularly when it might also be another 'browning' vs. 'brown'. On exception is when we're taking about a finished item rather than the process itself (eg, 'enamalized' or 'anodized' as we're not talking specifically about the process used in making the pans)
    – Joe
    Aug 7, 2010 at 14:58
  • @Joe: I agree 100% with your statements for verbs.
    – Aaronut
    Aug 7, 2010 at 15:12
  • Also just a point about synonyms - it appears that the search mapping is only fixed for single-tag searches. That probably takes care of 90% of issues but the primary tag does still matter a little. At the very least, it's the one that actually shows up on the tag page.
    – Aaronut
    Aug 7, 2010 at 15:15
  • Good summary. Thanks for putting this up.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 7, 2010 at 16:59
  • @Joe I think using the -ing form is definitely the way to go. Short verbs (cut, bake, fry, freeze) just don't have the same clarity and obvious connection to word as a method or technique.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 7, 2010 at 17:01
  • @Mike: I modified the sentence, hopefully it makes it easier to understand. I don't see how [avocado] might be better than [avocados]. The latter seems much more appropriate to me. This is probably because I changed the sentence a bit. My opinion is that the sentence should be in this form, but feel free to revert it if you think the other form is better.
    – Senseful
    Aug 18, 2010 at 3:34

3 Answers 3


I think we should probably define some threshold guidelines on when we should accept discussion on tag removal/merging/synonymization. The recent explosion in tag topics has been rather overwhelming, confusing, and tedious to even participate in. Often I go to look at the tags under discussion and find that a full 3 things are tagged as such, if any at all.

Perhaps it might be best if we only accept discussion when say, at least 20 items have been tagged?

I find myself wanting to give input in some of these discussions, but the format/scope is often so chaotic and overwhelming that I just can't find the time. I'd prefer to spend 80% of my SE time contributing to the parent site. The format of presenting 50+ tags and reasons to merge/synonymize/remove/whatever is difficult to respond to because you basically have to type a small essay in response. I think there's a reasonable line between 1 tag per question and 50 tags per question that can be found.

  • The reason I posted this question was to consolidate and finalize the tag discussion for now. You raise some good points here. Aug 7, 2010 at 21:56
  • The desire to minimize endless tag debate is a good one, but aren't tags which proliferate at the <20 level a part of the problem? Many of these random/off-topic tags should be stopped before that point, I would think.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 8, 2010 at 5:09
  • Re: tag discussion. It might be best to just leverage synonym voting and only use meta when there is a substantial dispute or question about a tag. Despite the abundance of talk, I think only a handful of tags are actually in dispute.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 8, 2010 at 5:12

Update on the re-tagging:

I was going through the list to deal with the plural/non-plural issues, and many of them were defined as synonyms. Most modern search engines support stemming, so unless we're dealing with animals, where the plural term doesn't always start the same as the singular form, I don't know that we need synonyms.

The only problem is ... you have to delete the synonym, add the plural term as a valid tag, then do the bulk update ... which I'm not sure if it's updating the timestamps on the questions, pushing recent questions off of the front page.

Is there any way that we can get this done behind the scenes?

  • why would we not need synonyms? I don't understand your search engine statement.
    – hobodave
    Aug 8, 2010 at 18:45
  • @hobodave : stemming is when an indexer breaks a term down to its base 'stem'. So -'ing' and -'s' and the like are stripped off when building the index. Stemming is a bit of an art, as you also have to identify the language (eg, 'salami' is plural of 'salame', 'agenda' is plural of 'agendum', etc; most only work on a single language). Stemmers tend to have a problem with collective terms like gaggle (collective of geese) or sounder (collective of swine).
    – Joe
    Aug 10, 2010 at 2:27
  • @Joe: Ah. I don't think the search engine point of view is the one to have when justifying synonyms. A synonym prevents "egg" tags from being created and would force it to be "eggs" (if that were the master). This means you only have to track the "eggs" tag to see the questions, instead of both. All searching is a fulltext search, so tags and stems don't really matter there.
    – hobodave
    Aug 10, 2010 at 2:34
  • @hobodave : when you'll have to have 1500 rep to create 'egg' because everything's tagged as 'eggs' instead, it won't be an issue. Synonyms, as implemented, results in both accessors being available for tagging, which clutters up the list. (should I list it under 'egg' or 'eggs'? Maybe I should use both!)
    – Joe
    Aug 10, 2010 at 21:50
  • 1
    @Joe: I don't think you're understanding synonyms. Once a synonym is made any attempts to tag a question as anything but the master will implicitly convert it.
    – hobodave
    Aug 10, 2010 at 22:06
  • @hobodave : but the problem is that both exist in the list of valid tags for assignment; when they're so similar, it's pointless to have them both be valid tags in the system; therefore, the synonyms cause problems rather than help in these situations.
    – Joe
    Aug 11, 2010 at 2:58
  • 1
    @Joe: :-\ I really don't understand what you're saying.
    – hobodave
    Aug 11, 2010 at 3:08

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