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An interesting post came up on the bicyclying meta regarding tagging and whether the tags should indicate only the question, or the question and the solution.

It brought to mind the question about how to make savoury meringues on our site. This question is tagged [eggs][meringue], which is sufficient for the question and most of the answers. However, as of right now the highest rated answer is actually an answer that could add [vegan] to the tags.

How should tags be handled; as a question only base, or should highly rated answers include tags from the answers as well?

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Please do not add "answer tags" to the question unless there is clearly only a single correct answer to the question and the answer involves that topic. For example, a question on "How to prevent chocolate from melting at room temperature?" clearly implies tempering (we don't have or need a tag for tempering - this is just for illustrative purposes).

In all other cases, the addition of the tag may invalidate other answers or prevent other answers from being submitted. In this specific example, the addition of the [vegan] tag would imply that the question was trying to create a vegan meringue, which would confuse other readers and possibly induce them to downvote answers which were previously correct. Even if the vegan answer were the only existing answer, other people might notice the tag and decide not to submit their answers because they aren't vegan.

Generally speaking, any unorthodox use of the tagging system is liable to create more problems than it solves, as we've seen with meta-tags.

  • +1 @Aar The tags may confuse people who do not read the question, however they may also drive a new demographic of people to a question that would be uninteresting to them otherwise. I agree the implication of adding a vegan tag to a question about meringue is confusing, but it creates value whereas many tags are just valueless descriptors. Do you think there might be a way of combining both approaches or finding a middle way? – mfg Sep 22 '10 at 17:02
  • @mfg: You can try to reopen the Tags on answers feature request, but I don't think it's going to fly. – Aaronut Sep 22 '10 at 18:47
  • Agreed. FWIW, [vegan] is actually on my Ignored Tags list, if this question were tagged as such, I'd be unlikely to answer it. – hobodave Sep 22 '10 at 19:14
  • @hobo isn't that a failure on the part of the tagging system? I.E. say you LOVE real-time strategy games for PCs and have experience with a few dozen, but HATE Starcraft. A question comes up saying, "I love Starcraft, and really want to play more RTS Games, blah blah?"{[RTS][Starcraft][PC-games]} Is it a success that your filtering of tags makes you unlikely to answer that question, when your expertise would have been ideal? – mfg Sep 23 '10 at 13:37
  • @mfg: This is actually an old issue. I do think it would be good to be able to have interesting tags optionally take precedence over ignored tags, but it does add complexity and high-complexity features tend to get lumped into the "six to eight weeks" bucket. – Aaronut Sep 23 '10 at 14:40
  • from the comment made by ether, it sounds like were now talking about a feature request for an option to do exactly what you refer with 'optionally' by adding a check box to have uninteresting take precedence... and I've meandered far away from the original question, but thanks for the thoughts. (ps. added to the old issue because on that note i also dont think ignore tags should force the hand of interesting ones) – mfg Sep 23 '10 at 18:19
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I do think that the question's tags should be the most prominent. They are the construct around which interested contributors would have been driven to the question.

If you're only at 3/5 tags, it would probably be helpful still to add supplementary tags. For instance, if a question uses 2 tags, has a catch-all tag added for types of solutions; but the two top voted answers are a [specific-thing-x] and [specific-thing-y], go add both of those tags to give people interested in those tags situational awareness as to their 'interested tag.'

For the question on meringues in particular, I find a lot of value added in knowing that there is a vegan solution to making meringues. As long as the tags are hierarchical, this could add value to the tags in and of themselves. Personally, tags are my primary way of filtering the .SE sites.

  • *Please pardon me plagiarizing my own answer somewhat, but I am more invested in an answer for cooking.se than bicycling.se – mfg Sep 22 '10 at 14:39

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