We have some users going around specifically adding meta-tags to questions. I cannot fathom why, honestly. I thought we were very clear on this point.

But some people seem not to get it. They're writing tag wikis for Bad Tags™ and even specifically adding them to questions.

Should we make a more concentrated effort to remove these tags pre-emptively to prevent this kind of misuse? We can't blame the users making these changes if they just simply do not know about our policies. Maybe I'm thinking there is a policy in place where there isn't and I'm the one making the mistake, or maybe we need to be more vocal about this policy to prevent these kinds of things from happening.

I swear there was a post by Jeff Atwood clearly outlining exactly why these tags are so toxic, but I couldn't find it.

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    Many times I read discussion about "meta" tags here on meta, but sincerely I have not really understood which policy we need to follow. For that reason, for now, I am trying to avoid insert as much as tags as possible. The only exception is Skyrim that has already more than 1K questions, maybe you can take a look to that discussion too (meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/3257/…) and decide how to proceed.
    – Drake
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 14:36
  • @drake that's exactly the right way to go; Omit Needless Tags, until you have so many questions that they need subcategorization. See my answer for other advice on "information scent" subtags for particular games, but the TL;DR version is to be specific and avoid general kitchen sink concept tags wherever possible. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 21:53

3 Answers 3


As a (very) rough guideline, I would say to vigilantly avoid extra tags at all beyond the game itself -- even in most case avoiding even two tags if possible -- until the game in question has on the order of 150+ tags at a minimum.

Once a game has hundreds of questions, it can possibly support some sub-tagging, but I would also urge you to use more game-specific words where possible e.g.

... versus something like ...

... as those tags will hold maximum "information scent" for someone who is truly interested in that particular game.

I realize this is a contrived example but you hopefully see what I mean; these "kitchen sink" general concept word tags have a tendency to grow like kudzu and take over the site, displacing other native vegetation... and really who is going to subscribe to magic or strategy as tags? At least when you subscribe to you know definitely what you're getting, yes?

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    Again, this raises the problem of what to do with the old question when it reaches 150 question. It requires mass retagging or leaves inconsistencies. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 21:56
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    @ull I wouldn't prematurely optimize there. Once there are 200, 300, or a thousand questions on a game -- you could search for certain terms and sort by votes, then retag the "best" ones to the new game-specific subtag. That's what I'd do, personally. And remember search is how many people navigate anyway, so tagging is just another way to achieve the same goal and help people find stuff from a slightly different direction. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 21:59
  • Also, it's going to be impossible to find specific enough tags for all games without just appending the game's name in the tag like [skyrim-alchemy]. That makes the title look messier and is in danger of hitting the tag length limit. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 21:59
  • @ull as long as you're avoiding totally general stuff like "weapons" and "money" I think it's fine. If a few games have "alchemy", that's not the end of the world, but SO SO MANY games have "magic". Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 22:00
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    Isn't this kind of just postponing the problem though? As long as there is some overlap the problems with really general tags everywhere will still apply. The specific tags will eventually pass up the games, and subscribing to them won't be useful in the long term. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 22:13
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    @ull I would be willing to bet a lot, a lot of money that it will be a very long time before "alchemy" is more common than "skyrim". And when would you use "zerg" on any other type of question, exactly? The more specific, without being absurdly so, the better. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 22:55
  • I said if they have any overlap. Zerg has none except with the first game. And Skyrim is going to be the biggest tag on the site forever pretty much, but I could see a [sword] tag pass up smaller RPGs like The Witcher 2 or Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning which would still be of a decent size. Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 23:03
  • I like the idea to insert subtags only when a main tag reaches a consistent amount of questions. Probably, at the current time, only Skyrim, Minecraft and Starcraft, would need this special treatment.
    – Drake
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 23:33
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    I agree with the general theory and execution behind this. However, I'll still say that "alchemy" is probably not a good tag example for Skyrim. While it's not nearly as widespread as [magic], it's still pretty prevalent and just as diverse between games in its expression. It doesn't stand a chance to beat out against [skyrim], naturally, but it's still not a wise tag. At least with [zerg], it may apply to multiple games but it applies to the same game element in the same construct between the games.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 0:27
  • @Grace, not to mention that there's a game by that name. Maybe the fact that it isn't that easy to come up with a good example of a Skyrim-specific sub-tag suggests that there aren't that many possibilities? Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 16:42
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    @grace you guys and gals might be overthinking this a bit. The tag system doesn't have to be perfect and free of all logical consistency like a Vulcan, just useful. Whereas tags like "weapons", "magic", "strategy".. ain't not so useful! Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 17:48
  • Jeff, I agree with you ... just trying to point out that even a game like Skyrim doesn't necessarily have "good" sub-tags. Maybe it's better to have one tag and a lot of searching than a tag that people would only follow when paired with another tag. Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 17:57
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    @Jeff I'm not disagreeing - I'm saying that "alchemy" is honestly in the same category as "weapons" and "magic".
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 19:50
  • @DaveDuPlantis Wouldn't that still be useful though? Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 20:46
  • @ull, I'm not sure what you mean? Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 20:59

The problem is two-fold. First, there is still some precedent for some dependent tags (calling them Meta tags is sometimes a misnomer, let's not overload terms here) to exist to some degree, the problem being that the degree of their existence has yet to be established. We find that being able to divide, say, zerg questions from the full body of StarCraft 2 questions is helpful. But it hasn't been fully established the conditions under which they should be applied overall. While this remains unestablished, people don't have any solid guidelines with which to apply dependent tags, or to not apply them. You're correct that there is no complete policy on their application or non-use.

The more prevalent problem is that while we established that many dependent tags are bad, we haven't cleaned them all up. There's a lot of tags to clean up - Jeff, I, and others have been targetting some of the larger and more problematic ones, but we haven't truly finished the job. As we know, "precedent" does a lot to convince people to continue their usage. And we have a large history of "precedent".

I guess the ultimate takeaway here is, we should not be surprised that we are still running into these. There's a lot of backlog on this and we're probably not even a quarter through all of the tags. What should be done is to take action - either start a discussion if the tag is borderline, or just take action and demolish the tag if it's unquestionably toxic. agent86 did some fine jobs by bringing up tag batches that need cleanup - the more we can clear, the more we get done.

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    I don't consider "zerg" to be a meta-tag, because it only applies to one specific game/franchise and defines a subset of things within that realm. Things like "money", on the other hand, could possibly be applied to many different games in utterly different contexts. I think that they are separate beasts and need to be handled differently. Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 14:10
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    @Strix Things like "money" are a different beast than meta tags - though all things said, I don't think "money" is a good tag. Why it's a bad tag, though, has nothing to do with being a meta tag.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 14:14
  • I (somehow miraculously) hadn't even considered the idea of using that tag for real-world money. I was thinking of the concept of in-game money only. So that tag is even worse than I realized :P Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 14:35
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    That... uh... isn't even what I was referring to. But I suppose ambiguity is just more why it is bad to begin with.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 14:48

I'm not trying to open up a pissing contest here, but is the bulk of this thread still the preferred policy? I removed a few tag edits today from new posts in the tag and I'd like to know if I should be bothering.

There's a few posts I've left that I think have Bad Tags™ on them, am I on the right track or should I back off?

  • There was one about the junk bag that had "PC" on it that got removed. That one might have been a valid case for it, since I'm guessing the xbox/ps3 versions don't have context menus or drag and drop.
    – Sterno
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 6:33
  • @Sterno You could be right, but there's very likely the same mechanic ... console games definitely can have drag and drop just performed differently.
    – Tharius
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 13:28

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