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While searching for a duplicate today, I discovered a new unholy mess of hopeless tags.

Among these tags are: , , , , , , , .

I'm sure there's more, that's just what I've found so far.

The (major) problem with all of this is that it makes it extremely hard to actually find questions about this topic because it's impossible to predict what tag it will have.

In my case, there was a question that was more or less about minimum billable units ("what should I charge for X minutes of work?") and I knew I'd seen it before, but couldn't remember many keywords from the original. Eventually I managed to find it in - turned out it didn't have any of these tags, and didn't share any tags with the duplicate.

A lot of these tags mean the exact same thing. A lot of them don't, but are widely being misused to mean the same thing (for example, doesn't usually actually mean paying, it means getting paid).

I propose the following structure for questions of this nature:


  • Questions about running a software business (i.e. selling shrinkwrap software or running a web business) should be tagged . This is still a very small tag - only 105 questions.

    This would also cover and , which span all of 8 questions; I don't think we need that level of specialization considering the tiny percentage of our user base who actually ask and answer these questions.


  • Questions about selling software development as a service should be tagged or . We don't need both - pick one. Yeah, I know there's a theoretical difference, and it's a difference that 0.1% of people understand, so let it go.

    Again, these tags are still very small (~150 questions between them), and we don't need separate subtags for pricing, billing, etc. - they're basically redundant anyway, since that's 90% of what freelancing comprises.


  • Questions about full-time employment compensation should be tagged . Again, this is a relatively small tag and is more than enough to set expectations as to what the question is about.

  • If we absolutely must have an additional tag to describe "money matters", then I propose we settle on . That word refers to the entire process of setting rates, calculating billable units, invoicing, collections, and so on. We only need the one tag.

Any comments, arguments, suggestions? Did I miss any really obvious problem-tags? Will you help out with this cleanup?

  • To clarify, would you alias some of these tags or blacklist them or what? I'm totally new here, and don't have access to any tag-related actions, but clearly you have found a problem. I like your suggestions. I think that the difference between freelancing and consulting might get some arguments (I'm not in the .1% either) because the two have such a connotative difference to a lot of people who may not want to "let it go." – Keith Layne Aug 27 '11 at 21:34
  • @keith.layne Tagging is a little bit of a complex thing: in some cases, the questions will be retagged and the empty tag will be left to expire, in others, tags will be merged as synonyms of other tags. The big issue, however, is incorrect tagging: whatever final scheme we decide to use, nearly every tag mentioned is going to require users to go through the questions and retag them. – user8 Aug 27 '11 at 21:47
  • @Mark Thanks for the information. This problem however seems to be begging for a tool to streamline this process...the tagging feature is super-useful, but only insofar as it is accurate and easy to use/maintain. – Keith Layne Aug 27 '11 at 22:29
  • @keith.layne We just started caring about tagging here on Programmers.SE, having had larger issues to worry about for almost a year. So it's particularly bad here: generally, sites should be focusing on useful tagging from the day they launch to prevent this mess. A more steamlined way to retag for sites like us, would be helpful: I think the main reason why there isn't one is because like edits, all retags need to be peer-reviewed. – user8 Aug 27 '11 at 22:35
  • @keith: To expand on what Mark has said, a lot of these tags are used so randomly that it's hard to make effective use of the synonym feature. Check out the rat hole in [pricing] and you'll see what I mean. Because poorly-tagged questions also tend to be poor-to-mediocre in quality, tag cleanup generally means waiting until a question with this tag hits the front page for some other reason, and maybe retagging a couple of old ones per day. Hence relying on the community to do this retagging when they see the questions - the more people keeping an eye out, the more likely we are to catch them. – Aaronaught Aug 27 '11 at 23:12
  • I suspect that some of these tags may try to re-emerge over time, but, one step at a time. Unfortunately we don't have the ability to force disambiguation of a tag (e.g. when someone tries to use the tag [money], it asks whether they mean [salary] vs. [freelancing] vs. [business-venture]), so we'll just have to start by cleaning them up now and see which ones are the worst repeat offenders. – Aaronaught Aug 27 '11 at 23:16
5

Yes, please.

Just a few thoughts:


  • The tag wikis for the final tags need to be written, especially the excerpts. We should use the tag wiki body to explain alternatives for related questions that don't belong in the tag.


  • I agree about the vs. distinction, and in this case, I think we should definitely create a synonym. One other one you missed is , which, while there's a theoretical distinction between the three, can be used interchangeably for the purposes of Programmers.SE tagging. seems to be the most popular tag elsewhere on the network (and heck, we even tried to create a Freelancers.SE): let's use that as the master tag.

    Update: has been merged into . Still need to decide whether should have the same fate.


  • Salary questions are almost always the smell of a bad question: most of the time, they're rants or vague questions about whether or not the asker is getting paid enough, and in the times when they are constructive, they almost always depend on a number of factors specific to situation. We've explicitly classified them as off-topic in the FAQ: should just be cleaned up and left to die.

    Update: Pour one out for : it's been destroyed.


  • is fine for invoicing and such (to that end, should be a synonym). The tag wiki should make it clear exactly what types of billing questions we want here: "I haven't gotten paid, what should I do?", "What invoicing software do you use?", and such are not on-topic here.

    Update: is gone, is the final tag.

  • 2
    Good point about [business] being prone to abuse; however, I don't think [entrepreneurship] is very discoverable (a lot of people can't even spell it). How about something easier to find like [business-venture] or just [venture]? [entrepeneurship] could obviously also be a synonym. – Aaronaught Aug 27 '11 at 23:04
  • Regarding [salary], there are a lot of questions in that tag which aren't closed; do you think any of them are salvageable? If so, how would you tag those? – Aaronaught Aug 27 '11 at 23:07
  • @Aaronaught I don't think discovery is a problem: if your question isn't about entrepreneurship and it's management or some general business concern, we don't want people tagging the question with the tag. But spelling is a definite good call: venture could work. – user8 Aug 27 '11 at 23:24
  • @Aaronaught I'll spend some time today or tomorrow going through the tag, but after a quick scan, most of the questions there aren't really about salary, but something else (billing, contracting, etc.). I wonder, after cleaning it up, how many useful questions would legitimately need to be tagged with something related to salary: the tag is a magnet for bad questions, and it's rare a useful question stays open with it (last one was end of July, looks like). – user8 Aug 27 '11 at 23:29
  • I executed most of these (except the first bullet), so there is now a rather large untagged issue – Jeff Atwood Aug 28 '11 at 10:24
  • @Jeff Thanks: untagged cleanup is now status-completed. We just need to add the tag wikis and sort through the final tags. – user8 Aug 29 '11 at 18:49
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    I went ahead and merged contracting into freelancing as well. Haven't touched any of the "business" related tags. – Jeff Atwood Aug 29 '11 at 20:01

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