While we continue our work on cleaning up the career and jobs tags, I thought I'd bring up the next tag clean-up project: killing the catch-all tags that could be applied to every question on the site.

Looking through the first two pages of tags, these include:

The reason I'm bringing these up now instead of waiting for the first project to complete is that I believe we can exercise the first option—presented earlier for the career and jobs tags—on these tags: nuke them from orbit.

That is, these tags can be applied to every single question on the site. Disambiguating these tags would entail replacing them with anything else, not simply a set of pre-defined disambiguation targets. With these tags, we're no better off if they're untagged or left tagged: they tell us nothing about the content of the question.

So what do you think? Is this a good idea, or is there a better way to approach killing these tags? Are there tags that should be on the list but aren't? Is there a serious case to be made for taking tags off this list?

Earlier discussions:

  • 2
    When talking about tag clean up, how about considering holy-war as one that should be nuked from orbit?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 19:38
  • 1
    @ThomasOwens I keep thinking we killed that one: that definitely should go, but I think we can clean that up manually pretty easily.
    – user8
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 19:56
  • Just curious why you added development to the list. I've been using that on questions when cleaning up software-engineering to specify questions about writing code (including unit tests) as opposed to engineering process, requirements, design, architecture, career development, and so on. Yes, it applies to a good number of questions, but it's also a good filter to "show me things about writing code" or a reverse-filter to say "show me things not about writing code". The act of development/writing code is <20% of software development. Maybe it's just a bad name?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 0:10
  • I think "programming-languages" should be kept, but for the rest of the list, fire the cannon!
    – user281377
    Commented Oct 4, 2011 at 8:29
  • @MarkTrapp Just curious as to what the status of nuking was, or if this has gone by the wayside in favor of Structured Tag Cleanup?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 12:07
  • 1
    @ThomasOwens more or less tabled due to lack of consensus/feedback.
    – user8
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 12:09
  • @MarkTrapp Thanks for the update. Perhaps this should be something included in Structured Tag Cleanup where a method for cleaning the tag is an outright nuke and/or blacklist of the tag, if that idea takes off (I hope it does)?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 12:10
  • @MarkTrapp The development and homework tags are down to a bunch of closed questions that I don't want to bump by editing for tags. You might want to have a look and see which questions are worth keeping and just delete the rest. Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 13:14
  • @BilltheLizard Done and done. Thanks.
    – user8
    Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 19:36

3 Answers 3


Given ChrisF's comment that tags can't be blacklisted when they still exist, I think the only criteria is if they can be replaced by a better tag. There are really two options: either the tag has no suitable replacements and it should just be outright nuked or there are better tags to use in place of the tag.

I believe that, and perhaps and should not be nuked, but posse-cleaned up like the jobs/careers tags.

However, the other tags don't seem like they have suitable "better" tags. Really, every question here is about learning, obtaining recommendations or advice, and best practices for a given situation, making those tags useless. Questions tagged holy war either need to be closed for non-constructive or have the tag removed (so perhaps go through, flag the appropriate questions, then delete).

I see two problems with the posse cleanups, though. First, they haven't been wildly successful in terms of getting people involved, but I think that can be changed. Second, I've started to clean up the software engineering tag, but the problem is that editing tags also bumps questions to the top of the page, so I don't retag more than a dozen posts in a day - it just doesn't feel right flooding the homepage with old questions.

  • We've already asked about getting a tag blacklisted while it still exists and that's not on. It either gets nuked now and we have potentially untagged questions or we clean up and it gets blacklisted after we've finished.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 20:52
  • As ChrisF mentioned, blacklisting without nuking has been requested and rejected. While there's merit to your other tag suggestions, can you open a new question (or questions) about those? It gets hard to build a consensus about any one stage of the tag cleanup if we expand the scope to retagging all the things.
    – user8
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 21:16
  • @MarkTrapp Done. At least, I pulled them out. I think the Job cleanup should be the example for cleanup, but I'm going to go back to cleaning up software-engineering first, then help with the job cleanup posse. It seems silly to have a dozen tags for cleanup simultaneously.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 21:23
  • 1
    @ThomasOwens You gotta stop: retagging 200 questions, especially closed ones and not removing known bad tags like [career] is not helping and you're killing the front page. Please read the career tag cleanup page for guidance on how to proceed with tag cleanups: in cases like [software-engineering] if the only thing that needs to be done is to remove the tag from them, nuking them is our option: not manually retagging 200 of them. Questions like these are meant to build consensus on retags.
    – user8
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 21:48
  • @Mark Done. Most of the software-engineering tags aren't getting just removed, but replaced with more specific tags, which is why nuking isn't the best option. I'll start working on the career tags simultaneously, if they have those tags, but that's only a small percentage from my searches. I can double check, though. I wonder if I can build a query that finds all questions tagged software-engineering and (any of the career tags) and work with those first. I'll experiment with a query tonight for the future (unless you can come up with one first).
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 21:51
  • @MarkTrapp Apparently, "and" and "or" aren't supported in search queries, but I'll be sure to keep a closer eye on things with the bad career-oriented tags.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 21:55
  • @ThomasOwens You have to do it in batches, and you have to make edits substantial. The issue isn't just that these question have bad tags: we can deal with that by nuking. It's that these questions need to be improved, closed, or deleted as well. Retagging closed questions without improving them so they can get reopened is just a waste of time, as is retagging long-dead questions that are clearly bad
    – user8
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 21:57
  • @MarkTrapp Gotcha. Do you have any suggestions on how to track which questions have been read/reviewed/edited appropriately? Right now, I just use a search query for whatever tag I'm working on (I have search results pages bookmarked for a few tags now). I just start at the top and work down the search results, either removing the tag (rarely so far) or applying the appropriate tags (most cases, although a few of the career tags have slipped through the cracks). That makes it easy to find questions that still need to be cleaned. Is there a better/easier way to track what needs to be edited?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 22:05
  • 1
    @ThomasOwens That's fine for tracking: if it's in one of the bad tags, it still needs review. But we need people—especially high-rep users like yourself—moderating those questions, not simply retagging them. Does the question still fit with our site's mission? Can it be improved? Should it be closed? Should it be deleted? These bad tags have been honeypots for terrible questions, and most of the time, usage of these tags is how we know the question needs more attention.
    – user8
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 22:19
  • @MarkTrapp Makes sense. However, what I should do with a closed question that has poor English and/or bad tags that I know for sure isn't going to get reopened, especially if it has good answers? Should I clean it up the best I can? I think I should so that other people can find it, read it, perhaps read the answers, see that it's closed, and use it as an example of a poor question and perhaps find what they want. I think that even closed questions should be appropriately tagged and be well-written for easy finding - what's your (the rest of the mods' and SE team's) take on this? Any guidance?
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 22:25
  • 1
    @ThomasOwens If the question is sure not to get reopened no matter what, I'd flag it for deletion or ignore it. If it's good enough to stick around on Programmers—particularly because the answers are stellar—it's good enough to be improved and reopened.
    – user8
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 22:50
  • @Mark Got it. Thanks. So for the future, I'll be sure to track other clean up efforts and apply those as well. If it can be salvaged, I'll try to get it good enough to be reopened, otherwise I'll just ignore it or mark it for deletion.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 23:01
  • @ThomasOwens Sounds good. Thanks a lot for your help!
    – user8
    Commented Oct 2, 2011 at 23:10

No, the catch-all tags should not be nuked. Each of them represent a different semantic content the author wished to attach to the question.


I definitely agree with you about some of the tags posted, although not all of them. Here's my suggestions:

  • Keep. Usually questions in this tag mean a question about how things would ideally be done in a perfect world, not necessarily how they could be done. I like browsing this tag for tips on best practices since I usually work alone and don't have someone else to double-check my work and tell me that I'm doing things wrong.
  • Keep. There are many questions on this site not related to programming languages, and this tag can be used to identify questions that are specifically related to programming languages.
  • This one is iffy... I guess it depends if you count questions about how to learn/teach off-topic here. I don't, so would keep it, however its up to you.
  • If this site were solely about software development, I'd ditch this tag. However if this site is about programmers in general, I'd keep it.
  • Nuke it. Or perhaps re-tag with best-practices if applicable.
  • Nuke it. Everything on here is a recommendation.
  • Nuke it. Everything on here is advice.
  • I'm not a software engineer, so I don't pay attention to those kinds of questions. I'd defer the answer of this to someone who knows what they're talking about.
  • Nuke it. It's too ambiguous
  • Nuke it. I think every question I've seen with this tag has been a bad question for this site.
  • Nuke it. Do your homework, don't expect someone else to do it for you.
  • Nuke it. These are likely opinion/poll questions.
  • Does tags are nuked automatically or manually?
    – Ubermensch
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 8:22

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