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I'd like to help deal with many of the bad tags on Programmers, but I'm not sure how to deal with them properly. What should I keep in mind as I work through a bad tag?

  • Thanks for the helpful list. I will keep an eye out for bad tags and bad edits. – maple_shaft Jan 30 '12 at 12:36
  • Why are you so obsessed with bad tags? – Jim G. Feb 4 '12 at 20:10
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    @JimG.Tagging is the third most-talked about subject on our meta, right after the on-topic definition and closed questions. Maybe you ought to ask yourself, "Why am I not?" – user8 Feb 4 '12 at 20:16
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    @JimG. Some of us are obsessed with good tags too... – yannis Feb 5 '12 at 0:28
  • @Yannis Rizos: The 'good' tag is so absurd that indeed it should be expunged immediately. But why not leave it at that? Why are people "losing sleep" over sub-optimal tags, trying to round up posses to stamp them out? – Jim G. Feb 5 '12 at 2:29
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    @JimG. Take a look at this blog post, which describes the problem with having bad tags around: in part, people use bad tags when they can't think of anything else to tag it with, and tags become honeypots for poorly thought-out questions. Minimizing those bad tags conditions people to make their questions work within the ecosystem we have: it's not coincidence we have a problem with general career advice questions when the largest tag by far for over a year was the lame career tag. – user8 Feb 5 '12 at 2:35
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    @JimG. We like it better when information is organized, sub-optimal tags don't help and sometimes even hurt organization, hence sub-optimal tags must die. Let them live a bit longer, and they will soon become broken windows. – yannis Feb 5 '12 at 2:39
  • @Yannis Rizos: Since I strongly support fixing broken windows, I support this cause. You win. :) – Jim G. Feb 5 '12 at 4:00
  • @Mark Trapp: OK. I can appreciate the "honeypots" argument too. Thanks for discussing it. – Jim G. Feb 5 '12 at 4:02
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We're trying to come up with a structured way to deal with the bad tags through the Structured Tag Cleanup initiative, but in the meantime, if you want to help with tag cleanups, the golden rule is:

Only make substantial edits to questions.

To that end, these things are helpful:

  • Retagging new questions asked that have bad tags
  • Substantively revising a question to address multiple issues, from bad tags to bad titles to copyediting issues
  • Small spurts of edits (5 or so) to prevent the front page from being flooded with old content
  • Proposing tag merges and synonyms here on meta
  • Voting to close questions in bad tags that have slipped through the cracks
  • Flagging closed questions in bad tags that have no chance of getting reopened for deletion
  • "Heroic" edits on closed questions in bad tags to attempt to get them re-opened

This is not helpful:

  • Mass retagging in a short period of time
  • Retagging questions without doing anything else
  • Retagging closed questions that have no chance of ever getting opened again
  • Retagging questions and replacing bad tags with even worse ones

Definitely check out the Structured Tag Cleanup proposal, but otherwise, please try to keep the above in mind if you've got an urge to clean up some tags.

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