On Where should I travel to see this building? there was a discussion about tags.

Originally the question was tagged with , and . An answer was the correct answer, and it became obvious that the building mentioned in the question is located in Bucharest, Romania. So the tags and where added, which led to a discussion whether tags should only represent the question, or also the insights gained by the answer.

What is the opinion of the Community?


There has been some discussion on this on Meta StackOverflow, mostly in the context of how tags are used on StackOverflow but I think the same applies to us too.

There was a proposal to add a tagging system for answers for precisely this situation but it was declined.

The general consensus on MSO seems to be that tags should describe a question regardless of what the answer is. See the discussions on these threads:

I agree with this consensus. While it's true that retagging a question may make it more 'discoverable', I think for those situations the search function fulfills the purpose of discover-ability rather than tags.

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    So what are tags for? – hippietrail Dec 20 '12 at 5:02
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    To describe questions. So for an 'identify-this' for instance, the consensus on MSO is it shouldn't be retagged according to the answer. – Ankur Banerjee Dec 20 '12 at 6:29
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    Actually I looked on MSO and they were mostly about questions being tagged with jQuery when only some of the posited answers provided possible solutions involving jQuery but jQuery was not the only way to solve the problems. That's clearly wrong. This question has one answer and one answer only, so quite different from what I've read on MSO so far, which seems to make it a straw man argument to me. After all the question topic and the question body already describe the question, both of which are wikis editable by anybody to make them better. I don't see how these tags don't make it better. – hippietrail Dec 20 '12 at 7:38

I'd say it's rarely appropriate, but not never. Tags are there to help people find information, but they're limited. If a question yields three answers, adding a tag (or two!) for each answer is going to push us over the limit, so hopefully that's clear as not being appropriate. For three answers, one accepted, adding the tags for the accepted one but not the others risks making it seem even stronger an answer, which may not be fair as it wasn't there to start with. If all three answers refer to the same thing, then it would often seem to be a case where the answer related tag would help people find things later, without confusing. Tagging is there to help, especially for people browsing or searching, so in that case adding a tag relating to all the answers would seem to help, so maybe it is appropriate.

Perhaps another way to think of it is with comments on the question. Someone asks a question, comments are added to clarify something, the OP answers and makes the question clearer, it then feels reasonable to me to edit the tags and add something in that's clear from that. If several people were to instead answer rather than commenting, and clarify it that way, adding the tags then feels very similar to me, so would seem OK. In summary, I'd say it's something that's rarely appropriate, but not never!

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    Exactly, which is why I only add tags relevant to the question/topic/thread/problem/QA as a whole, never tags relevant to only one possible answer. – hippietrail Dec 21 '12 at 6:38

In addition to what Ankur said:

  • Some people look at the tags to decide whether to answer a question or not -- if it's tagged with a thing they don't care about, they might not even read it.
  • Such retagging interferes with new answers to the question -- contributors might (incorrectly) assume that the narrowed scope was set by the author, while a third party actually did that.
  • Setting the scope of the question is responsibility of the author. Retagging and edits by other members of the community should support that, not interfere with it.

Admittedly, none of those reasons are compelling enough for our circumstances, but I see no reason to deviate from what seems to be an accepted SE policy.

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    Keep in mind that SE sites are for providing answers for everybody, the OP is secondary. We are in fact encouraged to edit questions and answers to improve them for everybody, and not to preserve them in the precise form the OP asked them. – hippietrail Dec 20 '12 at 8:34
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    @hippietrail: of course, edits should be made to improve the quality of questions and answers, but not their intent. Besides, posts by definition should answer OP's question, that's how they are deemed to be useful. We've seen a lot of examples of good posts that don't answer OPs question, but are valuable nevertheless. – mindcorrosive Dec 20 '12 at 8:40
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    I believe that adding romania to a question "Where is (object in Romania) doesn't change the scope of the question nor the original intent. – yo' Dec 20 '12 at 14:57
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    I agree that adding a tag for a good post that isn't a "one right answer" would not warrant any tags added, but a perfect specific "one right answer" to a Romania / Bucharest question is going to be of interest to people watching those tags - (and more for future less trivial questions). And no matter if the OP knew it at the time or not, this was, is, and ever shall be a Romania question and a Bucharest question - ignorance does not make it cease to be one! Refusing to add these exactly perfectly ultra-relevant tags due to overinterpretation of the word "question"? That's just totally silly. – hippietrail Dec 21 '12 at 6:33

I generally agree with the fact that tags reflect the question, not the answer. On the other hand, in the case of , there is obviously only one correct answer, and the appropriate tags are valid for the question as well. So I think that this particular case could use an exception and such questions could be re-tagged.

Of couse, this is not the case of e.g. , where the question can likely have a wider scope than one place.

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    Finally somebody with common sense (-; – hippietrail Dec 21 '12 at 6:39
  • Another point of view: retagging based on answers would not make much sense especially on identify-this questions: then the tags would already give out the correct answer, even before reading the question. To me, such tagging would make the whole question look odd. – Jonik Dec 26 '12 at 10:34
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    @Jonik IMHO, from the theoretical point of view, all identify-this questions are too localized. They can hardly help anyone else since they are based on a picture, and thus cannot be efficiently found by any search. – yo' Dec 27 '12 at 23:03
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    Well, true. For others, they are generally "more interesting than useful". – Jonik Dec 28 '12 at 6:35

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