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Please everybody, it's great to write tag wikis.

But read the guidelines first!

If the tag has an unusual name or meaning most people don't already know, then it's find to define the term in the tag wiki. Same if people are prone to misunderstand it. Or sometimes even why we chose a particular tag name over other possibilities.

It is NOT HELPFUL and it is AGAINST the Stack Exchange tag wiki guidelines to put in definitions of common everyday words like "money" and "bank".

Money is any financial instrument accepted as form of payment for good and services.

Tag wikis are there so you can instruct users on what kinds of questions the tag covers and how to use it, what kinds of questions under that topic are off-topic for our site, etc.

Blog post from 2011 by Jeff Atwood, our Stack Exchange overlord on this topic.

  1. Avoid generically defining the concept behind a tag, unless it is highly specialized.

Meta topic on this subject from 2013.

Please add other official links about tag wiki writing if you find some I missed.

  • That might be a great first sentence of the extended tag wiki (you know: the thing nobody ever looks at) but is absolutely terrible as an elevator pitch. – Jan Sep 13 '16 at 23:33
  • I have to say the whole tag wiki UI has a lot of deficiencies that SE rarely addresses. I don't know whether identifying some and submitting bug reports will help. We can still try to have good tag wikis and excerpts though. – hippietrail Sep 14 '16 at 9:09
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    Can you provide an example of a tag being written badly, and what should be written instead? – Andrew Grimm Sep 17 '16 at 8:47
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    @AndrewGrimm: passports currently says "A document, usually in the form of a booklet with multiple pages issued by governments to certify the bearer's identity and nationality for the purposes of travel." which will impart exactly zero new knowledge to exactly zero of our users. Exactly zero percent of the tag wiki is currently used to inform users how to use the tag, to which kinds of questions it would apply, etc. Compare with cities "For questions involving multiple cities such as choosing which city to visit." Doesn't try to teach you what a city is, just when to use the tag. – hippietrail Sep 17 '16 at 12:10
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    @hippietrail a "wrong" and "right" version of the same tag would be more helpful. – Andrew Grimm Sep 17 '16 at 22:58
  • @AndrewGrimm: Make up a pair and I'll tell you if you're beginning to grasp it. – hippietrail Sep 18 '16 at 5:54
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edit 2016 Sept 14

I think hippietrail and I are in broad agreement and hope this post is not perceived as argumentative, so I've trimmed my original post down. Basically we want to remember that

The main purpose of the tag wiki excerpt is to tell people what the tag should be used for.

A definition helps serve that purpose if the definition is about the tag, not the concept— that is, the tag is limited to scope identified by the definition. But the tag wiki should not be merely a description of a concept, as we are not out to replicate dictionaries, or Wikipedia.

Providing a definition may be especially important for short, commonplace words, because these tend to be the most ambiguous— especially considering that we speak many different dialects of English, often as a second or third language.

For example, it is useful that begins with a definition as

Passing through a place briefly while travelling on the way to somewhere else.

because that's not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of transit. I, and many other Americans, think of public transit, or perhaps rapid transit. Indian English has even more usages which diverge from British or American Englishes; consider hotel as restaurant, purse as wallet, colony as neighborhood, and bogie for railcar among some travel-related terms.

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    For the tag "backpack" do you realize an even better wording would be your very own "... type of bag. ... not about backpack trekking, ... not about backpacker hostels, ... not about backpacking travel." But yes since this term does have both common synonyms and confusing similarly named concepts it's not as pointless as some dictionary definition tags we have. Also, including it in a larger full tag wiki is not as bad as stuff it in the tiny tag wiki excerpt". – hippietrail Sep 14 '16 at 9:13
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    @pnuts: Yes we debated when the site was new what to do for country tags etc where everybody knows what they mean. In those cases there's often not much non-obvious to put in but leaving the tag wikis empty just feels wrong. For less known places we can include where in the world there are and reasons to travel there. In any case those are not what I was ranting against here (-: – hippietrail Sep 14 '16 at 9:16
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    @choster: "Transit" is a confusing term with specialized meanings and uses for travel. Such as transit visas, passing through a country to get to another, layovers in a third country, transit lounges, "in transit". It's the perfect example of a tag whose wiki needs to clearly define what it means for use on our site. Just the kind of tag wiki I'm not ranting about here. In fact most of your answer is agreeing with me. I'm now a bit worried that I didn't write clearly enough because it seems you are attempting to argue against me even though we seem to want the same things. – hippietrail Sep 14 '16 at 9:21
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    @hippietrail Okay, I guess we're in basic agreement as well, but I don't find the wiki for money so objectionable. We want people to know that money encompasses more than just cash— I've heard people say things like I didn't bring any money, just credit cards. The main problem is that it is old and outdated, and does not reflect the development of exchange and payment-cards for example, and might give the impression it refers only to hard currency. – choster Sep 14 '16 at 14:02
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    @choster: What you've just said here about "money" is again just the kind of thing that the "money" tag wiki needs to say. Much better than a dictionary definition. I don't know if you are currently doing work on editing tag wikis but if you're not you should because you're explaining these important things clearly in a limited space. That's what we need, especially in the tag wiki excerpts. – hippietrail Sep 14 '16 at 14:29
  • Also, I probably didn't pick the best example. The text for "money" doesn't seem as bad to me now after what you've written but I know I read a few bad ones in a short time. I'll keep an eye out for worse examples to put in there instead or in addition. – hippietrail Sep 14 '16 at 14:45
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    @hippietrail Thanks, I will see what I can do. I did just update money too :). – choster Sep 14 '16 at 15:22
  • It would be great to come up with some idea for a competition to get us here to improve our tag wikis if you can think of something. – hippietrail Sep 14 '16 at 15:42

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