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A way to prohibit creating certain tags.

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On EE.CO we have some tags that are utterly useless, but people keep on using them, for example voltage.

For non-experts: voltage is one of the main physical quantity used to describe the behavior of any circuit or electrical system.

Such tags become kitchen sinks used to tag questions of all sorts, so there is no benefit to use them to organize questions.

I was thinking whether we would need a new feature like a "forbidden tag" thing, with which mods could define a set of tags that cannot be created (when a user tried to create them, some kind of message would be displayed to warn them). They could appear on the tag list in a different color, with a notice to not use them.

However, I think this behavior could be emulated with existing features.

If we define a tag like do-not-use-this-tag-ever and then create synonyms with all the tags we want to prohibit, the users wouldn't be able to create them and the platform would already point that out.

Do you think this is a sound idea?

A problem I can see is that probably there is a limit on how many tag synonyms can be created (is it a DB limit or a UI limit?).

I've already created tags with 4 synonyms, but in this case we could be dealing with dozens of synonyms (commonly used words used in the field that are too generic to mean anything as tags). Maybe the system is not designed to handle this.

What do you think about the idea?

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3 comment threads

Explanation of why the tag is banned (1 comment)
I think we tested with dozens of synonyms but not hundreds. This seems like a workable approach until... (5 comments)
Is voltage really meaningless? (9 comments)

4 answers

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I don't see anything wrong with a way to ban tags, other than it would require more coding from CD devs. Nothing wrong with that - you need to break some eggs if you want an omelette.

However, maybe it's actually not necessary? I've seen SO do a thing where they create the over-general tag, and the description begins with "DO NOT USE THIS TAG" in bold. Since SO pops up a card with the first few words of the description when suggesting tag completion, and people unfamiliar enough with the tags to be guessing them are likely to read the popup, that's a good way to indicate discouraged tags.

Why would this not work in this case? (I grant that implementation effort aside, it would still be better to have a way of actually forbidding tags)

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1 comment thread

People still use tags marked "DO NOT USE" on SO; I don't think that will be viable long-term. (1 comment)
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Moderator only tags

Another existing feature that might be relevant as part of a solution: some tags can only be added by a moderator, such as "status-completed". If "voltage" is created as a moderator only tag, then the description can explain why it's not useful, to reduce user frustration when they find they cannot use it. I'm not sure if synonyms would be part of this approach or not.

Acceptable?

Does this work as a solution? Would moderators be happy with this or would it clutter their workflow too much? Does this depend on how many forbidden tags there are likely to be?

Alternative

If using moderator only tags for this is not acceptable, would it be useful to create a third type of tag, that cannot be added to posts but does not clutter the moderator only tags?

This would mean that instead of a notice not to use them, they would simply be impossible to use (with a friendly description explaining why).

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1 comment thread

Mod tags are highlighted, which doesn't seem like what we want for a do-not-use signal. (2 comments)
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Category settings include some tag settings:

  • Required tags: a set of tags, one of which must be included in a post (this is how discussion, feature-request, bug, and support on meta work)

  • Topic tags: tags with a visual difference but no other restrictions (the Proposals site uses these)

  • Moderator-only tags: what it says on the label.

It seems reasonable to me to add blacklisted tag names as a fourth type of setting. Everything else in this section involves actual tags and I don't know if the code is assuming that, so I don't know if this is easy or hard. I'll have to ask.

Category settings are admin-only because there's destructive stuff in there too. This approach works if blacklisting is expected to not be a super-frequent operation. Our team is generally pretty quick in responding to requests from moderators for configuration changes, but I do acknowledge that it's an extra step, so if we think it'll be needed a lot we should look for another way to approach it.

(Possibly it makes sense to move these settings from the category settings to new options available from the tags page, like the "new" button that is available to moderators. But that's a bigger job.)

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2 comment threads

Maybe wait to see how my workaround plays out? (3 comments)
No `new` button for me. (3 comments)
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Some thoughts:

  1. If e.g. profanity in tags is becoming an issue, that should definitely be dealt with, perhaps with a regex filter. (If a community runs into the Scunthorpe problem this way, a failed tag creation could be discussed on the Community meta and a valid tag whitelisted by a moderator.) In this case, simply creating "deprecated" tags (whether by just writing something pointy in the tag description, or having support for a category similar to mod-only tags) would not be enough.

  2. If a tag is ambiguous, it should be possible to pop up the corresponding explicit options... explicitly. Ideally this doesn't require any special support beyond what's already there: if EE.CD proactively creates, say, voltage-measurement, voltage-calculation etc. or whatever, then they'll show up automatically when someone tries to use a voltage tag

  3. If a regex filter is already needed, it could be used just as well to prohibit exact-match tags. However, this would need not to prevent suggestions like in the previous point from popping up.

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1 comment thread

A key problem with the current system is how to delete a tag. As I get it, for now that's an action t... (2 comments)

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