Straight from #3 on the-7-essential-meta-questions-of-every-beta, can we get a description of tags and actively work to collapse and edit tags before they get out of hand?

The best way to identify tagging problems is to watch new posts closely. When tags become ambiguous, too specific (or not specific enough), or just somehow off, raise those issues in meta, and quickly. Proper tagging is very much a lead-by-example activity. The sooner you get the “community standards” for tagging ironed out, the less chance you’ll have to face the drudgery of cleaning them up later.

I don't have any specific complaints, but wanted to raise this earlier rather than later.

Any specific guidelines for our beta?

6 Answers 6


Very good, glad you raised this.

As I've said in many places here, our "field" of security is actually made up of several, disparate "sub-fields" that only THINK they're talking the same language.

Thus I think one important tag every question should have, is what subfield it relates to. E.g.:

  • Network
  • OS
  • AppSec
  • Risk-management
  • Compliance
  • (others?)

Secondly, I do see lots of other terms being misused (or perverted altogether), or (apparently) misunderstood and thus duplicated.
Should we start making a list of common mistakes, or ask about a specific {subject} (which btw was the intention of their blogpost...)?

(As a comment, I think we should start editing tag wikis - but so far I think I'm the only one with enough rep...)

  • 1
    I think subfield tags are a great idea. Perhaps, including a "not sure" subfield tag, which makes it clear the person asking needs help classifying the field. Nov 23, 2010 at 23:10
  • thanks for being diligent about tag clean-up. Do you think it's possible to update the watermark text to include the most frequently used tags? Nov 24, 2010 at 1:59
  • @maker, dont know... But I think we can mark a set of tags as mandatory, just like on meta you need to include AT LEAST one of "bug/feature-request/discussion/support".
    – AviD Mod
    Nov 25, 2010 at 9:47

I think we should avoid the 'security' suffix/prefix which we keep seeing posts being tagged with.

For example:

  • should login-security be renamed too login ?
  • security-audit renamed too audit?
  • security-awareness renamed too awareness?

It is kinda overkill telling the tag its about security when your on a security site. Also I think I saw Jeff and Avid discuss something about static analysis is easier to make really good if we dont prefix / suffix the tags like that.

Any thoughts on this? Sorry if this is duplicate or if this should be taken out in a different question.

  • I very much agree. I try to clean them up once in a while... (Btw, that was statistical analysis that @Jeff was talking about, wrt "null" words like security).
    – AviD Mod
    Nov 30, 2010 at 14:31

I think the tag [best-practices] is redundant and should be removed. It doesn't add anything (presumably someone who's answering a question is going to supply what they believe to be a best practice in order to provide a good answer), and could actually be misleading (today's best practices are tomorrow's legacy cruft, and next year's "X considered dangerous" conference abstracts).

(I also find it personally annoying, as it's shorthand for the generic equivalent to "pls give me teh codez" - of course, that's just me...)

A question "what are best practices around X?" can be reworded as "I need to do X, here are my requirements, how do I satisfy them?" and automatically becomes a better question:

  • the questioner's assumptions and requirements become explicit
  • the answers have to satisfy the requirements, and can't just quote trade-show rhetoric
  • did I mention I find the phrase "best practices" annoying?
  • Absolutely agree, this tag bugged me from the beginning. Thanks for explaining to me why. One thing the tag might be good for: questions against the so-called "best practices"...
    – AviD Mod
    Dec 1, 2010 at 12:09
  • @avid: you mean questions like "Why should I sanitise database input?"
    – user185
    Dec 1, 2010 at 17:43
  • Umm... no, I guess not.
    – AviD Mod
    Dec 1, 2010 at 21:02
  • Hmm - I guess this makes more sense than I thought at first - thanks. Could you put this in the wiki for the tag (since I don't have enough reputation) Hmm - I wonder if you meet all the requirements - could be hard here to add wiki for unused tags.... I want to see wiki for some tag, to at least see how it looks in the UI....
    – nealmcb
    Jan 20, 2011 at 5:08
  • If not the Best Practices tag, how can we highlight technologies, patterns, and practices that should be broadly adopted cross-industries? Jan 20, 2011 at 21:55
  • @nealmcb: I can't create the tag wiki, as there are no tagged questions so the tag doesn't exist :). @makerofthings: questions on StackExchange sites tend to be specific, so the answers end up being specific to address the problem in the question. Of course, if a generally-accepted practice is the answer to such a question, it's appropriate to include it in the answer.
    – user185
    Jan 20, 2011 at 22:53
  • @graham-lee, your response to @makerofthings does make me wonder if such "generally-accepted practices" would be exactly the sort of situation to use this tag for. It wouldn't get overused, and wouldn't be redundant.
    – nealmcb
    Jan 21, 2011 at 1:09
  • @nealmcb - if the practices are not "generally accepted", should they even be posted as answers? Hypothetically, it is possible to be posting controversial answers - but that should be the exception, not the rule - and I still find it meaningless to have a tag to denote the opposite.
    – AviD Mod
    Jan 21, 2011 at 9:17
  • Also, take a look at: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags
    – AviD Mod
    Jan 21, 2011 at 9:18
  • 1
    @nealmcb: I think @AviD's answer is good. Additionally, my response was about answers. The tags are about questions. It's rare that an asker can predict the answers she'll get to her question. Indeed some would argue that such questions are unneeded filler anyway.
    – user185
    Jan 21, 2011 at 10:58
  • @avid - that blog post is great, so I highlighted it in an answer. And Graham, you're right about answers. Thanks all!
    – nealmcb
    Jan 21, 2011 at 14:19

Meta-tags like "subjective", "best-practices", "beginner" are explicitly discouraged

This blog post that AviD pointed out is worth quoting from: The Death of Meta Tags - Blog – Stack Overflow

How can you tell you’re using a meta-tag? It’s easier than you might think.

  • If the tag can’t work as the only tag on a question, it’s probably a meta-tag. Every tag you use should be able to work, more or less, as the only tag on a question. Meta-tags, like [beginner], [subjective], and [best-practices], are useless by themselves — they tell you nothing at all about the content of the question.
  • If the tag commonly means different things to different people, it’s probably a meta-tag. In a cruel, ironic twist, the meaning of the tag [subjective] itself … is actually subjective. Ditto for [best-practices] and [beginner]. Best practices to whom? Beginner by what criteria? These tags are impossible to define by anything remotely resembling an objective metric. In comparison, the the meaning of tags like [java], [c#], and [javascript] are crystal clear to all but the nuttiest of nutbags.

We've currently got an "os" tag for operating systems security - the problem is, the questions tend to be about particular operating systems rather than about the general problem of securing an operating system. As a mainly Mac/iOS guy I would much rather see specific tags when the questions relate to specific platforms, and general tags like "os" or "smartphone" used for platform-agnostic questions.

  • agreed - but nothings stopping you from having "os" AND "mac-os". Same as with other fields, "web-server" and also "apache/iis/websphere/etc"; "appsec" and also "c#/java/php/etc"; and so on. The point isnt a single, definitive tag, but a general sub-field. F.e. "mac" doesnt mean the q is specifically about the Mac OS, it could just as well be about "developing" apps for the Mac. Hence it is very important (IMO) to clearly define which sub-field / profession this is relevant to.
    – AviD Mod
    Nov 25, 2010 at 9:51

I also think it would be better off not to put every buzzword or technology into the tag. Most questions (at least the better ones) will often be technology-agnostic, even if sometimes there is a specific question of "how do i do this on that technology.

For example, if you're asking how to treat sensitive data on iphones, the same thing would apply to android, windows phone, any other smartphone (or dumb), ipad, maybe even laptops. In short this should be tagged mobile not iphone4.

Tags really should be used for categorization and searching, not as listing keywords or reasking the question tagliciously.

  • Hmmm - not sure on this. I think you are right that in the majority of cases 'mobile' would be best, but how does the community currently then look to define the subsets (iphone, blackberry, windows mobile)? It may be we don't need to, as you say, but are there occasions when we should have that degree of granularity? I don't know - just thinking aloud.
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Dec 2, 2010 at 15:55
  • 1
    @Rory: do we need to? Typically the answers should be pretty much the same - or at least, we should be aiming for questions where they are (i.e. not "how do i configure XXX to do YYY", but "what should be ZZZ" or "what is the risk with ZZZ"). Besides, it gets silly - I added this answer after seeing a question with 3-4 different mobile techs on the tags (iphone, ipad, etc) when it didnt really matter, and mobile was actually better. (yes there was an aspect of "how do I..." but that wasnt really the point.)
    – AviD Mod
    Dec 2, 2010 at 17:19
  • 1
    Sounds good to me then. I just haven't been around here long enough to know how much of a PITA it was :-)
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Dec 2, 2010 at 17:54
  • 1
    @Rory: Yay! I convinced you! But seriously, I am of the opinion that most of the questions here should be around the guiding principles, analysis, and maybe understanding concepts and such. Less so about a specific gadget or scriptlet...
    – AviD Mod
    Dec 2, 2010 at 18:36

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