Allowing non-posters to add tags July 29, 2014 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Tags for posts are wildly variable, and plenty of tags that ought to be used on a post very often are not. It would be easy to fix this if any member, not just the poster or moderators, were able to edit or at least add tags to a post. This would make the entire tag system more accurate, make topics easier to find, research, and browse through, and otherwise make the site more useful. Any chance this could be implemented? Thanks.
posted by shivohum to Feature Requests at 7:52 AM (71 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

We currently allow mutual contacts to add tags to posts. (mentioned here.) I think opening it for any member to add tags would open the door to stunt and joke tags much more than it is now.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:55 AM on July 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


Ah, gotcha. What if non-posters were only able to add tags already in the database and weren't able to create new ones? Might that largely mitigate the joke/stunt tag risk?
posted by shivohum at 8:06 AM on July 29, 2014


You know, I've been thinking about this. I use tags a lot (for checking for previously posted things, for finding related topics, etc) and agree that many, many things are woefully undertagged.

I completely get why it's restricted to mutual contacts, that makes a lot of sense. But I also wonder if there could be like a tag suggestion pool, where any user could add a tag, and only if that tag is suggested by, I don't know, like 5 people or something does the tag actually show up.
posted by phunniemee at 8:07 AM on July 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


As much as I love tags and ponies, and I really, really do, I would be against this. Even if it were tags that are already in the database, there are a lot of words that, when applied to some posts, would be nonsensical or cruel-- I don't think that would limit the potential for a problem. Even if there was a 5 poster barrier to entry. And in the case of something like JulyByWomen, what if the poster specifically wanted to avoid that tag, for whatever reason? Would the OP have to constantly police the tags on the posts?
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:23 AM on July 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


In my experience, the mods do an awesome job of adding tags on request.
posted by zamboni at 8:32 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm never sure what to tag. I just put down the most obvious things I can think of. Is that correct?
posted by josher71 at 8:32 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


But I also wonder if there could be like a tag suggestion pool, where any user could add a tag, and only if that tag is suggested by, I don't know, like 5 people or something does the tag actually show up.

Just a thought, I've gotten memail from lots of people over the years with suggestions of tags to add to my posts. It's always appreciated.

Why not just auto-memail tag suggestions to the poster for approval after a set period of time. Say, a day after the post goes up?

"About a day ago you created a post on MetaFilter:

[Title of Post]
[url of post]

Since then, your post has received 10 tag suggestions from 4 members. Would you like to add them to the post? Additional tags can improve search results, ensuring that more people see your post in the future.

posted by zarq at 8:33 AM on July 29, 2014 [14 favorites]


I think the risk of tags being used for snotty, passive aggressive commentary on a post far outweighs any potential benefit from improved tagging.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:35 AM on July 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


Out of curiosity, has it ever happened before?

I suppose a better question is whether the mods have a way of tracking who has made tag corrections.

CSI: Metafilter.
posted by zarq at 8:42 AM on July 29, 2014


I think opening it for any member to add tags would open the door to stunt and joke tags much more than it is now.

There's a bit of apple-oranging to this, but still: this largely reminds me of one of the oft-repeated worries in the site's reluctance to allow editing posts. And I think the same would apply to allowing it: make the policy on it clear, and enforce hard on the rare individual instances of people messing with it.
posted by Drastic at 9:01 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


One way to solve the problem would be to allow non-OP's to suggest a tag with the OP having final say so, perhaps in a more automated fashion than memailing someone. Anyone could add tags , but they'd only be allowed if the OP specifically ticked yes/no to each one. I'm thinking something like a + underneath the existing tag list, with a form field that opens to allow potential tags to be typed in. The OP sees the list via the post page and can either allow or nix given tags.
posted by Solomon at 9:08 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


FWIW, anybody can add a recap to a Fanfare thread, and it doesn't seem like people are abusing it.
posted by jbickers at 9:08 AM on July 29, 2014


I would love to see better tags on posts. There are a bunch of ways we could do this without opening the door to abuse.
    Have a specially certified tag team of members who are allowed to add tags to posts.
    Have a suggest a tag button in the tag listing that would allow readers to send tag suggestions to the OP and/or the mods.
Well, maybe that's not a bunch, but it's a couple of ways that could help make tags much better than they are now. Given how difficult search is on the site, tags could and should be pulling a lot more weight.
posted by alms at 9:16 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like zarq's suggestion a lot, for new posts.

However, it's often older posts that come up as under-tagged -- the "previously on Metafilter" things that you can find only by choosing the right words to search on. In those cases the OP may not be around any more to add tags themselves.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:16 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know MeFi is almost deathly allergic to the idea of setting up different "levels" of users, but the backtagging effort was a huge success, with little to no abuse, as far as I know. Would it be possible to have users volunteer for "tagger" status, which could be revoked at any time? I envision it working like the backtagging project, where volunteers would be presented with random posts to tag, rather than tagging any post they come across, which should eliminate just about any grudges, vendettas, axegrinding, etc.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:34 AM on July 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Would it be possible to have users volunteer for "tagger" status, which could be revoked at any time?

Yes, yes! I will volunteer to do this! You can totally trust me!

Watch this page closely for updates.
posted by phunniemee at 9:44 AM on July 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Why can't I add the LOLbutts tag to this post?
posted by cjorgensen at 9:45 AM on July 29, 2014


Doesn't stunt tagging involve Evel Knievel, a motorcycle jump and a can of spray paint?
posted by shothotbot at 9:46 AM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


pb: "We currently allow mutual contacts to add tags to posts. (mentioned here.) I think opening it for any member to add tags would open the door to stunt and joke tags much more than it is now."

There are a lot of posts from deactivated accounts that I'd like to tag. If it's not possible to do this in general due to lulz-concern, could we have another defined round of back-tagging?
posted by boo_radley at 9:47 AM on July 29, 2014


Interestingly, it was only a few days ago that I went and added the "marbit" tag to an FPP I made 4 years ago. We all have room for improvement.
posted by phunniemee at 9:51 AM on July 29, 2014


alms: "Have a specially certified tag team of members who are allowed to add tags to posts."

A party over here, a party over there, wave your hands in the air, shake your derrière.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:10 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


This may be an unrelated pony, but personally I am really unclear as to the many wide-ranging benefits of creating a contact/mutual-contact relationship here on MeFi. Perhaps if these benefits were more explicitly enumerated somewhere (beyond the text identifying 'following their posts' as a benefit), more folks would be aware of stuff like this.

Not that anyone wants this to turn into facebook or whatever...
posted by softlord at 10:43 AM on July 29, 2014


softlord, take a look at this FAQ: What are contacts? Someone made me a contact, now what?
posted by pb (staff) at 10:47 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know MeFi is almost deathly allergic to the idea of setting up different "levels" of users, but the backtagging effort was a huge success, with little to no abuse, as far as I know.

I found at least a couple of tags added to my posts in the backtagging effort to be, uh, not what I desired the post to be tagged with. Not offensive or anything just not really what I thought the post was about. I ended up just deleting those tags.

But it highlights the problem I have with any non poster tagging methods. Metafilter has a pretty hard line leave it or delete it editorial policy with the only exception being html error fixes. Because of that I find changes to posts really galling. The potentially increased utility isn't worth the trade off in editorial control. The back tagging effort was worth it to extend functionality to the archives but going forward we all know what the tags do and the posting form strongly encourages adding tags. And there are lots of posts by abandoned, inactive or closed accounts where removal of tags by the author isn't possible.

Also an increased rate of tagging dilutes the usefulness of tags in general by increasing the number of posts that come up with any particular tag. I'd much rather see posts with a small number of succinct tags chosen by the author than a post with a dozen or more encompassing tags contributed by the community. Many of the tags on the popular tags page for example are pretty well useless for narrowing down searches even though they are the most obvious tags for any particular post. Though I find it hilarious that Canada is tagged more than America.
posted by Mitheral at 11:11 AM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


> But it highlights the problem I have with any non poster tagging methods. Metafilter has a pretty hard line leave it or delete it editorial policy with the only exception being html error fixes. Because of that I find changes to posts really galling.

You are misunderstanding what tags are. They are not part of the post, they are metadata, and they are not meant to be an expression of the poster's quirky sensibility (or even deadly serious analysis of what the poster thinks the post is about), they are meant to be an aid to other MeFites in finding the post. It doesn't matter if you don't think a given tag is relevant to your post—if someone else expected it to be there and would have found the post more easily if it had been there, they have a right to add it, and your objection is irrelevant.
posted by languagehat at 11:59 AM on July 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Though I find it hilarious that Canada is tagged more than America.

"Slave is an Ephebian word. In Om we have no word for slave,"

a quick google search tells me that Chrys of ChrysWatchesGameOfThrones is reading the Discworld series for the first time.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the risk of tags being used for snotty, passive aggressive commentary on a post far outweighs any potential benefit from improved tagging.

No more so than the comment box though, really. As long as, like abuse of the edit box, abuse of tagging privileges was treated as a very firm no-no, I can't see a problem, although it would very slightly increase the moderation load.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2014



No more so than the comment box though, really.


The tags look like something the OP added while creating the post and the comments are very obviously not that.
posted by sweetkid at 12:13 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


No more so than the comment box though, really.

Well, comments are clearly owned by the individual commenter.

I tend to think of tags as part of the original post, and therefore attribute tags to the user who made the post, so it's understandable that a poster might not want to own snarky, offensive, or unhelpful tags added by another person.

If this idea is to move forward, it might be helpful to have a mechanism that displays the user that actually added the tag.
posted by lalex at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think since the tags that you use most often show up on your user page, that you (and/or your contacts) should have the final say about what tags appear there. (without having to constantly review your FPPs, culling the tags you disagree with)
posted by cashman at 12:19 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


You are misunderstanding what tags are. They are not part of the post, they are metadata, and they are not meant to be an expression of the poster's quirky sensibility (or even deadly serious analysis of what the poster thinks the post is about), they are meant to be an aid to other MeFites in finding the post.

Pffft.

I'll have you know, good sir, that I am the proud poster of the highly exclusive and deeply-coveted "mmmmff!!" tag.
posted by zarq at 12:23 PM on July 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't know what Matt's grand design for tags is/was but whatever the intention it is self evident that people use tags for jokes (and pre-emption of same), topic meta-commentary and whimsy only vaguely related to the subject of the post often garnering comments acknowledging that in threads in addition to their indexing properties.
posted by Mitheral at 12:30 PM on July 29, 2014


I like zarq's idea - "suggested tags," reviewable by the OP.

Personally, I think additional tagging would be most helpful in AskMe.

Also, I think it's long past time that we move to allowing spaces in tags, and separating tags by commas instead.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:31 PM on July 29, 2014


Heh. The mmmmff!! tag was suggested by someone in the thread. :D
posted by zarq at 12:34 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


For whatever it's worth, this came up for me last night.

Sebmojo posted "To burn, to burst, to blaze" linking to an essay by a writer I'd never read before --- Katie Crouch. I really enjoyed the essay, I find it really great writing, theming on [spoilers until end of this paragraph] Crouch's experience of San Francisco during the first tech boom and bust, and on her friendship with a co-worker during that time, and on his love affair, and on her love affair, all sewn together by -- Ready? -- her take on Sylvia Plath and suicide.

I really enjoyed the writing, did a Startpage search, found Crouch's,site, including a page on her site linking to 12 (I just counted them) other essays she's written, all online. I was stoked, went back into the thread to link to her site and the page on her site linking to the essays.

While in there, I read comments posted since I'd been in there, then idly looked at the tags, saw that there is no sylviaplath nor katiecrouch nor sanfrancisco tag.

AAACCCKKK !!! Someone on the internet was doing something wrong !!!! Oh no !!! The horrors !!! The horrors !!!

I saw no way that I could add the tags. I considered writing Our Mod Overlords about it, considered writing Sebmojo about it.

But then I did a search on katiecrouch and sylviaplath and both searches turned up the post in question. So I just let it drop.

I figured that it was covered, tags or no -- what's the general consensus on this one? And are others then like this one?

Did I do it wrong? (frightened look on my face)
posted by dancestoblue at 12:37 PM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hey, um, this might be a good place to ask... My last post on Ramadan in the land of the midnight sun got lots of tags added by somebody else. Since I only have two contacts (who seem unlikely to be involved) that means a mod added them, right?

I don't mind the tags, they're good, but I'm a bit weirded out by the (to me) stealth adding.Having everyone add tags (as suggested here) makes me feel uncomfortable, though I daresay I'd adjust to the expectation.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:12 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I took a look, Omnomnom— five of the tags were added by a mod. I don't know the exact reason why in this case, but often mods will add tags if there's likely to be a another post on the topic. (This often happens when lots of people are making duplicate obit threads.)
posted by pb (staff) at 1:22 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Tags can already be added by other people: your contacts and the mods. So it's already incorrect to think of tags as always being part of the original post, added by the author of the post. They usually are, but not always.

This pony wouldn't change that. It would just allow an avenue for expanding the usefulness of tags.
posted by alms at 1:26 PM on July 29, 2014


Thanks pb!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:47 PM on July 29, 2014


I am the Worst Tagger, it's true: but imo google site:metafilter.com is a vastly better way of extracting information so I don't put a lot of effort into tag-pickin'.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:43 PM on July 29, 2014


> I don't know what Matt's grand design for tags is/was but whatever the intention it is self evident that people use tags for jokes (and pre-emption of same), topic meta-commentary and whimsy only vaguely related to the subject of the post often garnering comments acknowledging that in threads in addition to their indexing properties.

Yes, it is. I happen to think it's overdone and often dumb (not yours, zarq!), but that's irrelevant. It doesn't matter if there are dumb, pointless tags; it matters that useful tags are there, which is why there should be no controversy about people adding them. I frankly don't understand people getting bent out of shape about other people adding tags to their precious, precious posts. Like I said, they are not part of the post, they are metadata. You can (and should) no more control the tags people add than the comments they make to your post.

> I figured that it was covered, tags or no -- what's the general consensus on this one?

If they would be useful as tags, they should be added; Google search is a different way of accessing information, and if you're going to depend on that you don't need tags at all.
posted by languagehat at 2:45 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Viz.

That said I've no particular objections to other people adding tags, though it's an easy avenue for passive aggressive sniping.

(i added those tags, dancestoblue)
posted by Sebmojo at 2:48 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wholeheartedly support the notion of encouraging tagging. It's something that adds a lot of utility to the site I feel, but because that typically comes much later than posting, I think it can get overlooked.
posted by smoke at 2:57 PM on July 29, 2014


imo google site:metafilter.com is a vastly better way of extracting information so I don't put a lot of effort into tag-pickin'.

Google has given us good reason in recent years not to trust that it is providing us with the most relevant or helpful results.

Thoughtful and considerate tagging at the posting stage is part of what makes this site useful by its users for its users, without having to rely on an outside service to make sense of the place.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:33 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Tags can already be added by other people: your contacts and the mods. So it's already incorrect to think of tags as always being part of the original post

Anything on the site can be added or deleted by a mod. Mods are mods. And to the first point, tags can be added by mutual contacts. Some of us don't have any of those. Personally I'd like to opt out of the contact system entirely. I've asked. It hasn't happened. I'm not sure why, given the wide variety of non-offensive features that have been granted upon request in these threads. Heck, the second logout button was nixed because somebody asked. But regardless. Also, tags added by mutual contacts can (to my understanding; is this wrong?) be nixed by the OP. (Can you nix mod-added tags?)

Like I said, they are not part of the post, they are metadata.

Sure they are. They're right there, visible. I understand the term "metadata" to refer to things more like the invisible text that's hidden in webpages but visible to search engines. Regardless, it's valid but certainly not authoritative to argue that tags aren't "part of the post." They are visible and prominent. They are often discussed, too.
posted by cribcage at 3:35 PM on July 29, 2014


Omnomnom, it may have been me that added the extra tags. I like to search by tags, and so if I think a post is interesting, or if I see it's lacking a tag that I would use to search for it, I will sometimes add a few tags to make it more easily findable.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:35 PM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


And yes, the OP can nix mod-added tags.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:47 PM on July 29, 2014


(And now, having looked, yes, yours was that nice one about how to calculate daylight hours for religious observance in the arctic! I could swear there was a post on a similar topic a few years ago - although my dim memory was that post was about a Jewish family? - and I was hunting around for that other post and thought I would add a few tags that would make it easier to find yours later. Sorry it creeped you out, definitely not my intent; obviously feel free to delete those tags if you'd prefer.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:00 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


And there are lots of posts by abandoned, inactive or closed accounts where removal of tags by the author isn't possible.

Neverending
tag
longboats
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:32 PM on July 29, 2014


As someone who didn't do many FPP's until JulyByWomen (and the list is still pretty short), I freely admit to not really getting the tag thing and, thus, not using very many of them on my posts. In one of my FPPs, someone publicly asked me to add a tag and I did so as soon as I saw the request.

So, perhaps a better solution would be to help out us FPP newbs by sending a polite memail or posting a public request indicating your desire for the addition of specific tags. It would also be fine by me if you added a comment about how you use tags or why you think it needs those tags so I can start figuring out this mysterious tag thingamajig. If it is okay to do this publicly a bit, then you might see it educate a whole lot of people, not just the person who posted the FPP with very few tags.

Or we could beanplate it in Meta from time to time. Whatever works.
posted by Michele in California at 11:42 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


The tags are part of the post like the title and the category; members use the tags to help tell the story (or whatever.) They should only be changed by mods for the usual case-by-case reasons.
posted by michaelh at 1:27 PM on July 30, 2014


maybe some people use the tags to tell the story but I search by tags.
posted by sweetkid at 1:57 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I use tags as bookmarks.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I try to use tags to help others find relevant posts.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:52 PM on July 30, 2014


So, perhaps a better solution would be to help out us FPP newbs by sending a polite memail or posting a public request indicating your desire for the addition of specific tags. It would also be fine by me if you added a comment about how you use tags or why you think it needs those tags so I can start figuring out this mysterious tag thingamajig. If it is okay to do this publicly a bit, then you might see it educate a whole lot of people, not just the person who posted the FPP with very few tags.

This is a good idea.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:01 PM on July 30, 2014


> members use the tags to help tell the story (or whatever.)

You can use them however you like, but that's not what they're for.

> I search by tags.

That's what they're for.
posted by languagehat at 4:49 PM on July 30, 2014


Well, I think that's a boring and restrictive way to look at them and I hope the culture of creatively using tags doesn't get squashed by the people who want them search-optimized as has been the case with titles on some other sites.

To me it seems way better to do fuzzy search results for tags (related, plurals, not-tagged-but-has-similar-content) and let people write their posts the way they like. Or at least separate community/mod-added tags so the post author doesn't get the credit/blame.
posted by michaelh at 4:54 PM on July 30, 2014


I don't think we need to do away with creative tags, but search is what tags are *for,* yes. Tagging makes searching for posts on a topic much easier, if you can have a good guess at how the topic is tagged. It's really that simple.
posted by sweetkid at 5:18 PM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


> Well, I think that's a boring and restrictive way to look at them and I hope the culture of creatively using tags doesn't get squashed by the people who want them search-optimized as has been the case with titles on some other sites.

In case it wasn't clear, I wasn't calling for (nor do I want) a ban on creative tags. People should use as many tags as they feel like, of whatever nature. What I'm saying is that in addition to those tags, there need to be boring old useful tags. I find it hard to understand how anyone could object to that, but apparently some people do.
posted by languagehat at 10:23 AM on July 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


people who want them search-optimized

I think there's a distinction to be made here just for clarity's sake between Search Optimization as in "we can get u #1 results on google" snake oil and search optimization as in people on Metafilter being able to successfully search Metafilter for Metafilter content and find it because inter alia it has helpful tags.

So, basically what languagehat says: the existence of goofy tags isn't a huge problem, but the omission of useful tags kind of is, at least in a "trying to help make the site work as well as possible" context.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:03 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


If we were starting from scratch, yes, totally agreed. But that ship has sailed, I think. The database is big and the tags are a mess. On the other side, tag usage has, over the years, become conversational and cultural. Set those two against each other, and I just don't see the weight of the utility/originalism/prescriptivism argument. The problem isn't going to be solved. Why make the waves?

Recently it feels like we've had a lot of gender-related posts. I've been browsing the tags occasionally over the past few weeks because I wondered if it was just me or if it's an actual trend. What I've noticed is that the tags are a complete mess. There's no consistency. Here's two FPPs from just the past couple hours that seem pretty closely (in my opinion) related: women are less confident, women are lied to during negotiations. One is tagged "women," the other is tagged "gender," neither is tagged "feminism," etc. This is what I noticed consistently over the past few weeks. Now, maybe somebody disagrees with me that those two posts are related, and that's okay, but I think they are related and I would expect them to be grouped together in a well-functioning tagging system. It's surely debatable whether my expectation is correct, but I don't think it's debatable that expectation is reasonable.

Point being, insofar as it's a problem, I think it's one beyond solving. It is, as someone joked upthread, like trying to address favorites-as-upvotes. Matt may not have intended the functionality that way, but it is that way, and it's ingrained.
posted by cribcage at 10:14 PM on July 31, 2014


Ironic to see languagehat being a prescriptivist.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:08 AM on August 1, 2014


> Ironic to see languagehat being a prescriptivist.

For values of "being a prescriptivist" that include not being a prescriptivist. Maybe it will help if I repeat in bold:

In case it wasn't clear, I wasn't calling for (nor do I want) a ban on creative tags. People should use as many tags as they feel like, of whatever nature.
posted by languagehat at 9:30 AM on August 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


If people are thinking the only purpose of tags is to put some funny words with your posts, that's not going to help a lot of people who want to use tags as the search mechanism they're intended to be. I don't think saying that is the same thing as wanting to ban people using tags to add funny commentary to their posts.

Some people here have been like "what are tags for?" and i don't think "to add to the story of your post" is the right answer.
posted by sweetkid at 9:39 AM on August 1, 2014


cortex: "we can get u #1 results on google"

Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


languagehat: "> Ironic to see languagehat being a prescriptivist.

For values of "being a prescriptivist" that include not being a prescriptivist. Maybe it will help if I repeat in bold:

In case it wasn't clear, I wasn't calling for (nor do I want) a ban on creative tags. People should use as many tags as they feel like, of whatever nature.
"

But you were also quite clear that, while people will do as they like, using non-search type tags means that they are not acting in accordance with the originally designed purpose of tags:
You are misunderstanding what tags are. They are not part of the post, they are metadata, and they are not meant to be an expression of the poster's quirky sensibility (or even deadly serious analysis of what the poster thinks the post is about), they are meant to be an aid to other MeFites in finding the post.
This seems no different than saying, "You can use decimate to mean 'destroy' if you like, but what it is meant to mean is 'to kill one man in ten' ." Which, while not perhaps truly hardcore prescriptivist, doesn't seem particularly descriptivist. Regardless of what Livy's original intent was, the meaning of the word has evolved. And regardless of mathowie's original intent, tag usage has evolved.

Perhaps a friendlier way to frame it would be to ask - what is the most *helpful* way to use tags, regardless of original intent? The answer, I think, would be in accordance with what you've suggested above - Put on whatever tags you like, just please include tags that will assist in search.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:30 AM on August 1, 2014


just please include tags that will assist in search.

Okay, but can I get any suggestions for helping me (and other clueless 5 dollar noobs) figure out how to actually do that?

Because that's kind of what I was hoping would be the outcome of my earlier remark. And it hasn't happened.

Thanks.
posted by Michele in California at 12:16 PM on August 1, 2014


> This seems no different than saying, "You can use decimate to mean 'destroy' if you like, but what it is meant to mean is 'to kill one man in ten' ."

For values of "no different" that include "completely different." Seriously, you are ginning up a strained analogy to make an "ironic" point that isn't worth making. The meaning of tags has nothing to do with the meaning of words except that we can use the word "meaning" for both. Since we both agree that the most helpful way to use tags is just as I said, I have no idea what you're trying to argue about.
posted by languagehat at 12:17 PM on August 1, 2014


Since I'm the one who used the word prescriptivist, I'll clarify that it's not about some ironic gotcha. I could care less what anybody thinks about Strunk & White because you're right, that's a totally unrelated matter. I used the words prescriptivism and originalism because I think those words capture what's problematic about leaning on, "That's what tags are for," not because you were one of the people making that argument.

You're welcome to disagree that it's an apt word. I think it is.
posted by cribcage at 12:39 PM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


MiC, I think you're already doing fine, but IMO the best way to tag is this:

Imagine someone had seen your post previously and is trying to get back to it. They remember the subject it's about, but not the exact words used in the post. Sometimes a post uses a quote or something else that doesn't mention a key term, and in that case searching will not bring it up. So, suppose there's a post about a game that only says "This is fun, you get to be a garbageman" but doesn't use the word "game." It will be useful to tag it as "game" because somebody trying to get back to it will remember "there was this game about trash" or whatever.

Or, imagine someone later on is searching through past posts looking for interesting games. It's helpful to those people if the post shows up under that tag.

So the thing to so is think about those two scenarios - what words might someone else use to describe the subject or distinguishing features of this post if they were remembering it? What kind of searchers (i.e., people interested in what subjects) might want to find it in the future? Pick the top, say, five or eight words.

It's also helpful to tag posts with proper nouns/names of people involved, for example a link to an essay might get tagged with the name of its author even if that person's name isn't mentioned in the post.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:57 PM on August 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Okay, but can I get any suggestions for helping me (and other clueless 5 dollar noobs) figure out how to actually do that?

That would be one benefit of adding a button allowing other users to "suggest an additional tag" for a post. Beyond adding tags to that one post, it would help the author of the post understand what tags other people find helpful. To me that's the biggest benefit of having the button.
posted by alms at 6:19 AM on August 4, 2014


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