gradschool + grad_school + graduateschool = 25 posts. August 3, 2005 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Follow-up: gradschool + grad_school + graduateschool = 25 posts.
posted by cribcage to Bugs at 11:23 AM (31 comments total)

I agree.
posted by dios at 11:32 AM on August 3, 2005


It would sure be helpful if someone would merge all of those. But oh no, we don't want our precious tags edited by other people to be more helpful! Every single tag is an individual beautiful snowflake and part and parcel of our innermost thoughts.
posted by grouse at 11:44 AM on August 3, 2005


There's a difference between formatting a tag in a way that preserves its meaning, and deleting a tag outright.

I'm not necessarily opposed to either, grouse, but I doubt that all the people who complained about the latter will mind the former very much.
posted by voltairemodern at 11:51 AM on August 3, 2005


Don't you mean snowflake, snow-flake, and snow_flake?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:52 AM on August 3, 2005


* re-dons his Melville Dewey sheets and rattles his cataloging chains while moaning "Authority Controollll... Authooorrityyy Contrrooolllll!!!!..." *
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:53 AM on August 3, 2005


Last time we had people arguing that the tags are for the use of the individual, not the community, and that any usefulness for the community is a happy coincidence.

Personally I think that is batshit_insane. I don't need tags to find my own MeFi posts or AskMe questions. There just aren't that many of them. I need tags to find other peoples' posts and questions.
posted by grouse at 12:05 PM on August 3, 2005


If we could just agree to use LCSH, we wouldn't have this problem.
posted by stet at 12:09 PM on August 3, 2005


grouse writes "batshit_insane"

In a happy coincidence, "Search web for 'batshit_insane'" in Firefox only brings up this one result, and it's about Terri Shaivo. Tag that.
posted by OmieWise at 12:14 PM on August 3, 2005


grouse: the argument I remember making is that novelty tags do not impact the basic functionality of the tag searches, and so should stand because they cause no harm, confusion, gridlock, or server strain.

This is *clearly* a functionality issue, and I don't think anyone would reasonably be opposed to it. Can you really not see the distinction here, or are you engaging in some hyperbole to stress a non-applicable point?

Be careful attributing a single voice to the entire opposition. We get enough of that in the blue.
posted by absalom at 1:06 PM on August 3, 2005


Wow, I had no idea so many of you were in grade school! That explains a lot.
posted by 김치 at 1:09 PM on August 3, 2005


absalom, I am not attributing anything to the entire opposition, and I don't think that what I have written here is reflective of everyone's belief. There were, however, particular individuals who actually took the position that you consider hyperbolic—namely that tags exist primarily to help the person that applied the tag, not the community. I disagree with that, and it sounds like you do too.
posted by grouse at 2:01 PM on August 3, 2005


So what we want is some sort of automated supplemental tag system? (If grad_school, add graduate_school; if gradschool, add graduate_school, if graduateschool, add graduate_school.)

Then all we'd need would be someone(s) to build the cross-reference database and maintain it.
posted by WestCoaster at 2:51 PM on August 3, 2005


they just need to be linked to each other so that all variations will show up in a search. Matt, hire some intern kid to do it.
posted by amberglow at 2:51 PM on August 3, 2005


License the tag clustering engine from Flickr.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:06 PM on August 3, 2005


grouse: fair enough. Also, you are absolutely right - we are in total agreement as far as your second comment goes. The idea that tags exist for the individual is clearly insane. Sorry I read your snark as a broad brush.

That being said, I think the anarchic spirit that (I like to think) drives the MeFi community is served by a "If it harms none, let it stand" 'policy.' Because of this, I still have trouble seeing your examples as synonymous.
posted by absalom at 3:08 PM on August 3, 2005


It's been done.



See here as well. As ever, the simplest ideas have the most problematic implementation.

It's not that I like LCSH so much, it's just an easy example. In my heart of hearts, I'm all about the Colon classification.
posted by stet at 3:19 PM on August 3, 2005


Flickr lets you change a set of tags at once. So if you tagged all your pictures VT and wanted to change that to "vermont" you could change it across the board. I think this would be useful here BUT it might necessitate tag editing which is clearly problematic to some.

Matt and I have the ability to edit tags, as does the original poster. I think there is a difference between editing grad_school to be the same as gradschool [once you decide on a preferential form, hello robocop and stet!] which is less of an issue than actually removing a tag, but I'd be interested to know what people think.

There's a difference between formatting a tag in a way that preserves its meaning, and deleting a tag outright.

We saw a few people in the batshit_insane thread who clearly thought tags were the property and copyright of the poster and any change to the tags was a change to the post and thus not okay. Most MeTa threads that deal with edits make it clear that there is a group of people for whom deleting a post is preferential to making any edits to it and that includes fixing typos or errors unless it's by request.

We see people who tag with multiple words so a post about New York winds up with two tags "new" and "york" instead of one newyork. We also see people who misspell tags [obvious with proper names, less obvious with other sorts of nouns and adjectives, possibly even intentional misspellings, who knows?] and I don't know what to do with those, I often add the correct spelling and leave the incorrect one. We also see posts with no tags at all. Is it proper for admins to add tags?

I personally would be pleased to dive into the tag pool - perhaps with some trusty librarian accomplices - and try to straighten it out some, but it's still not at all clear that that would go over too well. One possibility is to only be additive as WestCoaster says, but then you wind up with each tag having three variants on grad school and new posts about the topic would probably wind up getting only one of them.

Flickr's tagging seems to have as a primary purpose to be for individual organizing and it has the great side benefit of being useful to the community, MeFi's tagging seems to almost be the opposite.
posted by jessamyn at 6:09 PM on August 3, 2005


i think it'd be ok for you, or a group, to add tags where they're missing, but i'd be on the side of linking similar ones together, and adding the ability to do 2-word ones.
posted by amberglow at 6:16 PM on August 3, 2005


What would del.icio.us do?
posted by mecran01 at 9:13 PM on August 3, 2005


This isn't del.icio.us.
posted by grouse at 12:46 AM on August 4, 2005


I would prefer that only people who are in grad school edit the "grad school" tags, and only those who are batshitinsane edit the "batshitinsane" tags. I will be editing all the "tazrocks" tags, and will expect grouse to edit all the "grouchy" tags.

Really, personally, I wouldn't mind at all if my tags were edited for additional info, or for misspellings... I actually always thought that tags here were going in that direction. But I guess I still don't really see the point of deleting tags, and it's difficult for me to see how editors could really spend enough time with each post to make sure a deletion is accurate.

For example, let's say I make a post about a giant ice sculpture of a palace. If you get to the fifth paragraph of the article, it talks about how the sculptor did blahblah so that at certain times of the day the light shining through the ice would create various effects in certain areas (or something. give me a break, I'm just making this up). And I tag my post "art". "ice", "sculpture", icesculpture", "palace", and "light". An editor might quickly check the link, and say "Light? - ptooie!" and delete that tag.

But that would be wrong. And with goofy tags like batshitinsane... well, to be honest, that might be the first thing I remember about a post tagged that way, and how I try to find it. Or there may be tags that don't make sense if applied to the broadest possible user-knowledge base, but definitely do when applied to a subsection - so where do you apply the scalpel? Even "NSFW" which makes perfect sense to us, wouldn't mean anything to most people.

So, unless tags are obviously and deliberately just intended for malicious mischief, I don't see what the problem is with adding but not deleting.
posted by taz at 3:23 AM on August 4, 2005


>I personally would be pleased to dive into the tag pool - perhaps with some trusty librarian accomplices - and try to straighten it out some, but it's still not at all clear that that would go over too well. One possibility is to only be additive as WestCoaster says, but then you wind up with each tag having three variants on grad school and new posts about the topic would probably wind up getting only one of them.

Two things occur to me - one is that you might want to have the tag system distinguish between the original poster's tags and tags added by admin / custodial types. That might be a nuisance, but identifying the provenance of the tags would be one way to address the folks who are strongly opposed to anyone tinkering with their content.

Another idea is that you could have a dictionary of aliases in the background. So it would be possible to do a literal search for just the 'grad_school' tag if that's important for some reason, but you could also search for 'grad_school and synonymous tags'. Perhaps the admins' view could include an easy little button to add a tag to the alias dictionary (which some people might call a thesaurus) while browsing.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:08 AM on August 4, 2005


I wonder if there are two separate issues here.

First, the question as to whether or not folks' tags should be edited by powers other than them. On one hand, this could correct misspellings ('GWBuhs'? the heck is that?) and perhaps even standardize some tags (the grad_school example), but on the other it opens the door to much gnashing of teeth that someone's tags have been altered and could even prevent access of information if a searcher is not on the same wavelength as the editor (Abby searches under 'gradschool' and only finds two posts, while Bob looks under grad_school and finds twenty). I don't think the poster's intent should be altered, but I also think the intent of tags is for ease of linking posts and searching. Therefore, I think that obvious misspellings should be fixed, with an alert to the poster ("Your tag 'nuagarafalls' has been altered to 'niagarafalls' please reply if there is a problem with this."), while editorializing tags, regardless of how much of a waste they may be, should not. New tags could be added, but they would display differently as an admin's addition, as Wolfdog suggests above.

Second, should there be a thesaurus of tags? If there is, who maintains/'owns' it? Being able to group the grad_school iterations would be a great boon to accessibility. I have no idea how this could be implemented on MeFi, but think that it should. It'd also be nice to see some standardization of tags and I think this would be the least disruptive way to do it (ie, whomever updates the thesaurus always uses '_' for spaces, the plural form of nouns, and the first initials and last name of people, for example) without needing to beat users about the head to accept new forms.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:38 AM on August 4, 2005


Or, we could code a 'tag-linking' system, such that similar tags are linked together, but apear independantly.

And by "we" I mean "mathowie".
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on August 4, 2005


hmm... I wanted to post that much earlier, but mefi was el dead.
posted by delmoi at 11:57 AM on August 4, 2005


I've said it before and I'll say it again, a wealth of these problems would be solved if the tag system stopped using whitespace as a delimiter.

This way, people don't have to guess what delimiter should be used for multi-word concepts. They don't have to pick from _,-,/- or just no space at all.

People naturally separate words with a space, and they naturally separate list items with commas. Stop working against this.

What to fix:
tags: (separate with a  space  comma)

Easy!
posted by odinsdream at 2:24 PM on August 4, 2005


I think it would eliminate a lot of tagspace clutter if the code interpreting tags just eliminated case, punctuation and whitespace within each individual tag. It oughtta be smart enough on its own to consider 80s, '80s and 80's as identical. The off-the-cuff nature of keyword tags is a feature, not a bug, but it means people aren't gonna stick to some formalised style guide.

Also, having some sort of automated thesaurus of tags is probably a good idea. Ideally, though, it'd include not just synonyms--"auto" for "car", but parent-child relationships, as well--so a search for "car" finds posts tagged with "hot rod" or "SUV", but "hot rod" doesn't find all "car" posts.
posted by arto at 9:32 PM on August 4, 2005


I see a lot of good ideas here. I'm in favor of two things: first, replacing the space with the comma as a delimiter; second, some kind of dictionary function for tags that give the poster, upon preview, a list of similar tags for each of his proposed tags. So the would-be user of "graduateschool" would be told that n number of other users have used the similar word "gradschool".

And make this dictionary function retroactive, so users can go back on their own and change their tags to the more ubiquitous form, if they chose to. Distribution of labor, folks!
posted by squirrel at 10:00 PM on August 4, 2005


"auto" for "car", but parent-child relationships, as well--so a search for "car" finds posts tagged with "hot rod" or "SUV", but "hot rod" doesn't find all "car" posts.

That would be nice, but doesn't it smack too much of hierarchical organization for those who've drunk the flattened-tag kool-aid?
posted by kenko at 10:05 PM on August 4, 2005


Maybe if you entered grad_school it could say "A tag already exists called gradschool, would you like to use this instead?".

Probably hard to do?
posted by null terminated at 5:04 AM on August 5, 2005


That's kind of what I'm talking about, null. It might require running the tag fields through a kind of mini-spellcheck--the dictionary of which contains n number or n percent of the most popular tags in use.
posted by squirrel at 6:30 AM on August 5, 2005


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