With each major release of iOS, it seems that we grow a new tag. As of now, we have , , , , , , , , , , and a handful of others that are unused.

It would make sense to collapse all of these as synonyms of . First, the additional tags mean that questions are effectively lost to the experts unless they happen to search for the additional tags.

Secondly, the iOS development program is such that developers very rapidly embrace the latest production version of the SDK. Applications submitted upon the production release of iOS must be, at the least, compatible with the newly released OS.

Thus, the version specific tags are not very useful in and of themselves and that they cause questions to effectively be lost makes them a liability.

I tried suggesting synonyms, but it appears that only moderators can do so for version specific tags.

Fair enough -- I don't know what the policy is beyond said synonym interface. Thus, this question; should the version specific iOS tags be collapsed into just iOS?

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Don't forget all the iphone-sdk-* variants. –  Dave DeLong Oct 16 '11 at 18:36
I agree completely with merging the various iOS tags. I just wish I had enough rep to vote this up. –  danimal Oct 16 '11 at 19:27
@Dave: Yeah, I can't stand seeing people still tagging their new questions with [iphone-sdk-3.0] and [iphone-sdk-3.2] just because the tags are there and they're just clicking whatever's there to fill up the tags field. So much so that I put them on my ignore list. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 16 '11 at 20:27
What would be really cool is to collapse all the tags. Then expect / moderate the asker/answerer to be verbose if the question is about specific features or versions. Lastly, the system could know what iOS was shipping / in development and automatically provide that as system generated metadata based on post date. Perhaps on the same level as tags, but right aligned above the asker's name. –  bmike Oct 16 '11 at 20:38
@bmike I'd rather keep it simple for now. Generally, the version # is not that relevant given the nature of the questions and simply collapsing the tags would make participation easier. In general, a decent feature would be for a tag and/or question to have optional version # metadata, possibly. Or, as you suggest, metadata attached to the post itself. For the iOS tags, though, simply collapsing is good enough -- a vast improvement -- for now. –  bbum Oct 16 '11 at 23:18
Agreed - iOS as the one tag and link the rest in. It would be a serious maintenance headache to implement the "cool" feature I proposed. Just that change would be very welcome from where I see things. –  bmike Oct 16 '11 at 23:23
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5 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I believe they should be synonymized (synonymificated?). The reasons you outlined are good ones.

There is the concern that arises about what to do when people are asking SDK-specific questions. For example, should all of the new UIAppearance questions be tagged with ? I don't think so, for a few reasons:

  1. The usage of UIAppearance naturally implies that the question is iOS 5-specific, since that is the version in which it appears. Beyond this, what happens if iOS 6 comes out one day? Will people asking questions who happen to be using the iOS 6 SDK start tagging their UIAppearance questions with ? That would lead to a false association, because there's a decent chance that their question could be easily applicable to iOS 5 as well, since UIAppearance would necessarily be present in both SDKs.

  2. What does the tag mean? Does it mean they're using the iOS 5 SDK? Or that they have a deployment target of iOS 5? Or perhaps do they not know and think "well, my test device is running iOS 5, so I'll use that"?

  3. On a more philosophical level, Apple discourages developers from asking "what version of the OS am I running on?", but instead recommends "does the version I'm running have [this particular capability]?" In other words: version-specific = bad, feature-specific = good.

OK, so what about questions where the SDK is the iOS 5 SDK, but the developer has a deployment target of iOS 4.2+? They may be trying to use UIAppearance, but that won't work on iOS 4. In this case, the questioner should be clearly stating in his question that "I have a deployment target of iOS 4.2" (or similar).

The only reason I could see for keeping them around is when people have questions about the SDK itself. However, these are extremely rare and could easily be covered by tagging the question with , implying that the question is about the tools and not how to use the provided frameworks.


YES, combine them. The extra tags don't provide any useful information.

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As well, the developer may be using UIAppearance in a weak linked fashion; thus targeting 4.2+ while still taking advantage of the class on later releases. –  bbum Oct 16 '11 at 19:42
+1: I've had to retag many, many questions that were only tagged with [ios5], [iphone-sdk-4.3], or something similar, and thus were not getting seen by the larger audience of iOS developers. The specific OS version usually doesn't matter, and if it does it will be specified in the body of the question. Synonyms would solve this problem. –  Brad Larson Oct 17 '11 at 19:18
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My concern here is that you are asking for a tag hierarchy as opposed to a synonym.

What would be ideal is if the system automatically ensured the tag was always present if the that was.

I dislike the idea of erasure of context in the name of organisation. The version specific tags give some clue on the type of system the asker is using when they asked the question. Also, we can later use those tags to quickly clean up old ios questions that are no longer relevant due to API/SDK changes.

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I guess this is alright for the [ios] tag, since most people who know the term iOS generally know better than the people who always say "iphone" like they've never heard of other iOS devices like the iPad and the iPod touch. On the other hand, most people tagging their iOS questions with [iphone-sdk-*] tags often use the obsolete versions 3.0, 3.2 and 4.0, even though it's safe to assume they're using the latest base SDK. (Even Apple calls it iOS SDK now to indicate the new name for the OS.) –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 19 '11 at 8:59
Except that these tags don't provide context. That's the point of the request; they're almost universally misused and ignored. –  Dave DeLong Oct 19 '11 at 22:02
@DaveDeLong I get it, but it worries me nonetheless "our iOS community can not be trusted to tag stuff, so let us all pretend it is not happening". If ios-* is misused so much ... why not simply black list it, then teach people to use the correct ios tag? –  waffles Oct 20 '11 at 6:06
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Version tags are useful, but they should be used when the question is specific for that version, not for saying "I am using version X."

The tags you are reporting are equivalent to , , and used for Windows. Following your suggestion, there should be just a tag for Windows-related questions: .

The difference with iOS-related tags is that Apple simple names the various versions of iOS with a version number.

I agree that having and (or ) is completely useless, as the version of the SDK is named after the version of iOS for which the SDK is thought for. Those tags should be renamed to be more uniform, and avoid having , , and .
It would also help not having tags for iOS 4.1 and 4.2, and just use a tag for iOS 4.

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While version tags are useful for windows and other products, their usefulness is greatly diminished when developing for iOS for the reasons that both Dave and I enumerated. Having answered hundreds of questions in the Mac OS X and iOS realms, the version specific tags do not convey useful information and, far worse, cause questions to often be lost because the questioner tagged only with a specific tag that none of the experts are actively monitoring. –  bbum Oct 17 '11 at 15:48
That could be said about every version tags, including the language tags; there is no difference between the version tags for iOS and C#. The fact version tags are misused does not mean they should be removed; it simply means questions that misuse them should be retagged. I then doubt questions about iOS 4 are simply tagged ios4 (in that case, the experts should follow that tag); if that is the case, the questions should be retagged to include another tag that would allow the experts to find the questions. At the end, it is just a matter of retagging, not burnating tags. –  kiamlaluno Oct 18 '11 at 8:30
The problem, though, is that questions are getting lost and not answered because they are mis-tagged and none of the experts are paying attention to the myriad of low use tags. The current system does not work and, as experts in the field of iOS have, so far, unanimously chimed in, collapsing the tags would be welcome and effective. However, Joel's answer below may be make the whole thing moot. –  bbum Oct 20 '11 at 16:43
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First, the additional tags mean that questions are effectively lost to the experts unless they happen to search for the additional tags.

You can do wild card matching in your favorite tags for ios* This isn't necessarily an argument against the synonym, but it is worth mentioning here.

the iOS development program is such that developers very rapidly embrace the latest production version of the SDK.

I think we should keep iOS 4.3, at least for now, as this the last version supported by a few devices that are still in wide circulation. And if we're keeping iOS 4.3, we may want to also keep whatever the current version is.

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I wasn't aware of the wildcard search. That is very helpful. –  bbum Oct 20 '11 at 16:44
While the wildcard is nice, it also introduces false positives. For example, if I subscribe to the "iOS*" feed, I'm going to get a bunch of "iostream" questions I don't care about. –  Dave DeLong Oct 29 '11 at 20:06
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I agree with this for yet another reason. All questions worthy of the tag should probably be closed as being "too localised" anyway, if they're so specifically relevant to iOS 4.0.1 (and not iOS 4.0.2, for instance). This is very subjective, of course. But in general, there shouldn't be any tags for patch releases

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