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The existing tag wikis are not enough. They can only store a very small volume of information, and given the complexity of the topics we're discussing here, that's just not enough.

I propose to make them full wikis- that is, full community-edited sub-sites in their own right to host various reference material that does not suit the main site's Q&A format.

Edit: I mean that specifically, the community would be able to create, delete, and edit pages pertaining to the tag in question. Permissions to do this would be based on reputation in that specific tag, rather than in general.

Yes, the functionality, at its core, is similar to Wikipedia. But it's not really similar in usage. Consider some of the reference material due for deletion. The Definitive C++ Book Guide and List, for example. You can't find that kind of material on Wikipedia. The tag wikis would be much more specific.

Ultimately, not every piece of helpful material ever is in Q&A format. Some of it is reference. The question is whether we're here to help people, or just answer questions. For example, there are C++-FAQ questions on the site right now which could, more accurately, live in here.

Another edit:

More accurately, the problem is that we have existing material which is not really Q&A, it's reference, and doesn't belong. It can't go in the tag wiki because the thing is just a Giant Wall'o'Text. All we need is a little subdivision so that we can link to specific sections.

As for competition with Wikipedia, it's not even close. Consider operator overloading. Wikipedia has about 4 lines covering operator overloading in C++, which basically state "You can overload XYZ operators.". The C++ FAQ has about 400 lines covering best practices in-depth. It is not really the same problem domain.

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If you mean the actual wiki (not the excerpt) they already do this; they're editable and can contain links or quotes from relevant material. They can also have images. I think the main problem you're trying to address is that most people don't use them or add to them. –  Ben Brocka Feb 13 '12 at 16:43
    
@BenBrocka: Contain links? That's not what I'm talking about. I mean hosting sub-pages. There's a big difference between being able to contain links, and being able to host links. –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 16:44
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SO isn't Wikipedia and AFAIK isn't up for competing with them either. Tag wikis are more of a quick summary that emphasizes the aspects important to how the tag is used on the site. I don't see a need to expand them, given that. You can link from the main android tag to android-ndk, for example, so I'm not sure what purpose sub-pages would serve. –  Matthew Read Feb 13 '12 at 16:44
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This would be a better feature-request if you could provide some detail about how this might work. –  Robert Harvey Feb 13 '12 at 16:44
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@MatthewRead: See the discussion taking place here regarding expanding Tag Wiki functionality for "Big List" material. –  Robert Harvey Feb 13 '12 at 16:45
    
@MatthewRead: Except Wikipedia doesn't serve the same function. Yes, the functionality is similar, but the usage and rules for what is acceptable are] very different. Wikipedia goes into a brief description. It's not even remotely similar to the level of the material which we'd like to put in there. In addition, there's things like details about the relevant chat channels. You want to put "On the SO C++ chat, XYZ is unacceptable and ABC will moderate it out" on Wikipedia? –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 16:51
    
Thanks @Robert. DeadMG, Wikipedia does host detailed articles and articles about specific things. If it's really a book then it belongs in a book and not in a wiki. Moderation notes should stay in our tag wikis, they don't require expansion of what tag wikis do. –  Matthew Read Feb 13 '12 at 16:53
    
@MatthewRead: It belongs where people can find and use it. Why have one site for one kind of help and one site for another kind of help? That's just silly. –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 17:00
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@MatthewRead: Tag Wikis do more than just show people how to use tags. See stackoverflow.com/tags/scala/info for a shining example. –  Robert Harvey Feb 13 '12 at 17:01
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Actual sub-pages seem like they would be a monstrous nightmare. You can link to other tag-wikis which might be related information, but tag wikis are way too minor to be their own sites. For example, that shining example of a Scala tag wiki has only 800 views. –  Ben Brocka Feb 13 '12 at 17:04
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@BenBrocka: That's the problem. We have a ton of perfectly good reference which isn't a fit for the main site. Unless you're suggesting that we use Wikipedia to host our subjective opinion contents, such as which C++ books are good and bad, which I don't think they'll agree with, then it's going to have to stay here. Tag wikis are just the best place for it. –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 17:05
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@DeadMG our subjective opinion contents aren't fit for tag wikis either. –  Ben Brocka Feb 13 '12 at 17:15
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@MatthewRead: The entire premise of the site is that the high reputation users in a tag are experts, not random editors. –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 17:15
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What kind of on topic question could you have a book list be a possible duplicate target? –  user7116 Feb 13 '12 at 19:23
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How about allowing tag wikis to have collapsible sections like the ones in the FAQ? That would definitely improve readability, I think. –  Chris Frederick Feb 13 '12 at 20:40

6 Answers 6

Usually, when I want to find something on SO, I use [search ] textbox at top-right corner of browser. It's intuitive action. But it seems that SO search looks only in questions, not in tag wikis.

I'm not sure if SO search engine can be easily modified to support tag wiki.
So, for now, keeping or moving information in/to tag wikis will just hide it from users (at least from me).

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Now this is a good point. Search the wikis! –  dmckee Feb 13 '12 at 16:53
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I'm not sure I want the PHP tag wiki showing up as the first result every time I search for tag:PHP –  Ben Brocka Feb 13 '12 at 17:04
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We are going to fix this asap –  waffles Feb 13 '12 at 21:00
    
Along with being searchable, it would be amazing if tag wiki stuff came up along with similar/related questions. A lot of bad questions come from people who haven't searched too hard, but they might still see it if as they start typing a really basic question title, it pops up right there. –  Jefromi Feb 13 '12 at 21:14

I think the problem with tag wikis is not their functionality, but their purpose and scope. In that they don't really have defined purposes or scope.

Consider c#, a fairly typical "good wiki" list of resources. What's the point of that wiki?

Does it just define C#? Is it to teach you C#? Inform you of interesting resources? Teach you when to use the tag? Display some FAQs (how much of that should be the same as the FAQ tab?)?

That particular wiki seems have settled on defintion, "interesting resources", and some history.

Compare that to the .net wiki which is mostly a list of libraries, or php which is about 1/2 FAQs.

What's the common goal* of these pages?

I'd argue that there isn't one, and this is the flaw in tag wikis currently.

At best, the existing wikis are info dumps; they might help you solve your specific problem (but probably not), but you'll have to spend a lot of time sifting through them. Sort of like the bad old phpBB days now that I think about it.

*Concretely. Nebulous goals like "make the internet better" (or "help people with programming") are great mission statements, but talking about a single page or feature we really do need a laser focus.


If you reach waaaay back in time to when we introduced tag wikis you'll find this tidbit:

Tag wikis help introduce newcomers to the tag. They contain frequently asked questions about the tag and guidelines on its usage.

Current uses of tag wikis as "list of links" or dumping grounds for off-topic (but popular) questions are contrary to the initial purpose of tag wikis


I think that in order to salvage tag wikis we really need to give them a purpose. Tag wikis can never be successful unless normal people have a reason to go to them.

A well defined X in "use tag wikis to accomplish X", in other words.

I am very much against just slapping new tools on top of the existing system

I think all we can accomplish by, say, adding sub pages is subdividing already poorly scoped content. It'd be reorganizing deck chairs on the Titanic, polishing a turd, etc.


As to that X... I'm not sure. I'm personally leaning toward just tossing** the long form of tag wikis, excerpts*** already accomplish their initial purpose more than adequately.

Of course, there could be a compelling reason to keep them around I can't think of. However the "tag homepage" that /info sort of is right now could be reclaimed for more useful things than tag wikis have become, at least IMO.

**To be clear, this is still just a personal feeling; not anything planned by the team.

***Confusingly, excerpts are not actually excerpts of the larger tag wiki. They're a separate entity, so removing the "long form" tag wiki doesn't imply removing excerpts.

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Tag Wikis define the tag for the purposes of the site, not the general topic. This topic was throughly covered in the blog post Redesigned Tags Page. Tag Wikis and exceprts are to teach people how and when to apply a tag. They are tag wikis, not topic wikis.

Stack Exchange is a Question and Answer site, and all features should be developed to support that, not as some weird, feature creep addition. Tag Wikis currently function to support the Q&A role of sites. Making them into topic summaries is not what they are for.

When included, topic summaries in Tag Wikis are included so you know when to use the tag. The tag wiki really doesn't need to be a starting off point to start learning a language or topic. There are hundreds of sites for that, but a Q&A site is not one of them.

As pointed out in this post, putting subjective information in tag wikis is the worst possible place to do it. Tag wikis can't be closed or voted on, if tag wikis become reading lists or fun facts or any irrelevant junk like that, they're useless. They are meant to help understand how a tag should be applied on your site, not be a Gentleman's Club of neat tricks High Rep Johnny found out and decided to slap into a tag wiki.

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Stack Overflow is a site where people get help with programming, and all features should be developed to support that. –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 20:52
    
@DeadMG: Stack Overflow is a repository for solutions to programming problems; individual question authors getting help is a means to that end. –  Josh Caswell Feb 14 '12 at 20:57
    
@Josh: And a more useful tag wiki is another means to the same end which can serve a useful purpose. –  DeadMG Feb 14 '12 at 22:18

Currently questions like The Definitive C++ Book Guide and List can be used as a target for vote to close as duplicate, this applies more generally though for cases where the question is essentially book-work. This is exactly the sort of content that might work better on a tag wiki. The current system works well for the person who asked - they get an answer and it works well for the content - it gets more exposure which in turn leads to better content.

Suggestion: deep links to tag wikis should be the basis of a new "close as book-work" close reason. Benefits:

  1. Questions still get answered, Q&A format preserved
  2. Tag wikis get increased exposure (particularly to new users, who I suspect aren't aware they exist)
  3. Useful content gets an appropriate home

(If you don't like the term book-work read "basic reference" instead perhaps)

This is effectively a more specific case of general knowledge close reason - it's different though because it's on-site, not a generic off-site URL and the tag wiki is an appropriate (if not currently perfect) place to put "useful introduction" wiki style content.

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The tag wiki, as a single wall of information, can't support deep linking. –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 19:30
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@DeadMG - but it could very simply by making headings act as anchors for example, in the same way wikipedia uses section heading. The point is the deep linking needs to exist to make it meaningful as a "duplicate" target, regardless of what solution makes the deeplinking possible. –  Flexo Feb 13 '12 at 19:51
    
awoodland, DeadMG - FAQ style pages that moderators can edit do support deep linking - if you look here: crypto.stackexchange.com/faq those headers on the RHS are generated from markdown headers. I'm not sure about closing as a dupe of a tag wiki post (as in, I'm currently on the fence) but I like the idea of deep linking. –  user142852 Feb 26 '12 at 12:08

I'm all for this idea. It's a big improvement over tag wikis.

Although we already have a system similar to this - the community wiki. Instead of messing with tag wikis, we should expand community wiki functionality. Specifically, "protected community wikis", as that's what most of the problematic questions are.

It's quite simple how we do this:

  • Protected community wikis only prevent new posts, editing the main post is allowed and encouraged
  • The answers to protected community wikis should be removed and reworked into the main post.
  • A special message explaining it's a wiki and discouraging spurious flags
  • Protected community wikis have a special tag for searching

So it's very similar (and compatible) to the old system, with the difference being that we distinguish protected wiki posts from question posts and treat them differently.

I'm using "protected" as thats the old terminology. It's a bad term and I suggest something like "information wiki" instead.

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Ehh, this and what the OP seems to want just feel like trying to nail on non-SO features onto SO. –  Ben Brocka Feb 13 '12 at 17:19
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@BenBrocka: Who cares about where a feature came from? What matters is that it's useful. –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 19:17
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Feature creep has killed many a great system. The SE team has, generally for very very good reason, rejected those features that make SE into something other than a Q&A site. –  Ben Brocka Feb 13 '12 at 19:55
    
@BenBrocka: Except that SO is much, much, much larger now than it ever has been in the past, with very different problems, and it's worth re-considering features. –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 20:03
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@DeadMG if anything that's a very good reason to avoid feature creepy and maintain our scope. More dangerous that becoming too specific is becoming too general. This basically would change SO from being a Q&A site to a Q&A site with a "full" wiki stapled on. Tag wikis are for explaining how to use the tags to support proper tagging and asking of questions, not to be their own thing. –  Ben Brocka Feb 13 '12 at 20:19
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@BenBrocka: What are you smoking? Tag wikis are for helping people. Their existing remit isn't large enough to serve that function. So I'm proposing expanding it. Simply re-stating their existing remit isn't any kind of argument. And an expanding user-base is an excellent reason to expand your functionality. Changing SO from Q&A to Q&A&Wiki is absolutely fine if that's what we need. –  DeadMG Feb 13 '12 at 20:40

A lot of the back and forth on this topic both here and on the original question that sparked off this one seems to be based around the lack of visibility of tag wiki's on the believer's side ( IMO they're not visible at all ) and the detractors saying that adding a proper wiki engine wouldn't really work ( meh, don't know ) or that tag wikis are for information about the tag not about the language etc behind the tag ( also true ).

My vote, is for the proper wiki, but if that can't be done there's another option that might satisfy both the delete all the massively up-voted, old, off topic questions people and the please leave the best questions alone people.

  1. Add a wiki tab, either in questions or tags.
  2. Let people ask questions.
  3. Automatically make every question under it community wiki.
  4. Create the tags , etc, then link to the specific tags wiki-tag in the tag summary.

It creates the semblance of a proper wiki but without needing to build the engine to do it. It allows people to keep (some of) the old questions, but enables them to be removed from the main site - just allow for a new PostTypeId in Posts and then exclude or include based on that. It also means that people can ask relevant questions that might be useful in the wiki format. It allows for the "great library of canonical answers". Lastly if there was ever something a move to create a proper wiki a load of content would already be available.

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