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The request to Implement a Tag Black List was first raised back in Aug '09, but as one of the mods on English Language & Usage pointed out only a few days ago, even moderators don't have access to modify the blacklist; only devs have that ability (I'm not a mod, by the way).

  • Can moderators have the ability to add blacklisted tags to their own site?

What I'm asking for is quite limited in scope. I'm not interested in burnination - before blacklisting a tag, it can be a prerequisite that no current questions are linked to it. I also don't see it matters if we have to go back to the devs if somehow a tag was mistakenly blacklisted, and this needs to be revoked. Nor do I care that any individual mod can arbitrarily blacklist (let the relevant mods agree to discuss things in chat if they want to implement some kind of quorum consensus).

I realise there would be an implementation overhead, and I'm certainly not qualified to either quantify it, or have an opinion on whether TPTB "should" stand the overhead.

I ask because I would like this feature implemented. I can't upvote my own question, but I'm hoping others who agree will do so, and if anyone sees any downsides (apart from the implementation overhead), they'll post these as answers that others can vote on.


EDIT: What could be done to make this process safer, reversible, or with enough checks/balances to provide a solution to this problem? While the solution may not happen today, is there something along these lines that could make this happen in the future as SE continues to scale? Posted 100 rep bounty.

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Yes. The methods for synonymizing, and disambiguating tags need revamping too. The current system is not working. –  Awesome Poodles Mar 15 '12 at 22:39
    
@Brock Adams: Yeah - we had a problem on ELU a few days back where a couple of tags trivially needed to be synonymised, but not enough people had enough relevant rep to vote through the change, because they hadn't earned the rep on questions with those specific tags. But figuring out changes to improve all that might be hard work. All I'm asking is that the devs keep each site's "blacklisted" tags in a table that mods can add to (unilaterally, by unanimous/majority vote, I don't care). They don't need to be able to "unblacklist" without involving devs, or anything else complicated. –  FumbleFingers Mar 15 '12 at 22:56
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You might want to consider adding the 'burninate' (delete all instances of a tag) action to this request. It's required to add a tag to a blacklist, and I don't think burnination should require blacklisting. –  Kevin Vermeer Mar 15 '12 at 23:21
    
@Kevin Vermeer: I didn't know the term 'burninate' until I came over here to ask my question, when I first of all searched to see what else had been raised. It's a useful concept, but in terms of "bangs per buck" I think it's probably not in the same league. Arguably, if a tag has more than a handful of associated questions, it shouldn't be made too easy to make mass changes. I'm only talking about cases where the mod(s) will have already ensured that no current questions use the tag, so thanks for raising the point because I'll edit to reflect that. –  FumbleFingers Mar 15 '12 at 23:40
    
@FumbleFingers - How do you make sure that there are no no current questions that use the tag when there are 2,000 questions with that tag? By editing manually? What a waste of time! –  Kevin Vermeer Mar 15 '12 at 23:48
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@Kevin Vermeer: If there are 20,000 questions with that tag then fairly obviously a lot of people thought it was a good tag! If it was in fact always a bad tag that's simply evidence that the particular site has been badly managed for a long time. I am talking about useless tags like [word] on ELU, which normally has no associated questions. If they do turn up again, we assiduously remove that tag, but we can't stop it from turning up again. Your attitude doesn't seem particularly constructive, frankly. –  FumbleFingers Mar 15 '12 at 23:58
    
@BrockAdams (+1) Related: Can we allow 7.5K users to suggest tag synonyms without a score of 5 in the tag? to which I've just added a measly bounty (just to bump it). Also Could mods catalyze synonym voting? –  Daniel Mar 16 '12 at 3:16

3 Answers 3

So, there's a couple reasons why this is locked down to devs instead of being open to moderators:

  • Blacklisting a tag shouldn't be something that happens often. It's a last-ditch hurdle to put in front of users.
  • Blacklist a tag can have very dangerous consequences if entered incorrectly.

If a tag really does need to be blacklisted, then moderators can always escalate things to the team and we can act as necessary. Moderators are a liaison between their community and Stack Exchange staff, and escalating requests like this is certainly within that capacity.

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I agree both your points are important considerations, but I don't accept either are valid reasons for rejecting the request. On the first point - surely the mods on any given site are best placed to decide if the "last-ditch hurdle" is in fact needed? Are you suggesting that people who don't know the site so well are somehow better qualified to overrule the decisions of the mods? On the second point, bearing in mind I've only asked for the ability to blacklist a tag which has no associated questions, perhaps you'd like to elaborate on what "dangerous consequences" you have in mind. –  FumbleFingers Mar 16 '12 at 2:17
    
...I would also add that although I said in my question that I don't care if the blacklisting could be done by a single mod acting independently, or by some quorum among the mods, all your current "objections" would I think be irrelevant if it were simply implemented in such a way as to require all mods on the site to endorse the adding of a blacklist tag. –  FumbleFingers Mar 16 '12 at 2:21
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The first point is more that we don't want it to be super-easy to add a tag to the blacklist, and adding them should not be happening frequently. Tags do get cleaned up by scheduled tasks already, adding something to the blacklist is rarely needed. The second point means that by not adding something to the blacklist correctly, you could really screwing up tagging on the site. –  Rebecca Chernoff Mar 16 '12 at 2:21
    
I don't know what it means when you say tags "get cleaned up by scheduled tasks", but I can't see how that could be relevant - how can scheduled tasks know what to do if we're unable to progress requests? Apart from that, I can't see you've said anything that isn't simply repeating what you already said in the answer. You haven't addressed the points I made in my comments. –  FumbleFingers Mar 16 '12 at 6:32
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Any tag with no questions is automatically deleted within 24 hours, and tags with only a single use over 6 months are automatically deleted each month. After that, it takes a 300-rep user to recreate them. So by deleting all instances of a tag, you are effectively blacklisting it in the sense that new members can't use it, and experienced members should know better. That mostly eliminates the need for a "hard" blacklist. It's presumably not worth implementing a UI for the few times a true blacklist is useful. –  David Z Mar 16 '12 at 14:32
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@David Zaslavsky: Point taken, though I do think the bar is set rather low for "ability to create tags" on established sites like ELU where (unlike SO) the subject area doesn't naturally tend to generate new subcategories over time. It wouldn't be so much of an issue if we had better facilities for managing synonyms - which as Brock Adams commented against the question, don't work very well as things stand. –  FumbleFingers Mar 16 '12 at 17:49
    
Blacklisting a tag seems less useful than labeling a tag that once-existed-but-was-pruned with a link to a discussion on the meta site where it was established why that was done. If someone wants to rock the boat and recreate it (in spite of seeing a notice of that link to the "why", because they think they have found an appropriate use not covered by previous discussion) then fine, but it should set off some kind of moderation alarm. –  HostileFork Jun 1 '12 at 4:34
    
So will deleting the tag that's only been used once over six months result in questions with no tags potentially? Is that a saving grace for a tag? As a mod, should I be looking for untagged questions somewhere? –  jcolebrand Jun 1 '12 at 15:11
    
@jcolebrand: yes, huh? and yes, watch untagged. –  Shog9 Jun 1 '12 at 15:17
    
what's the first huh about? do you mean "saving grace"? The link renders the answer to be no, fwiw. Thanks –  jcolebrand Jun 1 '12 at 15:19

Kinda surprised to see this revived...

Blacklisting is rare. Not because it's hard to do, but because it's... Kinda useless.

Blacklisting doesn't stop folks from asking homework questions. Blacklisting doesn't stop folks from asking questions that aren't constructive. Blacklisting doesn't stop folks from asking questions about their filthy, slovenly co-workers.

Getting rid of a bad tag is important. And sometimes, a bad idea is so persistent there's no choice but to block it from being re-introduced. But even more important is the job of communicating why a tag - or more often, the concepts represented by it - are harmful. Without that, blacklisting is pointless.

I'm not against a safer, more accessible system for blacklisting. But frankly, I would expect something like Moderators should be able to remove / burninate a tag themselves or System to enable hand-sorted moderator retagging for sizeable disambiguation jobs to prove much more often useful.

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The point of a blacklisting isn't to prevent people from asking off-topic questions; it's to prevent people from using tags which have proven to be useless. By not allowing them to enter [table], we force the user to select [db-table] or [html-table]; by not allowing them to enter [using], we force them to either choose a valid disambiguation or realize that [using c#] got interpreted as [using] [c#] and just eliminate the [using]. –  Gabe Jun 1 '12 at 6:06
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I think blacklisting is the wrong way to go about it... a reasonable compromise that will partially reduce the underlying problem would be to increase the threshold for new tag creation. Right now, it's merely 150 for beta sites, of which 100 is given for free as association bonus. –  Lorem Ipsum Jun 1 '12 at 6:29
    
Increasing the threshold sounds a lot easier than building a tool. If the newbie needs a better tag, there are people who can retag it. Instead of feverishly emptying the water out of a leaky boat with a shiny new bucket, let's just fix the leak. Seems less "process-oriented" as well. –  jmort253 Jun 1 '12 at 14:22
  1. Users creating tags without good reasons may be a problem (the example which I can imagine could be a problem - adding tag with name of PHP function by PHP developers) - in that case blacklisting would not help, you would have to create big blacklist with all function names etc. I would find good forcing user that creates a new tag to write at least (100, 150 or something) chars of description of that tag.

  2. Do you have problems with tags you find improper, that are notoriously created by many users? In that case, why do you think a tag is improper, when there are many people who wants to use it?

  3. A user can always create tag that is somehow improper. If so, he should be notified by moderator deleting or synonymizing that tag. However, if someone does that permanently, maybe he should be revoked the right to create new tags?

Anyway, by providing a few examples of tags that in your opinion should be blacklisted, and a reason why, would make it easier to discuss - I don't know if you had the mentioned by me cases in mind or something completly else?

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I asked this question on stackoverflow meta because the issue affects all SO sites. I know the situation in English Language & Usage, where, for example, tags such as "word" "english" and "language" would be problematic. But there's no need to create a huge table for any given site to anticipate potential problems. I'm only asking that if some particular tag keeps getting created inappropriately, the mods for that site should be able to blacklist it themselves, not have to wait for the site programmers to do this. –  FumbleFingers Jun 1 '12 at 11:55
    
I don't know, if many users want to have "english" tag, maybe there is some reason in that, as long as tag has wiki explaining for what purpose it exists? –  Donaudampfschifffreizeitfahrt Jun 1 '12 at 12:10
    
Each site has mods who know what they are doing, and ELU for example has hundreds if not thousands of users who know what they're doing. These problems can be caused by one thoughtless user. –  FumbleFingers Jun 1 '12 at 12:31
    
So, point 1 applies –  Donaudampfschifffreizeitfahrt Jun 1 '12 at 12:36
    
Not at all - like I said, the mods only need to consider blacklisting a term if someone does actually create it. And even then they probably wouldn't bother unless the same unwanted tag turned up at least two or three times. If this sort of thing isn't a problem from your perspective then you don't need to worry about it, but I don't see why you want to persuade other people who do have a problem that they're somehow mistaken. –  FumbleFingers Jun 1 '12 at 12:43
    
I've added point 3 - generally I think we should trust users they won't misuse their priviledges –  Donaudampfschifffreizeitfahrt Jun 1 '12 at 12:59

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