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I come across many cases where people over-tag. For example they're trying to solve a problem, they state the problem, then they tag and . Here is an example from today (though based on subsequent comments it seems the initial reply to my comment was a bit misleading).

Since I suspect that at least some of the time this type of aggressive tagging is an effort to get more eyeballs on the question (since it will appear in more users' favorite tag lists etc.), I usually ask if they really meant to tag both technologies, and if so, why.

  • Sometimes this is not what they meant to do, and it is accidental. For example, some folks think and both refer to the latter, probably because the former doesn't include "Microsoft" in the name and they justifiably associate MySQL with being a "SQL server."

  • Sometimes it is what they meant to do, but only in an effort to cast a wider net (the eyeball thing I mentioned above), and on several occasions they have admitted this was the case.

  • Sometimes it is what they meant to do, and it is intentional: they actually want solutions that will work independently on both Oracle and SQL Server, or MySQL and SQL Server, or MySQL and Oracle. (And in some cases, all three platforms or more.)

The former two cases I know how to deal with: I ask for clarification, help improve the question, or move on.

It's the latter case that I'm not sure what to do with. Since very few solutions to a problem can be solved the exact same way in PL/SQL and T-SQL, and even if they can, the two solutions are quite likely to come from two different answerers, I guess the dilemma here is: how can it remain a single question? If two different respondents post perfect answers, one for Oracle and one for SQL Server, how can the question have a "best" answer?

I can suggest that they ask two separate questions, and I'm often tempted to do so. But I feel that a lot of OPs won't understand why that makes sense, especially if they think there should be a universal solution or they simply don't understand how different the platforms or languages really are.

I'm sure this is something many of have come across, and I'm curious what the general consensus here is. Are there "solutions" to this problem that I haven't considered? Do we want to encourage questions which will lead to splintered answers? Should we be encouraging the respondents in such cases to merge their answers, with one of them sacrificing their own? Am I thinking too hard about a problem that doesn't happen that often?

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2 Answers 2

Really, you just have to figure out what they really want and then edit the tags as necessary. If they want it all, maybe you should vote to close.

But I can't help but wonder if there should be a mechanism of mutually exclusive tags; putting question quality aside, I'm reminded of a question I saw a few weeks ago about value types. It was labelled both and ... and things got very non-constructive very quickly between the Java programmers and C# programmers, since the two platforms handle value types differently. I can't comment on and , but offhand I can't think of a good reason to tag a question both and . Maybe the site should prevent it.

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I think in some cases they might be asking things like "how do I convert this Java code to C#?" I've seen some valid questions like that for different RDBMSes. The ones I don't like are the ones who are casting a wider net. –  Aaron Bertrand Oct 14 '12 at 12:52
I don't think "how do I convert this Java code to C#?" is a good question - or any "how do I convert language-A code into language-B code?" question. They're too localized. I think they should be more specific: "How can I implement a C# lamba using Java?" seems better to me than "how do I convert this Java code to C#?". –  Richard JP Le Guen Oct 14 '12 at 16:27
Was just trying to relate, and wasn't trying to say "here is a perfect question title?" In the database realm there are often syntax variations between different platforms and I've never seen translation questions get closed as too localized. Nor would I vote to do so. YMMV. –  Aaron Bertrand Oct 14 '12 at 19:13
I agree with this, if someone is just grasping at straws there's a very good chance tagging is not the only problem with the question. Look at the question first .. if you can make sense out of it, retag as needed .. if you can't, then no tag edits are going to improve the situation, just use your close votes. –  Tim Post Nov 13 '12 at 5:05
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The question is a terrible one - the user has asked the question and then further clarified it in the comments instead of editing the question.

In this case you should either encourage them to edit the question properly, or make the edit yourself on their behalf (frequently new users have no idea they can or should do that).

In the mean time I rolled back my change, added the and tags and removed the tag.

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Did you read the comments following the question? Plsql was intentional. And I'd rather confirm what the user intended than get into an editing war. I realize my example was not perfect (it was the straw that finally prompted me to ask this question), but the thrust of my question was what to do when it's NOT a tagging mistake, and where the user wants an answer that will almost certainly be splintered as a result. –  Aaron Bertrand Aug 15 '12 at 1:01
@Aaron Good call, I've edited accordingly. –  slugster Aug 15 '12 at 1:09
For SQL Server specifically, I would appreciate not removing version-specific tags. These are often very important; in this specific case it tells me I can potentially recommend MERGE as a solution (that command didn't exist in prior versions). We're way off course here I just want to stress that in some disciplines version-specific information is helpful and desirable. For more details see my answer here. –  Aaron Bertrand Aug 15 '12 at 1:28
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