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I don't think it would be a bad idea to allow tag "locking". The trouble is, we have some deprecated tags which we don't want to accept new questions for, but we can't just burninate mindlessly. The primary example of this is the tag. It's supposed to be obsolete, but new questions flood in every day because people don't take the time to read the tag description.

Locking a tag (or alternatively, deprecating it) would allow the removal of such tags from questions but not addition. As a fallback, questions can still be rolled back to a state where they possessed the tag in case a poor edit is made, but it cannot be added manually.

Without such a feature, I fear that the homework tag is here to stay.

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I agree, it's like holding back the tide with a bottomless bucket. – Tim Post Oct 19 '12 at 4:04
I think the name "deprecated" is the much clearer suggestion for the feature compared to "locked". Locked makes it sound a bit like you can't edit the tag - its wiki/excerpt etc or something like that. – hippietrail Oct 21 '12 at 10:04
@TimPost Then why don't you do something about it? Hmmmm? – Won't Oct 26 at 15:58

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

We actually have a feature now that essentially does this. It's tied into the tag blacklist, which only a developer can modify, but for cases where a tag really needs to be blacklisted while it's being cleaned up, or just needs to stick around for historical purposes (extremely rare), we can attach a custom message that will appear when someone attempts to use the tag, like so:

code golf tag not allowed

If there's good reason to blacklist a tag, and it's actually a serious problem, then a moderator can contact the Community Team to request it. Preferably there should be a Meta discussion about it already.

In regards to Nathan Tuggy's answer, this feature does require the removal of the blacklisted tag when someone attempts to edit. The system won't let you submit the edit without removing or replacing it.

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This seems maybe a bit heavyweight, still? – Nathan Tuggy Oct 29 at 8:19

There are two relatively minor aspects of this proposal that don't seem to have been quite adequately covered in the discussion so far: meta discussion linkage, and whether to require removing deprecated tags upon editing a question with them.

Usage guidance does not support any markdown, even links that work as links, so there's only one way at present to link to the discussion, and that's to put the link in the full wiki. That's a little awkward, but it might be the best we can do. However, with a bit more coding, it seems to me a UI tweak could be rather useful to enable one of two other possibilities. The first of these is to show, instead of the usage guidance, only the title of the meta discussion, linked to that discussion (the URL would be required when deprecating). The second is to replace the link to the wiki (info) with a link with the same text but href of the meta URL, as before.

I don't think it's necessary to require editors to remove all deprecated tags when editing; simply displaying the struck-through tags in normal and edit view is a reasonable hint, and if we want to get pushier, a warning box when the edit form comes up would do a good job of driving home how important it is to remove the tag if possible, without absolutely barring contributions from those who really don't have the knowledge to remove the tag properly from that particular question. (Or worse, causing poorly-chosen replacements, if the tag is the only one on the question.)

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How about something like changing the display of tag from

to homework

Now old question that have such tags displayed in such way will probably raise the question why? Or even when adding such tags to new question they will certainly be curious, why does it have a strikethrough, then

  • User can be provided the information on the hover after the tag has been added.

  • Or after inclusion of the tag like homework in the question, we can then popup of a box below the tags and show why it is deprecated.

And whenever such deprecated tags have been added, you can then restrict the submission of the form, thus ensuring that the information is delivered and system is clean of new questions of deprecated tags.

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You can't hover tags in the tag entry field. You can only see their tag cards as you're entering them and auto-suggestions appear. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 19 '12 at 5:14
@BoltClock'saUnicorn, How about my update? and I am talking about hovering after the tag has been added, not while adding tags. – Starx Oct 19 '12 at 6:17
We don't want the tag to be added in the first place. It doesn't seem very effective to display it only after the tag has been added. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 19 '12 at 6:20
@BoltClock'saUnicorn, Restricting the submission of the post, if a deprecated tag has been added, should not that hard to implement as well. – Starx Oct 19 '12 at 6:27
This is certainly raise the question why? ... You're very optimistic there...stick around on Meta for some time and you'll know why (one word: question-ban). – Time Traveling Bobby Oct 19 '12 at 8:24
To be clear, if a tag is locked it should be shown this way on questions that have it, while still rejecting the tag on new questions? – Tim Post Oct 19 '12 at 14:57
@SulfurizedDemonbobby, I am already under question ban. – Starx Oct 19 '12 at 16:52
@TimPost, Exactly :) Thus the old questions can be sorted by best suitable methods and there will no new question to worry about. So in time such tag problem will be solved gradually. – Starx Oct 19 '12 at 16:53
@Starx: Interesting...anyway, I did not mean you, I meant the inability of many other users to understand the simple error message and read that big FAQ entry. ... Despite countless attempts to make it fool-proof. – Time Traveling Bobby Oct 20 '12 at 6:41

I like this idea. It gives users a clear indication as to why a tag can't be used, even though they see the tag applied to many other questions. It could also offer some tag specific advice on how to ask a question where a deprecated tag would be applied.

All in all, it would cut down on negative experiences, while giving the 'janitors' a fighting chance.

The reason we don't blacklist a tag until it's all but gone is the UI basically says "You can't add that tag", which confuses the heck out of people when they see it applied in lots of places. Similar frustration exists where the system demands that you tag a question, then tells you that you don't have the rep to create new tags.

Presumably if a tag that was widely used is now deprecated, there's a meta discussion about it. The deprecated / locked notice should point to that, while providing a short tl;dr; summary of why we're not allowing it any longer.

It seems to be the most considerate option, overall.


There is a caveat which could be a source of frustration. If someone edits a question where the tag is applied without removing the tag, the system will demand that the tag be removed. Whether we want to allow saves when a tag is merely locked instead of blacklisted (thus defining an even clearer distinction between the two states) warrants additional discussion if this is going to be implemented.

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Why not just change the error message when adding a blacklisted tag? Blacklisting and locking seem like basically the same feature – Michael Mrozek Oct 19 '12 at 4:34
@MichaelMrozek Well, almost - provided that we could set the message. Blacklisting a tag that only has 100 uses isn't very problematic, because it will probably be cleaned up within a few hours of blacklisting. But yes, it seems that we can accomplish this by just clicking 'add deprecation notice?' when blacklisting and fill in a textbox. – Tim Post Oct 19 '12 at 4:36
I think it should be possible to make an edit that doesn't change (or remove) the tag without the system complaining. That seems like a good and useful difference between blacklisting and the proposed "locked" status. – Mr.Wizard Oct 19 '12 at 5:48
@Mr.Wizard Agreed. The system should only disallow adding locked tags. Leaving them alone/rolling them back on should be permitted. – Alexis King Oct 19 '12 at 6:15
@JakeKing For those that don't follow meta and are just trying to clean up a question, I'd agree .. especially if the locked tag is one of the few a question has. If we can simply stop it from coming in, it will be gone eventually as people work on the cleanup. I don't see homework going away without this, or a Shog to the ninth power intervention. – Tim Post Oct 19 '12 at 14:54
You know, there's a good place for putting that notice, with lots of advice: The tag-wiki and excerpt of the deprecated tag. – Deduplicator Jan 21 at 15:35
Any chance of something like this being implemented? The "Do not use" notice in the tag excerpt just doesn't work. Would help a lot for manual cleanup of fairly heavily-used tags. – Mat May 2 at 4:23

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