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There is an automatic job that deletes single-use tags after 6 months. No attempt is made at determining whether the tags are good and should remain, or whether the tags are a variant name of another tag and should be renamed or made synonyms. No attempt is made to retain tags that have proved their worth, for example with a tag wiki. There is no way to explicitly declare a tag as good. Even beta sites, where it is expected that the tag system is still evolving, are not exempt.. This job is not subject to any review, not even after the fact: one day the tags are there, the next day they're gone.

At the rate of posting on Stack Overflow, the fact that a tag has only one use after 6 months is not a sign that it's a bad tag: bad tags still ramp up uses very fast. A tag with a single use denotes either a bad tag that no one else has found, hence which isn't causing any harm; or else it denotes a rarely-used topic (language, library, tool, …) that should stay (sometimes it takes years for a community to build up, and you can't build a community if you shoot the first person who comes waiting for similar souls).

Please either:

  • turn off the job that deletes single-use tag, and provide a log of past deleted tags so that we can add them back where appropriate; or
  • provide evidence that the deletions were beneficial to the site (I don't know what form the evidence could take other than a log of past deleted tags so that we can ascertain that the tags were indeed useless in a vast majority of cases).

(Note: if there was a review queue for suspicious tags, that would be a good thing. What's harmful is the silent, unreviewable deletion of tags that is not based on any usefulness criteria.)

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Wasn't this asked already? –  Shadow Wizard Nov 25 '12 at 22:20
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I used to be against this, but I have several questions over at Gaming.SE that keep losing the tag for which game it's about because I'm the only one that's ever asked a question for that game. +1 for the idea of adding a review queue for low-use tags. That seems like it's the perfect direction to go. –  animuson Nov 25 '12 at 22:44
    
@ShaWizDowArd This request is specifically about Stack Overflow (sorry, I forgot the tag), which last I looked isn't a beta site. The request to remove the tag killer on all sites (which would be my favored option) is a downvote on this answer. –  Gilles Nov 25 '12 at 22:51
    
@animuson Gaming has finally succeeded in getting rid of the tag killer. SF&F, which has a similar tag structure to Gaming, has been requested its removal for a very long time, and we're still waiting. –  Gilles Nov 25 '12 at 22:53
    
If SO losses this automation, no site needs it. (Not an argument for or again: just an observation.) –  Jon Ericson Nov 25 '12 at 23:59
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IMO SO is one of the few sites this may be useful on, because only really really obscure or accidental tags would be the only ones * absolutely no other question* gets tagged with in 6 months –  Ben Brocka Nov 26 '12 at 0:14

1 Answer 1

provide evidence that the deletions were beneficial to the site (I don't know what form the evidence could take other than a log of past deleted tags so that we can ascertain that the tags were indeed useless in a vast majority of cases).

I can support the idea that if a tag wiki is in place, the tag can be protected from the 6 month, 1 question removal rule -- mostly for beta sites with very low traffic. I'm surprised you haven't looked at the underlying data that drove this decision in the first place:

Right now I am running [removal of tags that have only a single question in the last 6 months] by hand over the tiers and I got these stats so far:

I spot checked a whole bunch of them, and removal seemed correct to me in every instance. It's almost always a case of over-tagging, where the question asker sprayed 1 or 2 "extra" tags on the question of extremely low value, when the more general tags they also included were perfectly adequate.

We didn't keep a list of the ~7,400 removed tags on SO, but I'd like to hear which of these specific tags on SU, SF, or Meta that you feel were inappropriately removed.

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The way that the automatic tag remover does the removal seems to rewrite history. The deleted tag does not show up in the question revision history. That makes it a bit difficult to find tags that might have been "inappropriately" removed. –  Charles Nov 26 '12 at 1:40
    
Perhaps a good test would be to see how many of the removed tags have since been recreated and kept? A problem on Gaming has been tags being culled and needing to be recreated –  Ben Brocka Nov 26 '12 at 4:32
    
@ben well from my perspective, the problem is that the world really doesn't need that one single question on Spec Ops The Line on gaming.se, for the rest of eternity. Gaming is about community, and community requires more than one question on a topic, otherwise that topic just isn't germane to the community and is little more than noise/distraction. But this is better taken to gaming meta. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 26 '12 at 5:41
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Tagging works best if it is applied in a systematic manner. That tag for the game with only one question might not have any great value in itself, but it is a consistent application of the general tagging principle on Gaming, which is that every question is tagged with the game it is about. I find the consistency valuable, even if single-use tags are not useful by themselves. –  Mad Scientist Nov 26 '12 at 7:32
    
@JeffAtwood I've taken a cursory look at the data for SU (I didn't find any data about SO). From what I've seen, the deleted tags are a mix of bad tags (e.g. [expectations], [home-user], [practical-joke]), tags that should have been renamed ([explorer], [raid-card], [screnshot]), tags that were meaningful and but perhaps overspecific ([aacs], [medical-records], [jnlp]), and tags that were definitely useful ([bbc-micro], [wifidog], [nethack]), with no category overshadowing any of the others. “Almost always a case of over-tagging” is blatantly wrong on SU. –  Gilles Nov 27 '12 at 20:57
    
@gilles good to look at actual data. You'll note that none of [bbc-micro], [wifidog], [nethack] are valid tags on SU today, which lends credence to the claim that such incredibly low-usage tags are not necessary. superuser.com/tags –  Jeff Atwood Nov 27 '12 at 22:04
    
@mad the abstract value of "consistency" is far less valuable than actual questions on topics. We are a Q&A system, not a category and tag generation system. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 27 '12 at 22:05
    
@JeffAtwood I can see that these three tags are not present on SU. What makes them invalid, tough? I guess [wifidog] and [nethack] would mostly be relegated to Webapps and Gaming, but then there are on-topic [gmail] and [minecraft] questions, so the tags aren't fundamentally illegitimate. Having found the probable bbc-micro question, I agree that this one is a case of overspecific: neither harmful nor useful. –  Gilles Nov 27 '12 at 22:18
    
@gilles overspecific is indeed harmful. That was one of the issues which triggered the Great Tagging Purge on gaming.se for example. (oh, this is an Xbox game? Well, does that matter if it is the same game on every platform, and this question is not in any way Xbox specific?) Over-specific single use tags are distracting noise and broken windows. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 28 '12 at 0:06

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