Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

There appears to be a user who is adding the tag to most new questions (see the list of recent Octave questions). This affects dozens of questions.

Is this really appropriate? I know Octave is supposed to be an open-source MATLAB replacement, but if the user doesn't explicitly ask for Octave I don't think it should be re-tagged.

MATLAB and Octave are not always identical, although they often strive to be. An answer for one does not necessarily work in the other. Adding an Octave tag often adds it to the post's browser title, and makes it seem like an Octave solution is acceptable.

This seems wrong to me. Should I go back and remove the tag on all these posts? There are lots.

If this practice is acceptable, then the tags should simply become synonyms of each other.

Update: The tag was not being applied to all new matlab posts, as originally described, but many of them which were thought to be cross-compatible with Octave. See discussion in comments below.

share|improve this question

closed as off-topic by Undo, Martijn Pieters, 3ventic, ProgramFOX, Hugo Dozois Apr 21 '14 at 19:12

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question pertains only to a specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should pertain to our network or software that drives it as a whole, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated." – Undo, Martijn Pieters, 3ventic, ProgramFOX, Hugo Dozois
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This is absolutely not acceptable unless the question is also about Octave. As in, mentions it in the question body or in the comments. Wow, it looks like this has been going on for days. – Charles Nov 30 '12 at 23:38
yup. should i start going through these or is there a way to revert all of his edits? – Jeff Nov 30 '12 at 23:40
There are nearly 400 octave+matlab questions. Perhaps there's a nice convenient diamond moderator tool that can mass-revert edits? – Charles Nov 30 '12 at 23:41
just checked his edit list. looks like he's done about a quarter of those himself (106!), just in the past few days – Jeff Nov 30 '12 at 23:48
@Charles: There's certainly one to tell the user to stop doing this. :) – animuson Nov 30 '12 at 23:48
I've left a comment on one of the edited questions pointing him to this discussion. – Bart Dec 1 '12 at 0:13
Hi! Thanks @Bart for pointing this out. I would like to point out that I'm not adding the Octave tag to all question of Matlab, only to the ones that make sense to do so and the syntax overlaps. I have also added other tags beside Octave, and even removed tags that make no sense. I do read the question (and answer them when I can), to make sure the retag is correct. – carandraug Dec 1 '12 at 1:33
So the question being posed is, why would they make sense? Sure, MATLAB and Octave are similar, but they're not the exact same. My gut feeling is that tagging questions with both only makes sense when the original question references both. – Makoto Dec 1 '12 at 1:47
@carandraug: Can you share your rationale for retagging this question? Yours is the first edit, and the original question never mentioned Octave. – Robert Harvey Dec 1 '12 at 2:33
octave is buggy. i don't think it's appropriate to assume an answer will work in both octave and matlab, before you even know what the answer is. besides, i'm not really sure what's gained by adding the octave tag. octave users know to search for matlab code when they can't find an answer otherwise. – Jeff Dec 1 '12 at 2:59
@carandraug this kind of borderline vandalism tagging behavior is grounds for timed suspension. – Jeff Atwood Dec 1 '12 at 10:37
@JeffAtwood I think carandraug did this with the best intentions. It is a little strong to call "vandalism" (even if boderline), an action so difficult to evaluate in moral/ethical grounds. I have a conter exmaple to what was shown here. This question was answered with an Octave solution, that is, it is useful to Octave users, but since there is no Octave tag, they wont find it. I think it is to an Octave user to define if a question is relevant or not, not to a matlab user. – JuanPi Dec 2 '12 at 15:23
I personally find that suspending a person that had helped so much is rather unfair. Also the post says "adding the octave tag to all new matlab questions", this is not true. Is there a personal/non-professional/conflict-of-interests reason behind all this issue? – JuanPi Dec 2 '12 at 15:28
@JeffAtwood very slightly. First, the user did not explain their rationale about his actions. carandraug did. He also responded to all the "accusations" clearly demonstrating willingness to amend his actions or at least make public his reasons. Are the moderators sure that they want to punish this behavior? under these observations, the relation to the post you link is very superficial. Are there reasons to believe carandraug was huting badge? Most of the tagged questions he answered, satisfactorily in most cases! I guess telling him to stop and ask meta first is enough. – JuanPi Dec 3 '12 at 14:46
@JeffAtwood I really don't think that my actions can be counted as vandalism. About the question you linked: I'm not after any badges (what's bothering me is that I'm being labelled as inconsiderate and worse), and this is not a case of 1 tag incorporating all the others, it's a case of where sometimes they overlap (please, see the reply I'm giving to Bart below too). – carandraug Dec 3 '12 at 18:39
up vote 16 down vote accepted

There will be cases where an Octave user attempts to do something the MATLAB way, runs into a problem, and then uses Google to find out the right workaround for Octave.

By tagging most of the MATLAB problems with Octave, you remove the ability to search for Octave specific problems - when they search for "Octave specific-problem-x", they will see a relevant question here tagged with Octave, but having the same non-working MATLAB solution they've seen everywhere else.

The programs are compatible, but they are not the same.

In cases where the OP does not mention both in their post or comments, the question should be tagged only with the one they mention or tagged it with.

Octave users know full well to search for MATLAB answers when they have a question - it's not a problem for them.

When they search for Octave answers though, we should NOT be returning MATLAB results that weren't Octave to begin with.

Therefore, please do not tag MATLAB questions with Octave by default.

share|improve this answer
@JeffAtwood, I wouldn't say that's very related. There is a big difference between vandalism or thoughtless badge-hunting on the one hand versus a (perhaps misguided) attempt at being constructive on the other hand. – Ben Lee Dec 6 '12 at 19:37
@ben that was also an attempt at being constructive. – Jeff Atwood Dec 6 '12 at 23:53

I would not tag Matlab questions , even when it could apply to both. Sure, a lot of Octave users might be helped equally well by the content and it might be equally applicable. But it is not what the OP used.

In addition, most Octave users will know about the large overlap between Octave and Matlab. For me it is explicitly why I started using Octave when I no longer had access to Matlab. Even the Octave website states "The Octave language is quite similar to Matlab so that most programs are easily portable."

While you could interpret that as "see, the questions are equally well served by both tags", I would say that it rather means that the Octave tag is not necessary since most users will be aware of Matlab and its applicability to their problems.

Unless a user is explicitly stating to be using Octave (or the question really is Octave-specific), I would not add that tag.

share|improve this answer

My gut feeling seems to go towards the side of "revert these changes". While the two programs may be similar, there can be very specific questions involving either MATLAB or Octave. We shouldn't do the work of the OP to determine which one they meant - we should have faith in the asker to add the appropriate tags.

There are cases in which adding a tag to a question is justified, but this isn't one of them.

share|improve this answer
This questionwas answered with an Octave solution, when will the new tag be applied? If there isn't a person like carandraug reviewing all these, this will be always be tagged ad matlab and not octave. – JuanPi Dec 2 '12 at 15:31
But why would this question need the Octave tag, though? I don't see a strong motivation since it's not a question specific to Octave, but more generalized with MATLAB. – Makoto Dec 2 '12 at 19:33
Well, is there a way to tag answers? Because the solution may be very pertinent for somebody looking for octave answers, and if the question is not tagged, how this person will find the answer? – JuanPi Dec 3 '12 at 14:38
I'm of the influence that someone looking for Octave answers knows to look at MATLAB solutions as well. – Makoto Dec 3 '12 at 14:52

This has been said in different words by other answers, but I think this has to be frowned upon or us VB.NET users could go wild adding that tag to all the C# .NET questions that are not specific to the syntax!

share|improve this answer
Rather, I think the C# tag should be removed in favour of the .net tag when it's not syntax-specific. =) – J. Steen Dec 7 '12 at 8:20
@J.Steen I agree with you, as long as people see the :-) variant at the end of your comment! (I.e. I don't think we should be actually doing this because it has been long held that a questioner's tags are to be left unless they're actually wrong.) – Mark Hurd Dec 7 '12 at 10:52
Yeah, my comment certainly had a serious tone of inseriousness. =) – J. Steen Dec 7 '12 at 11:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .