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On StackOverflow, I often see questions by newbies tagged with separate words that should have been a single tag. For example, just now I edited google app engine python to read google-app-engine python. An understandable mistake for someone who doesn't yet know how the tags work.

Generally, users with editing powers will quickly fix this. But maybe we can come up with a way to prevent the problem altogether?

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This might be related to ...

... although [google] and [python] are reasonable tags, [app] and [engine] should probably be blacklisted (in a more gentle way?) as too general to be useful?

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See following tweet: – Tyler Carter May 11 '10 at 7:09

I think this means we should really be considering redesigning the tagging interface. Not to add more work to Jeff and co. but if the tag interface is a single text box with only cursory hints as to how it's used, it's no wonder people keep putting spaces inappropriately.

Perhaps five text boxes, one for each tag (since there already is a limit on how many tags) would make the situation clearer. Then we can unambiguously convert spaces to dashes and make adjustments, knowing clearly (or clearer) what a confused newbie meant.

That may not be the cleanest or most friendly solution, but it is just an idea. I'm just presenting it as an alternative to the current interface, which seems to cause confusion.

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"That may not be the cleanest or most friendly solution" that is putting it.. mildly – Jeff Atwood May 11 '10 at 7:08
You'll end up with the opposite problem of people putting all the tags in one box and ending up with them all in a big mess. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 11 '10 at 7:11
You could put a note above them saying, possibly, "Tags (1 per box)" Anyway, my point is that if this is such a persistent problem, the interface is at fault. – Super Long Names are Hilarious May 11 '10 at 22:40

In the popup tag selection box, the top entries should be known tags that have the previous tags joined by dashes. This won't prevent the problem completely, but it could make the asker stop and think "oh, maybe that's what I really want".

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