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I have a specific experience where I retagged a question about bourne shell syntax on Server Fault.

The specific tags started as "linux" "commands" and "test".

None of these tags seemed particularly useful for classifying the question, i.e.: it was not related to testing, but the keyword "test" in bourne shell; it wasn't specific to Linux as any other unixish OS would have the same issues; and the tag "commands" just doesn't really convey any information at all.

The question was retagged again and similarly non-specific tags were applied again and there doesn't seem to be a way to have a discussion with the other members who adjusted the tag.

What is the appropriate venue for addressing issues with tags in general and retagging questions in particular?

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Check the edit history and leave a comment addressing the user who made the edit (e.g. @ccomet should see this). – ChrisF May 26 '10 at 20:42
See? I was just alerted by ChrisF right now. – Grace Note May 26 '10 at 20:44
@ChrisF You don't think that will eventually overwhelm the original question? Not to mention the @ mechanism makes the situation unnecessarily personal and accusatory. – chris May 27 '10 at 0:38
You can always delete your comments once the situation has been resolved. – ChrisF May 27 '10 at 9:31
But the tag discussions are also valuable, just not for the same reasons the question's answers are valuable. – chris May 27 '10 at 18:21

Anyone who has edited a post, even if they didn't leave a comment, can be addressed in the @username comment reply syntax. This includes vanilla retags if the user has only 500 reputation. So a good start would be to start a discussion in the comments. This should be done pretty much immediately when someone rolls back your retag - don't try to undo the rollback as that will probably escalate to war. Solve the dispute first, then take action.

I once ran into this issue myself on a question which had the [weird-behaviour] tag on SO, which I had been trying to oust. Even though the question hadn't been touched for over a year, the author rolled back my retag, so I posted a lengthy comment explaining why I felt that the tag should be removed. I never did get a response, but another user ended up retagging the question, and it hasn't been changed since.

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I think there is a lot of valuable information left to be captured from the community in the retagging process that is lost if tags can be edited capriciously and if there isn't a formal way to discuss reasons behind retagging. Also, retagging is one of the few areas where participants in the forum directly conflict with each other, and so there is a potential for things to be adversarial.

It would be nice if there were requirements that retagging required reasons for the retagging and if each person is only able to delete a tag or add a tag once per question.

You label a question as "linux" and "bash" and "command"

I believe the question is generic enough to be appropriate for all unix variants, so I replace "linux" with "unix" and justify it by saying "not specific to linux, applies to many varients of unix", make the same edit for bash -> bourne-shell (same sort of reasons) then remove the "command" and justify it as "ambiguous tag".

Then someone else disagrees with me. Rather than start a 3 way fight, they delete "bourne-shell" (bourne-shell is itself an implementation of posix-shell), create "posix-shell" and add "CLI" with the justification "on this board, we label command line (vs scripting) issues with "CLI".

Now, if I disagree with this, and if there are limits to repeat tagging (can't add a tag that I've already added to a question, even it has since been deleted), my options are limited. If I disagree with the bash->bourne-shell->posix-shell tag, I can delete it, but if I try to retag it back to bourne-shell I'd get the error "you've already added that tag "bourne-shell"

All these comments would only be visible in the retagging interface, not when looking at the question. The people retagging the question would see the prior discussions of all the tags (and possibly not even see who did what retagging without further drilling into the interface).

Anyhow, I asked the question because I wasn't sure if the tagging discussion was overloaded with the question discussion, which it appears to be.

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if a user asks about a bash feature and the "bash" tag were replaced with "bourne-shell" or "posix-shell", the editor should be chastised and the "bash" tag restored. one could add the other tags, if the feature in question applies to them. – quack quixote May 27 '10 at 19:40
But often the inverse happens -- people ask a generic unix-shell question and tag it as bash, and then it gets retagged as bash. The retagging interface doesn't explain the motives behind the retag, so the retagging keeps happening. The retaggers may not notice that, although the question says "bash" the actual question is equally relevant to any unix shell. The question could also be edited, but I am more hesitant to edit a question than to edit a tag. – chris May 27 '10 at 19:44
This feature request might be of some interest to you, but I would not make it required as you suggest. – Grace Note May 27 '10 at 19:47
people can leave a comment. or if you have full editing privs, leave an edit explanation. there is no way to force an editor or retagger to fully explain themselves; if you make comments required, you'll end up with useless comments as people fill in the minimum just to Get It Done. (Meta has seen many proposals suggesting required comments when casting downvotes; this is the biggest reason for not doing so. it Just Won't Work.) – quack quixote May 27 '10 at 20:40
My feeling is that there are 2 "meta" discussions -- one is a discussion of governance (this site) and the other is the implicit discussion of the meaning of words. I feel like this software is leaving "money on the table" by not also fostering the second sort of "meta" discussion. It could be hidden in the tags and require some non-novice level of reputation, but I feel like the "discuss it in the comment fields then delete the comments when you're done" is a kludge. – chris Jun 14 '10 at 21:11

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