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Meta's tag base is very different than the rest of the trilogy - we expect and understand pretty much all tags to refer to components of the Stack Overflow system. For example, if a question is tagged [replies] I would expect that it refers to either comment replies or matters of the envelope, and if it is tagged [required-tags] I would expect that it refers to the 4 tags that are required on Meta.

However, when browsing those tags in search I'll often find questions like this one and this one.

As far as I've seen, Meta tries to avoid using tags that mean explicitly identical concepts to the sister sites. For example, we have a [css] tag that refers to matters of CSS pertaining to the sites, it is not used for general CSS like on the other sites. In a more recent and applicable example, we can look at this question, which is not closed but is also not a question that belongs on Meta. The current [advanced-search] tag on Meta is inappropriate (it would normally refer to SO's in-house advanced search, but we can't simply change it to [search] because the [search] tag on Meta refers to searching through Stack Overflow as opposed to general searching.

I can conclude that these questions should not be tagged in the same way they'd be tagged on the appropriate site, because the tags would be inappropriate in the context of Meta. But they likewise cannot simply be tagged something like [belongs-on-stackoverflow], otherwise the whole battle to destroy those tags on the other sites would have been for naught.

There is a mirror to this issue in the sister sites, which is what to do about tags on questions that are migrated to Meta. The tags used for Meta questions are poisonous to the other sites, they propagate in number and promote the usage of tags inappropriately to those who do not yet know any better. Last I inquired about this, the solution given to me was to just flag the question for a moderator to delete the stub.

Is this what should be done for off-topic questions on Meta? Should they just be primed for deletion, since they do not have any use to remain on Meta? Or have we an alternative tagging solution that can be used to prevent these off-topic questions from polluting the contents of existing tags? Maybe clear them of all tags, if it is possible for a moderator to do such?

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Well I've voted to delete the first two questions you've linked to, which should help when they are eventually deleted, and added my close vote to the third. – ChrisF Jun 14 '10 at 12:43
I think this belongs on :-) – paulmorriss Jun 28 '11 at 9:23
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The truth is that whenever a question is migrated (regardless of the source and destination site), there is the potential of polluting the tags on the target site (under the current design). This is especially true when questions get migrated to Meta, since the topic tags are so fundamentally different.

I believe there have been feature requests to simply ignore (i.e., not create) the tags on the target site, or auto-retag incoming questions on Meta specifically, but I think this kind of feature should be applicable to all sites.

Yes, those of us who mod on Meta do a good job of cleaning things up, but under the current design, those tags will still exist in the database regardless of whether we retag or not, which isn't a really clean solution.

In the meantime, I think it's reasonable to increase the rep required to create tags on Meta. Even more so than the other Trilogy sites, Meta tags don't need to be created very often at all.

Reply to comment: I think increasing the rep required to create tags would eliminate most or all of the problems on new occurrences. If we bump it up to 1000 (currently 99), or even just to 500, that would do it. Any of these types of questions are always from users with < 100 rep (usually 1 rep).

For existing questions, I guess we just have to go through them and flag for mod attention. That's probably more efficient than relying on 10k users to vote to delete since there are only so many of us available to vote. It's also possible some of those questions aren't even closed yet (somewhat unlikely, but one or two might slip through the cracks if Meta moved fast that day).

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Your points are solid, but I'm less worried about the tags that are migrated to Meta - because those tags exist in the database even when removed, there's nothing we as users can do for now. Also, we don't have to worry about how to tag those questions because, in belonging to Meta, we can just use the Meta tags for their purposes. My concern lies primarily with what to do about the off-topic questions that people ask initially on Meta and use our already-created tags for improper purposes. Though, raising the bar for tag creation yet again would help mitigate some problems. – Grace Note Jun 14 '10 at 13:03
@ccomet: Edited my answer. – Jon Seigel Jun 14 '10 at 13:22
Repeat of comment to Bill, just would like your input as well since you're also clearing tags from off-topic questions. "Should we use [discussion] as the required tag to house these in for now, or just leave whichever tags it has? Thus far, the recent examples I brought up were originally [discussion], but this question I was about to flag is tagged [support], I was debating whether, in clearing tags, to leave it as [support] or change it." – Grace Note Jun 14 '10 at 14:06
@ccomet: I'd tend towards [discussion] since [support] means asking for help, but it really doesn't matter. Just as long as the garbage tags are removed. – Jon Seigel Jun 14 '10 at 15:12
The combination of both yours and Bills answers are what basically address my problem (albeit in a strangely indirect, yet direct, fashion). With no real method to judge which should be accepted, I flipped a coin. Lizards have tails but I flipped heads. – Grace Note Jun 15 '10 at 17:20

You can flag for moderator attention on questions that need to be deleted from meta. There's not as much traffic on meta as on SO, and there aren't as many people with high enough rep, so we might not get enough people voting to close and delete questions that need to be removed. That's offset by the relatively high number of moderators, so flagging seems reasonable.

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For the second point, I don't want to change the meaning of tags. I am pro-context-sensitivity: I want to retain the meaning of those tags for the community. So, for example, I would like to remove the [advanced-search] tag from the third example, so that it retains its meaning for Meta. – Grace Note Jun 14 '10 at 12:53
@ccomet: Oh, I get you now. Yes, that makes sense. That tag means something different here, so it should only be used in its meta context here. I removed it. – Bill the Lizard Jun 14 '10 at 12:55
Should we use [discussion] as the required tag to house these in for now, or just leave whichever tags it has? Thus far, the recent examples I brought up were originally [discussion], but this question I was about to flag is tagged [support], I was debating whether, in clearing tags, to leave it as [support] or change it. – Grace Note Jun 14 '10 at 14:16
I suppose the follow up to this would be "Given the choice between removing the erroneous tags on the off-topic question verus flagging the off-topic question for moderator deletion, should I prioritize flagging or retagging?" – Grace Note Jun 14 '10 at 14:17
@ccomet: I would just leave the tags as they were when migrated and flag the question for deletion. – Bill the Lizard Jun 14 '10 at 15:10

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