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I've gone through and merged most of the tag synonyms on Stack Overflow, but there are several that I want to get feedback on before I proceed. (Thanks to @Rook for drawing attention to the fact that this needed to be done in Tag totals should include synonyms.)

The following synonyms seem backwards according to naming conventions, but you're not allowed to suggest synonyms where the source (synonym) has more instances than the target (master). Should I switch any/all of these around so we keep the tags that use a -?

Master        ←             Synonym
------                      -------
stacktrace   × 220          stack-trace   × 10 
linkbutton   × 82           link-button   × 3  
radiobutton   × 453         radio-button   × 4  
mobileweb   × 187           mobile-web   × 3  
layoutmanager   × 27        layout-manager   × 7  
datagrid   × 1715           data-grid   × 4  
querystring   × 460         query-string   × 6  
wordwrap   × 102            word-wrap   × 22  
flashplayer   × 249         flash-player   × 5  

In the following two cases I'm not sure the tags mean exactly the same thing. Maybe in context they do and we want the synonym to stand and the merge to happen, I just want to be sure before I pull the trigger.

facebook   × 3463           facebook-api   × 762  
iphone   × 44246            iphone-sdk   × 9353  

In addition to those, there's an "other" category of synonyms I'd like to get an opinion on.

dsp   × 149                 signal-processing   × 103  
linker   × 738              linking   × 549  

In both cases the number of usages are similar for master and synonym tags, but there have been a lot of renames already. In the first case, signal-processing should be in the lead.

Suggested Actions:

I'll leave this up for a few days to see what feedback I get. If no one really cares, I'm going to swap the direction of the synonym in the first group, and just apply the merge as-is to the last four synonyms listed above. If you disagree with those choices, please let me know.

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I don't have any objections to the merges, but the iPhone SDK isn't called that anymore: it's the iOS SDK. Shouldn't tags conform to the actual name of the product, and not an outdated colloquialism? –  user149432 Oct 20 '10 at 23:19
@Mark: Yes, it probably should be changed. That might be worth a separate question since it involves so many questions and developers. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 20 '10 at 23:25
FWIW, I created a Tagging chat room today. –  Gnome Oct 21 '10 at 1:50
(Though it would seem to make more sense for SO-specific tagging to go on a chat.SO room.) –  Gnome Oct 27 '10 at 1:42

5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I agree that the second column is better for everything in your first block, and though some could go either way, it's fairly straight-forward. It's likely one tag got used slightly more often early, users followed suit, and the rich get richer; so I wouldn't take current popularity as necessarily indicative of which should be the preferred tag. Us gnomes haven't been retagging those for the sake of not polluting the active questions — and the problem just continually gets worse.


I'd rather see [signal-processing] than [dsp]; expanding some acronyms is a good thing for all users. Though if "signal-processing" didn't make sense — and maybe it doesn't? — then "digital-signal-processing" is too long, so [dsp] would be required in that situation. This benefit is less with longer or more recognizable acronyms: DSP isn't nearly as widely applicable for all programmers as YAGNI.


I've thought about master tags off and on, and have come to the tentative conclusion that we should link/synonym any tags we feel should be linked: moderators should then pick the best tag that preserves coherency from all the synonyms. This should be an ongoing process as synonyms are added and approved.

Naturally, if a moderator has questions or qualms, they should hold off and discuss it, but once all of tag B has been merged into tag A, does it matter which name is finally used? Pick the best tag that gives the site consistent tags. For example, it's almost a given to synonym plural and singular forms, yet consistently choosing one form will convey more confidence and clarity to more users using those tags. There will be special cases, but for generic terms, plurals seem preferred (e.g. exceptions, types, tags). Nouns (exceptions, tags) vs actions (exception-handling, tagging) could also be more consistent.

Of course, I'm anal retentive and probably care more than is healthy about which tags become the master/preferred tags. I imagine it's a non-issue for many.

Drop -api/-sdk

Keeping in mind that SO is solely a programming site, the -api in [facebook-api] seems redundant and a needless split. Surely [facebook] is just as useful, and splitting these questions into [foo] and [foo-api] just makes it harder to search. There are questions involving Facebook that don't use the API, but not all of them should be tagged [facebook] in the first place. ("How do I implement X like site Y does?" being a form I've seen a few times, and when Y=SO, sometimes they get accidentally migrated here.) However, using the non-api tag supports tagging that kind of question (by lumping it in with the APIs), while still being a net gain in usefulness.


There's a problem with linker-related tags, as the large number of web/html questions leads to confusion with hyperlinking. Someone must manually sort that out, then we should blacklist [link] and [linking] in favor of [hyperlink] and [linker].

There might need to be a UI change to support that kind of blacklist: the user needs a reason and to be pointed to the correct tags. Something like "[link] is ambiguous, did you mean [hyperlink] or [linker]?"

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Nice catch on the [linking]/[linker] ambiguity. I'll go through those and make sure we get it straight. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 21 '10 at 1:36
I went through all of [linking] and changed/removed any that should not be changed to [linker]. I'm amazed at how many questions I had to change. The words "link" and "linking" are just used in too many different ways in programming to be useful tags imo. I'm ready to merge [linking] -> [linker] if you're done with that one. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 27 '10 at 3:00
I've not looked at [linking] at all, but I trust your judgement unless you want another pair of eyes. Going to finish the last of [link] now. –  Gnome Oct 27 '10 at 3:18
That's okay, I just didn't want to take a chance of adding 500 more questions to it if you were in middle of cleaning up in [linker]. I took a look at it and it was in much better shape than [linking]. The merge on those two is complete. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 27 '10 at 3:48
@Bill: *phew* [link] is done and ready to be merged into [hyperlink]. I should learn how to not actually read the questions; took me nearly 2.5 hours total for ~60 questions. –  Gnome Oct 27 '10 at 5:15
[link] is now merged. Thanks a lot for checking all those for me. I was mostly looking at other tags and titles when I went through [linking] to see if there was anything that looked out of place. If there was I'd read the question to make a decision. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 27 '10 at 11:22
Glad to help. The titles and tags were enough to decide which to open, but then I'd start reading and wanting to comment and answer... it just seems to drag on as you're doing it. –  Gnome Oct 27 '10 at 11:34
@Bill: And the first victi^Wuser notices the silent retag (3 hours later), but at least they did notice and fix it. –  Gnome Oct 27 '10 at 13:13
Yeah, I did catch myself wanting to answer a bunch of linker questions, but I took my ginko and was able to stay focused. :) –  Bill the Lizard Oct 27 '10 at 13:27
I didn't realize the retags were silent. There's no notification at all that a synonym has been applied? That doesn't seem right. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 27 '10 at 13:28
@Bill: I know it's silent when retagging, but can't say for sure I've asked... It does show (s) in the drop down, but that may not have been seen and could be misunderstood. (This is what prompted my idea about a blacklist, but if that UX isn't great, I'd rather have the silent retag.) –  Gnome Oct 27 '10 at 13:42

Keep the hyphens (e.g., "word-wrap" is better than "wordwrap"). I find tags composed of multiple words much more readable when the words are separated by hyphens.

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radiobutton should be canonical. Standadard usage isn't hyphenated. Honestly, the tag is pretty pointless altogether, but this isn't about that.

I feel similarly, but less strongly about querystring and flashplayer.

facebook and facebook-api might mean different things, but I'm not convinced that there are enough on-topic questions about facebook to warrant a separate tag. I'd lean towards leaving them separate.

I think that DSP and signal-processing probably do actually cover slightly different topic areas. I'm not sure they're different enough to warrant separate tags though.

I think linking should be the canonical tag.

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I vote no on the Datagrid and LinkButton tags, as they're both .Net classes.

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Hmm, not being familiar with these, I was thinking GUI controls (including HTML). Would it be better to have [.net-linkbutton] or something else to distinguish? Or would those interested in .Net be fine tagged as [link-button]? –  Gnome Oct 21 '10 at 3:13
I'll go through these ones as well. If a tag is only used to refer to a class name I think it's okay to leave it as is instead of hyphenating it. –  Bill the Lizard Oct 27 '10 at 11:24


After running these through Google Fi... er, I mean, after carefully considering your feedback these are the tags I decided on.

[flash-player] <- [flashplayer]
[word-wrap] <- [word-wrap]
[query-string] <- [querystring]
[mobile-web] <- [mobileweb]
[layout-manager] <- [layoutmanager]
[radio-button] <- [radiobutton]
[stack-trace] <- [stacktrace]

[datagrid] and [linkbutton] refer to the class names (at least that's how they're predominantly used on SO), so it seems appropriate to keep them as non-hyphenated tags.

[signal-processing] is used far more often than [dsp], so I came down in favor of the former.

If you're talking about [facebook] or [iphone] on SO, then it should be about the api or sdk respectively. Explicitly using the terms api and sdk feels a little redundant so I dropped the [facebook-api] and [iphone-sdk] tags.

I'd like to thank everyone for their feedback, particularly Roger Pate for helping me sort out the [linking]/[linker] mess. I really appreciate all the time he put in on this.

If you strongly disagree with any of these decisions, they can still be reversed. Just post a separate retag request so we can get more people to weigh in on individual tags and synonyms.

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And an update on -api/-sdk on a larger scale, proposing to drop them. –  Gnome Oct 30 '10 at 3:35

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