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There are a lot of tag wiki excerpts that are in the style of:

Questions about/specific to <tag-name>, <description of object>.

or even

Tag for questions about/specific to <tag-name>, <description of object>.

Do we really need these trivial elements in front of our tags?
We don't, it consumes the limited excerpt space and adds no value at all.

On closer inspection of the tag list it seems several other tag wikis also contain meta talk that's not directly related to the tag, or unnecessary bits like this.

For example, let's take the tag, it has this excerpt:

The Excel tag is used for referencing the Excel spreadsheet application from Microsoft. If your question is about VBA then also tag it VBA. If it is about an Excel formula or worksheet function, then tag it worksheet-function.

and the same is used for the tag info itself.

This really tells us nothing about Excel other than that it's a spreadsheet application from Microsoft. And why do we need to be instructed there for each other relevant tag that we should tag it such way?

Painfully meta, with basically no useful info on the topic at all!

Now compare that to the most popular tag , which lists what the tag is about in detail and doesn't contain any painful meta information whatsoever. It doesn't tell me about relevant tags because if I create a question I already know what it would be about.

I don't have to be told that my question regarding a problem with a controller on my website needs to be tagged ; even better, I will not read the tag wiki or excerpt at all when creating a new question. As that's not the place where tag wiki's and excerpts are often read, they are read when we go to a specific tag or search a specific tag and sometimes when we hover a specific tag.

Then why is this information needed at all for a tag like ?


Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of very good tag wiki's, and I'm sure they form the majority, but there are a few like this that a quick glance at the first page or two of tags turn up.

I believe that there is no place for meta-data in tag wikis, nor should the very space-limited excerpts contain any irrelevant filler text that states the obvious.

What does everyone else think?
And if there's some agreement can we please all start getting some of these tidied up!

Adapted this post from Super User, as I consider this a network wide problem with tags...

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The tag wiki's can always be changed by users with enough reputation. –  staticx Jun 24 '11 at 19:58
    
    
I edited the Excel tag. Is that better? –  Robert Harvey Jun 24 '11 at 20:05
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Some people do need to be told which tags to use, but I agree the excerpt isn't the place for it. And I'm not sure those people would listen anyway. –  Brad Mace Jun 24 '11 at 20:24
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What bemace said. I don't think anybody tagging questions [coding-style] will even see the wiki excerpt that tells them they're most likely using it wrongly (e.g. for CSS questions). –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jun 24 '11 at 21:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

For example, let's take the tag, it has this excerpt:

The Excel tag is used for referencing the Excel spreadsheet application from Microsoft. If your question is about VBA then also tag it VBA. If it is about an Excel formula or worksheet function, then tag it worksheet-function.

and the same is used for the tag info itself.

This is a nearly perfect tag excerpt, so I think the premise of your question is not only wrong, but perhaps dangerously wrong.

The goal of the tag excerpt is not to teach someone what Excel is; I think it is safe to assume that someone who has a question about Excel (or ... or ..) knows fully well what it is!

Please read the four guidelines at the bottom of this blog post closely, and guideline #2 in particular:

Avoid generically defining the concept behind a tag, unless it is highly specialized. The “email” tag, for example, does not need to explain what email is. I think we can safely assume most internet users know what email is; there’s no value in a boilerplate explanation of email to anyone.

What is critical here is explaining:

  1. What the tag means to your community, specifically.
  2. Basic guidance on when to use the tag, and what kinds of questions should have this tag.

It is very, very dangerous to get the idea in your head that the tag wiki should be a copy of the wikipedia entry for Excel. If we wanted that, we'd go to Wikipedia. What we want in the tag wiki above all else, is a definition of Excel specific to our Q&A format, and specific to a particular community!


Check out our new improved tagging system, the tag information is now shown when tagging.

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I understand the desire to put instructions about how to use a tag in the tag wiki excerpt, thus putting those instructions front-and-center. But there are some problems with this approach:

  1. The tag wiki excerpt and the dropdown that displays the tag wiki excerpt are not the same size, and if you make the excerpt too long, it gets truncated in the dropdown.

  2. If a tag needs extensive explanation to be used properly, it's a bad tag to begin with, and should probably just be eliminated.

Tag wiki excerpts should always start by describing the tag, as in [tag] is (description).

If you can shoehorn some instructions below the description without truncating the dropdown, more power to you. But the shorter the tag wiki excerpt is, the better. If the instructions on how to use the tag are too long, put them in the Tag Wiki body, where there's lots of room available for descriptive prose.

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You definitely have to watch your length closely in the tag excerpt. But usually there's enough room for the short content description and the usage information. –  Lance Roberts Jun 25 '11 at 18:53
    
@Tom, Tags are Meta Information. –  Lance Roberts Jun 25 '11 at 20:12
    
Tag Wikis are content about the Tag Meta object, therefore they are in the Meta class. They do not suddenly elevate themselves to a higher level than the Meta object they are clarifying. –  Lance Roberts Jun 25 '11 at 22:47
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@tom "The excerpt should define the shared quality of questions containing this tag — boiled down to a few short sentences" That does NOT mean the tag wiki has to tell people what Excel is. If you have a question about Excel, and you don't know what Excel is.. god help you. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 26 '11 at 21:02
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@tom sure, if by brief you mean "the Excel spreadsheet application from Microsoft." On the full wiki there can be more detail lower down on the page, but I prefer the guidance on usage and relevance to our community Q&A norms for this tag to be of primary importance. –  Jeff Atwood Jun 26 '11 at 21:16

The purpose of the Tag Wiki is two-fold:

  • So Users will know what a Tag is for
  • So Users will know how to use a Tag

A Tag Wiki is Meta information, about the Meta-object, the Tag. We should not try to sanitize them to just be wikis about the subject, they are wikis about the Tag which is a Meta object in and of itself.

Here's the official blog post on the subject, a relevant portion is:

Here’s a few words of advice on writing tag wiki excerpts:

  1. The excerpt is the elevator pitch for the tag
  2. Avoid generically defining the concept behind a tag, unless it is highly specialized.
  3. Concentrate on what a tag means to your community.
  4. Provide basic guidance on when to use the tag.

The most important reason to have tag usage info in the excerpt, it that the first three lines of the excerpt shows up in the Tag tooltip. This will give useful information to new users of the tag on when to use it.

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They need to be uniform; even the system itself depends on the "[tag] is (description)" pattern to display the tags properly on the tags page. –  Robert Harvey Jun 25 '11 at 18:56
    
@Robert, They can all start with the tag is a description qualifier, and then the Tag Usage information. Please don't make unilateral changes to the Tags I work hard in. –  Lance Roberts Jun 25 '11 at 18:58
    
@Tom, then you need to look at how many edits I've done and answers I've given in the Excel tag. I've also worked hard on cleaning up the tag synonyms for it, as you'll see if you look for at some of the Meta questions on it. –  Lance Roberts Jun 25 '11 at 20:14
    
@Tom, I was directly answering your statement, "I don't see what's so hard work about excel and others." You've done plenty of edits on SU, so you know what that takes. I've done a lot there also, but also I've done a lot on SO. On SO it actually takes more to edit because you frequently have to edit code blocks which don't have good tools. –  Lance Roberts Jun 25 '11 at 22:46
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@TomWij: While I agree with your position, I also know that people have a strong desire to put instructions in the excerpts, and that the practice is officially sanctioned. We're in the minority opinion. –  Robert Harvey Jun 26 '11 at 2:27
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@TomWij: the premise of your argument is flawed because it sounds like you are not deep in Office programming. If there was C# script, C# on VSTO, C# macros, C# specifically related to UDFs, etc. then Lance's point would be a lot more clear. C# is a language - Excel is a platform. Should anyone programming in ASP.NET no longer list C# as another tag? Based on your position, the tag word does not need to be further defined in a tag wiki. It could be the program from Microsoft or it could be...well...if you have a "word" in your code. Tag wikis are wikis about the tag. –  Todd Main Jun 26 '11 at 19:45
    
@TomWij: You've obviously reached an entrenched opinion in your head where you are right and others are wrong. Anyway, it's clear you still don't understand how tag wikis work, and if you persist I'm sure it will keep getting edited back to what a tag wiki excerpt should be. –  Todd Main Jun 26 '11 at 20:12
    
@Tom, the most highly upvoted answer on the question you linked, is a moderator supporting tag usage information. –  Lance Roberts Jun 26 '11 at 20:32
    
@TomWij, Now you're being disingenuous. Jeff's blog specifically mentions it for excerpts, as you can see from my quote. Please don't take the discussion down a fantasy trail. –  Lance Roberts Jun 26 '11 at 20:40
    
@Tom, Line 4 of my quote, copied verbatim from the blog. "Provide basic guidance on when to use the tag." –  Lance Roberts Jun 26 '11 at 20:44

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