There seems to be an increasing problem lately that newer users leave off the most obvious tag - the tag for the language/platform they are using!

For example, see this question: Oracle - how to remove white spaces? The title clearly states that the question involves Oracle, yet it is only tagged with query and whitespace. (This is actually very common with SQL or database related questions.)

I used to leave a comment explaining this issue every time it happened, but it has been happening so much lately that I mostly stopped doing that.

It is more of an issue than you would think, since without a common tag such as c#, few people will see it because of the interesting tags list, and often, these questions go like this for quite a while before somebody retags them.

I think SO needs some sort of notice by the tag input box explaining this. Is this a good idea? Do you think it would help fix the problem? Is there a better way to do it?

5 Answers 5


Its up to the more qualified (rep bearing) users to retag and organize the place.

This is after all a collaborative site, not an AI machine in the making.
The gradual increase in control (through rep increments) works towards a more mature society;
rather than a Singularity :-)

  • +1 Retag permission is one of the first available, and this makes things a lot easier long term. Jul 28, 2009 at 18:31
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    Well, that's how it works now, but I'm wondering if there are any, more "automatic", solutions.
    – Zifre
    Jul 28, 2009 at 18:35

You can't expect newcomers to always know the standard tagging conventions. The best you can do is to leave comments on their question giving them tips on how to better tag (or go in and retag yourself and then leave a note explaining why). The idea is to educate the new users so that they don't keep repeating the same mistakes. You can't expect them to immediately jump in and be flawless (we have enough users who have been around months and still can't quite figure it out yet).

  • Well, that's what I used to do (leave comments)... but I would think that the obvious broad tag would be, well... obvious (even for newcomers). If I saw a question that just had the tag java, even when there were other tags that could apply too, I would be okay with that. I wouldn't expect new users to know every tag. But when they leave off tags like java, it really annoys me.
    – Zifre
    Jul 28, 2009 at 18:31
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    @Zifre: It annoys everyone. Not much we can do about it, though. My favorites are the ones tagged python c# ruby, because that's the example given under the tag textbox. Haven't seen one of those in a while, sadly. Jul 28, 2009 at 18:33
  • java is practically a synonym of java-se for beginners, that's how I see it
    – prusswan
    Mar 2, 2012 at 5:40

I didn't look at the question you linked to, but note that sometimes vendor-specific tags aren't necessary because it isn't really an Oracle or MySQL question, but a SQL question.

As to the larger issue, that's why those of us with more rep can retag. Granted, users have to learn, but usability study after usability study tells us that people don't pay attention to the instructions anyway. So either you make asking a question more difficult, which ups the barrier for entry on the site, or you put up with it and rely on the rest of us to make it fit. I like the second one better, for obvious reasons.


Questions really are living documents that evolve pretty quickly into nicely formed and organized Q&A posts.

Part of the low-friction aspect of Stackoverflow systems means that new user get to post with few barriers of entry, even if they don't always get it "right" the first time. The nice thing about an active, collaborative community is that the small problems get fixed quickly and new users (typically) learn all the nuances of the system and become contributing members themselves.


A tag input box with better intellisense would help, but I suspect it is mostly up to the respective tag followers to do such a task effectively. I have retagged existing questions while looking them up when I feel that it was missing certain keywords that would have led me faster to what I was looking for.

  • What improvements need to be made to the existing tag input box? It already provides suggestions; what else is it missing? If you have concrete suggestions, please consider posting a new question and tagging it as a feature-request. Mar 2, 2012 at 5:49
  • For that particular example cited, would it be possible to auto-include sql as a tag simply by inferring from the question content? Also, further suggestions could be made based on current tags (e.g. offer sql as a choice with oracle already added)
    – prusswan
    Mar 2, 2012 at 6:00

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