The tag wikis on a lot of Stack Exchange sites can be pretty abysmal at times. There are numerous instances of members blatantly copying and pasting Wikipedia content, but even when it's not straight-up copypasta, the vast majority of tag wiki edit suggestions I see are from people who honestly don't "get it".

It doesn't help that these are named wiki, because everybody automatically associates that with Wikipedia and/or the kind of content that you would see on Wikipedia. At the very least, it would help to have better information on the editing page so that we're not constantly having to reject edits and refer people to the blog post.

I believe that the aforementioned guidelines were posted twice on the blog, although I can't remember the other occasion when it was posted. Specifically I'm thinking of this part:

  1. 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.
  2. Concentrate on what a tag means to your community. For “email” on Server Fault, mention the server aspects of email including POP3, SMTP, IMAP, and server software. For “email” on Super User, mention desktop email clients and explicitly exclude webmail, as that would be more appropriate for webapps.stackexchange.com.

I think this is what people need to hear about tag wikis, not the advice that's actually on the edit page:

The tag wiki excerpt is a brief plain text introduction to the topic that the tag represents. It is shown at the top of tag question lists, and as a tooltip wherever the tag appears. Complete this first!

The full tag wiki is a detailed introduction to the topic, suitable as a destination for those curious about it: [...]

The phrase introduction to the topic screams definition to me. I don't even think that the phrasing is technically correct; it's not an introduction to the topic, it's an introduction to the tag.

I would so much rather see a condensed version of the guidelines on the blog than what's currently on that sidebar. Yes, I realize that the sidebar eventually goes into more detail about what should be in the full wiki ("what questions should have this tag") but I think most people have stopped reading by then.

For instance, we just got the following 2 suggestions in rapid succession:

An oven is an appliance which produces heat in order to cook food.

Coffee is a beverage which has a dark, acidic flavor and is prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant.

Stack Overflow's excerpts are hardly much better:

PHP is a widely-used, general-purpose scripting language designed specifically for web development.

These aren't helpful to anyone - everybody on a cooking site knows what an oven is and what coffee is. Everybody on a programming site knows what PHP is. Worst of all, one of our experienced members approved these edits because, no doubt, the phrase "tag wiki" is horribly misleading and the "real" guidelines are buried in an off-site blog post.

I'm going to suggest the following alternative wording, but this is just an example - it would be great if someone with more talent at this could come up with something better:

What are Tag Wikis?

The tag wiki excerpt explains which topics the tag represents. It is shown at the top of tag question lists, and as a tooltip wherever the tag appears. Complete this first!

The full tag wiki provides detailed usage guidelines and useful references, suitable as a destination for those curious about it:

► what questions should have this tag?
► differences from other, similar tags
► which aspects are on/off-topic
► for highly-specialized tags, some basic definitions
► important links for learning more
► one reasonably sized page

See our advice on writing great tag wikis.

  • Why is this question marked most recently updated by Community♦?
    – M.Babcock
    Mar 25, 2012 at 2:02
  • 2
    @M.Babcock Community randomly bumps unanswered questions (which this qualifies as), as described in its profile.
    – Kevin Reid
    Mar 25, 2012 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


A tag wiki explains how users should tag questions. An excerpt (which in my opinion is a misnomer) is generally a good excerpt if it makes sense if the words "Questions about...", "For questions dealing with...", and so on were added to it.

Examples of a good tag wiki excerpt:

- For questions dealing with Internet Explorer in particular, rather than other Web browsers. For example, if your HTML or CSS doesn't work in Internet Explorer, but does in other browsers.

- For questions specific to the C# programming language, rather than the .NET Framework itself (the ".net" tag).

  • 1
    There's some kind of automatic filter that strips out any text before and up to the word "tag" or maybe the phrase "this tag", so typically these would be written as "Questions about web development targeting the Internet Explorer browser" or "Questions specific to the C# programming language". You can even remove the "questions about".
    – Aarobot
    Dec 25, 2011 at 5:19
  • That's what I wasn't aware of. Good points.
    – Peter O.
    Dec 25, 2011 at 5:20

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