We're doing some spring cleaning on Super User, which involves disambiguating tags, merging them, creating synonyms etc.

However, one of the most troublesome things is removing a tag.

Often, it's easy enough to agree that a tag should be burninated completely, possibly even blacklisted. But then, we're told that "only devs can do it". From time to time, Trogdor appears and the tag is gone.

Often, there is a list of questions that are currently tagged with something, but need that tag removed. There's no way to do this, currently, without mods needing to step on some dev's toes.


Diamond moderators should – given community consensus – be able to remove a tag:

  • from the site, entirely, or
  • a list of questions


  • No more mass-retagging and front-page flooding just to remove a tag (e.g. when we'd rather do it manually than wait for a dev to do it)
  • Huge amount of time saved
  • No need for moderators on smaller sites to get devs to perform the deletion
  • The site's own community can make a decision within their own moderation policy
  • 34
    You mean moderators can't already do that? This surprises me.
    – a cat
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 12:22
  • 4
    I've been told countless times, "Sorry, we can't do that, we need a developer to do it." -- diamond mods can only merge and create synonyms, not mass-untag.
    – slhck
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 12:24
  • 8
    As an aside: if mass-removing implies that some questions are left without any tag at all, then I guess the same code that runs after automatic cleanup, to tag those with [untagged], could be applied.
    – Arjan
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 12:29
  • 2
    A simple retagging probably shouldn't cause the question to bump to the home page Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 21:22
  • +1 for the Burninator / Trogdor references. For those that don't get the reference just focus on your consummate V's and close it up real good.
    – scunliffe
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 21:29
  • I was just going to bounty this... o_O
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 21:33

5 Answers 5


Yes please!

Another option would be giving moderators a mass retag privilege. Retagging a question used to be one of the smallest privileges, attainable at just 500 reputation, so surely we trust the moderators enough to let them mass remove a tag from questions?

Removing tags is a very simple operation. The only reason the job needs moderator/dev/community manager attention in the first place is because some tags have waaaay to many questions to retag all at once (as slhck points out in his question). Is this really something we should need to bother a SE employee about?

Of course, there's also the option of...

Retag parties!

But then, who likes those?


I like the idea of changing things so that moderators can be more autonomous when it comes to tag cleanups. In the same breath, communities need to be more autonomous when it comes to managing synonyms. Our tag management tools haven't seen much love in quite a while, and we need to fix that.

The current obstacle to allowing AMTBs (Autonomous Moderator Tag Burnination) is the fact that our own tools to do it are crazy dangerous. Did you know that I could one-click destroy the very fabric of logic itself? Don't laugh, man, because I totally did just that:

With great power ...

This does:

  • No checks to ensure we're not leaving a question untagged
  • No checks to make sure we don't remove a problematic tag from something with pending close votes (homework was a major pain to exterminate)
  • No sanity to allow an easy undo of the operation

Come to think of it, a lot of the tools we have built around managing tags make me think of something like this:


Wait, sorry, that's Ralph Macchio. They make me think of something like this:

This is fine

And that's something we need to fix holistically, and something we're going to dive into soon.

For the actual burnination, we'll need to come up with more sane tools on our end that can be exposed to mods, and perhaps make it a two-key operation. Moderator 1 initiates it, moderator 2 ACKs it and turns their key as well.

Not putting planned or deferred on this yet, but we are examining it, other really strange quirks about how the tag management tools work led to a discussion earlier today and we agree - love is needed in this area.

  • 6
    How about voting of 60% of the mods? Or 20k users voting + 1 mod vote? Or give me something I could work with? I prefer 200 thousands times untagged than manually go 1 by 1 and questions still being asked with that tag. Or better yet, whenever a tag is ready for burmination do a soft-ban to the tag use (so new questions don't be asked with that tag) to give time community to deal with them. But please, something!
    – Braiam
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 19:50
  • 8
    This certainly needs to be at least a two-person decision (60% might be tough on sites with may mods but few active mods). I do agree with @Braiam that untagged is preferable to cruft -- we can always have retag parties for untagged questions (or blow them away), but cruft attracts more cruft...
    – voretaq7
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 21:11
  • 1
    more sane tools on your end for the actual burnination, easy peasy: Tags that only exist on locked questions... treat these the same as tags that don't exist at all. "There are already almost 2,500 locked questions at SO and almost 700 at Programmers. These questions span hundreds, if not thousands, totally arbitrary tags... it already started to interfere too much with burnination efforts, and it will only become worse as more questions will get historical locks..."
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 8:19
  • 1
    Tim, has there ever been any follow-up to this over the years? Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 19:25
  • 2
    the dual key approach has been used for sensitive operations in a lot of different professions. This seems a prudent approach. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 12:52
  • Why have you removed/replaced the image? The new one doesn't make much sense for me. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 14:28
  • @MEEthesetupwizard It still conveys the point that we're aware that the tools aren't optimized for safe use, without the image of a gun designed to inflict damage on the user (which is a little too close to a trigger for my liking these days, no pun intended)
    – user50049
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 15:02
  • 1
    So, since we're now more than 6 years after the fact, we can assume that "soon" is never? I definitely have some tags I can take care of, and it seems that it is easy enough to figure out the restrictions. We're at 150 upvotes for the question, but seemingly it's still not worth figuring out? Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 20:03

Also surprised the mods can't already do it.

In relation to Lance Roberts' answer, the obvious solution would be to make the deletion process a vote, with a required quorum scaled roughly logarithmically to the tag's popularity - i.e. the more questions tagged, the more voters needed. Very popular tags, like, say, java, should still be dev only I think. All of this is to prevent erroneous deletions, of course.

Note that I'm not yet that familiar with the tag management processes, so I may be talking out of my a**.

  • 2
    Yes, that'd make sense but I can see how it's hard to implement. The tag system is already quite a mess to administer. Having a vote would complicate that. Let's see it like this: Moderators are trusted to merge tags on a massive scale. Or destroy user accounts. Put up system-wide notices. Et cetera. Why shouldn't they be able to just remove tags? In case there's a screwup, I'm sure it could be reverted.
    – slhck
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:15
  • It could additionally depend on the total number of moderators on the site. (I'm assuming you are talking about moderators voting for burnination rather than normal users.)
    – Andriy M
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 6:59

What if all tags had a “hidden” flag, so a mod could hide a tag stopping it showing up on any questions, tag lists etc. Then if need be the tag could be unhidden.


Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Removing tags en masse can have huge repercussions. We need to exercise extreme care in doing so, because the size of some of the sites leads to having many edge cases.

I'm not against having some completely trivial tag removed en masse, but want the decision process to go through the Team, so that it will be considered more thoroughly, rather than just having one moderator make the decision.

It would be better for most retags/removals to have things done manually, but it would be nice to have an option when we edit to not bump the post if we choose.

  • 4
    Well, of course nobody should go around deleting tags at will. That's why community consensus would be required before doing so. What I don't understand is having to have a community moderator check each and every single tag that needs to be removed en-masse. If you've up for doing things manually, you probably haven't participated in a lot of cleanups. It's really a lot of work that – for some tags – does not pay off.
    – slhck
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:04
  • @slhck, no, I have participated in a lot of cleanups. And it is a lot of work, but that is the cost of quality. Unfortunately, right now it takes more time than it should as I try to not flood the frontpage. Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:06
  • 2
    There are tags that need to sorted out manually, e.g. to split up ambiguous meanings, specific versions, et cetera. But for plain unnecessary and meaningless meta tags, I don't see why users should have to go through each question (possibly hundreds!). I agree having non-bumping edits would make sense because we frequently have to slow editors down, but then again people don't find a lot of motivation to chew through trivial tag removal edits either.
    – slhck
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:09
  • @slchk, yes, there are some tags that it would be ok to remove en-masse, but I think that is rare enough we can wait for someone at the Team level to do that. I'm not against remove tags en-masse completely, I just don't want the moderators to do that. There are some moderators who are 'deletionists' and kill everything they don't like without concensus. Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:11
  • 1
    @LanceRoberts How much we have to wait?
    – Braiam
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:14
  • @Braiam, well doesn't appear to be much concensus on those retags/removals, but Nathan did what I've done a few times and just took care of them one at a time. Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:16
  • 2
    Well, Nathan only removed the tag in ~10 question. And is not that community doesn't have consensus, is just that they know that it is a bother. If you read Jorge Castro comment it has more upvotes than the question itself, same for Nathan answer. Folks ignore this kind of requests because they know that it takes time and effort to do so.
    – Braiam
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:20
  • @Braiam, actually, most people don't know the mechanics of how SE handles these kind of things. They probably ignore because they don't think it's important. Also the population isn't large for that site (or for most non-SO sites). Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:21
  • 4
    Lance makes a really good point - you need developer access in order to bulk remove a tag, even most community managers have to bug someone to do it. It's that way because it forces us to do a last, at least cursory look before the tag vanishes and the posts associated with the problematic tag now next to impossible to find without a query on the live DB. I'm not saying this should be declined, but it can go badly without guard rails and sanity.
    – user50049
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:24
  • 1
    @TinyTim Which is why we're asking to allow mods to do it.. If they don't have sanity I don't know who does.
    – ɥʇǝS
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:25
  • 2
    @TinyTim When I want to mass-delete tag X, I already have a list of questions with the tag at the time I delete it. Store that list somewhere. Or, when I want to remove the tag X from a list of questions (which would be immensely helpful to have), that list is also kept. I don't see the big issue.
    – slhck
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:27

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