Edited Version of Question:

When a tag synonym is approved, the old tag becomes defunct. Unfortunately, it becomes harder to find questions that are tagged with the now-defunct tag. This seems to me to be the opposite of the point of tag synonyms (at least with respect to existing questions, although obviously not for future ones). It seems to me that there are a couple of possible solutions here (in ascending order of utility, according to my opinion, albeit probably descending order of preference for SE programmers):

  1. Clicking [searching] on a tag would only search that exact tag (e.g., the synonym), not a related one (e.g., the master).
  2. Clicking [searching] on a tag would search all tags that are connected to each other, including the master and all synonyms.
  3. When a tag synonym is approved, all questions tagged with the old tag are retroactively (and silently) retagged with the master, in more or less the same way that it happens when someone attempts to tag a new question with the defunct tag.

Original Version of Question:

Original title: Should we retag questions that have a now-defunct tag with the synonym?

Since I seem to be stirring the hornets' nest anyway...

If a tag synonym is approved, the old tag becomes defunct and questions tagged with it may become harder to find. Retagging dozens of questions at once seems like a bad idea. However, from time to time, people will come across a question tagged with the old tag. In such a situation, is it appropriate to change the tag from the defunct one to the approved master tag? (That is, even though you are not making any substantive edits.)

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    Have you actually tested your assumption about "defunct" tags becoming "harder to find"? E.g., tree (one occurrence) has been replaced by cart (69 occurrences) as a synonym. Guess what happens when you search on the tree tag? :-) – whuber Jun 7 '12 at 19:36
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    @whuber, are you getting a different result than I am? I can't find the question tagged tree. – gung Jun 7 '12 at 19:45
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    That's the entire point, gung: there are few or no questions with the "tree" tag. But because tree is a synonym of cart, a search for "[tree]" turns up all the questions tagged "cart". That makes tree easier to find, IMHO. – whuber Jun 7 '12 at 19:49
  • @whuber, maybe I'm missing something here (it wouldn't be the first time). But consider the following: here is one of my (evidently 8) answers to questions tagged logistic-regression; however, if you search on the LR tag on my profile you get this. Notice that that question is not listed in the search output. (As a result of these facts, it took me a long time to find an example for you.) – gung Jun 7 '12 at 21:04
  • Thus, the question is, should I, eg, retag that question as logistic so that it would become more easily findable? – gung Jun 7 '12 at 21:05
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    That sounds like search + synonyms is not working as it should, Gung. I don't like the idea of manually retagging ten thousand questions to cope with search limitations. Maybe you should recast this question to focus on that behavior (and perhaps tag it with bug). – whuber Jun 7 '12 at 21:23
  • @whuber, I wouldn't want to spend my time retagging them all either. I've changed the question, but appended the original below it; I can delete the old question entirely if you think that's best. – gung Jun 7 '12 at 21:53
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    @whuber, this doesn't seem to be getting much attention. Should we migrate it up to the big meta? – gung Jun 11 '12 at 1:02

In most cases only one tag should be used for all questions after a synonym is created. All synonyms should point to this canonical tag, and all questions should be retagged to the canonical tag.

Fortunately, moderators have a tool to merge tags, so you don't have to do that by hand. Just notify a moderator on your site and remind them which tags should be merged and they can do that.

  • We have had many tag synonyms approved, but the old tags (ie the synonyms) don't automatically become the new tags (the masters) on the existing questions. You're saying that there's a trick to get this to happen automatically? – gung Jun 11 '12 at 13:47
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    No, not automatically as merging tags isn't something that can be undone easily. Moderators have a tool to merge tags, but they have to start it manually, it's not automatically done when a synonym is created. – Mad Scientist Jun 11 '12 at 13:49
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    Yes, the mod interface offers the option to merge tag synonyms. This is an irreversible step, though. As a mod, I am reluctant to make merges solely to work around a "feature" of the search system. Searching ought to recognize tag synonyms – whuber Jun 11 '12 at 17:11

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