We're cleaning up tags on Gaming, and this has caused a lot of chatter about what to do about the front-page. Our activity is slow-enough that a 60-question retag can destroy the front-page for a reasonable amount of time.

One proposed solution is using a Selenium script to auto-singe a tag from a question once every 10 minutes, thus avoiding nuking all our front-page content.

I wanted to check before switching on my shiny new auto-burninator if SE has a problem with automating my input in such a way, for example these kinds of scripts could be used to automate badge-getting (not that it's an issue here).


More thoughts on this: one problem with allowing automation in this way is that it upsets the balance of power. Say I do not like a tag, but others do. In this contentious situation, I have the power to remove the tag by setting my auto-burninator to kill (maximum speed) and detagging hundreds of questions in a short space of time, removing the tag in such a way that makes it very time-consuming for my opposers to retag all those questions and ressurect the tag.

Further Update (with cake)

There's also a possibility of extreme vandalism - e.g. retagging every question on a site to in a matter of hours. I know SE has tools to monitor serial voting and reverse it, is retagging reversal as trivial? How would a system be able to distinguish between good retagging and bad retagging?

  • 13
    If it IS a problem, this user would appear to have a script to get Fanatic on all sites...
    – Ben Brocka
    Jun 25 '12 at 16:53
  • 3
    I want that script (the Selenium one, not the Fanatic one).
    – yannis
    Jun 25 '12 at 17:12
  • @Yannis It's very simple indeed. Once it's tidied up I'll post it.
    – fredley
    Jun 25 '12 at 19:02
  • 1
    @YannisRizos Here's the HTML Selenium IDE script, I use the Sideflow extension for flow control (yay! goto!). Replace the site/tag names accordingly to customize your burnination experience.
    – fredley
    Jun 26 '12 at 10:33
  • Auto burninator? Who needs it? I'll just call Trogdor and send him over. Jun 26 '12 at 11:36
  • @RichardJ.RossIII This script basically is Trogdor. At maximum speed it's faster than the whole business of having a meta discussion, awaiting tedious consensus, calling in the devs and waiting for them to nuke the tag. With this you just press GO and burninate straight away!
    – fredley
    Jun 26 '12 at 11:39
  • @fredley can it at least spare my thatched roof cottage? haha. Good luck with your tag cleanup :) Jun 26 '12 at 11:39
  • For your last updates, you'll be hit with captchas if you perform actions too quickly. That'll prevent your script from running very often. Jun 26 '12 at 13:31
  • @MadScientist I haven't hit that limit yet, and I'm able to do a retag once every few seconds.
    – fredley
    Jun 26 '12 at 13:32
  • @fredley that's honestly sort of concerning
    – Ben Brocka
    Jun 26 '12 at 13:52
  • @BenBrocka I'm being cautious, I haven't been using this thing in earnest. I have been testing the waters with caution though.
    – fredley
    Jun 26 '12 at 13:57
  • I confess to (carefully) using jQuery to automate some moderation tasks in the past. Jun 26 '12 at 14:41
  • @GeorgeEdison Interesting. I mean, really awful, but interesting nonetheless.
    – fredley
    Jun 26 '12 at 14:42

I'd ask SE to nuke the tag if there is a consensus that it doesn't serve any purpose. Manually deleting it and destroying the frontpage just to get rid of it doesn't serve any purpose, it harms the posts on the frontpage that get displaced by the mass-retagging and just wastes everybody's time.

There is precedent for SE nuking tags directly, Jeff went on a delete-spree a while ago on Gaming. I don't know if there is an easy tool for SE employees to nuke tags, but if there isn't they should just write one. Large-scale tagging is very painful and annoying with the limited tools we have, and "nuke all" would be the simplest one that would actually be really useful in some cases.

  • Although this question mentions tags, it's about automation. Often nuking tags in this case is overkill - it's more a case of 100 bad tags with a few questions each than one with 100 (although there are a few like that, and we may request nukage)
    – fredley
    Jun 25 '12 at 19:07
  • 5
    My main point is that the moment you're scripting the SE interface to achieve your goal, it indicates that the tools that are available are insufficient. I'd rather convince SE to improve those than hack around these deficiencies. Jun 25 '12 at 19:09
  • Fair point. This problem would be null anyway if they'd just give us a decent tagging system. One can dream...
    – fredley
    Jun 25 '12 at 19:12

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