Among things that beginners seem to undertake are programming tasks involving playing cards. (They come up in a lot of school assignments, but it seems people are equally enthusiastic about trying it independently.)

Noticing that a lot of basic questions were asked repeatedly, I thought perhaps it would be nice for there to be a tag-wiki that came up on . It could give people basic pointers and a FAQ, and point them to resources on etc.

But when I looked I saw there were only 27 instances of the tag. Which was a gross under-representation of the number of questions being asked about playing cards!

So as a little late night undertaking that's easy and also part of getting rid of the tag, I thought I'd do my part to find questions that were related to data structures...card suits...and printing and shuffling decks. All the things people do with cards, basically. But someone challenged my choice to add it to this question:

Sicstus Prolog: Deck of Cards Query

(Note: His comment there was deleted once I pointed him to this post, so we could continue the discussion here on meta.)

My view is that it is a good tag to use, to enable browsing. If someone is trying to do something with cards in java, then being able to query on both [java] [playing-cards] (for instance) seems to me like it would be tremendously useful. They can branch out and survey the various related issues that come up, due to the visibility the tag (and its tag wiki) would provide.

If the tag is considered not a good idea at all (and why it had so few uses) I would ask the question of whether that calls into question as well? I think that if a question is narrowly about "2D arrays" or such then it probably doesn't need to be phrased in "tic-tac-toe" terms, but if it is then the label seems to be appropriate and useful.

I'd added enough instances of the tag to give some flavor of what it would be like if it were bigger (though there are many more to find). It brings up a couple of edge cases we might study, like someone asking about how to get the right symbols for card suits in HTML:

Special characters in HTML

This is an example of one of the things that might come up in a list with [html] [playing-cards] and let people quickly speed ahead with their learning. This is where I'm talking about the discovery angle: if someone is developing a playing-card related game in HTML and finds this particular issue, then seeing the tag they might browse into it and get some questions answered they hadn't thought about asking yet (but eventually would, and would be redundant).

When should these types of questions be moved to the Game Development site?

  • Ah nuts, I lost that comment... I was planning on copying that over to here and delete it from there to remove the noise. Copy fail. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:18
  • @JeffMercado No problem, I just linked to the question... Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:20
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    Eh, it doesn't seem compelling. The tag is basically about a very specific application of programming discipline; we favor technology tags more than we do use cases.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:31
  • @RobertHarvey That doesn't address my question about tic-tac-toe, though. Do you feel it shouldn't be a tag either? I think that when problem spaces are retread so repeatedly then the discoverability matters a great deal. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:34
  • Yeah, I'm not wild about [tic-tac-toe] either. Couldn't you just put that kind of information in the title of the question?
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:36
  • @RobertHarvey Even with tic-tac-toe the tag equivalence issues matter, in Britain it's naughts-and-crosses... but it's more of an issue with cards. Questions could say "card game", "playing cards", "shuffle a deck" "deck of cards" and then you've got questions about "stack of index cards" or remarks about "punch cards". If you want to survey the set of issues that someone writing a card game in java might face then [playing-cards] [java] would open that door right up...opening that door and preventing redundant questions is why I like tic-tac-toe as a tag. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:42
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    You're making a very good case for not having these kinds of tags. If someone can put it in a title, they're also going to try and make a tag out of it.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:42
  • @RobertHarvey If you don't think that using tags as a discoverability tool is as important as a subsetting tool, then whatever. But I like it when a tag on a question comes in and nails the abstract category...let's say [undefined-behavior] or [sequence-points] in C++. Even if the original questioner didn't know that's what their question was about or didn't use those words, adding it after the fact clusters the questions into a related set. Stripping out fairly meaningless tags like "string" or "array" and replacing it with these more meaningful semantic tags is in my view a good thing. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:47
  • Alright. But don't blame me when a year from now the next "Great Tag Cleanup" post shows up on Meta to clear out [card-games], [playing-cards], [poker], [mille-bornes], [blackjack], [shuffle], [hangman], [codebreaker], blah blah blah blah.
    – user102937
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 5:50
  • @RobertHarvey I understand your larger point (though [shuffle] refers to algorithmic shuffling in the Fisher-Yates-sort-of-way.) How important this "discoverability" concept I speak of is sort of a heuristic. It depends on how common an entry point is...if it's common and there's a good angle on it, then it should be enabled. (If it's common and bad, it should be filtered or force refinement.) Maybe there's some evolution here...like a special category of tag called a "problem domain tag" and you only can use one per each question? Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 6:03
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    I think there are only 27 questions because the tags card-game and card-games were removed
    – ajax333221
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 18:41
  • @ajax333221 Hmmm...you're probably right, though it wasn't something that had anything to do with a discussion of the original question (mostly about synonyms). I agree with the comment on that question from Gilles that doing too many of these in one post is not good...limits the discussion and prevents establishing a solid reasoned precedent. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


is a fine and reasonable tag that you should use freely.

While most of the tags on Stack Overflow are related to the technology used in the question, not all are and they certainly don't all need to be.
If there are enough questions for a (non-meta) tag and sufficient interest, then it should exist.

The official guides to tagging, How do I correctly tag my questions? and Why do we tag questions?, don't specify many rules for which tags are appropriate beyond prohibiting meta-tags, which this isn't. A tag without any followers might be appropriate to get rid of, but I wouldn't presume that this would fall into that category.

While trying to have a tag for every domain isn't a good idea, playing cards are both well-bounded enough to not be meaningless, and popular enough to be worthwhile. There's a dedicated Poker.SE site in beta, clearly it's a domain that people are interested in, why shouldn't we accomodate people interested in the programming challenges surrounding it?

And there are programming challenges surrounding it. Here are a couple of articles by none other than our own Jeff Atwood about the difficulty of programmatically shuffling a deck of cards correctly and the difficulty of determining that a naive solution is incorrect. I wouldn't expect to have the ongoing volume of questions of, say, , but it's an interesting domain that could certainly support its own tag.

Slippery slope issues aren't a problem because the supposed negative outcome isn't actually a problem, and there are exactly analogous problems with existing tags that no one objects to. Tags that should be synonyms are a problem, but a minor one that we already have tools to deal with.

Robert Harvey raises the specter of what will happen if is allowed:

But don't blame me when a year from now the next "Great Tag Cleanup" post shows up on Meta to clear out [card-games], [playing-cards], [poker], [mille-bornes], [blackjack], [shuffle], [hangman], [codebreaker], blah blah blah blah.

First, what shows up in a "Great Tag Cleanup" isn't a great measure, there were lots of tags in there that shouldn't have been. I wouldn't expect a repeat without a better vetting process. Though obviously it would be nice to avoid being on any such list.

Second, [card-games] and [playing-cards] are just synonym problems. At various points we've also had [csharp], [visual-c#] and [c#.net] and that doesn't seem to have brought the whole system crashing down. I don't see any fundamental difference between those synonyms and these hypothetical ones.

So the real meat is the supposed problem of all these hyper-specific problem-area tags, [poker], [hangman], [mille-bornes], etc. Popularity is certainly not a requirement for a tag's existence (though it helps). There are currently two questions about e107, a free CMS, that are tagged . While that tag probably isn't bringing in a lot of views, I don't think that anyone would suggest that it be removed and the information just put in the title. Remember, there was only one question in at one point. As there are already many questions about programming issues surrounding playing cards, this seems particularly unproblematic. Maybe it's not useful to have a single question tagged [murrumbidgee-stud], but if there aren't other more appropriate tags it doesn't wouldn't appear to hurt anyone.

  • +1 as I agree that it is a good tag, and so that is my bias... but I'm wondering if you have any comments on the slippery slope? Look at what @RobertHarvey said about [hangman]...is that an okay tag? (For reasons I don't quite understand, that particular one stands out to me of as the most uncomfortable of his examples; moreso than the slightly questionable [blackjack] or [poker], and I can't make a good intellectual argument for why that particular one rubs me the wrong way...while [tic-tac-toe] does not. :-/) Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 3:53

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