The tag has this extremely catchy, yet oft-ignored, entry:

DO NOT EVEN THINK OF ASKING THIS QUESTION. List questions (shopping lists) are not suitable for Stack Overflow and are going to be closed as "Not Constructive" immediately.

Since it appears that 99%* of these questions are just asking for book recommendations, and will just get Closed With Extreme Prejudice and clog up the site, can we just blacklist the tag?

Pretty please? With a cherry on top?

* Percentage just made up based on user's experiences, and may truthfully be closer to 97%-98%

  • You did not say "with a cherry on top".... But yeah, it would be nice if we could prevent the tag from being used for new questions. The same goes for the [homework] tag really. I have to clean up several new ones each day, before I can start on the old ones.
    – Bart
    Mar 19, 2013 at 18:17
  • @Bart - agreed, [homework] is a good one to blacklist, too. Mar 19, 2013 at 18:22
  • There is one question that has the books tag that's probably not going anywhere because there will be a riot if we get rid of it: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/144359/… Mar 19, 2013 at 18:40
  • @GeorgeStocker Though (if I understand the question) it is not asking to completely get rid of the tag, nor to get rid of all questions with it. Merely to no longer allow usage of the tag for new questions.
    – Bart
    Mar 19, 2013 at 18:44
  • 1
    You could just auto-close questions which use the tag. Subtle form of behavior modification. "Whenever I try and ask this 'best book' question it is closed immediately?!"
    – user7116
    Mar 19, 2013 at 18:56
  • @Bart: the issue with blacklisting the homework tag is that, IIRC, a blacklisted tag can't be left on a question that is edited. It would thus mean any question edited as part of the homework cleanup would have to be taken off the list, even if it's not completely ready Mar 19, 2013 at 19:07
  • @DavidRobinson I don't get your comment. Surely if you edit one of the old homework questions, the whole point is to get rid of that tag. (in addition to other clean-up).
    – Bart
    Mar 19, 2013 at 19:12
  • @Bart - and now I have! Mar 20, 2013 at 15:57
  • @LittleBobbyTables Now there is something I can get behind. :)
    – Bart
    Mar 20, 2013 at 15:58
  • @Won't is my hero Jun 7, 2013 at 19:19

2 Answers 2


Perhaps extend the tag description with the reason for it being retained, somewhat like this:

This tab is retained for historical use only.

This enhancement of the tag description will not STOP posters from using it, but it may CONVINCE some portion of would-be posters not to use it, by more completely explaining its existence. Providing better information quality usually collects better decision making.

Even in the event of the tag being blacklisted, making this enhancement might prevent some number of questions to the effect of "Why can't I use this tag?" from being generated.

  • To solve the problem of people still using the tag? Or in addition to disallowing its use for new questions?
    – Bart
    Mar 19, 2013 at 18:50
  • Any combination of the above. It clarifies the meaning of the tag, both to posters and researchers, and is quick and easy to implement. Other actions take more work to implement, if adopted, so would also take more time. That looks like a win to me. Mar 19, 2013 at 18:57
  • 5
    @GangDownvoted - it already says DO NOT EVEN THINK OF ASKING THIS QUESTION, how will adding This tag is retained for historical use only stop people from using it? Mar 19, 2013 at 18:58
  • @LittleBobbyTables: It won't STOP users from using it; but it may CONVINCE some users not to use it by more completely explaining it's existence. Providing better information usually gets better decision-making. Mar 19, 2013 at 19:00
  • 4
    I don't personally feel that any information you provide will deter users from making decisions. Users who wish to ask book questions could care less what we think. Downvotes and closure provides the behavior modification necessary to dissuade, because you can't stop these questions.
    – user7116
    Mar 19, 2013 at 20:03

While I agree that we don't want book recommendation questions, we do have a lot out there, so the tag has a purpose and lets people find those, thereby keeping them from asking more book questions.

We can't just get rid of them, because some are old, historical, attract a lot of views to the site and there are links to them that would be killed.

Maybe some tags could have a warning popup box when used to alert the user to the problematic nature of the tag.

  • 3
    I'm not asking for the tag to be removed (although I think it should, and I know we'll disagree on that), I'm asking that it not be allowed to be used for future questions. Mar 19, 2013 at 18:13
  • @LittleBobbyTables, I was thinking that blacklisting involved removing old instances. I could be wrong on that. Mar 19, 2013 at 18:14
  • 4
    Lance and @LittleBobbyTables: Paraphrasing Grace Note: It is possible to blacklist a tag that's still in use, but it causes a lot of confusion when people see that it exists but they're not allowed to use it. Just FYI. Mar 19, 2013 at 18:35
  • 2
    @Lance - Also, the tag has a purpose and lets people find those, **thereby keeping them from asking more book questions.** I whole-heartedly disagree with this position. Do you know how many times this question has been asked, despite the fact that the tag exists? The tag existing seems like it justifies the use of the tag, which justifies the question. Mar 19, 2013 at 18:35
  • @BilltheLizard -- cool, let's nuke it then :) Mar 19, 2013 at 18:37
  • 2
    @LittleBobbyTables I'm really on the fence on this one. I agree that 99% of the questions tagged 'books' can go, but there will always be a handful that stick around. I'm afraid this rash is going to keep coming back. Mar 19, 2013 at 18:43
  • Will blacklisting cause trouble when the question is edited?
    – nhahtdh
    Mar 19, 2013 at 19:41
  • @nhahtdh It would just mean that you couldn't submit an edit to a question without removing the blacklisted tag. Mar 20, 2013 at 2:59

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