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Users can suggest tag synonyms and vote for these suggestions. When enough users vote the tag synonym is created. The whole system has some significant flaws:

  • Synonym suggestions have almost zero visibility. They're only visible on the synonym page of that tag (and a rather obscure list of suggested synonyms only available to mods).

  • The requirements to be able to even suggest tag synonyms are very high, you need at least 2500 reputation and at least an answer score of 5 in this specific tag.

  • Creating a tag synonym is not sufficient, the tags should also be merged. This requires a moderator anyway, and it is a sufficiently dangerous tool that likely will never be available to regular users.

  • With the exception of trivial synonyms like plural forms and similar cases, all non-trivial synonym suggestions should be discussed on meta anyway.

This might not apply to Stack Overflow, but my impression is that tag synonyms are almost never created via the suggestion route on SE 2.0 sites, but pretty much always directly by a moderator. The requirements to even suggest a synonym are just too high and the visibility of suggestions is so low that it is nearly impossible to get a synonym voted on often enough on SE 2.0 sites.

My suggestion is to remove the suggestion of synonyms entirely, at least from the SE 2.0 sites, maybe not from Stack Overflow (depending on how often it is actually used sucessfully there). All synonyms would be created by moderators after being proposed on meta.

For users that don't know how futile it is to try to suggest a tag this way the whole thing is just misdirection, they should be steered towards making a meta post about the synonym. This is almost always the better idea, and had a much higher visibility and more room to discuss the impact of the synonym. It also means that mods are aware of this and can just create the synonym and merge if a consensus emerges.

The one thing the suggestion route might be useful for are trivial synonyms, but I've no data on how often those are suggested via this route. I suspect that only SO has a high enough volume for this to be useful.

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    The requirement of 5 upvotes on posts with the tag is the hardest. Some of us might have tons of rep, but none for the proposed tags - however obvious the synonym is to everyone. – Bo Persson Apr 9 '13 at 9:39
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    The current system is pretty useless on SO already; I'd like it scrapped there too. However, what you're proposing makes tag synonym creation a moderator duty as opposed to something they do when they're feeling nice. – ben is uǝq backwards Apr 9 '13 at 16:49
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    @benisuǝqbackwards That is already the case, at least on most SE 2.0 sites. I'd bet that there hasn't been a synonym created without moderator help on any SE 2.0 site. I'm excluding SO a bit because I have no direct experience there, not because I know that the system works there. – Mad Scientist Apr 9 '13 at 16:51
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This is a really good idea. There are currently 438 questions tagged [synonym-request], so there are already a lot of people who post on meta instead of proposing a tag synonym.

I can see 2 more flaws in the system:

  • Even when users do happen to find proposals for tag synonyms, they often can't vote for them because of the requirement of 5 score in the tag. This happens so often I've given up on voting for tag synonyms.
  • Users can propose tag synonyms, but they can't propose to merge, burninate, retag, alias, or disambiguate, all of which would be as useful as proposing synonyms.

Overall, tag synonym suggestions aren't very useful and should be replaced by a much more useful privilege (one of the suggestions here might be good).

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