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I feel like hunt and peck on the Stack Exchange network when choosing the tags for a question. How one should know which tags exist when there is no list or cloud of tags to choose from?

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    I understand your frustration but there are a vast number of tags. Some kind of filtering would be needed. Currently you do that by starting to type keywords in the tags field. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 12:55
  • I mean, by default you can narrow down by language or framework when applicable, and if it's a more abstract question, then the tag should be obvious. If your tagging was that terrible, it will probably be modified anyway
    – ಠ_ಠ
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 12:56
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    Cloud of ~35,000 tags is a Nebula not a cloud. It's totally useless. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 12:56
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    We currently have 992 pages of tags....that would be one hell of a cloud. I'm not sure it would do much good.
    – Bart
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 12:56
  • Maybe I don't know what a "tag cloud" is. Can someone enlighten me? There's already automatic suggestions given for tags... I don't know why this isn't good enough for you. Yes, you have to start by narrowing it down somehow, but that's not hard. You know what your question is generally about. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 12:58
  • Isn't that the point of tag clouds, though - to narrow down a vast number of things into something useful? Text analytics could certainly be used to compare the keywords used in the post (plus any other tags chosen) and give all 35k tags a weight, then display the top 100 or 200 by weight (and sized by weight).
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 12:58
  • @CodyGray A "tag cloud" is one of the ways of displaying tags where you list the potentially relevant tags with different font sizes based on the relevant weight associated with that tag (weight determined by context - on a wordpress blog, it might be number of posts containing that word, here it would be the number of posts that have similar keywords to the current post or something like that).
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 13:00
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    By tag cloud, do you mean that it would have more popular tags larger? Why would that help- almost all the top 50 tags are languages. Would you ever say "Well, I was going to tag my question perl, but now that I see the php tag is bigger... Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 13:01
  • Weighting schemes are far more complicated than 'more popular'.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 13:01
  • Suggesting tags based on the content of the post may be useful at times though, that's not a bad idea. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 13:14
  • @codingkiwi Happens already on Meta, and some other sites (like Ask Different). Hasn't yet come to Stack Overflow. Not sure if it will. There are a number of feature requests about that already; seek and ye shall find. It's hard to get right, though. I'm of the opinion that it's nifty but a gimmick. The person writing the question knows what it's about—they're the best person to pick the tags. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 13:16
  • I wanted to add the following as a legitimate addition to the question but it was rejected. So I add it as a comment: I would not need a tag cloud if I were able to set my own tags (with any rep power, at any site on the SE network just like on other sites).
    – superuser
    Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 9:48
  • This question already has an answer here: Could S[OUF] get a tag cloud similar to the one on The Climate Deal StackExchange? Sorry, but the above title sounds Chinese to me. I couldn't have figured it out myself it is the same question. Is there a way to remove the minus 8 rep. power this question gave me?
    – superuser
    Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 9:50

2 Answers 2

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Piotr Migdal has created a nifty piece of software that creates "tag maps" for Stack Exchange sites.

The original was created for Cross Validated, and they also been created for other sites, including Biology and Chemistry.

Presumably as a stress test, he has also created one for Stack Overflow—but only including the top 256 tags (only ~0.6% of the total!). It's still rather insane:

  

Yes, it's very cool to look at. It's also interesting for the study of trends. However, I don't think it's particularly useful as a way of selecting tags. At least not until the Stack Exchange folks start rewarding everyone who hits the rep cap with a 30" monitor.

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    I can stare at this all day Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 13:19
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    Wow... so beautiful. Well, except for that little "facebook" thing toward the bottom-left. /cc @OldCheckmark Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 14:06
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Firstly, there are far too many tags in Stack Overflow for a tag cloud to be anywhere near usable.

Secondly, tag clouds are not actually used much in the real world anyway. They're a fad that has more or less died out (thankfully).

As Jakob Nielsen wrote back in 2009 about Tag Clouds

...usability studies show that most normal users don't know what they are and don't know how to deal with them.

and

Just because something looks cool, and just because it's a current fad in Web design, don't mean that it's necessarily best for usability

Finally, there is the AutoComplete tag entry system when adding questions, which does work pretty well for finding tags. Much better than an oldfashioned Tag Cloud.

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  • Oh goodness. I asked in a comment on the question what a "tag cloud" was, I didn't realize it was such a well-known concept addressed by the Nielsen gurus. Amazing, somehow I've been on the Internet for two decades and seen this maybe once. You actually were supposed to click the tag you want from that? What about if you wanted one of the teeny tiny ones? Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 13:00
  • @CodyGray: Well, the example there is more of a word cloud than a tag-cloud. Slightly useful as a way of representing data, but not for interacting with. Tag clouds were similar but were a bit more intuitive that you can click on various tags. Popular on blogs when there are only a few dozen tags used, but not for sites with a bazillion tags.
    – JonW
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 13:02
  • @CodyGray For tiny ons you need subpixel mouse cursor ;)
    – Mołot
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 13:20

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