I am unsure about when to use the [tag:tag] syntax when asking or answering a question.

I am not talking about the (up to five) s you tag the question with, but those you can put in the text.

Example: Someone asks a question how to do something in and post a some code he/she came up with using and tags this question and . I answer this question using since a solution was not requeseted. Then I would write somthing like "I think would be better suited for this problem than . Try this: ..." [please do not comment on vs. here, it's just an example ;-)] This way I draw the attention of the community to the question potentially helping the OP (and the community as a whole) getting the best answer.

I like this approach a lot and tend to use s extensively throughout my questions and answers. Recently one of my questions got edited removing most of the s.

I think this was because it reduced readability and using each once (either in the text or as one of the question's s) would be sufficent to reach the corresponding sub-community.

But were to draw the line?

  • When do you use s in questions or answers?
  • How do you handle such overed texts like this one?
  • Do you think the number of s should be limited (overall limit / each tag only once)?
  • Or is the need to type [tag:tag] over and over again in general enough to keep users from using (no pun intended) this feature too much and I am the only one even thinking about this?

Please note that

  • I was just considering "big" s with several thousand followers and
  • this question was ment to be an extreme example (is it?)

Never ever ever...ever. Well, unless you particularly wish/need to link to the tag wiki perhaps, or you're discussing a tag related issue on Meta. If you want to link to a tag wiki, a direct link there might even be preferred. And if you still want to use the actual tag formatting, don't use it more than once.

If you hover over a tag, you'll see the text:

show questions tagged 'tagname'

That pretty much explains the purpose for that bit of formatting. It's a way to lead users to similarly tagged content. If you just want to say you're doing something with bash, then just say it. There is no need to format that as a tag. There is no reason why you would want to lead users to other questions with that tag.

Not even in your awk example. If you want to point the user at the great tag wiki content for awk, just to get him started, then link to https://stackoverflow.com/tags/awk/info. As for drawing the attention of the awk community, I don't see how including the tag in the body of your post would do that.

Just because you can format something, that doesn't mean you should. Use it sparingly and only when really needed.

  • 1
    I spotted this yesterday. I think I'm going to go ahead and roll back that edit that changed "CSS" to the tag syntax for whatever reason. Aug 30 '13 at 9:40
  • Yeah @BoltClock'saUnicorn, don't see the point of it in that case. "Just because I can" is not a sufficient reason for me to use the tag formatting.
    – Bart
    Aug 30 '13 at 9:44
  • Btw @BoltClock'saUnicorn, in that particular case you seem to have undone another edit (-moz-none;). That's what you intended?
    – Bart
    Aug 30 '13 at 9:51
  • I was going to edit it in but it looks like I forgot to actually submit the edit. Aug 30 '13 at 10:15
  • Could you explain a little bit more why not and where new users should find out about that?
    – mschilli
    Aug 30 '13 at 10:37
  • @sg-lecram Done and "in the answer above" ;)
    – Bart
    Aug 30 '13 at 12:08
  • 1
    Likewise: I feel there's no need to link to Wikipedia or similar resources for very common terminology. Especially on mobile browsers, where most devices do not support hover, it annoys me big time I cannot trust a link to reveal something useful.
    – Arjan
    Aug 30 '13 at 12:15
  • 1
    Ah yes @Arjan, that reminds me of sites that think it's helpful to automatically link random words in a text to an off-site resource. It makes me want to punch kittens. And you don't want me to punch a kitten, now do you?
    – Bart
    Aug 30 '13 at 12:18
  • Well, @Bart, to put things into perspective: I'd rather have you punch a kitten than have you abuse linking! ;-)
    – Arjan
    Aug 30 '13 at 12:22

Hmm, the accepted answer was totally not what I expected, when I found this question. I was looking for a way to show the Stack-Exchange tag excerpt instead of show questions tagged 'tagname' when using tags in answer text, or bring it up as a feature suggestion. And how to use them in comments.

Note: I found out just now by reading the Q and accepted A, that usage of tags also in answer text results in alerting the tag watchers. This is unfortunate, because i can see, why that would lead to a lot of notification spam for tag watcher, if tags are used in answer text.

However, I still think it's great, when people use tag-links in their answers. For several reasons:

  • Established/mature/packaged/dependable software has tags, not every git-hub v0.1, so when looking at answers you can gauge (a bit), which ones use "production-quality" software. Also seeing the size of the SE-community following that tag could help in choosing a program/answer.
  • They can help achieve a better balance between "Too wordy, with too much background explanation" and "Too terse, requiring too many word lookup in other tabs". I can write an answer involving tmux for a question, that is not tagged tmux. The OP and other readers can then hover over the tag in my answer, if they didn't yet know this piece of software, or if they a quick reminder. For everybody else it's less text to read.
  • It's the perfect way to point out when a software is deprecated: Former/Current users already know, news user can quickly hover over the tag, see "Deprecated software", and now know not to build new production workflows with that program.
  • It's a great place to link good introductory resources from. It's already used that way for question tags, but the same advantage could be had by enabling the same popup also for tags in answer text.
  • In contrast to the poster of the accepted answer, I like the possibility of being led right to highly-upvoted posts about a new subject/keyword/program, just by hovering briefly.

Naturally, the same restrictions apply as to many things:

  • Don't overdo it, tag just the first time tmux, second usage gets linked to either Homepage/Git-hub/Wikipedia, depending on which is more informative and less flashy.
  • As with links, don't use your software's tag without disclosure, write something like "We added patch to [tag:Software to add the possibility to...", except if you're a household name. Everybody knows Lennart Poettering writes/leads systemd.

The reasons put forth buy the detractors at the time are (imho) not/no_longer valid:

  • Mobile devices in 2020 are much improved compared to 2013.
  • About that ^^, are mobile devices and their capabilities the deciding factor here?
  • Visual clutter. Bart proposed this alternative: https://stackoverflow.com/tags/awk/info . Can be shortened to awk, true, but going there breaks my reading flow on the current page. And the visual difference is not that great between tag and link with same text.

So, I think, we can have the best of all of that, if

  • SE would just disable alerting the tag watchers, when tag are used in comment or answer text
  • Enable display of the informative version of the tool-tip everywhere, not just in the tag-list under questions.

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