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Please Don't Let This Happen To Your Site

A recent problem surfaced on Meta Super User, where they have one question that they use for tag burnination/cleanup, and they just edit the question every month to a new burn order. This has led to a large amount of upvotes on the post, that are usually not relevant to the new tag edited in. This gives the illusion of community consensus on the new cleanup request, just the illusion. While it is probably too late for Super User to get past that agenda, and they will just lose a lot of useful tags, I would make a plea to the other Meta mods out there:

Please use one post per tag, or succinct group of tags, so that real community input can be given.

Note: I put the example in here, because I knew that if I didn't everyone would bug me for it. As expected, it has drawn quite a few answers not related to the general point of this post, only to the specific instance. Darned if you do, darned if you don't. Thank you to those who posted answers relative to the point of the discussion.

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    I guess most of these edits could be very well reverted as "radical change" ;) – Mołot Oct 16 '13 at 14:23
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    @Yannis, I thought the first title was catchy, but will bow to your wisdom. – Lance Roberts Oct 16 '13 at 14:25
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    @LanceRoberts It was catchy, but it didn't really describe the issue and wasn't really search friendly. Also, when I first read the title I thought this would be exciting, and was very disappointed when it turned out to be about tag cleanups... ;) – yannis Oct 16 '13 at 14:29
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    I get excited by tag cleanups :) – Lance Roberts Oct 16 '13 at 14:30
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    Why is this on MSO? This is a MSU issue. MSO doesn't tell other sites how to run their community. Other sites -- often for very good reason -- deliberately have different policies than SO. This is intended and expected by SE. All it seems you're doing here is trying to attract attention and shame the SU mods, but your viewpoint is invalid to begin with, because it's based on the false assumption that the post you're referring to is edited without community consensus, when in fact, community consensus is raised in separate questions before the tags are moved to that post. – allquixotic Oct 16 '13 at 15:10
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    @allquixotic, this is to address all meta-site mods/users. The problem just surfaced on SU. See my comments on Oliver's answer relative to the other question. – Lance Roberts Oct 16 '13 at 15:10
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    Lance, this Rollback War was not needed. – dcaswell Oct 16 '13 at 15:26
  • @dcaswell, no, the editing out of what the moderator disagreed with (instead of just downvoting) was what was not needed. – Lance Roberts Oct 16 '13 at 15:27
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    @LanceRoberts Is this a policy that can or should be applied to all meta-sites? You seem to have assumed "Yes", without stopping to actually ask the question (which is what this question seems to try to ask, if you'd let it). – Darth Android Oct 16 '13 at 15:29
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    @DarthAndroid, yes, I think all Meta sites should be very careful about their tag cleanups. I'm involved in a few, and am concerned about the tagging on all of them. Good tagging is critical to good searching. – Lance Roberts Oct 16 '13 at 15:30
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    @dcaswell - wow, "Nazi thing"? Way to Godwin a thread, Lance – LittleBobbyTables Oct 16 '13 at 15:31
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    @DarthAndroid I actually thought this was an official announcement rather than a (quite sensible) suggestion – Richard Tingle Oct 16 '13 at 17:36
  • @RichardTingle That is my point; The underlying question / suggestion is quite valid and a good discussion to have, but the phrasing of the title and rhetoric being used by the author is drowning it out. – Darth Android Oct 16 '13 at 18:09
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    The note you've added to the end of your question is just as irrelevant as the answers you're calling out in it. I'd remove it, but I feel like you would probably roll it back. The warning at the beginning of your post is just fluff, taking up room in the question preview (it's also title-cased for no reason, which makes me cringe). – Josh Darnell Oct 16 '13 at 18:36
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This has happened before on SO (10k only, thankfully), and it was a mess. A huge, prolonged mess with 85 answers, plus tags that were edited directly into the question. We ended up with tags deleted just because someone edited them in, with absolutely no oversight. I raised my own rantquestion about it back then.

Yes, indeed, tag cleanups should be done with one thread per tag, or per group or closely-related tag.

(I am purposefully ignoring the specific tag that led to this meta question. Regardless of any nastiness surrounding the debate about that particular tag, this meta question is a valid issue in its own right.)

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    You also should make a note of the "size" of the site, which is also important on this matters; and the sentiment of the users of the sites ;) – Braiam Oct 16 '13 at 17:54
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    Is this intended as advice for Stack Overflow, or all Stack Exchange sites? – Adam Rackis Oct 16 '13 at 18:49
  • @AdamRackis All Stack Exchange sites. SO was just an example, undoubtedly unequaled when it comes to scale, and the only catastrophic monster thread that I can rembember offhand, but I'd be surprised if it hadn't happened anywhere else. – Gilles Oct 16 '13 at 19:41
  • @Gilles - are you not convinced by some of the other posts that other, smaller sites have had good experience using a different approach? – Adam Rackis Oct 16 '13 at 19:44
  • @AdamRackis Example? I only see that gamedev has been cited in this thread. I can't judge as a complete outsider, but the accumulation of answers does make it hard to see what is long-done, what is still being debated, what is consensual and what isn't. Oh, and I just remembered travel. That question is from the private beta, when it could actually make sense, but it should have been retired after that, though fortunately the recent answers are all about minor things. – Gilles Oct 16 '13 at 19:53
  • @Gilles - well mainly the SU mods defending their current system as effective. It seems as though this is working well for them, Lance being unhappy notwithstanding. Though obviously I agree with you this approach probably wouldn't work for Stack Overflow. – Adam Rackis Oct 16 '13 at 20:09
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We already have what you are referring to. The decision to remove was reached in a previous question: Merge connection & configuration related tags The fact that a decision has been reached is indicated by the question being upvoted and noone disagreeing with the suggestion.

The question you linked above is just used to maintain a list of tags for which a consensus has already been reached.

Besides that fact, you chose to post an answer to this thread and you received community input on it. The input was downvotes. Indicating that the community does not agree with you.

In addition to that, you chose to behave yourself extremely poorly to the point where I had to lock your answer.

  • You not only locked my answer because you disagreed with it, you edited out half of it. You have your agenda and it's obviously not the health of the Super User site or its community. – Lance Roberts Oct 16 '13 at 15:02
  • There was no decision reached in the question you linked to. In fact, your answer (the only answer) there shows configuration as status_deferred. And 5 net upvotes does not community consensus make. – Lance Roberts Oct 16 '13 at 15:05
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    "And 5 net upvotes does not community consensus make" -- Maybe not on MSO, but the MSU community is much, MUCH smaller. How many upvotes does it take? Hmm? What about a 6 month old niche site that recently left beta? How many upvotes do they need? Does every single site have to have as many upvotes as SO/MSO to establish community consensus? And how long do we have to wait for dissenting opinions until we can be sure we have consensus? These topics are worth discussing, but you seem to be applying your own normative assumption here that 5 upvotes is definitely not enough ever and I disagree. – allquixotic Oct 16 '13 at 15:14
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    If you want to bring up the topic of how many upvotes / how long of a time period is required in order to firmly establish community consensus on MSU, please, feel free. That's a perfectly valid question, and assuming it doesn't come with a pre-loaded agenda, I'd even upvote it. – allquixotic Oct 16 '13 at 15:15
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    I'm not on SU that often, but You have your agenda and it's obviously not the health of the Super User site or its community is a fairly bold accusation to make. – LittleBobbyTables Oct 16 '13 at 15:23
  • There's another problem with looking at several-months-old posts and counting votes on it - votes can change in either direction with time. In May, said question and answer had one more upvote than they do now. I suspect the downvotes were actually added today. – Bob Oct 16 '13 at 15:23
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    @LBT yup, especially when directed to an elected moderator. – terdon Oct 16 '13 at 15:23
  • @Bob, agreed, 6 before today. – Lance Roberts Oct 16 '13 at 15:26
  • @Bob look for the timeline that is in my answer below, you can count them :P – Braiam Oct 16 '13 at 15:34
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    @LanceRoberts: I reverted to a previous revision of your answer because you insisted on having a nazi reference in it, which was not welcome. This should have been clear to you from the initial edit to your answer. The fact that part of your answer was lost in the process is simply due to the fact that you seemed very uncooperative and I simply rolled back instead of editing your answer to accommodate for your most recent additions to it. The lost content wasn't in the proper context to begin with. The proper context is a question like this one. Which you posted now. Thanks. – Der Hochstapler Oct 16 '13 at 15:46
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    I'm pretty sure that you handled this one right and Lance did not behave appropriately. Nonetheless, Lance's admonition here is a valid one. Tag cleanups should not be done in one huge thread. Please don't mix up the two issues. – Gilles Oct 16 '13 at 17:32
  • @Gilles: Participation on cleanups, initiated through questions concerning themselves with single or small groups of tags, is usually very low. Participation on judging the quality of said tags is well though. The cleanup job is usually left to the moderators of the site. This has the undesirable outcome of creating a huge workload for said moderators. The path that was chosen on SU allows us to share the workload with the community and the outcome is as desired (as far as I can tell). – Der Hochstapler Oct 16 '13 at 17:43
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    @OliverSalzburg With a monster thread, you get a lot of cumulated attention on the monster thread, but less attention on individual tags. If a topic thread has concluded that a tag should be removed and you want to set the community at it, a monster thread is fine — just don't use it for decisions, use it only to spread the word about what has been decided. – Gilles Oct 16 '13 at 17:45
  • @Gilles: That is exactly what we are doing right now. I assumed you were implying that we aren't. – Der Hochstapler Oct 16 '13 at 17:48
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    @OliverSalzburg You don't seem to be doing that (unless there's some other thread that should be linked but isn't). The monster thread justifies configuration as a tag to be removed because of meta.superuser.com/questions/6320/… which does not come to that conclusion. – Gilles Oct 16 '13 at 17:54
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Its not a problem - we've been doing it this way through many cycles of tag clearups, and having a centralised, community moderated and maintained list is a much more efficient way of doing so.

Considering the sheer amount of crappy tags we wade through, especially considering we try to avoid flooding the front page, this would cause un-necessary work (since we need to search for, and then act on these questions). Having questions that request retagging, then having a consolidated list is just common sense.

While we're all part of one big happy SE family, we all do things in different ways cause our needs are different. You've walked into meta.su, and insisted we do things your way, then complained when we disagreed - using words like "nazi".

This is a little like complaining that our pantry isn't in alphabetical order, then complaining to the cops when we refused to rearrange things. This is just silly.

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    "The right way" - see, thats a problem here. I'm not saying everyone needs to do it our way. I'm saying this is a system that we have used, and works VERY well for our needs. I've explained how and why we use it. Your arguement is nothing more than "Its the right way, and the mods are wrong cause they disagree with me". If I have a sleepless night, and want to fix some tags cause the sheep are off on vacation, I know exactly were to look. Having a bunch of questions per tags means you never know where to look. It makes more sense to have the mustard next to the ketchup, not the marmalade. – Journeyman Geek Oct 16 '13 at 15:18
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    @LanceRoberts I have to raise a few things. Firstly, what you consider the Right Way (TM) may not be what others consider right - the very issue you are complaining against! And can we please not resort to deliberately inflammatory statements like "tyranically implement their will"? That does nothing to help your argument. – Bob Oct 16 '13 at 15:18
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    @LanceRoberts One more piece of advice to add to Bob's and JMan's: Just because you seem to be the only SU user currently having a dispute with this particular practice, that doesn't mean that you need to use such extreme hyperbole and strong language in your rhetoric. Using terms like "tyrannical" and "Nazi" weakens your position and prevents others from taking you seriously. Please make constructive criticism by offering ways that the site can be improved, rather than comparing well-intentioned, devoted users of SU to dystopian governments in unfounded ad-hominem attacks. – allquixotic Oct 16 '13 at 15:23
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    I assure you that if your points are well-reasoned, and if you are patient, logical, and distance your personal feelings from the subject matter at hand, that your opinion will be heard, and we (the diamond mods and other site participants) will do our best to help satisfy your request, or at least come to some sort of compromise. There's no need to dramatize the subject; that only makes things worse. – allquixotic Oct 16 '13 at 15:24
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    @LanceRoberts how is calling someone a nazi "the truth"? This is just your own position expressed both offensively and aggressively. We have all given you various reasons why "configuration" is a classic meta tag. Where do you come off equating your opinion with "the truth"? – terdon Oct 16 '13 at 15:26
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    The truth? Anyone can look at the edit trail, and decide for themselves whether your actions and the edits were necessary. I feel there's a clear unfamiliarity with the processes that SU regulars use on the site, and an attempt to impose standards upon us, unilaterally, by demanding that we do things your way. In your original post, there is no reasons given, just a demand, backed up by neither positional, nor moral power of any sort. This seems to be an attempt to impose your views on SU as a whole, and I don't really think its acceptable. – Journeyman Geek Oct 16 '13 at 15:33
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    @LanceRoberts instead of just entrench yourself in that position look for facts that say that you are telling the truth and everyone else is wrong... – Braiam Oct 16 '13 at 15:33
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    @LanceRoberts I read it perfectly well. You wrote, and I quote, "Please stop the Nazi thing". Apparently, people who don't agree with your personal choices are acting like Nazis. In fact, there is a word (several) for people who assume everyone who doesn't share their opinion is wrong but I will refrain from using it. As you should have done in the first place. – terdon Oct 16 '13 at 15:40
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    @LanceRoberts we are, you're not. Look around you, the community disagrees with you. You have yet to explain why you think that the tag in question does not fall under the category of meta tags as defined in the blog post I will not link to a 3rd time. You also seem reluctant to accept that Nazi is not a word to be thrown around that easily. If you had posted an honest, polite question explaining your views, we'd be fine with it. Instead, you just resorted to name-calling and aggression. – terdon Oct 16 '13 at 15:48
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    Thats an opinion. Not everyone who disagrees with you is lying. I share that opnion with terdon, that you have not made a compelling argument for your case, that the tag deletion was by fiat. – Journeyman Geek Oct 16 '13 at 15:54
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    @LanceRoberts "The reason meta-tags are a problem is that they do not describe the content of the question. They describe some other aspect of the question, like the author’s skill level, or the author’s motivation for asking it, or generally what “kind” of question it is (poll, how-to, etc.)." That is a meta tag. We want tags that are useful for searching, about 76% of questions on SU are about configuring something or other, that tag adds nothing useful. You seem to want to impose your opinion on everyone, how is that not exactly the behavior you are complaining about? – terdon Oct 16 '13 at 15:55
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    @LanceRoberts It is a fact that "Configuration" fits the definition of meta tags perfectly. It is also a fact that no one was doing anything unilaterally, in fact, the only one trying to impose a personal choice here is you. You seem to be of the "I have made up my mind, please don't confuse me with facts" brigade and have no interest in engaging in a constructive conversation. – terdon Oct 16 '13 at 16:16
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    @LanceRoberts The problem is that 'configuration' is not specific at all. Configuring Excel via Options is wildly different from configuring the /etc/hosts file on linux is wildly different from configuring a printer on OS X. A tag should be specific and concrete by itself, and Configuration is neither; It only has meaning when given context by another tag. It's like tagging every question on SU with Computers: The tag would not have one concrete meaning, it would have a slightly different meaning with every post that uses it. – Darth Android Oct 16 '13 at 16:17
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    @LanceRoberts ad nauseam seems to be your only argument. – terdon Oct 16 '13 at 16:22
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    @terdon Configuration is not a classic meta tag. Here's a description of meta tags. If Configuration is describing the content of a question then it's not a meta-tag. – dcaswell Oct 16 '13 at 17:07
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I've given this advice in private with regards to a different sort of thing, but it can't hurt to have public statement.

There are multiple approaches to these kinds of jobs. Super User's monthly updating thread, collected both directly and by other threads, is one example. On Game Development, they have a single thread as well, but each tag or group of tags is collected in answers rather than any separate questions. Other sites use whole questions for each tag or group of related tags, which can be demonstrably seen throughout a lot of Meta Stack Overflow.

We don't have a universal requirement for how these progress, though we do offer guidelines. Each approach has its own merits. When a tag/set-of-related-tags gets its own question, then you have larger room for discussion and coordination for complex or controversial jobs. When you have a sort of "master" question, it's more organized and traceable and is very streamlined for communities that are in tune with one another.

What is important is what works for the given community. This not only applies to these kind of cleanup organizations, but the very system of tagging itself is to varying degrees community-specific. Different communities can, and will, take their own approaches to what constitutes good tagging for them, and by consequence what is good searching. On Math Overflow, they use a very unique prefix system that may seem a bit unusual to an SE veteran, but to those on MO it is an exceptionally helpful tool that smooths their experience and shapes their search culture. On Arqade, most questions get no more than one tag, instead resulting in most specific searches being textual rather than tag-based. What works for one site doesn't necessarily work for the network general standard, and vice versa.

Personally? I typically recommend hosting separate questions for each one, in the same way that retag requests are traditionally handled. But that doesn't work for everyone, and for this, each site has its own strategies. And I feel that these strategies should be respected.

  • Should a community decides this through consensus (voting) on its meta? Or should "however it works now" be what's respected? – dcaswell Oct 16 '13 at 17:17
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    @dcaswell the communities do decide this on their meta. This issue was resolved in a perfectly democratic way on our (SU) meta. It is only the OP who disagrees as far as I can tell. – terdon Oct 16 '13 at 17:21
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    @dcaswell Going by numbers alone is not always the best way to approach these, both in terms of what makes consensus and what makes solid choices. Nor should "status quo" be thought indestructible. If the current approach has flaws that people feel are ruining the community then it would be reasonable to speak up against it. And if they get what feels to be either a lot of support or a lot of pushback, that then sorta says how people feel. – Grace Note Oct 16 '13 at 17:22
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The configuration tag was added in Feb 26 by tempy. Since that time the question received 23 net upvotes as seen in the timeline. It was not a mod that said that the tag has to go, but a user, and the community also expressed their approval in upvotes.

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