To see what I'm talking about, take a look at recent posts under [dns]. Most of them, IMHO, are off-topic for SO; many/most should be on Server Fault. I'm sure there are many other tags with similar characteristics.

Should the tag reiterate "Is it about programming?", and point to Server Fault? I'm thinking about adding something like:

StackOverflow is for questions about programming. If this is a question about server configuration, DNS configuration, or other non-programming questions, consider posting on Server Fault.


Tag-wiki change posted.

  • 1
    I'm not 100% sure if serverfault want those questions ...and it is not about… Anything in a home or development environment... which most questions seems to be or at least suggest. So maybe play save and add SuperUser as well?
    – rene
    Jan 22 '14 at 21:35

It's perfectly acceptable to put guidance about how to use tags in the Tag Wiki Body. You can make it as detailed as you like.

But please don't put such guidance in the Tag Wiki Excerpt.

There are already tags that are in the process of being removed from the system whose Tag Wiki excerpt contains the moniker "DO NOT USE THIS TAG." That's fine, I guess, since the Tag (and its Wiki) is going to be removed anyway.

But the Tag Wiki Excerpt is meant to be a brief description of the tag. Please don't put usage guidance there. The excerpt is highly visible on tag dropdowns, and random descriptions from community members about what they think people should do with the tag are just a black eye.

I know that the high visibility of an excerpt makes it a tempting target to put boilerplate text so that you can avoid communicating with the OP, but a polite comment is always preferable to boilerplate, and not all of us agree that the boilerplate is even necessary.

  • Do you know that it doesn't steer a significant number of people to the right place? Just because some folks don't see it or ignore it doesn't mean all do. I always leave a comment when I vote-to-close, and responses have led me to think that a lot of folks have no idea where they should be posting - which is tag-specific. It's a lot more helpful, and more likely to be taken to heart, to say "Go There" rather than just "NOT HERE".
    – Ed Staub
    Jan 22 '14 at 22:43
  • I don't understand what you are asking.
    – user102937
    Jan 22 '14 at 22:46
  • Do you know that "DO NOT USE THIS TAG" (for example) is ignored by everyone? 50%? 25%? If it reduces misuse by half, it's a win, IMO - even though "people still use the tag".
    – Ed Staub
    Jan 22 '14 at 22:49
  • It's a black eye that eventually (in theory) goes away, so I'm willing to overlook its efficacy (or lack thereof) as a warning. If people need genuine guidance a short, polite, instructive comment is always preferable to (mostly) hidden boilerplate.
    – user102937
    Jan 22 '14 at 22:50
  • Do you maybe mean efficacy by "veracity" (truthfulness)? I thought you were saying that there's no point in cluttering the tag-wiki with stuff that the target audience never reads. Now, I'm very confused.
    – Ed Staub
    Jan 22 '14 at 22:56
  • Your tag wiki edit seems fine to me. So long as it's not in the Tag Wiki excerpt, I'm fine with putting this kind of clarification in the Tag Wiki body.
    – user102937
    Jan 22 '14 at 22:58

I'd say go for it. Since you ask here on Meta Stack Exchange instead of on Meta Stack Overflow, I'll attempt to speak for all the sites less traveled than SO in pointing out that many tag wikis don't have much guidance in them, and plenty of space for more info. This may be less the case on SO than elsewhere, but I'm willing to bet that even SO tag wikis tend to lack negative guidelines – i.e., when not to use the tag, as you've suggested. There certainly are problematic topics that regularly cross the fence between on- and off-topic, so it's a good idea to have something written to point to when commenting that the newest off-topic post belongs elsewhere (or nowhere with in SE, potentially). Meta-questions are one thing to point to, but the tag wikis themselves ought to be another. As the wiki editing sidebar says, "What questions should have this tag?" is something the wikis should say, and outlining a boundary is just as good a way of answering this question as pointing to the bulls-eye.

I don't disagree with @RobertHarvey's point about leaving this out of the tag excerpt, but exceptional cases may require drastic measures. This wasn't my move, so I don't mean to endorse it necessarily, but I will point out that Cross Validated uses this approach in its most popular tag, which is for questions pertaining to the software environment R. Here's the tag excerpt:

Use this tag for any on-topic question that (a) must have an R-based solution yet (b) is not just about how to program in R.

Whether this is a good, let alone effective policy is a difficult question, and I'd rather not pretend to answer it more definitively without some empirical evidence to back me up. However, your comments suggest to me some sense of conviction that it would make a difference. Maybe so; I'm not inclined to oppose trying either. I would mainly recommend deciding on a per-case, and hence per-community basis. I.e., if you want to put the negative guidance into the tag excerpt, you can do your best to write it briefly and politely without making a "black eye" of it, suggest the edit, and see if it meets with approval. If you're the one trying to decide whether to approve such an edit, and you don't have a strong opinion, or you're concerned about serving the community's interests really optimally, why not ask a question about the specific tag excerpt on that community's meta-site?

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