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I have "favorite tags". I have "filters" that reference those tags. I have "subscriptions" that reference filters.

What's strange is that one of the subscriptions I set up references a filter that isn't in my list of filters.

I then clicked "Manage" on that subscription, and it sort of gave me an explanation of why this filter isn't in my list of filters. It said "You are viewing a filter that was created automatically upon email subscription", followed by a "Save to my filters" button.

Huh? I know I set up this subscription, but I find the whole filter and subscription system pretty obtuse (I even find it difficult to find the page to edit them). What exactly did I do to set up this subscription that is different from other subscriptions?

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This is a tag subscription. It can be done per-tag by clicking the "subscribe" link in the tag popup:

The "Filtered Questions" system on stackexchange.com is different and separate, meant for more than one tag, or more than one site, hence subscribing to a single tag isn't creating automatic filter.

You can see list of all your subscribed tags in the subscriptions tab of your network profile, though I agree the caption there, "Filters", is misleading and making one think it's part of the Filtered Questions.

All in all, I agree this is somewhat messy, with different systems at work with minimal documantation, but still, it's easy enough to manage each of those on its own, and unsubscribe if you want.

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