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I'm trying to set up Filtered Questions so I can get emails about questions I'm interested on that aren't on sites that I may normally follow. I don't necessarily need email, but I do want notification of questions I can answer. However, I'm running into some awkwardness since tags are not normalized across sites, so it's getting hard to figure out what a tag is going to be on a new site.

Let's take a concrete example:

I'm trying to set up a filter for questions about programming tools. One tool that I may be able to answer questions about is IBM Rational DOORS. On Stack Overflow, the tag for this is doors. However, on Home Improvement, the same tag is very, very different and not something I want to see. There is the method to set the sites that you want to see, but that doesn't help with the discovery of new sites. For example, there have been Systems Engineering proposals floated on Area 51 from time to time, and IBM Rational DOORS is a requirements management tool that is often used by Systems Engineering. If such a site were to be created, I may not find out that it entered a public beta (much less a site in proposals, where tags don't exist).

This isn't the only example.

Overall, the whole cross network site and question discovery is lacking. It's rather difficult for me to find new sites that I may be interested in and easily see if there are questions that I can answer on these sites, simply because there doesn't appear to be many push notifications. I think that a more robust set of RSS feeds would be one part of the answer, but not the only answer.

What are other people doing now to discover new sites and questions to answer? Do the tools exist and I'm not seeing them?

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The only way to get the association in your example is really manual curation. Tags were never meant to be used consistently across sites, and I don't think it is possible or even desirable to unify tags across the entire network.

Discoverability of new sites that don't have topics suitable to hitting the HNQ list all the time is pretty terrible. You have to essentially monitor the list of A51 betas and check any site that sounds like it could be of interest.

A mechanism to link tags between sites, or even tags to specific sites could be interesting. This could enable features that advertise related tags on other sites for users that are looking at a specific tag on SO for example. It could allow much more powerful tag filters and search features across sites. But I don't see any way except manual curation (maybe with automated suggestions) to associate tags between sites. And then we have to consider if users will actually create those associations well enough to be useful, and if it is worth the effort.

The stackexchange.com tag filter page is pretty much unchanged for many years now. It didn't even get the automatic updates for new questions the actual SE sites have now for around 4.5 years. As far as I know there are no better tools for monitoring multiple sites, and it doesn't appear to me that this is a priority for SE. It might be too much of a power user feature for a very small group of people.

  • I do think that trying to normalize tags across sites won't work. But discoverability is, IMO, a problem. You're probably right that it's not a high priority, though. – Thomas Owens Oct 2 '16 at 15:16

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