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I looked a bit at the list of tag synonyms on Stack Overflow, and I noticed a significant number of synonyms that were either complete subsets of the target or only different in minor details like dots or dashes like the following

  • kafka -> apache-kafka
  • scalajs -> scala.js
  • gameloop -> game-loop

Those synonyms don't actually help new users find the right tag, they don't contain any additional terms that would help to autocomplete in the tags form field. If the synonyms would not exist, the tags would still be found by exactly the same terms as with the synonyms.

The only reason I can think of to have these synonyms would be to prevent new tags with those names from being created, but as far as I know certain minor variations of existing tags are already blocked automatically. That mechanism should either be sufficient for this purpose, or should be extended to cover more cases if it isn't.

Having unnecessary synonyms doesn't really cause much harm, but it does clutter the list and the tag suggestions, and it makes it harder to understand for users what synonyms are useful by looking at the list of existing tag synonyms.

Is there some benefit of this kind of tag synonym that I can't think of? Or should we avoid creating this kind of synonym or even remove the existing ones?

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Such synonyms are there to unify the taxonomy, not to help users find the correct tag. It just means if you mindlessly use the tag kafka, it is automatically switched to apache-kafka.

Essentially such synonyms are just a defense against lazy taggers.

  • You need a significant amount of reputation, especially on SO, to propose tags, and there is a warning dialog when you create a new tag on the larger sites. This kind of synonym only catches very specific cases of bad new tags, I'm not convinced that is worth it. – Mad Scientist Jun 10 '17 at 17:58
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They're a good/easy way to get rid of a synonym that's not that useful, yet people use them anyway. You're essentially merging them, so you don't really need to edit every single application of it.

I wouldn't remember half of those longer names if I actually used them, so it helps a new user, or one less than used to the category find the 'right' tag quicker.

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