41

For a while now, on a daily basis, the front page of Meta.SE has been populated with old questions bumped because of retaggings -- mostly removals. Today seems to be the target.

As far as I know, burnination of tags should be well-motivated and accompanied by a Meta proposal to make sure it's worthwhile and that there's consensus about removal/nothing that the editors are missing about the usefulness of the tag.

I haven't seen any such Meta posts about recent mass retaggings. Why is this?

  • 2
    Some recent burns have been discussed in the tavern instead. So it is not that there went no thought into it. – rene Dec 19 '18 at 19:11
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    That's sort of what I was afraid of, @rene. Chat may be open to all, but it's hardly public discussion. – jscs Dec 19 '18 at 19:12
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    It as public as an MSE post, it is just that we have different audiences. – rene Dec 19 '18 at 19:16
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    @rene Accessible to the public doesn't mean visible to the public. – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 19:18
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    "It as public as an MSE post" I strongly disagree with that. It has far, far less visibility to begin with. It has no lasting discoverable presence -- even if I pop into chat once in a while, am I going to see the burnination discussion that happened 6 hours ago? It has no coherent grouping; it's very easy to miss a follow-on message related to the topic. (And it lacks the voting mechanism that -- quite usefully -- allows people to express agreement or disagreement without having to write up a whole post.) – jscs Dec 19 '18 at 19:21
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    @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog They're accessible to the public, in the sense that you can technically access them if you're specifically looking for them, and you know what to look for. They're not visible in the sense that members of the public are actually going to be seeing them. People technically can go find that information if they want to. But most won't even know that it exists. That's not something that's visible to the public. – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 19:33
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    Or whoever starts them could...make a Meta post for them. Even if it happens after people in chat have made up their minds. – jscs Dec 19 '18 at 19:35
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    @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog No. Chat is not where we make decisions for a site. – Catija Dec 19 '18 at 19:36
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    @SonictheInclusiveHedgehog We can resolve the problem by using the officially required (not optional, required) protocol for burninations, which is a meta question proposing it, with criteria for it being accepted, vetted, and then implemented. If you want to discuss whether or not you think it's worth your time to write up a formal proposal in chat, or perhaps discuss the merits of an existing proposal in chat (and bring any conclusions you feel are worthwhile to the official discussion) then by all means. – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 19:37
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    @Servy which is...overkill and time-wasting for barely-used tags with no clear purpose. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Dec 19 '18 at 20:02
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    Between the two users making most of the changes today, I count at least 40 edits. That's not "barely-used". By default, that fills almost 3 pages of the front page (at 15 posts per page) or 4/5 of the front page if you've bumped it up to 50 posts per page – Andy Dec 19 '18 at 20:20
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    @Andy And that's not counting the numerous sprees on other days the past week or so. – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 20:23
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    Chat is not the place to decide on changes to Meta, @rene. It's a fine place to brainstorm ideas, but substantial changes should be put before the affected community, not the dozen or so people with the time and will to dig through sometimes-voluminous Tavern transcripts looking for anything that might be important amidst all the banter. – Monica Cellio Dec 19 '18 at 21:08
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    @MonicaCellio I have been doing it wrong then for 6 to 8 years ... – rene Dec 19 '18 at 21:19
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    Here is the list with questions that had the burninated tags last Sunday. – rene Dec 19 '18 at 21:28
24

I've certainly noticed recent tag edits, though they seemed to have been done in smaller quantities previously, rather than a big "pull the band-aid off in one go" like today.... that said, I don't generally have a problem with tag edits en masse as long as they're well-considered.

I don't think they necessarily were in this case. For a couple of reasons...

  1. I disagree that some of these tags were bad and that may be because I have a different way of looking at tags than some people do.

    I've seen it stated, if a tag doesn't have followers and there's fewer than n questions in that tag, it's a bad tag. This doesn't make sense to me.

    • I don't use Stack Overflow... with their huge volume of questions, following a tag may be the best thing since sliced bread over there but I've never followed a tag outside of testing the feature. That doesn't mean I don't care about stuff in particular tags... it just means I don't feel the need to follow tags because there's not enough site volume to warrant it.

    • Having few questions with a tag doesn't make it invalid. Movies & TV may only have two questions about a specific movie but they still have a tag for it because it's necessary to properly group their content. Few questions on a site often just means the subject is uncommon, not off topic or an otherwise bad tag - particularly on a site with less volume.

  2. It left questions untagged.

    Yeah, it's meta, so there's required tags but those required tags are meta tags... literally. If a question doesn't have any tags other than the required tag, it's untagged! We don't prevent this, but maybe we should. At least six of the questions just edited - ones I can currently see on the front page - now have no tags.

    At the very least no one editing to remove tags should leave no tags on a question. If you go through all of the questions in a tag and there's no replacement for it on some of them, that tag is probably needed. Just because we have required tags on meta isn't a reason to blindly remove these tags!

I recognize that there are absolutely times when a tag is blatantly wrong for the site. Those times are generally going to be when there's very little use of them - a couple or maybe five questions. Maybe the tag is misspelled... maybe it's a duplicate of something else and should be merged.

But I don't think that making decisions in The Tavern about when a tag is a good fit for the site or not is a great way of fostering community. This question and the voting on it shows that people want to be involved in this. We also have moderators now in addition to the staff who frequent Meta, so they may be able to simplify the process by doing merges or synonymizing to reduce the number of posts that are edited manually... and if the tag is huge, we can nuke it without edits.

And, as Monica said... there's no rush. Many of these tags have existed for years without doing any harm. Even if they're bad, another week isn't going to hurt anything while removing them without discussion may miss valid reasons to keep the tag and make more work when recreating it.

It's not wasting anyone's time to put up a discussion and see if you're missing anything. Talk about it in the Tavern first, by all means, and then post a meta question and wait a few days or a week... and then act if no one comes up with a reasonable concern.

It's completely possible that there's an alternate tag that a couple of people discussing it in chat may have missed or the valid use for it is unclear because the Wiki or excerpt is empty or poorly-written. These are all alternatives that may be unearthed in a meta discussion. While we may love to think of ourselves as experts in Meta, there are new things we can learn every day if we give ourselves the chance to be wrong by putting our ideas out there for review.

  • 1
    Are downvotes to be taken into account as a reasonable concern? – rene Dec 19 '18 at 22:35
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    I think it's more about answers than votes. Do the answers present a strong argument for or against the change. If someone said "we should remove the chicken tag, chickens have nothing to do with SE" and someone answered that there's been a chicken recurring in Winter Bash for several years now, so there is a valid reason to keep the tag... the voting doesn't necessarily matter there. If someone wants to see questions about the WB chicken, that tag is necessary. WB tags won't necessarily do it... now, should we make it more specific by retagging as "winter-bash-chicken"... good question. – Catija Dec 19 '18 at 22:56
31

Disruptive changes -- and a pair of retaggings that made the front page useless today counts as disruptive -- should be presented to the affected community in a way that affords refinement, expression of agreement or disagreement, and visibility. The Tavern is none of those things. Heck, there are probably more MSE power users in Teacher's Lounge than in Tavern; should we make decisions there instead? Of course not.

Tag cleanup is useful when done well, disruptive when implemented poorly, and destructive when designed poorly. Cleaning up errant retaggings is a pain (you can't find the affected questions easily now) and repeats the original disruption to the front page/questions list.

No retagging is so urgent that it can't be put to the community for comment first. That means here on Meta, where we can vote, tweak the proposal, and figure out the best implementation (trickle edits, big-bang edits on a Sunday morning, burnination, tag merges, etc).

  • 1
    I can live with bring up a meta post. I don't buy the disruptive changes. I have nicely followed the "guidance" for limits. It has -1 on the Q and +6 on the Answer. Does that mean consensus is reached and a burn is in order? If yes, how do you expect me to proceed? I can do that burn in 15 minutes, being disruptive as hell. I have a strong feeling both the question and this answer have an hidden agenda. The disruption seems to be the problem not what caused it. – rene Dec 19 '18 at 21:27
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    Any mass editing to cause that kind of disruption would be a problem, @rene. Retaggings are the main method, but if somebody were to do a search-and-replace on "StackOverflow" or something like that, affecting dozens of questions in one batch, that too would be a problem. And sometimes the solution to a tag problem is to use mod tools that cause no disruption at all -- which would come up if applicable and somebody actually brought the tagging problem up for discussion. – Monica Cellio Dec 19 '18 at 21:29
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    I honestly don't care that much about disrupting the front page; heck, employees may often go through old posts and tag them, briefly taking over the page - the importance of having good tags vastly outweighs the inconvenience of any temporary disruption. Making posts harder to find or categorize in the future is a much bigger problem, IMHO: when I'm researching a bug or request, the first thing I do is filter by the relevant tags. As such, I'd much rather see the effort directed at ensuring that specific tags are used consistently rather than just blowing them away. – Shog9 Dec 20 '18 at 16:22
12

For discussion purposes, here are the 22 tags removed over the course of the past two weeks, in the form of links to a Google-cached copy:

  1. forum
  2. aao
  3. chicken
  4. fakes
  5. harassment
  6. truncated
  7. shared-network
  8. shared-devices
  9. guest-posting
  10. move-to-chat
  11. svg
  12. impact
  13. stackpromos
  14. robotics
  15. delete
  16. respect
  17. robo-review
  18. youtube-channel
  19. junk
  20. sarcasm
  21. recruiting
  22. meta-feature-request

Caches will not exist for all cases. But for those that do exist, we can conduct an informed discussion as to whether this vigilante action is serving our needs or working against them.


Update: I've taken a quick pass on these and restored portions of: , and . Not naming any names, but... Some of the folks involved here were a lot better than others about replacing tags with other, roughly-equivalent tags.

8

I don't necessarily disagree that some burninations may not require a full fledged meta post and process, but when you're going to be doing several small ones at once and filling up such an inactive question list with superfluous edits, it's problematic at best.

The two I noticed today were and . Neither tag is particularly useful; is meta at best and doesn't really describe anything, while is a feature request... not really something warranting it's own tag. Neither had very much usage, and a burnination request for either would have likely had little to no resistance. However... because it wasn't discussed on meta and both happened on the same day within the same time frame, it filled the front page and was highly visible to anyone visiting meta, with there being little to no indication that some organized effort was taking place.

Over on SO, burninating something with 50 questions is nearly invisible to most users; There will be 3-5 if not more questions posted between the edits. But here on meta, these retaggings and frequent edits of old posts are disruptive.

I think, in a community this inactive, there should always be a post explaining what's going on. Maybe even just one noting the multiple tags you're retagging. Just be transparent.

  • 3
    It seems the 'forums' tag was also done in the same timeframe today. So that makes three tags, and quite a flood. – Tinkeringbell Dec 19 '18 at 21:16
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    "Ignore" is a function in chat. – Catija Dec 19 '18 at 21:33
  • @Catija You mean this? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 19 '18 at 21:41
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    @AnneDaunted Yep. But it's just called "ignore" in chat. Saying it's not a concept here, isn't really true. If there's another tag for the same concept, that's a good time to consider merging the two to avoid misuse. – Catija Dec 19 '18 at 21:44
  • @Catija The tag wasn't used for that purpose only. If the tag commonly means different things to different people, it’s probably a meta-tag. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 19 '18 at 21:49
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    No. That's not the primary criterion for a meta-tag, @AnneDaunted. A meta-tag is one that describes the question, not the subject of the question. So if the question is about an ignore function in chat, "ignore" is an appropriate tag (granted, "ignoring" or "ignore-button" or "ignore-function" might be better). Tagging a question "ignore" so that no one would pay attention to it would be using it as a meta tag. – jscs Dec 19 '18 at 22:01
  • @Catija "Saying it's not a concept here, isn't really true." I never said that. The ignore function in chat has its own tag here, [ignored-users] (already 6 years old, with user guidance, i linked to it above). When a question was about ignoring users in chat, I added [ignored-users] when it was missing. Was that action in itself wrong? [ignore] was used for other questions, too, like ignored tags (also got its own tag, with user guidance), ignoring questions not through tags, ignoring users outside of chat (e. g. their comments, questions etc.), so there was misuse and merging impossible. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 20 '18 at 15:55
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    @AnneDaunted I was talking about the answer. "ignore is meta at best and doesn't really describe anything". That was what my original comment was in response to, so I was expanding on that. Merging isn't necessarily impossible. You decide what the tag was intended to mean, retag all the stuff that's mis-tagged and then we merge and synonymize to the more specific tag. – Catija Dec 20 '18 at 23:11
  • @Catija It surely looks like you were responding to me, though ("@AnneDaunted Yep. But it's just called "ignore" in chat. Saying it's not a concept here, isn't really true."). And then your comment was quoted as evidence of me not knowing that ("the editors I saw do not seem to have had such knowledge."). That's why I wanted to clarify that. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 20 '18 at 23:49
  • I just wanted an easy hat – user400654 Dec 20 '18 at 23:51
  • @AnneDaunted I was pinging you because I was responding to your comment. It's inherently a problem with how we do pings because it confuses the issue of responding to someone but possibly talking about someone else. – Catija Dec 20 '18 at 23:51
7

I think part of the issue here is we don't have the mechanics, culture and workflow a regular site has. On a normal site, there's a meta, but a meta meta is just silly.

I've done these mass retags elsewhere. I agree that chat's not a visible enough forum (in the sense of place) for it.

Compromises are fun. They make no one happy. I do realise that one question per retag on meta for meta seems... a bit annoying. I'd like to propose a compromise - that we have a omnibus question for cleanups. We could use the community wiki option ('cause ironically, this feels close to what it's designed for) so no one needs to worry about rep loss and rep gain, and use answers to propose tags for clean ups.

As for the actual clean ups -

Flooding the front page is impolite. I've done tag cleanups involving thousands of posts. I did these a few at a time - on SU maybe 5-6 an hour over several months, but I always checked to see if my old posts had sunk down, and I also deleted or closed as needed. It's possible to keep up without flooding the front page, honest!

It's also worth remembering, while tags are a form of technical debt - they're painfully hard to fix up and not exactly time sensitive. It's probably a better use of your time to fix them as you come across than targeting specific tags, until we get a cool tool to fix it. In some of these cases, pruning tags and merging might be an option too.

I also noticed that folks were focusing on tags (for maximum velocity?). If you're fixing tags, do try to fix other issues with the post as well.

Finally while I do realise some of y'all are trying your best to bring order to chaos - meta is inherently messy since it involves, well, meta. That said if your primary goal is curation and cleanup... you're missing out on a lot.

  • 2
    If you did an omnibus it'd be nice if it was limited in scope. When you roll around to the 20th retagging in a thread created seven months ago, it gets a lot harder to notice updates to the current discussion (and figure out which comments are still relevant) than when there were only a handful of tags being discussed in the retagging topic. – Troyen Dec 20 '18 at 23:40
  • We can periodically delete or lock and create a new post – Journeyman Geek Dec 20 '18 at 23:44
  • I thought this model failed on Super User. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Aug 17 at 5:47
-9

For a while now, on a daily basis, the front page of Meta.SE has been populated with old questions bumped because of retaggings -- mostly removals. Today ignore seems to be the target.

Yes, some of the regular visitors of MSE prefer to take care of the knowledge base here for the greater benefit for all of us, thanks for noticing.

As far as I know, burnination of tags should be well-motivated and accompanied by a Meta proposal to make sure it's worthwhile and that there's consensus about removal/nothing that the editors are missing about the usefulness of the tag.

I agree that burninations should be well-motivated and consensus should be reached about the removal. And while I would love to bend the language of Shog9's answer in my favor I can only conclude that not announcing those burninations on Meta seemed wrong here. Instead I opted to discuss these in a chatroom that is frequented by some hardcore MSE users.

I haven't seen any such Meta posts about recent mass retaggings. Why is this?

For tags with just 40 questions (please redefine what a mass retagging is, we just got rid of design over on MSO) nobody present in the Tavern felt there was a need to question the removal of these tags and those involved have full edit privileges. And I still don't think anyone rather prefers a Meta post for every tag burnination. (You rather want your question feed/MSE front page not be cluttered with these retags, right?)

I propose to amend the burnination process with guidance that works on Meta Stack Overflow:

If you have authoritative a knowledge of all technologies relevant to the tag, have conferred with at least one other trusted community member, and are dealing with a tag that has a small number of questions (< 50), then you can go ahead and remove it yourself or with a little ad hoc help.

The threshold is up for debate

This will prevent unannounced "mass" retaggings, will allow for those who care and take care to remove/clean-up/re-tag without having to sit on their hands till enough users cared to vote on yet another burninate-request.

MSE being a slow site, I can agree with a request to take it easy with bumping too many questions in one day.

  • 5
    And how is the knowledge base of MSE better because 50 questions were edited to remove a tag that wasn't adding any useful information? Removing pointless tags doesn't add value. It's not making the knowledge base any better. On the other hand, going around editing dozens of low quality questions prevents people from seeing actual relevant discussions that people were trying to contribute to, causing real, material harm. People want retaggings like this to go through a process because retaggings like the ones we've seen recently shouldn't be done at all, they're not useful. – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 20:29
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    @Servy because you want to point users to a tag if they need guidance. Having relevant tags prevents that you first have to clean-up or cherry pick. I think that helps. – rene Dec 19 '18 at 20:32
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    How is the existence of a tag that doesn't provide anything useful prevent you from pointing someone to a tag that is useful when they want to find questions about that useful topic? I'm not saying we should just remove all tags, or even that no tag cleanups are ever useful. I'm just saying that lots of the tag cleanups we're seeing that aren't going through the proper channels aren't useful tag cleanups, and that proper checks on it would have borne that out. – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 20:34
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    There's no longer a "block-users" tag to point users who are looking to block other users to. This is a case where two burninations occurred that affected not only the question most likely to come up in a search for blocking users, but also the dupe target when "ignore" was burninated. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/268882/let-us-block-users I don't think that's helpful. Now we're essentially left with an untagged feature request. – user400654 Dec 19 '18 at 20:36
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    @Servy I think it is time you write an answer to that extent. I have no intention to have this battle in the comments nor am I going to revise my current position and I can only conclude we agree on that tag clean-ups are a thing but we disagree about the process. – rene Dec 19 '18 at 20:43
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    @rene So you're stating that you're completely unwilling to even consider any other positions other than your own? Why are you posting here at all then, if you're just going to ignore anything anyone says and do what you want, regardless of the rules, anyway? As for me answering, I don't know why people are mass retagging questions without following the rules for tag cleanups, hence I can't answer the question. – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 20:50
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    @Servy I'm not ignoring anyone (at least not deliberately) I'm just not buying your argument and I would have to repeat that I do think these burns are useful where you seem to argue they are not useful. I didn't expect you would find it funny to go back-and-forth between those two positions without seeing how we can find common ground. – rene Dec 19 '18 at 20:59
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    So how are these particular tag removals useful? Rather than repeating that you think they're useful, explain how they are actually useful. I asked you before, and you didn't give an applicable answer; you only said that it helps you refer people to questions on a topic, but you can do that equally effectively whether these burned tags exist or not. I stated that certain tag removals aren't useful, and that the existing process exists to determine which are useful before flooding the system with edits, rather than after. I never said that tag removals are universally not useful. – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 21:02
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    @Servy ignore got smacked on everything with that word in it, forum (and its plural form) was primarily used to find off-site resources for users or ask questions about other forums. None are on-topic on MSE. block-user is at best a misspelling of blocked-user. With these tags gone or rolled into better tags finding and guiding users to certain topics is somewhat improved and that makes these removals of these tags useful. Is that an applicable answer? – rene Dec 19 '18 at 21:16
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    @rene How is removing a tag that's not adding any value useful though. You've provided good justification for not creating those tags, or adding them to new posts, but not how the world is a better place with them gone. Who wasn't going to find a question they were looking for just because it had forum on it, that's going to find it now that the tag was removed? – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 21:22
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    @Servy because people put those tags on new questions where they argue it is on-topic as we offer a tag for it. So it helps being welcoming. And I tend to use the tags to get more context so if these tags are widely off, it doesn't help me finding more questions on the same topic. I guess (but haven't verified) it affects the related questions list as well so that doesn't help visitors either. Having relevant tags on a question helps visitors to find an answer, specially if the current question they are looking at doesn't solve their issue yet. – rene Dec 19 '18 at 21:39
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    @rene I don't see how any of those particular tags would encourage off topic posts. "Ignore" just doesn't really mean anything. What does it even mean for a topic to be about "ignore"? People can and do discuss forums, many of those questions are on topic. (Again, we don't need a tag for that, but it's not encouraging off topic posts by existing). Discussing the blocking if users is very much on topic (generally not useful discussions, but certainly not off topic). – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 21:45
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    The related questions lists is hard to talk about as you really need to know the exact formula if you want to talk about making change to influence it. For example, does it weigh how big a tag is when considering tags (if it even considers tags)? Adding useful tags (to high quality questions with useful content on topics we'd want to refer people to) is useful. But removing undefined tags from low quality questions with no useful information in them isn't doing that. Going around to the really high quality questions, and adding tags that are appropriate, but missing, would be. – Servy Dec 19 '18 at 21:45
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    "guidance that works on Meta Stack Overflow: If you have authoritative a knowledge of all technologies relevant to the tag" I can't see how this applies to MSE; see the footnote to "authoritative". And, not to put too fine a point on it, but in the specific case of [ignore], the editors I saw do not seem to have had such knowledge. More, neither of them are trusted members on MSE. – jscs Dec 19 '18 at 23:24
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    @JoshCaswell is the real problem that the front-page gets flooded? And, I am a trusted member, so are a couple of others that advised on some of these burns. – rene Dec 20 '18 at 8:34

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