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Proposal

Allow sites to opt in to the following behaviour: When asking a question, do not show new users the tag field. Instead, let the question start as (just as if the question was just migrated to the site with no tags carrying over).

When new users edit their own questions or suggest edits to other questions, they can edit the tags as normal. They are not required to tag their own questions when editing though.

Rationale

First of all, I am fully aware that this would be a horrible idea many sites, such as Stack Overflow, where at least one tag (e.g., the programming language) is usually a straightforward choice. This is for sites where this is not the case, and tagging is particularly difficult for new users, for example:

  • On language sites, many tags reflect grammatical categories and other linguistic concepts that many new users are not familiar with. At times, identifying the grammatical categories is what the question is all about. Moreover, some tags have special rules that do make sense but are not immediately obvious to new users, e.g., may be reserved for the grammatical properties of nouns, but must not be used if you are asking about the lexical meaning of a noun.

  • On sites about social topics (The Workplace, Academia, Interpersonal Skills, …), it is difficult for new users to discern what tags are actually essential and not incidental to their question – if they approach tagging like this at all. For example, a PhD student asking a question on Academia has a very high chance of tagging their question , even though somebody at another career stage might as well have the same question.

On these sites, users also tend not to specialise on particular tags very much, but rather select questions they care about from all questions on the site. Tags therefore do not have the function of quickly bringing a question to the attention of those who can answer it. (They are still relevant for searching and similar.)

Another relevant observation is that experienced users tend to properly tag untagged questions very quickly, while they may not touch questions that are already tagged, no matter how badly. This effect can even be enhanced by making visually stand out.

Thus, on the sites in question, there are hardly any downsides to leaving questions by new users untagged, while it very likely stimulates better tagging.

  • 3
    It takes no more effort for a "seasoned" user to re-tag, than it does for the same seasoned user to tag an "untagged" question. Some askers tag their questions correctly, or at least partially; if those askers were prohibited from tagging, it would necessitate "editing" by other users, when it would not have been necessary for the good question-asking-taggers. So, at best, requiring "untagged" would lead to some degree of extra work for the community. – Namaste May 12 at 15:04
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    It's always good to present good ideas on how to improve SE here. Making a change to SE requires a lot of work and testing as well as review, as well as consensus building. Stack Exchange works well, so you need much more than a rationale, you need to present a recognized pervasive problem that your change will solve. You need to present documentation showing how bad the problem through a large list of specific examples. You need to show something is broken before proposing a fix. – uhoh May 12 at 16:00
10

I don't agree that hiding one of the core features of asking a question will make either the question or the question author better off. Ask yourself how you learned to tag questions — and how new users will learn how to tag if that responsibility is removed from their experience?

Tagging isn't generally too difficult for most people; the concept isn't unique to Stack Exchange. But if a users doesn't get the tags quite right, folks are generally more than willing to leave a comment or edit a post if something is out of sorts. It's that wiki-style editing and community-led moderation which keeps these sites going and allows all users to learn as they go along.

Nobody is expected to know every nuance of every site unless you're up to speed on the 10's of thousands of meta posts discussing the support issues across the network. That's why there's a very broad base of community-lead moderation to help users through the process and provide this type of guidance.

But hiding that interface because a new user might get it wrong the first time(s) they post goes entirely against the learn-as-you go design of Stack Exchange. If only seasoned users have the ability to tag posts, the usability and skill gap between new and experienced users will only grow larger.

We should be trying to expand the base of users taking on these responsibilities… not shrinking it.

  • Ask yourself how you learned to tag questions – By tagging the questions of others, of course – which is something that I propose to bring much more to the attention of users like, well, me. You forget that only a fraction of new users asking questions will become power users and power users usually do not become such by asking questions. Most users will never make use of the experience of having tagged their own question as a new user, either because they never take up any responsibility in the first place (which is fine) or they have never been in the situation. – Wrzlprmft May 15 at 7:51
  • But if a users doesn't get the tags quite right, folks are generally more than willing to leave a comment or edit a post if something is out of sorts. – On the sites I am considering (and probably even more), this does not apply. While most high-reputation users are friendly and helpful, most of them will also ignore blatantly mistagged questions (unless untagged) – which quite a lot are, since tagging is much more difficult on these pages. This is also about more than getting the tags “not quite right”. – Wrzlprmft May 15 at 7:51
  • We should be trying to expand the base of users taking on these responsibilities – Exactly, which is why I oppose forcing (and thus effectively leaving) it onto those users who are least equipped to do this (new users), which is what we do right now. The core of my proposal is to prompt experienced users to tag questions. Relieving new users of this duty is mostly a side effect, but also not without merit since for most of them it is a pointless exercise (see above). – Wrzlprmft May 15 at 7:51

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