We all know about the persistent problem of new users posting blatantly off-topic questions here on Meta Stack Exchange for many reasons. This problem dates back to at least 2013, and happens often enough that some users have coined a special name for this phenomenon, "lost souls".

It might be a good idea to have a new tag for questions that discuss this issue, because:

  • This (new users posting blatantly off-topic questions as a result of ignorance as to the purpose or nature of Meta.SE) is a persistent problem that is not going away as a result of standard moderation actions (downvoting, closing, commenting-on, and deleting each individual off-topic question). For this reason, tracking the history of discussion of this problem is valuable in itself.
  • In theory, these questions could be marked with a triplet of tags: , , and , but the problem is not an occasional issue involving infrequent interactions between the topics of these three tags, but a specific issue that is more than the sum of its constituents. This is similar to how a cooking site might create a tag instead of tagging all BLT-related questions with , , , , and , because BLT sandwiches themselves are a thing.

So, should we have a tag for questions about this issue? If so, what should the tag be? Some ideas include:

To be clear here, this is not to be applied to the blatantly off-topic questions themselves, but to questions that discuss this issue, just like the way the tag isn't added to spam questions but to questions that discuss spam.

  • Okay, so what questions do you see as being helpful for this tag? Some good questions would be helpful to show the value of adding this tag.
    – fbueckert
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:10
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    What I'm saying is that the moderator rollbacks may have been because of the obscure reference and not because of tagging rules. Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:21
  • @SonictheBracketedHedgehog I'm perfectly willing to accept that! That's actually the purpose of my question - is the idea of such a tag inherently useless or objectionable under any name, or did I simply pick the wrong name? Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:22
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    I was originally against it, but I think there might be a good case for organizing these question. I haven't voted either way; I just think the argument and value for creating such a tag belongs in the question, not just in the comments.
    – fbueckert
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:33
  • @fbueckert I will work on organizing some of it into the question, but don't want to make it too long and unreadable. Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:35
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    I'm against this - just migrate or delete. We If we have enough info to tag it lost-souls, we have enough info to get rid of it. We don't need to discuss them, the community is generally pretty good at closing quickly.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:43
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    @RoryAlsop I think you are also not understanding my point. This is not about tagging blatantly off-topic questions, but about tagging questions about the problem of blatantly off-topic (primarily programming-related) questions being posted all hours of the night and day by new users. Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:45
  • @RoryAlsop We don't need to discuss specific instances, but there are a lot of discussion posts on meta that discuss the phenomenon in general. Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:47
  • @sonic exactly. A tag would help someone viewing one of these discussion questions navigate quickly to others so that that they can understand the full nature of the problem, rather than concluding that it was a new problem. Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:52
  • Wow, since posting this question, Meta.SE has received two new questions, both of them blatantly off-topic (a zero-effort programming homework dump, and a request for a Hebrew dictionary). Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 17:10

2 Answers 2


I think we should use the existing off-topic tag, and that we shouldn’t be tagging questions that we are trying to get rid of.

The purpose of a tag is not to explicitly describe every aspect of a question, but to group similar questions together. If a question is about new users posting unsuitable questions and seems fine. If the question is about someone trolling with off-topic questions, why not and ? Combining tags is much more flexible and powerful than creating a lot of extremely specific tags.

I think that overly specific tags lead to people assume that the questions in that tag are better categorized than they actually are. It also leads to a maintenance problem. If there are a lot of new-user-blatantly-off-topic discussions, it’s inevitable that some of them will get tagged with the two more general tags rather than the one specific tag. What should be grouped is now split among different sets of tags. If we stick to more general tags, then discussions about off-topic questions are grouped whether they are asked by new users or trolls, and new user discussions stay grouped, whether they are about off-topic questions or comments as answers.

  • Also, at no point was I ever intending to use the tag on questions that are blatantly off-topic. It was intended for use solely on questions that discuss blatantly off-topic questions (e.g. who posts them, why they post them, how often they get posted, what we can do to discourage people from posting them, whether orbital railguns are likely to be effective, etc.). Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:54
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    @RobertColumbia Yeah, that was mostly due to skimming the comments rather than directly addressing your idea. I was just explicitly saying what I thought, so we’re in agreement:)
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 16:58

As a mod? No.

There's literally no utility that an extra tag gives.

Off topic is off topic. We have reasonably workable processes in place as is to handle them.

Not all these posters could be new and there's different reasons behind them. An omnibus tag dosen't help.

The status quo, tagwise works fine.

The with appropriate additional tags is good enough.

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