131

Back in January, we had a week-long internal "make-a-thon" where a bunch of people across the company got into teams, did some brainstorming, and worked to improve various parts of our UI. Bonus if they had something to do with moderator or power user tools. One of those teams took on the Tag Synonyms dashboard. It's not a page that sees a lot of traffic, all things considered, and so it hasn't received much attention of the years since its creation.

But wait, you say. January? It's June now. Well... as always, a bunch of things got in the way. Still, it's been my job over the last little while to take their work and get it the last little bit over the hump to the finish line.

The first phase of this is ready for deployment. We're going from this:

screenshot of the old UI

to this:

screenshot of the new UI

In a sense, this is largely a facelift, but we've put thought into a few UX bits here:

  • The "synonym" and "target" columns are reversed now, so the table can be read from left to right;
  • instead of sub-tabs, we have an actual sortable table;
  • actions available to moderators are cued by a button, not showing up out of nowhere on hover.

We also added a way to vote on the synonyms directly from the Pending Approval tab:

screenshot of the voting UI

All in all, there should be no functional regressions while the whole page fits better into our current site design. I'm still working on a few other things here (such as creating modal-based workflows for tag merging and synonym creation), but I wanted to ship this first set of changes because, well, I think it looks pretty damn neat and I'm stoked to get it out in front of folks. Plus there's some tech debt that needs to be paid down before the other features can be rolled out and delaying what's ready now for the sake of addressing it feels wrong.

What do y'all think? Feel free to post your feedback as an answer to this question.


Update: a modal-based tag merge workflow is live. Tag synonyms can now be merged with the target tag directly from the dashboard.

  • 33
    And please make sure people can find that page in the future: meta.stackexchange.com/q/210564/172011 – juergen d Jun 18 at 19:57
  • 17
    Nice! Thank you. Tag synonyms don't get a lot of love, and I think the big factors are the old UI and discoverability. – Monica Cellio Jun 18 at 20:08
  • 8
    While you're improving the UI of tag synonyms, any chance you can also Distinguish synonyms from single-tag questions on the /tags page? – Thunderforge Jun 18 at 20:50
  • 7
    TIL this page exists. Are the only two places this link appears at the bottom of the tags page and the privilege page? – Peilonrayz Jun 18 at 22:48
  • 1
    It's also linked to from the tag synonym page for individual tags, @Peilonrayz – Shog9 Jun 18 at 23:19
  • 1
    I have one word: YES. – Braiam Jun 19 at 1:06
  • 35
    I think this is mostly a case of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The fundamental flaw of the tag-synonym system (the difficulty of getting permission to suggest or vote on synonyms) is still present, making this effectively a moderator-only page. – Mark Jun 19 at 1:19
  • 1
    @Mark most of the tags that people want to synonymize aren't usually required to use synonyms. They are small enough that a simple retagging is enough. For bigger tags, the discoverability is more important. – Braiam Jun 19 at 15:07
  • 1
    That's sick! Also, translated for our meta: ru.meta.stackoverflow.com/q/9292/15479 (: – Suvitruf says Reinstate Monica Jun 19 at 18:56
  • 1
    But you have rolled it out without notification, so localized sites have untranslated strings again )= – Suvitruf says Reinstate Monica Jun 19 at 19:00
  • 12
    The reason most of us mere mortals don't bother with the tag synonyms page is that like @Mark said, we don't have the necessary permissions. Thus, the synonyms page is this huge practical joke, stringing you along thinking you can improve something... until at the last second it says "MWA HA HA HA HA! Just kidding! I won't let you do that because you're a puny weakling! MWA HA HA HA HA!" Until and unless that part is improved, it really is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. – Marti Jun 23 at 16:52
  • 1
    While you're at it, could you make it easier to suggest tag synonyms? – Donald Duck Jun 27 at 20:55
  • 4
    I like how your post starts off by admitting that this page gets very little traffic. Baffled as to why engineering priorities are being dictated socially and why the lowest-priority tasks are being permitted to take some level of precedence as a result! That being said, this does look better. – Lightness Races with Monica Jun 28 at 10:33
  • 1
    Is there a reason not to give tag synonyms their own review queue? It seems like a much simpler solution to the discoverability problem. At The Workplace we have pending tag synonyms going back to 2014 because no one ever thinks to go there. If eligible voters got a notice in their queue whenever a new synonym was proposed, things wouldn't ever stay pending for very long. – David K Jul 11 at 14:40
  • 1
    @JoeFriend Thanks, Joe! You're missed too. Hope the new gig is going well :) – Adam Lear Aug 26 at 21:12

15 Answers 15

137

but now available as a userscript on Stack Apps.

Please change the voting buttons. We're Stack Exchange, not Facebook ... One does not simply like or dislike a synonym proposal.

enter image description here

I understand positioning the score between two triangles (like on posts) might eat too much vertical space, but maybe you can position them horizontally like this: ^ 0 v. Or bring back the old synonym vote buttons, IMHO they were fine size-wise ... maybe that's not such a good idea for touchscreens.

enter image description here

  • 19
    Donno, I kinda hate the buttons on the tag page - they're really, really tiny. Some of us have fat fingers. – Shog9 Jun 18 at 17:51
  • 2
    Yeah, on second thought they're less than ideal for touchscreens. – Glorfindel Jun 18 at 17:53
  • 43
    Hey, just because Facebook ruined "thumbs up" for everyone, doesn't mean it's a bad choice. ;) We thought about it and ended up going with different controls because on one hand, the arrows fit our existing UI pattern, but on the other... they look odd side by side, even with a score in-between. But, having said all that, I think this is something we could revisit if needed. – Adam Lear Jun 18 at 17:59
  • 11
    Stating preference to seek non-thumbs oriented icons for representation of support/contention. – Vix Jun 18 at 21:32
  • 14
    Absolutely agreed. Thumbs up and thumbs down convey the wrong message here and look extremely out of place. I'm glad the synonyms feature is finally getting some attention, and as a moderator, I use this page a lot, so I appreciate even a minor facelift, but these vote buttons are a major regression that I am strongly opposed to. – Cody Gray Jun 18 at 23:31
  • 5
    I like the design of the new bulk voting page but maybe the thumbs could be done differently. Not sure up/down arrows are needed, but thumbs aren't used anywhere else in the SO/SE interfacing. Don't use the mini-voting tho. That interfacing is terrible – Machavity Jun 19 at 1:52
  • 11
    👍 I agree, use the regular vote buttons of the main site. Because it would also be helpful to see the vote count, particularly for diamond mods. If there isn't a 100% consensus about a synonym, perhaps it needs more consideration or get brought up on meta etc. – Lundin Jun 20 at 11:22
  • 2
    I don't hate the thumbs up/down idea, but why are they boxing-gloves? – Turnip Jun 21 at 8:18
  • @AdamLear hi im new here, but how about ^(the upwards triangle) | v (the downwards triangle)? – Omega Krypton Sep 26 at 9:11
51


Not sure whether it is a bug or known feature.

If I filtered a tag, in the result set I want to sorting the data, so sorting the result by clicking the sorting icon, but instead of sorting with in the result set, it cleared the filter text and reset the filtered result set.

I expect when the search result set is displaying, clicking on the sort icon should sort with in the result set.

GIF for the same:

enter image description here

  • 10
    It's somewhere between a "known bug" and a "feature request". We still have the original backend implementation for sorting which ends up doing a full page reload and doesn't preserve any filtering. – Adam Lear Jun 18 at 18:13
  • 2
    This issue is on my list to fix without rewriting all of the current sorting setup, but if it turns out to be too involved, it'll have to go on our bug backlog and get addressed later. – Adam Lear Jul 2 at 21:22
44

I don't see a way to see all the proposed synonyms. The old one had 4 tabs:

  1. All
  2. Suggested
  3. Active
  4. Merge

The new one has just 3:

  1. Active (analogous to 3)
  2. Pending Approval (analogous to 2)
  3. Pending Merge (analogous to 4).

Can we please have the all filter back? Thank you.

  • How did you use the "All" filter? It was a combination of Suggested, Active, and Merge, so no information should be lost... in theory. – Adam Lear Jun 18 at 20:27
  • 26
    @AdamLear Yep, no information is lost. But having it in one page saves a lot of time. I used to use it to see the list of synonyms that were proposed after the last merge that I did, so that I could just visit those and see if any were wrong/incorrect. Hiding it behind another tab means that I need to go to that page manually, which I might forget sometime, but I'd never forget visiting the main /tags/synonyms page. – Bhargav Rao Jun 18 at 20:34
  • 25
    @AdamLear I support whatever Bhargav wants when it comes to tag management. He found and approved an obvious synonym request in a tag that no on has the tag-rep to do, 4 years after I asked for it. – Michael Jun 19 at 16:17
  • @Michael so I only have 1.5 years left for mine to get approved? Sweet! – miken32 Jun 20 at 18:55
  • 1
    @Michael Funnily enough, your comment prompted me to go check tag synonyms on my site and I just approved two pending requests, one of which was almost 1.5 years old. – El'endia Starman Jun 30 at 5:54
  • I'm gonna call this answer status-completed on the purest of technicalities - you can see all the proposed synonyms on the "Pending approval" tab. :) Further feedback coming shortly on your other answer. – Adam Lear Jul 2 at 21:21
34

The sort isn't pagination friendly. The sorted order isn't saved when visiting the second or third page.

I sorted the "Creator" tab in the ascending order, and it worked properly. The URL was https://stackoverflow.com/tags/synonyms?tab=Creator&dir=Ascending&filter=Active. (Notice dir=Ascending).

When I visit the 2nd page, the "Creator" tab becomes descending order. The URL was https://stackoverflow.com/tags/synonyms?page=2&tab=creator&filter=active (There is no dir=Ascending). Adding dir=Ascending to the URL manually solves this issue.

26

Thank you for the ability to sort the fields. I've been using SEDE to sort, and having it on the synonym page makes it really easy.

However, on the "Pending Approval" page, there is no way to sort the "Score" column:

enter image description here

I think the "Score" column is the one that needs to be sortable, as it would make it really easy for me to go through the list and approve the ones that have been upvoted thrice or something similar. (I get it that I might be the only one who uses it in that way, but it would be really helpful if it is possible to sort that column).

23

When you're on the proposed synonyms page and you're the final vote on a proposal (4th up or second down), nothing happens, just the score changes. If you refresh the page it will be gone, but it would make more sense to have something see if it was the last vote and hide the row, for a visual confirmation that it's done.

  • 4
    +1. This needs to be addressed, but there's some nuance there - for example, how does undoing votes behave in this case? (This behavior is similarly undefined right now on the per-tag synonym page where you can technically undo a vote for a synonym that was approved, heh.) – Adam Lear Jun 19 at 18:47
  • 4
    If you cast the last vote, can you actually undo it and yank the synonym back as a normal user? – Machavity Jun 19 at 18:50
  • You can undo it, but it doesn't actually revert the synonym approval. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – Adam Lear Jun 19 at 18:57
  • Same for downvotes. The score changes but the downvote button isn't highlighted. If you click it again, it says "The synonym no longer exists, it was probably deleted" and a page refresh confirms that. You can't undo queue actions, maybe these should be the same. – miken32 Jun 20 at 19:49
  • @AdamLear Google usually makes it in a way that the row shrinks and it's content is replaced with confirmation of what just happened and an undo button. What about this? – RedClover Jun 22 at 20:07
  • 1
    The sticking point here is that normally votes can be undone... but while final votes on tag synonyms (either to approve or reject) can be retracted, doing that doesn't undo the approval or the rejection. We're going to add a confirmation step here when a user is about to cast a deciding vote and provide visual feedback that the action took place. – Adam Lear Jul 2 at 21:19
17

This is just a minor annoyance, but the clicked voting buttons are orange on all sites, not just Stack Overflow. I would expect the same color as the question/answer/comment voting buttons...

Post:

post voting buttons

Comment:

comment voting button

Tag synonym:

enter image description here

16

Clicking on the tag in the "Target" column sometimes throws a 404 error

I noticed this on BoardGames.SE. There are tags that do not have a number after them. Clicking on them throws a 404 error.

For instance, clicking on [eldritch-horror-cities-in-ruin]

enter image description here

navigates to https://boardgames.stackexchange.com/tags/eldritch-horror-cities-in-ruin/synonyms, which brings up a 404 page.

enter image description here

Clicking on the tag in the "Synonym" column results in a normal page, albeit indicating there are 0 questions.

enter image description here

Clearly something isn't going right. At first glance, it looks as though a synonym exists for a tag that has been deleted. Not sure if this is related to your changes or not, but regardless, the dashboard is not behaving in a way that users expect it to.

  • 6
    That's an existing bug, not related to current changes. I'll see what I can do there. Thanks! – Adam Lear Jun 19 at 17:58
  • 1
    Gonna see about displaying a stylized tag without an active link, ideally with an explanatory tooltip. – Adam Lear Jul 2 at 21:20
  • @AdamLear What would the explanatory tooltip say in this case? That the tag synonym exists, but there are no questions tagged with it? If so, I would have expected the tag synonym to just be purged periodically, like tags that don't have any questions assigned to them. – Thunderforge Jul 2 at 22:03
  • 1
    The use case here is a bit weird, but ultimately makes sense, I think. Just because the target tag was deleted, doesn't mean the synonym mapping in and of itself is invalid. Say the target tag gets re-created... if we deleted the synonym, assuming it was created out of need in the first place, we'd be missing that link and potentially even allow an undesired tag (the source of the synonym) to be used again. This is similar to how we don't technically delete answers on a deleted question in case the question is restored later. – Adam Lear Jul 2 at 22:06
16

A small inconsistency:

enter image description here

Only the # OF RENAMES is aligned to the right, everything else to the left. Is that intentional? It's slightly confusing, because there's also such a large gap between it and CREATED.

  • 9
    Numbers get aligned to the right, text to the left, it's fairly common, in fact I don't remember the last time I saw a table where that wasn't the case, see Is there a standard “to left justify text and right justify numeric values.” – user394554 Jun 18 at 20:36
  • 1
    Agree with Nick, my only beef here would be that we're not doing this for dates too. – Shog9 Jun 18 at 22:53
  • 21
    @Shog9 my beef would be that we aren't using ISO 8601 instead. – Braiam Jun 19 at 1:09
  • 2
    A great thing about expressing date/times in ISO format is that they’re all the same width, so we don’t have to worry about whether they’re left- or right-justified.  Would it be possible to have the format subject to toggling, as it is in post timelines? – G-Man Says 'Reinstate Monica' Jun 20 at 20:14
  • 1
    Discussed this internally earlier today. We're gonna see if we want to establish guidelines for data types in tables internally in general, and play around with the different alignments on this table in particular to see which looks better for both Score and # of Renames columns. – Adam Lear Jul 2 at 21:24
15

In addition to being more widely advertised, I would really like to see this page default to Pending Approval requests, sorted by oldest first. There's no reason synonym requests should have to wait years for approval, and I really feel that this page should be doing whatever it can to move these requests through the system.

  • We're going to stick with the current defaults for now. Sometime down the road, we want to see what we can do to increase discovery for this dashboard and then see if we have enough usage/traffic to start optimizing from there. – Adam Lear Jul 2 at 21:17
13

Unvoting doesn’t change the hand color on touch screen devices. E.g. voted up for a tag synonym:

voted up

Retracting the vote by tapping on vote up button again changes the score but doesn’t change the button color from orange(?) back to grey:

unvoted up

Refreshing the page fix the issue:

refreshed

10

I have some general feedback regarding the new dashboard which has made my processing of synonyms a little bit harder.

Let me tell you from where I am coming. I have spent the past 1 year playing around with tags (starting from June 16th 2018, barring the 3 month vacation that I took from Sep 15th to Dec 15th), and adding around 600 synonyms on Stack Overflow. Some days, I've been creating more than 20 or 30 synonyms, so I definitely am a heavy user of that page.

Today, I started this year's annual cycle of "Fun with Tags", and used the new shiny dashboard. My usual way of handling synonyms is:

  1. I open the master tag's page and click on "Synonyms".
  2. Type in the other tag's name and click on "see all synonyms"
  3. Click on "approve".

As you can see here, it was 3 clicks. Now it is:

  1. I open the master tag's page and click on "Synonyms".
  2. Type in the other tag's name and click on "see all synonyms"
  3. Click on the "pending approval" tab
  4. Click on "approve"
  5. Click on "yes, I approve"

which is now 5 clicks or almost double number of clicks as compared to the last time. This has caused a serious decrease in my productivity. I get it that I am not too fast usually, but this has made me a bit more slow.

Another fact that is currently causing a small trouble is the swapping of master and the synonym places. There is this problem called "muscle memory". I've been trained for the entire past year to look at the first column as the master and the second as the synonym. Swapping the two has messed up a lot, and does cause a bit of trouble. The process for creating a synonym has now been:

  1. I open the master tag's page and click on "Synonyms".
  2. Type in the other tag's name and click on "see all synonyms"
  3. Click on the "pending approval" tab
  4. Click on the "..." to get the swap menu in order to swap the two synonyms thinking that I've proposed it in the wrong order (muscle memory problem)
  5. Click on "swap"
  6. Click on "cancel" realizing that I have made a mistake
  7. Click on "approve"
  8. Click on "yes, I approve"

which is taking me a long time to get a synonym approved. My "Fun with Tags" episodes aren't being fun anymore. I see that you mention:

The "synonym" and "target" columns are reversed now, so the table can be read from left to right;

but has anyone actually complained that this was a problem? To me and to most of the users who've used the synonym page a lot, it was quite clear. Even in most of my meta answers, I've used ← to indicate that direction. I am not able to see as to why that created a problem.

Anyway, for this mistake I can take the blame. I will get used to the new one in the next few months, but I would still have to make 5 clicks to get a synonym approved.

Would it be possible to make this experience a bit smoother? Please? I do request you humbly.

  • I won't have a chance to do anything here until next week, but I wanted to leave a quick comment to let you know that I saw the post and that I appreciate you writing this out in detail. I'll follow up with something actually related to your concerns in a couple days. – Adam Lear Jun 29 at 23:33
  • That's perfect, thank you so much! – Bhargav Rao Jun 30 at 1:59
  • 2
    I for one much prefer the "synonym -> target" order. I remember being confused several times over the years and this left-to-right order matches my mental model much better (e.g. "X maps to Y", "X will become Y", "X is an alias of Y", etc; all of these are more awkward to state when swapped). Muscle memory/habit is certainly a nontrivial consideration, but my bet is that the majority of people will prefer the "synonym -> target" order. – El'endia Starman Jun 30 at 6:03
  • Once again, thank you for the detailed feedback! We discussed this internally earlier today and we're going to do two things here: we'll put the "All" view back in for moderators, and remove confirmation steps from Swap and Approve actions since errors on both are easily reversible by either swapping again or deleting the synonym, respectively. However, the order of the columns is here to stay, and I hope you can acclimate to that before too long. – Adam Lear Jul 2 at 21:31
  • That's awesome, thank you so much! @AdamLear. I'll get back to you the first weekend once it is fixed. Thanks. – Bhargav Rao Jul 2 at 22:30
9

As far as I see, many pages' redesigns have been made to adapt the page for any screen width devices (aka "responsiveness"). But the tag synonym page is constructed mostly of a table, hence there is no obvious solution for how to wrap the table row while leaving it in a single row. Without such wrapping, the page will be still unhandy to use on narrow mobile devices without repeated zooming in/out.

Here's how the page looks on my phone (current scale of this picture on desktop browser almost represents the actual, i.e. physical size of the phone's screen):

from phone

One possible solution was found on Wikipedia (scrolling the table horizontally, while whole page width is fixed):

scroll table

  • 1
    We currently don't have support for horizontally scrolling tables, but I dig the idea. However, even with that, we'd need to do additional work here to make the table itself usable - for example, by the time you scrolled all the way to the right, the context for each row would be lost, so we'd probably have to rearrange the columns. For the moment, we're going to stick with what we have due to time and resource constraints on the team. – Adam Lear Jul 2 at 21:28
2

https://ru.stackoverflow.com/tags/synonyms?tab=Newest&filter=Merge

Please, add string Preview tag merge into transifex, so we could be able to translate it.

enter image description here

2

Tag info popup is behind merge modal window.

enter image description here

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