I have seen several cases on several different sites on the network where I have been tempted to add a tag to a question before realizing that the subject of the tag appears only in the answer, often an accepted or highly-upvoted one. I've seen two major types of questions where this tends to happen:

  • "Identify this" questions - Once an answer is accepted and/or a consensus is reached (depending on site standards), it could make sense to add a tag associated with the answer. For example, SFF.SE permits "Identify this book" questions, and many of the books people ask for actually already have tags.
  • Problem-solving or debugging questions where the type of problem is not evident from the problem description. For example, a user might post a debugging question on Stack Overflow where it turns out that the problem was due to a race condition, but that fact only becomes evident in the answer (i.e. the problem statement doesn't have any classic telltale signs that a race condition is likely behind the problem). Would it make sense to tag the question with [race-condition] once that does become evident?

The policy for me has always been to tag based on the question, not the answer.

In the example you give with ID questions, I would not add the tag once the thing is identified, even if a tag for it exists. This was, in fact, the policy on Movies & TV before they made ID questions off topic. I remember discussing it somewhere but can't find a meta post about it. It's also specifically incorrect on SFF to do this, which I have voted on, so that may be what I was thinking of.

This makes sense to me when thinking about the purpose of tagging. If someone is looking to see all questions about The Hobbit and someone happens to ask what the name of the book about the little guy with hairy feet with a ring that makes him invisible, I wouldn't really want a solved ID question to show up after the fact. It's not going to increase my understanding of that subject and I can't help solve the problem.

The exception to this would be if someone was looking to identify a specific thing within a subset - for example, "In which episode of Star Trek TNG does Diana Troi get turned into a cake?" - you would tag with the Star Trek TNG tag because you already know that's part of the world and experts in that tag are going to be interested in seeing it. Once it's solved, it has the same problem as the previous situation but it's still quite different than adding it retroactively.

Similarly, if someone is asking how to do a specific thing and they don't know the correct term for it, then adding the tag is appropriate as knowledge of terminology shouldn't prevent correct tagging - the difference here is "What is ____ called?" vs. "How do you do {description of thing using imprecise terms}?"

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I sometimes add a tag for a term that should have been used in the question body even though it only appears in one or more of its answers, or more rarely in none of them.

I do this when the asker appears not to be aware of a commonly used name for a workflow they are struggling with. By adding a tag for that, the question is directed into the filters of potential answerers monitoring that tag and the asker has a tag button/link they can click to see many more Q&As on the same topic.

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  • Tags also influence Related question in the sidebar. Not sure how helpful that is on average, though. – Glorfindel May 19 at 20:10

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