Tag editing appears to be fairly random. It seems to me that the point of tags is to help me find stuff.

For instance, I use the [c#] tag to find questions on C# - one of my specialities.

Why do people keep editing tags to say [subjective] or [off-topic]? Why would I ever want to search for subjective questions?

Is this just the (still unattainable) Librarian badge calling? I'm sure we'll all get it eventually.

I tend to edit tags in the following circumstances:

  • The tag might help the asker get a useful answer - for instance if they've missed a C# tag on a clearly C# question.

  • The tag might help those answering - for instance if they've failed to specify .Net 3.5 but are asking about Linq (only added in 3.5)

  • They've put one tag where another different one might be appropriate - for instance "sql" and "2005" instead of"sql2005".

I'm not sure of the point in:

  • "subjective", "off-topic", etc - why bother with a tag?
  • "duplicate" - there's a close option for this.
  • "coding", "programming", "software" - aren't they all?
  • "meta-discussion", etc - surely the "stackoverflow" tag already states that?

There seems to be some fairly pointless tag editing going on - with no agreement on when we should edit them.

What rules do you follow? When would you re-tag? When wouldn't you? Am I missing something? Do some people find [subjective] a really useful tag?

I've split the debate on subjective out into a new question.

  • 2
    "please don't edit the tags."
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 29, 2008 at 13:40
  • We bother with off-topic and subjective tags because hopefully eventually we are going to be able to filter out our homepage by certain tags and when that time comes we'll be able to easily filter out crap like this.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 13:43
  • 1
    Not all off-topic and subjective questions are "stackoverflow" related. So yes, in posts with a "Stackoverflow" tagged posts it would seem redundant but it is also subjective and off-topic. So when the time comes to filter out subjective/offtopic posts we'll be able to do so easily.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 13:45
  • Lot of question about SO have been close because they do not belong to be here. Lot of people with high rep simply close these kind of topic and tell user to go on uservoice. BUT when high rep do these kind of topic, nothing is closed... this is subjective and non-programming. Sep 29, 2008 at 13:48
  • I don't think I'm above community standards - where did that come from? I'm asking a question here - what should the standards be? Can we agree on them before making an FAQ addition? You view is welcome to the discussion.
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 13:56
  • I'm all for you discussing your question. I'm not all for you forbidding people to retag your question because you don't like it. Just because you want to discuss the "subjective" tag doesn't mean your question isn't subjective and shouldn't be tagged accordingly.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:15
  • @Simucal, he was politely asking not to change the tags, not forbidding... This is a classic case in which I would put a comment first, asking the poster to change the tags, stating my reasons. A simple retag does not convey as much information, IMHO.
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:24
  • Retagging requires little rep & the imposed "ettiquite" of asking first isn't a viable solution. I honestly think it goes against the design and intent of the website. It is meant to be easy as hell to retag someones quesetion for the very fact that we can easily catagorize the influx of questions.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:30
  • I'm not forbidding anything. I've asked nicely at the top of the post and I've rolled back your changes when you've made them. I just about always roll back others' changes to my posts if they don't give me a reason first and they don't add to the sum value of the post.
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:31
  • I don't think being tagged subjective or offtopic is even a negative thing at all. If I ask some kind of open-ended/discussion type question and it got tagged subjective it doesn't hurt the question at all. It only serves to help by allowing those who aren't interested filter out their busy page.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:33
  • @Simucal, what if the question has already 5 valid tags?
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:35
  • @Keith, that is my point. It DOES add value by catagorizing your question even further than you did. The only time it doesn't is if it is a incorrect tag (ie c++ isntead c) The more meta-data the better. Your reluctance to having your stuff edited definately goes against the grain of the website.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:35
  • Then filter out "stackoverflow". Simucal - your feedback is welcome - it's exactly what I'm looking for (I had no idea why so many posts were being re-tagged and now I do).
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:37
  • @Skilvvz If all of those tags closely relate to the questions material then I 100% support leaving those tags inplace. They have a better chance of helping people find that question later on than a subjective or offtopic tag do. But generally I have seen little offtopic questions with that scenario
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:37
  • @Keith I will filter out Stackoverflow. But your question is also questioning the subjective/offtopic/metadiscussion and my point is that not all subjective and offtopic posts have to do with Stackoverflow. Which is why in my humble opinion they add some value rather than detract from the question
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:39

9 Answers 9


In my opinion:

Tags to remove

  • useless tags (e.g. "coding", "programming")
  • broken tags (e.g. "sql" and "server" instead of "sqlserver")
  • wrong tags (e.g. "java" in a C# question)

Tags to add

  • warning tags: e.g. "not-a-question", "offtopic" (I add a comment saying, "reformulate as question", etc. and add the tag for future closing if necessary)
  • forgotten tags: where it makes sense to have that tag but it's not there

All other cases

  • Instead of retagging, add a comment asking the user to do it. In my opinion, asking the poster has more teaching value. You can also edit later if the poster does not care. It's also less "tag war" prone.
  • 1
    I like that comment idea (+1) - especially for beginner users. It seems less 'rude' somehow.
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 13:44
  • I'd like to quote the SO FAQ: Other people can edit my stuff?! Like Wikipedia, this site is collaboratively edited. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your questions and answers being edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:13
  • I agree Skliwz, about the tag changing guidelines you set out. They seem like a pretty good best-practice to follow.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 15:12
  • 1
    -1 Big fat no on the warning tags.
    – random
    Jan 31, 2010 at 11:02

The point of "subjective", "off-topic" tags are because these questions should not be there (if you stick to the FAQ).

People can edit tags before closing a post (see the FAQ and the number of reputation needed). So they tag for people who have the privilege to close a post to do it.


If I click on particular tag, say C#, I'd like to be able quickly to scan over the questions by looking at the other tags. Having subjective or offtopic tag on a question lets me skip those and go to the questions with the actual problems that needed solving.

Then again, how people use tags is highly subjective in itself... :-)


I generally go by the following:

  • Add tags that are related to the question
  • Remove inappropriate tags
  • Change new tags to existing tags that represent the question better

I originally thought Subjective was a good idea because it would help people avoid those types of questions more easily but now it seems unnecessary. The question title is almost always enough.

Simucal said something interesting in the question comments:

What if I wanted to view all Stackoverflow questions but filter out the purely Subjective/Opinion questions? By removing the tag you are preventing that from happening. If I just want to see the discussion on Stackoverflow technical algorithms & design you just prevented people from that.

That's a scenario that I hadn't considered. Maybe Subjective is a good idea for future versions of SO that allow more complicated tag filtering.

Now I'm torn!

  • On another note, my rule of thumb is to make any of my questions & answers about stackoverflow community-owned. I don't want any rep from meta-discussion.
    – Mark Biek
    Sep 29, 2008 at 13:34
  • I think you are missing the point of the tags. Question title is certainly not enough and when the time comes that we can filter out tags of our choosing those who wish to filter out the "Subjective" questions and get to the meat of the technical questions they will be able to do so easily.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:22
  • At the moment the only logic you can apply to tags is AND. You can't apply NOT. Until we can I think there's little point in anti-tags.
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 15:36
  • Yeah I forgot about the wiki checkbox - regretting that now :-/
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 15:37
  • That's why I'm torn. Part of me says "Why pollute the tag space when we can't do any fancy filtering?" and the other part of me says "Why not get things organized for the day when fancy tag filtering comes?"
    – Mark Biek
    Sep 29, 2008 at 15:38
  • The features for tag filtering are high on the uservoice page and some of them are already confirmed [planned]. I don't see how the additional tag metadata really hurts anything or detracts. I've always thought of detailed and accurate metadata as extremely valuable.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 18:22

Tags like that would be a lot more useful with a more sophisticated search and user profile configuration. Perhaps filtering out all questions tagged "subjective" or "not-a-question" would be useful to some people? Or maybe I want to see all questions related to java, but not coding type questions?

  • "coding" - questions about s/w design aren't about coding.
  • "programming" - questions about architecture or technology choice (or configuration) aren't about programming

One thing you could do to fight duplicate tags (e.g. "meta" vs "stackoverflow") is allow only people of a certain level to create new tags. People of a lower level could tag things, but only using existing tags.

  • Is it more likely that someone would want "everything that isn't coding", or "things that are design"? I would say the latter, in which case the "coding" tag isn't the solution, the "design" tag is Sep 29, 2008 at 13:34

I think "subjective" at least serves a purposes when there is no single correct answer, which in many cases is perfectly acceptable. That may be my Perl roots talking.

As for "off-topic" and "duplicate" - They serve to explain why the question was closed, so I agree that unless someone is using these for statistics on the back-end, they don't seem very useful since that can be covered in the verbal explanation of why it was closed.

I also agree on "Coding" and "Programming", since anything that lacks these tags should be "off-topic", and that's deprecated.

However I think "software" could be interpreted to mean "software used for programming" rather than "the software we are writing", and as such could be a useful tag.



Check this link https://stackoverflow.com/questions/148905/how-did-you-first-get-interested-in-programming

This must be closed because it gives nothing to any developer in the world. Who care how someone start loving programming. So tagging at "subjective" seem to be good. Like that someone like you will be able to close it. SO is not a website to get reputation but to answer developer question.

  • So are you saying that you use "subjective" as a tag where, if you were a moderator, you would close it as "subjective and argumentative"? I'm not sure that post is.
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 15:30

@Daok - while I sometimes disagree (plenty of useful subjective questions) surely that's what voting's for. Tagging is more like a beginning-moderator action - I don't think it should be used for Vote Down++

On the duplicates the vast majority of posts marked duplicate are already closed as duplicates. If the duplicate tag is a queue for moderators to close we (that is those of us that can close) need to remove that tag when we close.

  • You can use Comment to comment an answer. Just to let you know. Voting down doesn't work. People will vote up because they do a lot more reputation point by answering subjective question than programming question. Sep 29, 2008 at 13:38
  • Example, go see the TOP question in reputation. They are at 90% subjective. Sep 29, 2008 at 13:39
  • But so is the application of the "subjective" tag itself.
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 13:40
  • subjective question are forbidden by SO. That's all. That's in the rule. If people with over 3000 reps can't close it, than people with less than 3000 do what they can do, tagging. Someday maybe some one will close all subjective OR change the FAQ rules. Sep 29, 2008 at 13:46
  • And even if subjective questions WERENT forbidden I think it is in peoples best interest for them to be tagged so. That way they can be easily filtered out.
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 13:54
  • Forbidden? That's an overstatement, IMHO. There will always be some subjective and some meta discussion. Some subjective stuff is really useful, and shouldn't be closed out of hand. I would argue that it is rarely a simple issue.
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:00
  • By all means "Java vs C#" is subjective and argumentative - but this tag is being applied to every open question - "subjective" is now one of the top tags.
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:01
  • There are definately questions that are a lot less open-ended, specific, related to the programming technology they are using that I would consider reasonably "objective". There are also plainly subjective, open-ended questions begging for a discussion and opinion. Those are fine but should be tag
    – mmcdole
    Sep 29, 2008 at 14:17
  • Why are hidden features subjective? Surely any real hidden feature is common across all perceptions and therefore, by definition, objective. Subjective means that the answer is a matter of opinion, but it does seem to get added to any open question.
    – Keith
    Sep 29, 2008 at 15:32

There's a balance here - on the one side you have the need to tidy up others' posts, and on the other there is the courtesy to them of not changing their posts unnecessarily.

Personally I always want to know the reasons for the change - I often comment with my reasons for an up or down vote.

With moderating lots of us can change tags - I think it's important (enough for an aberrant meta-question, anyway) that we agree. Too many times you see 6 or 7 edits to a posts basically adding and removing the same tags - I don't think that helps.

I think part of the problem is that on the whole use of the subjective tag is, in itself, subjective. If we disagree then how do we resolve it? Go back and forth editing the post?

I don't think every open question should be flagged as subjective. Argumentative posts should just be closed - leaving a fine line where the tag is actually useful.

For "meta" I don't get it - surely all "stackoverflow" tags are "meta" and vice versa - why do we have two tags?

For "off-topic" surely the correct response is no tags at all? I mean if it really is off-topic then no programming tag makes any sense, and tagless posts disappear quickly.

I'm really with Sklivvz on the comments - particularly for not-a-question, as those posts are really often beginner posts needing help.

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