I'm working on tag synonym support at the moment, the admin end is fairly straight forward, but the user experience is kind of misty for me.

So lets say for example we have a synonym in place for: "sqlserver" -> "sql-server"

When a user attempts to tag a question "sqlserver" should we?

  1. Rename the tag in the background, not display anything to the user.
  2. Disallow the save, suggest sql-server as an allowed tag and explain that sqlserver is not.
  3. Something else.


  • 2
    we are asking the wrong question here, and thus will get lots of bad answers. The correct question is, "what should the MODERATOR user experience be?" Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 5:38
  • 5
    @Jeff: That is a truly ridiculous statement. If everyone in the system had the same level of skill as a moderator, there would be no need to have a tag synonym system at all.
    – Jon Seigel
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 10:40
  • Here's a leading question: should things like http://noodles.com/questions/tagged/some-tag check whether some-tag has a synonym? Maybe not hijack the request (since there may be old data, and it may be confusing), but at least mention it on the page? "did you mean [some-other-tag]?" Commented Jul 18, 2010 at 10:10

7 Answers 7


My vote is for Option 1 - better for the end user, less intrusive, and just nicer

Option 2 will involve floods of "WHY CAN'T I FLAG MY QUESTION A SQLSERVER ARE THOSE QUESTIONS NOT ALLOWED HERE? I WANT MY MONIES BACK" becuase they didn't read it properly.

  • 3
    Then you'll just get questions about why the tag they chose to spell a certain way was changed without their knowledge.
    – random
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:04
  • 1
    I dunno, I don't think most people verify their tags after they've entered them. Small changes like sqlserver to sql-server they may not even notice if they DO re-scan their question. Synonyms that are drastically different in length/description may be different though... Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:06
  • Addendum: Do we know who are the people who are making crappy tags? Are they hit-and-run users? If they are, then that would negate the impact even further. Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:17
  • Unlikely, you need quite a bit of rep before you can create new tags
    – waffles
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:18
  • 1
    +1, I'm all for automatically fixing the tags.
    – sth
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:21
  • This is the initial implementation, if we have issues we can revisit this with a more complex solution
    – waffles
    Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 5:59

Based on part of my full tag synonym proposal here.

I think it makes more sense to let the user audit tags that get automatically replaced.

While we don't want the system to be super-intrusive, it's possible that some of the automatic replacements could end up putting the totally wrong tag on a question, which is something we absolutely don't want to have happen. For this reason, I would be really hesitant to not let the user audit the replacements before posting. It's similar to the situation where you put in a 50-character new tag and it gets auto-truncated (ugh).

A brief warning message would suffice. Something like: "Warning: [sqlserver] was replaced by [sql-server]. Please make sure this is correct before submitting your question." Obviously there would be similar text for each tag replacement (if there was more than one that got replaced).

Note: there are other outstanding bugs which need to be addressed at the same time this solution is implemented, so users don't get really annoyed at the system.


Option 3: combine 1 and 2. Just change it and inform the user about it when the tag was entered and/or after submitting the question.

  • Where? After they post a question we go to the question view page, the only informational space we have is the system message notification area, but that is way too loud
    – waffles
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:08
  • 2
    Why not when the user finishes typing the tag, and then have a box above or to the side informing the user of the change?
    – TheLQ
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:32
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    @Lord "Im trying to type in sqlserver, and the editor keeps on changing it on me, would end up swamping us on meta" In general mucking around with text an a text field against a user's wishes will usually end in tears.
    – waffles
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:38
  • @waffles: If [sqlserver] is submitted and [sql-server] ends up on the question automatically, we're still going to be asked why that happened and why there wasn't any warning.
    – Jon Seigel
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:55
  • @waffles "The tag [sqlserver] has been changed to [sql-server] because the tags are about the same topic." If a user complains about that, then we just mark duplicate of a to be written FAQ question and close.
    – TheLQ
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 4:32

Can you just leave things tagged [sql-server] and [sqlserver]? (no change to that system)

But, make it so that searches, tag badges, tag clicks, and whatever other tag actions include all synonyms in the system. That way people can use the tags the way they like, and the system just compensates for different styles of different people.

For example, I do a search for "SELECT [sqlserver]" and the system would internally interpret it as "SELECT [sqlserver] or [all] or [of] or [the] or [synonyms]"

Because of the fairly high rep required to create new tags, the synonym list wont skyrocket out of proportion, and the 2 - 3 most common synonyms will exist on the site.

  • 1
    I have no idea what the back end is like, but I strongly suspect it would be easier to "merge" tags together than to mess with all the searching and sorting events and inputs.
    – Jon Seigel
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:53
  • 1
    @Jon you are probably right. But I'm just suggestion what I would prefer, not what I think would be easiest.
    – jjnguy
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 3:58

I propose a MSWord "spell-check" type feature, in which a tag synonym is replaced as soon as the user hits space.

If stopping the action is allowed, then under the tag text box, a line is added saying "[old-tag] was replaced with [new-tag]. Undo?" They can then click Undo if they felt the change was unnecessary.

I suppose the problem is that tag synonyms need to be enforced, and that a list of tag synonyms are guaranteed to be related to one another, in which case, ignore the "Undo" feature and just change it for the user in the spell-check manner.

(That's just my vision)

  • We detected an invalid link in your post, please correct it. (this message will be automatically removed when the link is fixed)
    – Community Bot
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 5:24

Not everyone cares how the tags on their questions end up compared to what they wrote, but everyone cares how the search ends up compared to what they typed. It will be really helpful to include a notice, underneath the listing of your tag search parameters, that tells that tags were replaced. Emphasize that the other tag will have been empty, this way people understand that if they weren't swapped the search would've been worthless.


Make the change in the tag editor, but let's add a panel to the right of the tags editor that can contain information about the changed tag, as well as a link to the "tag FAQ page" for the tag. Even some blurb like,

"sql" refers to one of several flavors of the SQL query language, not to the SQL Server product from Microsoft. If you meant to refer to the Microsoft product, then please use sql-server or one of the version-specific tags like sql-server-2008. If your question relates specifically to a different database product, then please use a product-specific tag like oracle or db2.

Oh, and BTW, there are some people who don't understand what "single-word" means. Please explain it to them.

  • Although, I have to say I hate the lone sql tag. 99.99999% of questions about sql relate to doing something in a specific database product(s) which changes the complexion of the answer. I really wish that some tags had hints to add additional product specific tags like the sql tag.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 14:08
  • @Thomas: edited. Commented Jul 14, 2010 at 19:23

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