Considering the following two questions, as examples:

The OPs ask for possible techniques to match similar strings in SQL. In both cases, the majority of the answers seem to suggest Levenshtein Distance or Soundex functions to tackle this problem.

My question is, should we tag these two questions with the [levenshtein-distance] and [soundex] tags, even though the OPs were probably not aware of these two methods?

I think there are some obvious advantages in doing that, because it makes it very easy for someone who is aware of the methods to search for the [mysql]+[levenshtein-distance] tags, for example. It also makes it much easier to find duplicates when similar questions are asked.

However, there are a few reasons why I am not sure about this:

  • It may imply that the OP was already aware of these solutions, and this may alter the context of the question. For example, answers like these may look out of point, even though that answer was probably very helpful to the OP.

  • It could also make the context of the question appear to be focused on the newly tagged categories, while in reality, the OP would have been open to any possible solution. This could deter someone from suggesting an alternative, possibly better, solution.

  • What if there were 5+ suggested solutions to tackle the "similar strings" problem, apart from Levenshtein and Soundex? Where do you stop adding tags?


A more subtle example of this "retagging behaviour" happens in the [polymorphic-associations] tag on Stack Overflow. There are currently 95 questions with this tag, and I think the vast majority of them were not tagged like this by the OPs. In fact, many questions have answers that say something like "What you're doing is called Polymorphic Associations" (example). This looks like a valid categorization method and has its benefits, but does it alter the context of the question, since the OPs knew nothing about polymorphic associations before asking the question?


Started a bounty to attract any other possible opinions. Should we accept @Ladybug's or @Lance's stance on this issue? Or can you think of some balanced compromise between the two views?

  • 2
    See also meta.stackexchange.com/questions/22082/… Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 12:37
  • There are at least 5. There are soundex variants, metaphone and double metaphone and bunch of academic algorithms
    – waffles
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 12:39
  • I would possibly tag this phonetic-algorithm of course hamming distance is not phonetic so it's a bit too narrow
    – waffles
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 12:40
  • 1
  • @closers: Thanks for pointing out dupes. I promise that I searched but didn't find any... However, I updated the question with an example where this behaviour is already happening, and I think it would be interesting to see what the community thinks about it, and how we should proceed. Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 13:33
  • 2
    Your given example of "what you're doing is called" is the kind of scenario I think is highly appropriate. That case is where the question is in fact about polymorphic associations, and the author's lack of knowing the term is irrelevant to proper tagging.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 13:33
  • @Grace: Yes, good point, and I agree. However, do you think that the concerns that @Ladybug outlined in the answer below may still apply? In particular "answers mention solutions that are already visible in the tags". Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 13:37
  • 3
    There's two separate situations where "What you're doing is called X" comes up - as the solution or as an accessory point-out. The former is when someone's asking for what something is called or how to best approach a problem that X happens to handle well, that's where Ladybug's answer applies. The latter is when someone is asking about some component of X yet doesn't know what it is called. The latter is where it is appropriate because the terminology is accessory to the author, yet the tag is very useful in getting the people who will be able to provide strong answers.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 2, 2010 at 13:43

3 Answers 3


You shouldn't do that, because of the context change you have mentioned. We are tagging questions, not answers.

New users would be puzzled about the answers, when they haven't checked the question history before. Maybe they also would downvote some of the answers, because they mention solutions, which are already visible in the tags.

  • This answer appears to reflect what the majority of the community thinks on this issue. I totally understand the problems mentioned here, which is in fact what prompted me to ask the question. Commented Aug 11, 2010 at 13:04

While it might be somewhat puzzling to new users, it's important to tag things the way you describe so that they will be found in searches. The only other option is to edit it into the title, and I think that's worse.

While the one term might be found in the answer, it won't help for searches on multiple terms.


Absolutely - if it led the OP to select an answer. Create tags, if and as needed, from that answer. As you said, the OP may not have been aware of the solution/technology/method/etc. and the retagging provides benefits for future users who search by tag.

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