Like I wrote in chat, I think that some of the tag excerpts on this site could use some work, especially with regard to usage guidance. The purpose of tag excerpts and guidelines for writing them are outlined in the help center, but especially points 2. and 4. are the ones where I think we could do better:

  1. Avoid generically defining the concept behind a tag, unless it is highly specialized. The “email” tag, for example, does not need to explain what email is. I think we can safely assume most internet users know what email is; there’s no value in a boilerplate explanation of email to anyone.

This is what many tags seem to do. If the tag name is an acronym it is useful to spell it out, of course, and most of the tags are a lot more specialized than "email", but often the limited space would be better used otherwise.

  1. Provide basic guidance on when to use the tag. In other words, what kinds of questions should have this tag? Tags only exist as ways of organizing questions, so if we don’t provide proper guidance on which questions need this tag, they won’t get tagged at all, rendering the tag excerpt moot. Think of it as a sales pitch: in a room full of tags screaming “pick me!”, what would convince a question asker to select your tag?

This is the key thing that's lacking. For example, the tag does not tell you when you should tag your question with it. This seems important especially as a rather large class of such questions is off-topic.

  1. Do you feel this is important or is it a minor issue?

  2. Is a concentrated effort needed or is it just a few random tags that need work?

  3. How to go about it?


1 Answer 1


Do you feel this is important or is it a minor issue?

I'm thinking that this issue isn't unimportant, after all the help center is right with the fact, that tags should be used to organize questions. However most tag descriptions given you an idea of what the tag is about, for example :

Salt is unique (usually random) data passed into a hash function for password storage to avoid the possible usage of rainbow tables or similar attacks. Salt will not help against dictionary or brute force attacks, as the salt is usually stored together with the hash.

So while the situation isn't optimal, it also certainly isn't "set everything on fire and panic" like bad.

Is a concentrated effort needed or is it just a few random tags that need work?

I think this is a trend over all tags we have. Really few give actual advice (i.e. use something like "use this tag to identify questions about ...") on when to use the tag, but rather give you a rough (and very short) definition of the concept behind the tag.

So, yes, I think a concentrated effort would solve this problem best.

How to go about it?

My proposal would be to make a post on meta, create (up to) 26 community wiki answers (and link to the from the questin) and document all fixed tags in the answers (linked alphabetically). The opening post could also serve to explain how to make a tag wiki excerpt describe how to use the tag.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure alphabetical categorization is useful. Much more important that the top ~100 tags have decent guidance than the bottom 100 with 1-2 questions tagged. $\endgroup$
    – otus
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @otus, I'm not saying we should run through all tags from A-Z, but rather keep track of the ones we already fixed alphabetically. So we can indeed fix #1 first, then #2 and list the fixed ones alphabetically so we don't miss any. $\endgroup$
    – SEJPM
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 15:38

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