After that we have established that the is okay and fine, comes the question should be allow it to be "standalone"?

I think not, I think that we cannot allow questions to be labeled just as without at least some other indication about the topic of the question.

I agree that sometimes users don't know exactly which tags fit their questions, (e.g. using when just wanting some help about a number-theoretic puzzle or so). In the case of it is virtually impossible not to know how to tag your question: start by the course's topic, it's usually straight forward and gives some information.

Is it even possible to have that? (somewhat like the meta doesn't allow posting without one of the mandatory tags, only backwards)


Going through the last month's question under I found ten questions whose only tag is the aforementioned tag: one was migrated and then deleted; one was closed as a duplicated; The rest fit into different possibly tags:

  1. solving quadratic equations by completing the square
  2. How do I show that there exists a real number that equals its cube plus its square plus 1?
  3. Torsion or Non-Torsion subgroup of $H_i$ do not define a homology theory.
  4. Order of precedence: in $ab^{c}$, which operation goes first?
  5. recurrence relation on bank interest
  6. Finitely generated field extensions
  7. Problems with euclidean GCD
  8. Understanding difference equation
  • $\begingroup$ n.b. I retagged 1, 4, 5, and 7, and Willie Wong retagged 8. $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 1 '11 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Isaac: I retagged 6. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 1 '11 at 20:59

First, how often does this actually happen? How many questions start life tagged just and nothing else? Is this a real problem?

It is true that is basically a meta-tag, and thus cannot stand alone as the only tag on a question by definition.


If you disallow the tag entirely, the asker would be forced to choose another tag -- since questions cannot by definition have zero tags. It seems like this has been ruled out. (I don't disagree, I am just discussing the alternative.)

There is no provision in the engine for forcing another tag when a certain tag is selected, and I think this would end up being a crutch to allow meta-tags anyway (or worse, a stealth way of implementing pseudo-hierarchies in tags), so I would be against it.

Probably the best you can do here is to be diligent about retagging questions with only the tag and perhaps gently remind askers in the comments to add another tag if they used alone.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Is there a way to find those questions which are only tagged under [homework] at the moment? (I know you can search for those with [homework] in general, but what about only that tag?) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 30 '11 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Asaf: +1, and even more interestingly, is there a way to find those which initially carried the (homework) tag only (see Jeff's first paragraph)? $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Vogt Apr 30 '11 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ @asaf not without SQL magic; it will be easier to watch for this moving forward, but in general users tend to over tag not under tag. At least in my experience. Early betas of Stack Overflow had unlimited tags and that .. did not end well. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Apr 30 '11 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ Very well, when is the next SQL dump? :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 30 '11 at 10:23
  • $\begingroup$ Since I am not very inclined to learn how to use SQL, could you write some query for pulling out all the [homework]- only tagged on data.SE? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 16 '11 at 21:50

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