I like browsing the recently created tags to clean up the ones that shouldn't exist.

Just now I noticed that that the tag was created approximately 5 hours ago for this question.

Hovering for more info, I noticed this: enter image description here

Apparently this silly tag has managed to accrue 22 followers! How could this be? I could only come up with the following possible explanations.

  • An unusual number of people started following this tag within 5 hours. I really hope this is not the case, and I'll consider it unlikely.

  • It's some sort of bug. This too seems unlikely.

  • This tag was created some time ago, got some followers, and then was burninated in some fashion. When it was recreated a few hours ago, any previous followers were automatically made followers again. This feels very StackExchangey, since my understanding is that deleted questions are not really deleted, merely hidden; it's reasonable that this would happen to tags as well.

I feel like I have seen other recently created tags, once or twice, with an unusually large number of followers. Can anyone shed any light on this?

Ironically I'm unsure about what tags, besides tagging, would be appropriate for this question.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I deleted the tag to keep it from cropping up again in the future since it's a stupid tag. It does smack of gaming the system, though. $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2015 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ @CameronWilliams I was going to remove then decided to keep it around for my question. That takes care of that then! :) I didn't really think of it as gaming the system, just dumb luck (given that I think number 3 is the likely explanation, and the OP probably had no idea "real" was a previously existent tag). $\endgroup$
    – pjs36
    Sep 29, 2015 at 4:19
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1 Already for the first sentence of your post. (Not that the rest is not interesting, but I just want to stress that it is good that we have users that care about correct tagging.) $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2015 at 5:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The last bullet seems like a good guess (I am not sure I consider it as optimal though). As additional evidence IIRC tagwikis of deleted tags stay in the system. If not definite info emerges, we can try to recreate it once it has been actually deleted (atm it is just not used) and see if the followers reapper. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Sep 29, 2015 at 12:25

1 Answer 1


The tag got deleted, and I now just recreated it (only to remove it again). It instantly had again the 22 followers. It appears that the guess that followers are preserved was spot on.

This is by-design, see False 'followers' in the tag popup? as it is even possible to follow tags that never existed, due to the way things are implemented: one can type into the line to follow a tag basically whatever one wants (not only existing tags) and in this vein this information is also not altered by removal of existing tags.

Thanks to Andrew T. for the link to MSE.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Nice sleuthing, quid! The more you know... $\endgroup$
    – pjs36
    Sep 30, 2015 at 16:14
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Yup, even though it's not declared as status-bydesign, it's also observed on other sites (e.g. SO). Even this case can happen too (or perhaps that's the authoritive answer). $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Oct 1, 2015 at 1:47
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. that's very interesting I will update my answer. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Oct 1, 2015 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ It is good sleuthing; but it makes me wonder about their motivation! $\endgroup$ Oct 3, 2015 at 9:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MoziburUllah from the linked to question an argument for the possibilty to follows tags that never existed "Imagine e.g. that you have created a new library and if someone starts using Stack Overflow to ask questions about your library, that would surely be a favorite for you." Replacing "library" by "mathematical structure" it would make some sense here too. Another aspect might just be the way things are implemented; it might just be easier to admit everything as favorite then to have the checks in place to prevent it, and the necessity to delete it from user prefs upon deletion of tag. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Oct 3, 2015 at 10:08

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