In a comment to a retagging discussion, Henning brought up an interesting idea.


There are certain "keywords" which, unfortunately, are heavily overloaded in mathematics, and have completely different meanings in different sub-disciplines. The particular one under discussion was "recurrence". Other ones include "normal" and "distribution". In some cases we can qualify the terms (such as our and ) and sometimes we avoid them altogether (we don't use "tangent distributions" on this site [yet!] preferring to absorb those under the tags and ).


It would be nice to have "pseudo-tags" which cannot be applied to questions as real tags, but contains a tag-wiki which points the users to the correct tags to use. An example for a (distributions) pseudo-tag would read

Distributions has multiple meaning in mathematics. If you are asking in the context of probability theory, use (probability-distributions) instead. If you are asking in the context of generalised functions, use (distribution-theory). If you are asking about a bundle of subspaces of the (co)tangent bundle, just (differential-geometry) instead.

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    $\begingroup$ ... like the algebra tag? $\endgroup$
    – Isaac
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Isaac: ah yes. What a good example that somehow slipped my mind! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ Here is how tag excerpt for algebra looked like before we get rid of the tag. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ I have a vague recollection that tag wikis could (or perhaps should) contain this kind of guidelines for using a tag. Complete with disambiguation lists such as the one highlighted in your post. Admittedly this has the drawback that we would need to copy the disambiguation list to all the involved tag wikis. So, a nice idea, but have we exhausted the possibilities provided by the current SW? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Jyrki: "have we exhausted the possibilities provided by the current SW?" The best idea I can personally come up with is in my reply to Henning in the linked thread, where I suggested making "recursion" a synonym to its most common use, "recurrence relations", and put a tag wiki there and rely on users' vigilance in retagging inappropriatedly tagged questions. If you have other ideas please do post them as answers! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 7:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie: I just think that the tag wikis are underdeveloped (to put it kindly), and we should first try to fill out more of them. The more common tags such as homework, calculus etc do offer guidelines for its use in the tag wiki proper, but that seems to be the exception rather than the norm. Most tag wikis are empty and have excerpts only. I guess I should write one for the two tags that are near and dear to my heart now that I have seen a year's worth of misunderstanings. So I'll be responsible for finite fields- and coding theory-wikis, covering a whopping 0.4% of the questions ;-) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 8:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Jyrki: you are preaching to the choir here. :) But since the excerpts are what the users see when they mouse over, it is more important that they get filled first, and include disambiguation information. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 8:03
  • $\begingroup$ And I am very sad that despite 7 upvotes, nobody has shown (characters) any love. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 8:06
  • $\begingroup$ @WillieWong Do you think that posting the same feature request at meta.SO would increase chances of implementing it? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin: -shrug-. It may lead to more views and more votes. I don't know whether that has any correlation with chances of being implemented, not having done any sort of statistical analysis about it. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ This is an abuse of the tag system, if you don't want the tag, then edit it out of all of the questions that have it. Tag wikis are not signposts. Also, if a tag generally cannot stand on its own because it needs further disambiguating, then it shouldn't be a tag. $\endgroup$
    – casperOne
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ Now I stumbled upon this feature request on Meta Stack Exchange: A real solution to ambiguous tags. It seems to be similar to this. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 6:06

2 Answers 2


Until the feature-request gets implemented (or, in a worse case, refused), possible workaround would be this:

  • Create a tag in the usual way, by tagging a few questions. (Preferably some questions that were closed.)
  • State explicitly in the comment to these questions that this tag is not to be used and a few questions were tagged by the tag specifically to keep the tag-excerpt and tag-wiki in the system.
  • Create a tag-excerpt which would in capitals (to shout this out for potential askers) state that this tag should not be used and what tags are suggested instead.

This is basically the same thing I've suggested for tag here.

  • $\begingroup$ Why create the tag at all? Why not just get it off the questions and be done with it? $\endgroup$
    – casperOne
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ @casperOne That's what we have done with algebra, and it was created again several times since then. See, e.g., here. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ You seem to have a meta post on blacklisting algebra which is the first step in getting it blacklisted. You should bring this to SE's attention and ask them to add it to your tag blacklist. This is the general way to handle tags that you have removed repeatedly but do not want on your site. I say that it's up to your mods (or I can do it, but this isn't my site) to bring it to the attention of SE, site the meta post, and ask that tag be blacklisted, as you've shown that it generally repeats itself despite your efforts. $\endgroup$
    – casperOne
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ @casperOne Yes, I've posted the question about the possibility of blacklisting to see what the MSE community thinks about this solution of problems with the tags. I suppose that if the suggestion to blacklist the tag will have enough support, MSE mods will do necessary actions. (I personally do not have experience with blacklisting tags so far, but I guess moderators might be more knowledgeable.) Anyway, the post about blacklisting is 1 day old, I suppose some time should be left for discussion - if some users disagree with the suggestion, they should have enough time to voice their arguments. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ Which is why I believe that this post (the discussion of having pseudo tags) is not a good use for the tags or their wikis (FYI, I'm a moderator on Stack Overflow, who coordinated the cleanup of a good number of tags, as well as the blacklisting of some). The tag and the wiki would just be noise, and it certainly doesn't stop people from actually using the tag. $\endgroup$
    – casperOne
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ You wrote: it certainly doesn't stop people from actually using the tag. I agree, this is certainly true for my suggestion. But the original feature request posted by Willie proposed the pseudo-tags which cannot be applied to questions as real tags. Anyway, thanks for your comments and for explaining that you do not consider this to be a good idea. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ I've elaborated fully. $\endgroup$
    – casperOne
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 15:21

This is really a response to Martin's answer (which can't be fit in a comment) regarding using the existing tag system to implement this.

I believe this is a very, very bad idea.

First, placing all-caps text in the tag wikis doesn't actually stop the tag from being used. During The great Stack Overflow tag/question cleanup of 2012 (10K users on SO, and I'm the moderator who coordinated that), we placed a disclaimer in the tag wikis of all the tags that were to be cleaned up and not used anymore during the cleanup:

DO NOT USE - Removed as part of "The great Stack Overflow tag/question cleanup of 2012" - See link in Tag Wiki for more information.

And the following was placed in the top of every extended description in the wiki:

DO NOT USE - Removed as part of https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/128315/the-great-stack-overflow-tag-question-cleanup-of-2012.


The reason this was done was because we wanted to stem the use of these tags as they were being removed, not to serve as permanent guideposts for what not to do.

During that time while somewhat effective, the notice at the top didn't keep the tag from being used; we still had questions being tagged with those tags (many have been cleaned up since then).

Even now, on Stack Overflow, with the homework tag officially depreciated, up until recently we were getting a few questions a day, despite it being tagged with featured on meta as well as placed in the community bulletin.

That said, I suggest that if you're going to change the tag wiki, then it should be changed to reflect the fact that it should not be used during an active tag cleanup and not to disambiguate something, as the excerpts don't serve as enough of a deterrent when tagging a question.

Once the tag is cleaned up, if you can show that it's persistent in coming back and the community believes that it's not a good tag for the site (as you are showing with the algebra tag) then you should have your moderators ask Stack Exchange to blacklist the tag on your site (it's a manual operation and used as a final approach to stem the use of tags).


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