This question uses the tag as an example, but it applies to any acronym tag that doesn't have a universal and common usage (like, say, pdf).

is a new tag. I drafted a wiki and excerpt for it based on the usage so far (which refers to Android Debug Bridge). ADB already has multiple computer-related uses (as DavidPostill points out in a comment, also Advanced Debugger, and user2943160 mentions Apple Desktop Bus), so an acronym tag is just asking for misuse.

Based on adb already referring to multiple things, the logical approach is to have spelled-out tags for each use and an adb tag that advises users to pick the appropriate one.

  • I could create a new tag, move the wiki contents to it, and retag the couple of existing questions.
  • We don't yet have any questions about Advanced Debugger, so we can't create a tag for that. Apple Desktop Bus hasn't been in use for awhile, so we may not get new questions for that particular use at this point.
  • Rather than synonomizing with a specific use, it should be turned into a "do not use" tag that guides readers to the appropriate choices. Right now, there's only one choice, so this would imply editing the wiki excerpt as other adb-related tags are created.
  • As Ben N points out in his answer, more users think in terms of "adb" than "Android Debug Bridge", so simply deleting the adb tag may complicate tagging for users.
  • I'm not aware of a way to link a tag to more than one other tag to preserve it, and I don't think synonomizing allows you to have a different wiki. It would also automatically link new question with the synonomized tag, which might be the wrong one.

What's the best general solution for acronym tags, especially when they are known, or likely, to refer to multiple things?

  • One thought: incorporate the acronym into the spelled-out tag. I don't know the limits on tag text (max characters, number of hyphenated terms, acceptable non-letter characters other than hyphen and I think period).

    If each spelled out tag includes "adb", something like: , they could potentially show up for selection when the user enters adb. That isn't guaranteed, though. A maximum of 6 candidate tags are displayed when the user starts typing a tag, and I believe the displayed subset is based on popularity. There are currently 6 in addition to that contain that letter combination.

  • Other ideas?

  • 2
    adb is also a Unix debugger en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Debugger
    – DavidPostill Mod
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 19:36
  • 1
    And en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Desktop_Bus . Confused me plenty when I started doing things with android. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 2:08
  • Many questions regarding the Android Debug Bridge (adb) probably belong on the Android SE. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 19:40
  • @RockPaperLizard, this is totally outside my area. I got the impression that adb was PC-based software. But even then, might most questions about it be better on SO (point being that most questions might belong somewhere other than SU, whatever that site is)?
    – fixer1234
    Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 19:53
  • Correct, Android Debug Bridge (adb) is typically used on a PC, although it is exclusively used to interact with Android devices. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 19:56

2 Answers 2


A standalone "Do not use" tag for the acronym, that guides users to the spelled out tags, would seem to be the best solution within SE's current features and limitations. The main problem with that is that it needs to be tied to a question (actually two questions, since new tags are deleted by the system if they don't get a second question within six months, I believe it is; I'm not sure whether a question being locked would affect this).

A "thinking outside the box" idea: tie the acronym tag to two placeholder questions. The gist of how it might work:

  • The questions could be community wikis. One could be made a duplicate of the other.
  • We do have single-question tags, so it isn't clear if these pre-date the two question rule, or once a tag has two or more questions, it is not deleted if it later goes down to a single question. If it is the latter, we could eliminate or merge the second question at some point.
  • We would probably want to at least protect these questions to minimize fly-by "answers". They could be locked, but that could require moderator intervention if we want to maintain the question (see below). Even so, this would be an infrequent occurrence.
  • We're approaching 1/3 million questions and there are a limited number of non-unique acronym tags. The number of placeholder questions would be insignificant in the scheme of things and would simply disappear into the woodwork.
  • There are some complex rules for questions being automatically deleted by the system (How does deleting work?). Locking will protect it. Otherwise, various combinations of answers, votes, closure, views, etc. could allow the placeholder questions to be deleted by the system, and we would need to ensure that the questions don't fall into those criteria.
  • Options:

    • Just a placeholder question with the acronym tag. The title could be something like What is ADB?.

      Either the title or the body would include an indicator that it is just a placeholder question (perhaps "[system placeholder question]" in the title so the user can ignore it in search results?).

      The body would explain that it's an internal placeholder, and not to mess with it or try to post answers to it (other than the "system" answers described below).

      It can also include guidance on use of the spelled out tags (what would go in the acronym tag's wiki excerpt, but without the length limitation).

    • Add the spelled out tags. As new tags are added (assuming we don't exceed four different uses), add these to the question. That's one more place to quickly see the available tags. If the question is locked, it would need to be temporarily unlocked to added the tag if this option is used.

    • Add the spelled out tags as answers. Each spelled out tag could be added as an answer. The spelled-out use would be a bold heading in the answer. The answer could contain the wiki for that tag. The presence of answers overcomes one of the automatic deletion criteria. If the question is locked, it would need to be temporarily unlocked to add the answer.

  • That's really clever. I have no objections to this plan, other than the observation that if this kind of thing is unavoidable in addressing a problem, something should probably be changed in the tagging system's design.
    – Ben N
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 23:41

I just did a Google search for adb, and the first results I got that were at all relevant to computers were about the Android Debug Bridge. As DavidPostill notes in the comments, though, there's also a Unix debugger by that name.

Clearly, a tag shouldn't refer to multiple things, and it doesn't seem fair to assign the acronym tag to one of the several possible meanings, so having the acronym around at all seems less than ideal. That said, I'm sure somebody will create the acronym tag again if we remove it, and then we'll have to fix that mess. Therefore, while not ideal at all, creating a synonym to one of the possible meanings would work around that problem. Since the wiki excerpt shows up after a tag is typed but before it's added, users of other meanings should notice that the tag they tried isn't what they're after.

A "do not use" excerpt for the acronym tag would be great if we didn't have to apply it to one question. It would be really neat if we could set excerpts for nonexistent tags, then people would still get the warning when trying to create it. Otherwise, people would surely apply it anyway.

From an aesthetic standpoint, I'm not really a fan of having the acronym bolted on to every spelled-out tag. It looks a little weird to me, and it's inconsistent with how our tags normally look. (Unlike on Math Overflow, where all their math-related tags start with an acronym.) Unfortunately, it seems that having text in the excerpt doesn't have any effect on the tag's placement in the tag suggestions area.

Again, while not the best of all worlds, it looks like synonymizing the acronym to the most common spelled-out tag would be the most expedient option, provided that we wrote a very obvious and concise tag wiki excerpt.

  • 1
    Good point, but that's today. What are the odds that in a year or two, there won't be multiple things that adb is used for? I'm thinking of the recent HAMP question. I had no idea what that was and couldn't even find a reference to it in Google, but it will soon be in common use.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 18:21
  • 1
    I would be surprised if another in-scope technology was ever named something that acronymizes to adb; it's fairly well-known and marketing people usually try to avoid name collisions. I think the HAMP acronym is a different situation: I couldn't find any reference to it (other than that SU question), much less one that is related to computing.
    – Ben N
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 18:31
  • 1
    adb is also a Unix debugger en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Debugger
    – DavidPostill Mod
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 19:33
  • @fixer1234 I updated my answer with new information presented by DavidPostill.
    – Ben N
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 19:35
  • DavidPostill's revelation changes things. I rewrote the question. Not sure what the best (or available) solution is. Suggestions?
    – fixer1234
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 20:11
  • BTW, if adb is part of the tag name, it will show up when the user enters it as long as there aren't too many tags that contain that combination of letters somewhere. I don't think sticking it in the excerpt affects the tag showing up in the results list. Maybe the best solution is to include (adb) (in parentheses if the system accepts that), as part of the tag name (in addition to it being spelled out). Then all tags containing that will get listed and the user can choose.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 20:25
  • @fixer1234 I finally got around to updating my answer in response to the question edit. Sorry for the delay.
    – Ben N
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:09
  • I was thinking you might be right about basically having to just pick the least objectionable alternative. But your answer triggered an idea for a solution.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 19:21

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