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Today someone proposed lots of tag wiki excerpts edits that all followed the form:

Questions about <tag-name>, <description of object>.

Why do we need the Questions about element?
We don't, it consumes the limited excerpt space and adds nothing.

On closer inspection of the tag list it seems several other tag wikis also contain meta-data not directly related to the tag, or unnecessary bits like this.

For example, (until Sathya edited it) the highest tag on our network, , had the excerpt:

Questions and answers asked of Windows Vista often also work and apply to Windows 7 and vice versa

This tells us nothing about Windows 7 except that it's similar to Vista (and with Vista as the main bit of sentence, not 7). And why do we need to know the tag contains questions and answers when that's the point?

Lets have a look at :

Questions about email software and email software configuration. Questions about webmail are off-topic.

Again, tells us pretty much nothing about email, but also contains irrelevant meta instructions about off-topic nature of webmail.

Moving to the second page of tags, jumped out at me:

All about the Vim editor.

Now, this might not look so bad, but is basically the same as "Questions and answers about the vim editor". It tells us almost nothing except Vim is an editor (of what?). If the excerpt was the first sentence of the body it would be much better (note: I've now edited it to this):

And one more that I've just spotted is :

Security -- as in Computer related Security.

Body:

On Superuser, the 'security' tag is in the context of Computer Security.
'Computer Security' is a very broad term and at Superuser, the tag is usually used to mark questions related to security of and from computer software.
We usually do not find questions related to physical security of computers at Superuser.

Painfully meta, with basically no useful info on the topic at all!


Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of very good tag wiki's, and I'm sure they form the majority, but there are a few like this that a quick glance at the first page or two of tags turn up.

I believe that there is no place for meta-data in tag wikis, nor should the very space-limited excerpts contain any irrelevant filler text that states the obvious.

What does everyone else think?
And if there's some agreement can we please all start getting some of these tidied up!

8

Lets have a look at

Questions about email software and email software configuration. Questions about webmail are off-topic.

Again, tells us pretty much nothing about email, but also contains irrelevant meta instructions about off-topic nature of webmail.

The premise of this question is not just wrong but DANGEROUSLY wrong and DIRECTLY contradicts advice on the blog:

http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/03/redesigned-tags-page/

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.

The other four guidelines there, which are all important and should be taken to heart:

  1. The excerpt is the elevator pitch for the tag.

    Meaning "convince me this is the right tag for my question", not "explain to me what email means". If you have a question about email and you need someone to explain to you what email is, God help you.

  2. Avoid generically defining the concept behind a tag, unless it is highly specialized.

  3. Concentrate on what a tag means to your community.

    For “email” on Super User, mention desktop email clients and explicitly exclude webmail, as that would be more appropriate for webapps.stackexchange.com.

  4. 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.

The idea that the tag wiki should explain what email is (or that the tag should explain what excel is), is completely incorrect. In the case when the topic is obscure by the standards of the particular site then it might be OK to explain what it is, but for things like Excel and Email on Super User -- there's no way these need to be explained beyond the very briefest three word descriptions.

  • 1
    Rightly so. If we wanted to be a dictionary, we'd just pack up our bags and reroute links from Wiktionary. – random Jun 26 '11 at 21:29
  • Somehow I don't recall the blog post... Hmm, anyway, this was posted a while back and I'm not sure I really agree with my original post any more. I wonder if the line between what the excerpt and body should contain needs further clarification, several bodies for tags I've picked at random break guideline 2 and I'd have a hard time matching them to 3 and 4 in some cases as well, but the bodies are less critical really as I imagine they get less visitors. – DMA57361 Jun 27 '11 at 7:34
  • @dma a few brief words of definition is fine, as in for Excel: "the Excel spreadsheet application from Microsoft." Beyond that, give us guidance on how to use the tag and what it means to the super user community. – Jeff Atwood Jun 27 '11 at 8:07
  • fair enough. If we take the Excel tag wiki as an example, do you consider that to contain too much information about what Excel is and does, and not enough about what we should be using it for? I'm thinking the first paragraph and the line RE other tags are fine, but the rest isn't what we're looking for? And on that note should we have info in there regarding use of more tags that are related - such as the various excel version tags (excel-2010 etc)? – DMA57361 Jun 27 '11 at 8:16
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For tags such as and then yes, the nature of the questions should be put in the excerpt. It's the chunk at the top of the page when users go looking over the questioned tagged as such.

Between what the tag is about and what the tag should be used for in terms of use on Super User, would go for the latter any day.

The body of the tag is where you can go into detail about the product details related to that tag.

Tag wiki excerpts aren't meant to be dictionary grabs. They're supposed to quickly guide new users and old of the correct use, maybe with a heads up along the way with regards to the site they're being plied on.

Check out the tag for a good example on the nuance:

Any and all questions that relate to the actual hardware of Macintosh, a brand of computers created and sold by Apple Inc.. Not to be confused with MAC address.

  • 1
    Using them for disambiguation (Mac computers vs MAC addresses) is a good use, but still the "Any and all questions that relate to..." is basically noise, why not go with something like Mac is short for "Macintosh", a brand of computers created and sold by Apple Inc.. Not to be confused with MAC addresses. - same info (with the direct Mac->Macintosh link), and no noise. – DMA57361 Apr 6 '11 at 19:18
  • Agreed, the part on the tags page that is automatically removed is a good indicator of what not to include on the excerpts @dma – random Apr 6 '11 at 19:22
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If you write are or is in the first 40 characters of an excerpt, the part before, and including, are or is is removed when showing the excerpt. That is the reason why most excerpt starts with "questions about," "topics related to," or something similar.

This answer reports the regular expressions used to truncate the excerpt; in short, you cannot start an excerpt with, for example, "this tag," "this tag is," "this tag is used to," the [foo] tag," "the tag [foo]," "blah blah is," or "blah blah are" (replace "blah blah" with any phrase that uses less than 37 characters).

2

The purpose of the Tag Wiki is two-fold:

  • So Users will know what a Tag is for
  • So Users will know how to use a Tag

A Tag Wiki is Meta information. We should not try to sanitize them to just be wikis about the subject, they are wikis about the Tag which is a Meta object in and of itself.

Here's the official blog post on the subject, a relevant portion is:

Here’s a few words of advice on writing tag wiki excerpts:

  1. The excerpt is the elevator pitch for the tag
  2. Avoid generically defining the concept behind a tag, unless it is highly specialized.
  3. Concentrate on what a tag means to your community.
  4. Provide basic guidance on when to use the tag.

The most important reason to have tag usage info in the excerpt, it that the first three lines of the excerpt shows up in the Tag tooltip. This will give useful information to new users of the tag on when to use it.

  • That sounds painfully meta. They are not meta objects, but they are tags. So, tag wikis are content about the object which the tag is referring to. Take for example an Excel tag, the tag wiki should thus be content about Excel and thus not contain instructions about tags that will not be read anyway. Tag Wikis don't suddenly elevate to being Meta just because a Tag is something Meta, or in programmer's term: A pointer to an object... – Tamara Wijsman Jun 26 '11 at 1:52
  • To further outline an 4g example, does "This tag contains questions about 4g." help you further? No. Does "Questions about 3g be tagged 3g." help you further? No. Will I read that "Questions about 3g be tagged 3g." when I'm asking a new question? No. Will I consult all tags that I use in advance? No. So, where are the tag page lists really used for? To serve as a wikis to learn what the tags are about, not for useless trivial meta information that nobody will ever read when they use it... – Tamara Wijsman Jun 26 '11 at 13:02

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