TL;DR: and are a complete mess. What should we do about that?

What's the current situation?

Per this question, we've established the following distinction between the "OS X" and "Mac" tags, more than two years ago:

  • Mac OS X is a Unix-based operating system developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc.

  • Questions about Mac hardware, sold by Apple. Use for the operating system, and use for MAC addresses instead.

Now, this works in theory. We get a nice differentiation between Mac hardware and the operating system that runs on it. t But at the same time, we have 4,664 Mac questions and 8,026 OS X questions, with 1,995 questions overlapping. I dare to say that a considerable amount of all "Mac" questions are not related to hardware at all and actually should be tagged "OS X" instead.

But why is that? Here are a couple of possible reasons:

  • Apple popularized the "Mac" label for anything that is "not a PC". Since Macs typically run only with OS X, people referring to Mac actually mean the operating system, not the underlying hardware (MacBooks, iMacs, etc).

  • Some software vendors target the "Mac" platform instead of labeling it "OS X", including Microsoft, who sell "Office for Mac" and not "Office for OS X".

  • The app store for OS X is often called "Mac App Store".

  • People don't read tag wiki excerpts. cough cough

The gist of all that is: We have so many questions tagged with that are not about hardware. Not at all.

But what can we do?

More than two years ago, Ivo Flipse ♦ said:

A distinction between OSX for software and Mac for hardware would be more clear (just one hell of a job ;-) )

That was long before we had so many affected questions – so as a matter of fact: We were never able to keep up with making that distinction clear.

So, what should we do?

  • "Macs typically run only with OS X"... what recent Mac computer doesn't support BootCamp?
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 14:51
  • 3
    "typically" — that's the main point. Your Mac comes with OS X.
    – slhck
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 14:52
  • why not make the tags [apple-hardware] and [osx]?
    – Nick
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 19:44
  • @NRahl "Apple hardware" includes access points, iPhones, iPads, etc. All Apple hardware that can be considered a computer is branded Mac(intosh), and is shipped with OS X.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 15:29
  • We will not remove mac before dell and all the other completely useless company tags are removed. While not much better, given it's the common brand name for all their computers, there's actually some cohesion between Macs through similar functionality and features.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 16:53
  • 1
    We have a similar problem with [terminal], [shell] AFAICT.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 6:01
  • Yeah, that's true, although those are way too broad anyway in my opinion and shouldn't be there if people knew what the difference was or tagged their questions accordingly with the terminal/shells they were using … @dan
    – slhck
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 8:44

2 Answers 2


About half of the questions of the can be supposed to be about (and then I didn't include tags like ), whereas the tag is meant to be about hardware, this evidences that the tag is deadly ambiguous.

When a tag is ambigious the approach is often to get rid of it. So let's suppose that we get rid of and see how we approach it then. When doing this it would leave quite some questions with tags that don't make clear that we are talking about Macintosh.

This approach does however conform to the fact that we don't have a tag either. But it will require us to first make sure that any of the questions that are not about get a more specific tag like , , . This however requires the same amount of effort as Oliver's answer...

It looks though that we can automate a part of it, which are those questions tagged and variants. If we make sure that these simply can get their tag removed then it's just a matter of asking the developers to do something like selectQuestionsThatAreTagged('osx').removeTag('mac') which will cut down the questions we have to go through over time in half.

Renaming the tag from to while we are in the process of giving them more specific tags will at least make sure that no new OS questions roll into that tag.

To summarize the whole thing, here is what I think is a good approach:

  1. Figure out whether we can remove the tag from all questions as well as from variants like , this requires to go through (read them, not edit them) a list of 2000+ questions to check that they are not about hardware, otherwise tag these appropriately (giving them if the tag is to be kept).

  2. Ask a developer to do selectQuestionsThatAreTagged('osx').removeTag('mac') once we are certain that it is safe to disband both tags.

  3. Ask a moderator to merge into such that no new non-hardware questions are added to it.

  4. Over time, we retag every question from in more specific tags like , , , ... to eventually get rid from the tag. This makes it consistent with the fact that we don't have a tag either...

  • 1
    It'd be good to find out whether it's theoretically possible to get a developer to act on a list of question IDs for us and retag automatically. If not, it wouldn't pay off to even collect the list. As for specifically tagging [imac] rather than [mac], I don't know if it's feasible. Renaming [mac] to [mac-hardware] unfortunately seems like the only way to really make it obvious to those who don't read the tag wikis.
    – slhck
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 14:26
  • @slhck: Given the stack they are using and how they are stored in SQL it seems certainly possible. Please note that the [imac] and [mac] are not equivalent... Commented May 7, 2012 at 14:34
  • 1
    I know they are not equivalent. What I meant is: I don't think it's possible to eliminate [mac] or [mac-hardware] altogether just by splitting it up into for example [imac].
    – slhck
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 14:44
  • @slhck: So that means that we'll have to see whether splitting them up would leave us with questions that can't be categorized. We could progress with 1 - 3 and see whether it is possible to correct 4 later on... Commented May 7, 2012 at 14:51
  • 1
    You can boot any Mac into target disk mode. This is a feature exclusive to Macs. How'd you tag related questions if not mac?
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Commented May 7, 2012 at 18:05
  • 2
    @DanielBeck: Perhaps [target-disk-mode]; for computers we also don't provide [pc] alongside [bios], etc... Commented May 7, 2012 at 18:26

There's really only one thing to do. Buckle up, get reviewing and clean it all up before it grows even more out of control.

After the cleanup, to prevent a new mess from generating, rename to (or something better) and completely ban the tag so it becomes obvious what tags should be used.

That's the best solution I could come up with :(

  • Reviewing up to 4700 questions? :/ Commented May 7, 2012 at 13:38
  • 1
    @TomWijsman: Don't get me wrong, I'd love to learn about a less time-intensive solution. I just couldn't figure one out. Commented May 7, 2012 at 13:43
  • 1
    I'm trying to see what we can do; but I don't feel like 4700 questions can be reviewed reasonable, so we rather have to see at how we can automate parts of that given on certain characteristics. Commented May 7, 2012 at 13:46
  • 4700 doesn't seem too bad to me. It's only 94 each for 100 of us ;) I'll be volunteer #1. 99 to go ! Commented May 30, 2012 at 20:39
  • You mean 47 for 100 of us...
    – SSumner
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 21:27
  • 1
    For "something better", how about [macintosh]? I fail to see how you could keep up this distinction; my solution would be to migrate everything to [macintosh] and remove [osx] or leave it as a synonym (or possibly just allow the two to coexist). I dislike having [mac] because it's obviously the right choice for a question about MAC addresses, so it should be removed just because it's heavily ambiguous.
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 9:37

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