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EDIT: After discussion it is clear that trying to restrict the choice of tags is not the right way to guide tag selection. If there is ever considered to be a sufficient need for users to be more specific, it should be encouraged through hints visible to new users when posting. I believe the current system of tag description is flawed, in that if the user enters the tags too rapidly, the description of any tag is only shown until they begin typing the next one. I think the way to remedy this would be to have tag descriptions displayed continuously for each tag entered (for new users at least), or a pause when entering certain tags deemed to be problem causing.


Hopefully this would lack most of the drawbacks of mandatory OS tags, but rather than allowing the user to enter "windows" they would instead be prompted for a version, or allowed to specify that their question refers to all versions (for example a windows software question rather than a specific machine question.)

A transitional "windows-unspecified" tag (for editing old posts only) could be useful between "windows" no longer being selectable for new questions, and the old tag being eliminated from old questions. Obviously it may not be possible to establish which version was involved on posts from many years ago.

Ideally in tag searching there would be an option to search "windows-general" as either all windows version tags (as the "windows" tag does now) or to only search those tagged specifically "windows-general".

The overall upshot of this is that the question poster would be prompted to think and add the extra information if relevant, rather than submitting without this. The tag description of "windows" already explains this, but I believe many users will not notice in its current form.

I expect I have missed more than one important point but look forward to seeing what the community thinks.

5

Adding something to a tag that's not part of the subject (e.g, the word "general", "unspecified") is what we call a meta-tag. Those aren't allowed.

The community already knows that questions tagged apply to all (more or less recent) versions of Windows, so they might be intentionally looking for a version-agnostic solution. In fact, those can be quite useful for visitors from searches who might find solutions that apply to the latest major Windows releases.

I'm not that active in the Windows tags, but I dare say: If knowing the exact version is required, just drop a comment and ask for it.

  • It would largely be to address tagging by new users who cannot be assumed to be aware of tagging conventions here. I do agree that a version agnostic search is necessary, I actually tried to address that in the original question. I am uncertain whether the "general" tag would be useful, it would provide somewhat of a version agnostic search. There should better ways to prompt users to take care using the "windows" tag. The "unspecified" tag would be merely substituting a deprecated tag for one indicating that the question has been reviewed but the version (while specific) remains unknown. – washbow Mar 6 '13 at 19:46
  • I honestly don't see a real issue in a question being tagged just "windows" – if the detailed OS is needed, users will ask for it and add the tag accordingly. If not, then we appreciate OS-agnostic answers as well. To this date, nobody has really had an issue with that, IIRC. Categorizing questions with meta tags ("We don't know for sure yet!") is the wrong approach to the problem that is vague questions. We should encourage users adding those details by actively prompting for more info, or possibly improving the hints new users see when writing a question. – slhck Mar 6 '13 at 21:03
  • Fair enough, I acknowledge this may be deemed too minor to be worth acting on. I think hinting is a good idea though, can we do more to hint users during tag selection? – washbow Mar 6 '13 at 21:14
  • To be honest, I believe the real issue is users who don't want to read everything :) If you ask a question you already get dozens of hints and guidelines. When you tag it, you see the tag excerpt, which explicitly states that "windows" should be used for any issues not specific to a single version. At the moment I don't know what else we could do, but… then again I don't see the issue with the unspecific Windows tag. A user more active in this tag might have more insight though? – slhck Mar 6 '13 at 21:26
  • That does seem to be the heart of the issue. As soon as the user presses space to enter the next tag, the tag description is no longer shown, and so a user entering multiple tags rapidly may not see it at all. Thanks for your input, I think it has helped me with how I should think about these matters. – washbow Mar 6 '13 at 21:44
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    Regarding version agnostic searching, how about if along with tag synonyms we added tag groups as well? That way, for example all windows tags could be grouped by the community, and searching could be possible for individual tags (as before), and for the group as a whole. – Karan Mar 7 '13 at 6:14
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    @Karan That isn't possible, but you can add windows* to your favorite tags, which will then expand to all Windows tags. – slhck Mar 7 '13 at 7:41
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What is the advantage of doing this?

The fact that and /// exist separately already indicates that the former is intended for Windows questions that are not specific to a particular version.

Adding "-general" to the name of the tag does not make the tag convey more information about the content of the question.

  • My point is that new users will often just tag "windows" without a second thought. You are correct that "windows-general" tag is not better, it would simply be a way of prompting new users to consider it carefully. – washbow Mar 6 '13 at 19:37
  • @washbow: Just to add - people often add a generic "windows" tag because they don't have any idea that their problem might be specific to a particular version, or sometimes because they have no idea which specific OS version they use (it happens!) Worse still of course is when they fail to mention any OS at all, for when it's not obvious from the question one has to ask and await a response. – Karan Mar 7 '13 at 6:12
  • If anything the windows tag shouldn't exist since in most cases are almost always specific to a specific version of Windows anyways. Even the tools that exists between Basic and Professional versions of Windows is different. Since the tag does exist, and the current description makes it clear that it should only be used, when the version doesn't matter the name of the tag changing wouldn't make it be more useful. The differences between versions of Windows will continue to become different. There are very few things that don't depend on which version that hasn't already been answered. – Ramhound Mar 7 '13 at 11:27

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