There has been general agreement here on meta that our tags are not in great shape, to say the least.

Big tags like and are beyond the scope of this particular post, and need major discussion on meta before anyone acts on them. But some (very small) tags lend themselves easily to cleanup with just a few retags. I've been working on some of these lately.

Given that mass retags are very disruptive to regular operations on this site, I've been taking any steps I can think of to minimize disruption:

  • only bump 5-6 old posts at a time
  • only bump old posts when the front page (in 'active' view) doesn't already have a bunch of old posts near the top. (i.e. don't everybody go on tagging sprees at the same time)
  • when bumping an old post for retagging (or when someone else bumps an old post), fix everything else that's wrong with the post at the same time: correct typos, remove incorrect tags, etc. This way, we won't have to bump it again to fix something else.
  • fix tags on new questions immediately when they're asked.

Does anyone have any other comments or suggestions on how to minimize disruption when cleaning up tags as part of small, focused effort?

  • 1
    At least I know now why so many ancient posts are currently bobbling to the front :D
    – xLeitix
    Sep 16, 2014 at 14:00
  • Maybe it’s a good idea to ask about this on Meta Stackexchange. I asked a question regarding the introduction of a single tag (and got no answer), but some other sites may have experiences with a massive retagging.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 20, 2014 at 23:51
  • I just noticed that Super User plans a Tag Cleanup Weekend.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 23, 2014 at 11:58
  • How is it "given that mass retags are very disruptive to regular operations on this site"? Do you mean the fact that (re)tagged questions are bumped?
    – einpoklum
    Feb 17, 2018 at 13:07

2 Answers 2


I think the best way to minimize disruptions is to make sure the changes to the tags are correct. Removing needed tags or adding unneeded tags is a huge disruption and requires intervention from people. Further, if a particular users edits/efforts are not highly reliable, this can cause other users to want to constantly review the user's edits. This seems hugely disruptive. On that note

when bumping an old post for retagging (or when someone else bumps an old post), fix everything else that's wrong with the post at the same time: correct typos, remove incorrect tags, etc. This way, we won't have to bump it again to fix something else.

While this is laudable, I think it is incredibly hard to fix all the tag issues in one go. In order to do that the editor would need an in depth understanding of the entire tag taxonomy. I think this type of approach leads to more mistakes. I think the cost of these mistakes would easily offset the advantages associated with the decrease in the total number of edits.

only bump 5-6 old posts at a time

I am not sure if bumping 5-6 old posts a couple of times every day (potentially by different users) for weeks on end is more or less disruptive then a single large disruption during a period of low use. A single large disruption would flood the front page, but we would then be fully recovered with a day or so.

The mod only analytics show that our total page views consistently spike early in the week and then drop to the lowest point on Saturday (about 60% of the peak). How the number of questions and answers varies is less clear, but I think the weekends are also the low points.

Proposal Users that want to improve the tagging should chose a problem tag and create an list of questions that need the tag added and a list of questions that need the tag removed. Post this list to meta for some discussion and community agreement and then make the changes in a single session.

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    I agree, and also think: the best tags to choose to fix are the ones you understand very well already, where it's clear what needs to be done. If everyone did that, we could fix most of the well-defined and scoped tags with minimal fuss. Then we could focus most of the meta and chat discussion on tags that aren't well-defined to anyone and really need more discussion.
    – ff524
    Sep 19, 2014 at 16:44
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    Also, we should have a tag on meta - 'tag-cleanup-proposal'? - for meta posts where you aren't asking anything, just saying "I plan to do the following to tag X in a few days unless there are objections"
    – ff524
    Sep 19, 2014 at 17:04
  • Agreed, +1. I like the "single large disruption during a period of low use" idea. Question: what would a period of low use be? I.e., when should one do such a mass retag? (Please remember time zones.) Feb 12, 2015 at 17:34
  • @StephanKolassa it looks like weekends are low use. My impression, but no hard evidence, is that we start to get more active starting about 8:00 UK time.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 12, 2015 at 17:53

After a good discussion went on between some users of the site about the need of having some strategies when we edit the tags, as a clear and working strategy, strongbad suggested that a good strategy to tag edits might be something like the following:

Would it be better choosing a tag you would like to improve and removing it from questions that do not need it and adding it to those that do? That way you only have to keep a good mental representation of one tag at a time. Your approach seems to require you to understand all the tags.

Also, ff524 supported such strategy by

I also think that since many tags are currently not well-defined in scope (see several ongoing meta discussions), it's not even possible to "properly" tag every question right now

To conclude that discussion, the strategy that each user is better to pick a tag and add it to or remove it from the questions seems to be a good strategy, minimizes double works on tag edits and makes the tag edits an efficient and a less time-consuming work.

However, we have no clear job distribution between users. One user may have edited a question and brought it in a good shape but after a while, another user double edits the question and ruins previous revisions.

As stated in the discussion, I suggested having the following approach which makes tag edits more clear;

Isn't it better to make a meta question with a title like "Tags under edit" and each person working on a tag post an answer to the question. So, we will have a list of tags under edit, and a list of off-on topic questions relatively?

By having a meta question in which each user states that s/he is working a particular tag, so another users do not waste their time re-editing the questions with that tag; it is obvious that another user may edit that question for another tag. This way, we solve the problem of multiple works on any tags.

This helps with the problem of multiple users working on tags, since if it's obvious what should be done it's unlikely someone will ruin a good edit; and if it's not obvious, the community should weigh in first anyways

Also, in her/his answer to that question; s/he can edit and ask about on-topic or off-topic questions and after her/his is completed, we have a list of on/off-topic questions in each answer which will be a valuable list, will help users in future to learn more about the off-topic questions and helps them become aware about the site's policies about each tag. Another benefit would be the discussions which can be made in the comments of each answer (each tag) or in a separate chat-room (with similar name) which will improve the user's vision about the tags.


We need following spaces on the Academia website to manage our edits to tags:

  1. A question on academia's meta with a title like Tag edits management page in which each user posts an answer to take the responsibility of editing one (or two) tag(s) (no more, when s/he finishes his edit with a tag; the s/he can pick another tag).

  2. A chat-room with similar name to that meta question in which users can bring further discussions about question. This way, we will not miss our discussions between normal chats in our main chat-room. Also, we can mention a link to the chat discussion about questions and tags in front of it's answer in the edits-page on meta; so users can easily follow the discussions.


  1. Editing the tags systematically and avoiding multiple and unneccessary revisions;
  2. User will be focused on only one tag and his mind will not be crowded with many definitions of multiple tags;
  3. Concentrated discussion and good archiving to the off-topic and on-topic questions on each tag will help the users of the site become more familiar with the site's proffered policies on each tags and helps the users better choose tags for their questions.


  1. We should take care and encourage users, if they want to do any edit to any tags; they post their proposal in a comment to the responsible's answer on the edit's question in meta, so users will be rejecting such edits instantly if their suggestions are irrelevant; however, the comments to each answer will be so crowded after a while; so we should think about the following issue:

    After one round of edits is finished to each tag, what procedure should be proposed to new tag edit? Should we ask users not to edit completed tags or we should ask them send a proposal to each edit they want to make in a separate question in meta?

  2. What should we do about the problem of bumping question to the active questions list? We should think about it too, we can announce a period of six month for editing the website's tags. Or even, one day a week for editing the questions' tags. This way, users will not face a list of questions bumped in to the top list every day; Only one day per week we will have the bumping problem which will be completely reasonable. During this period of time, we can apology the users for some inconsistency by showing them a message in the first page; something like: Sorry for inconvenience, the site is in the tag edits period; for a list of newest questions please visit the list of newest questions.

  3. Edits suggestions to the excerpt and wiki of each tag may be made as was in the past (suggesting edits in meta in separate questions).

  • 1. I don't think every tag edit proposal needs a discussion in chat. Things you are uncertain about, should be asked in a new meta question (as they have been until now); this post you suggest is really only suitable for proposing small, focused, edits you're reasonably certain are good. For these, it should be enough to use comments on the answer if anybody wants to object to the suggestion or offer improvements.
    – ff524
    Sep 18, 2014 at 22:34
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    2. This is about a temporary, focused effort to clean up a few narrowly-scoped very badly misused tags. Once it's done, it's done; you don't have ownership of the tag going forward just because you helped clean it up now. Users are always free to use and edit tags in a normal way (read: not mass retagging), without asking for permission on meta.
    – ff524
    Sep 18, 2014 at 22:34
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    3. I suggest that after posting an answer, users should wait at least three days before acting on the proposed suggestion, to see if anybody raises any issues or suggests improvements.
    – ff524
    Sep 18, 2014 at 22:34
  • 4. Here is a proposed format for answers to this post.
    – ff524
    Sep 18, 2014 at 22:34
  • 5. The problem of how least to annoy people while bumping old questions is an orthogonal problem to how to organize tag edits between users; if you have ideas for this, I suggest adding another answer addressing that specifically.
    – ff524
    Sep 18, 2014 at 22:35
  • @ff524 I don't agree with the format you proposed for the answers; because we are not going to discuss the excerpts, wikis and also tag names. These are issues which should be discussed in separate meta questions. In answers to such question, the responsible only posts an answer to inform other users that s/he is working a tag and a list of on/off-topic question which need more consideration; with a link in front of each related discussion in the chat-room to make it easier for the user to follow tag-specified discussions and chats.
    – enthu
    Sep 18, 2014 at 22:57
  • I see; in that case, I misunderstood what you originally proposed and I disagree with the suggestion. I think that every edit that requires extended discussion should get its own meta question, since that is the place to preserve discussions on things like this. I think this a good idea only for edits that don't require extended discussion.
    – ff524
    Sep 18, 2014 at 22:59
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – ff524
    Sep 19, 2014 at 8:15
  • @ff524 let's think about this topic some more and continue our discussion at that chat room in the next days.
    – enthu
    Sep 19, 2014 at 10:08
  • I did not read every sentence, so I may be redundant: If we make clear what we want to change about the tags and get as many users to participate as possible, I could imagine that we can get the retagging done during a short retagging event. I may be overoptimistic about the feasibility of this but this would minimise the retagging disruption as the front page would be useless anyway.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Sep 20, 2014 at 22:55

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