On the website, we have many brand names in form of the website's names, publishers, etc. exists; however, we have a more general tag each of them. For instance, we have with only 6 questions tagged or while we have a tag with 52 questions tagged. The same also situation exists for , , etc. with no more than 10 questions tagged; while we have a more general tag .

My question is, what is the role of having such brand name tags on the website, while we have good general tags as well? And, what can we do to have more orginised tags when we can have a general tag and we already have brand or website names tags on Academia?

3 Answers 3


Specific tags have some benefit, as long as they're used appropriately.

Someone looking for information about policies in particular isn't necessarily interested in general practices of . Specific tags allow for finer distinctions when searching for questions of interest. Synonyms destroy those distinctions.

Tags that are a brand name also have the benefit of name recognition and SEO-friendliness. Nobody asks Google, "Can I cite a wiki-type website in an academic paper?" They ask, "Can I cite Wikipedia?"

Some other SE sites use brand-specific tags very successfully. For example, on Travel, there is the general airlines, but also ryanair, jetstar, qatar-airways, etc.

There may be individual tags on Academia that are too specific to be useful and should be re-evaluated. But I don't think making all brand-specific tags synonyms of a broader tag is useful as a general rule.


I'm not an expert of the SE software, but I think the answer to your question boils down to the role of tags in this website.

My impression (correct me if I'm wrong), is that tags are:

  • used by users for browsing and finding Q&As they are interested in
  • used by the community to organize Q&As, clean up the mess, have a coherent taxonomy
  • used for SEO purposes by the SE devs (meaning: search engines look at tags)

From a librarian point of view (which is mine, and it's not neutral :-) findability is very important, and tags are useful and helpful when they actually are. I agree with ff524's answer: sometimes specific tags are useful and sometimes they are not. I'm not a fan of perfect, coherent taxonomies that do not help the user (especially, the new ones). They are beautiful to see, but they serve no other purpose than be consistent. The world is fuzzy (even a small world as academia.SE) and thus there is no taxonomy that can be created bottom up, as we do, that can maximize consistency and usefulness. We need to pick one :-)


To me, the critical question is this: what resource is expended by tags?

Infrastructure-wise, there is no limit on number of tags in the database. There is a per-post limit, so we cannot have a general taxonomic policy without needing to allow for frequent truncation. There is also a limit on citation time expended by the community and on rate of change that does not disrupt the front page.

I thus see it as better to think of tags as identifying clusters rather than creating categories. The value of a tag is then not defined by how broadly it is used but by how informative it is: frequency of use times specificity.

Brand name tags, such as Elsevier and IEEE thus make sense when there is a large number of people who are likely to find the direction highly specific. A much more specialized brand name like IJCAI or CACM, however, is much more dubious because we are starting to get into non-generalizable territory.

At the end of the day, though tagging is fuzzy and bottom up, and we aren't going to be able to have a completely precise policy no matter what we do.

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