While I have no official status here, I spend a fair amount of effort on maintenance of questions, editing and such, including changing tags.

But I would like advice on the issue of removing tags under certain circumstances.

For example, I've removed some tags at their first use when they have no tag wiki and I doubt that the tag will be generally useful in the future. This leaves an orphan tag, of course.

I also just removed a tag from a post: that had been used once before but in a different way. There was no tag wiki for it and it seemed hard to unify the idea into a proper general classification idea. I removed it from both posts, as it seemed even less relevant to the older post than the new one. For reference, the two questions are:

Failed my 2nd Qualifying Exam in PhD. Absolutely devastated. Please help


Should I let a bad mark from 10 years ago discourage me from taking on a TAship?

I usually add what I think are more appropriate tags to such questions (and others).

I'd like some advice on this practice. Does it seem proper? Helpful?

My concern is about meaningless tag proliferation making searching harder, not easier. I also think the threshold for new tags at this point should be fairly high as this site is quite mature. New challenges such as the pandemic are obvious candidates for new tags, of course.

I'm using personal judgements, of course, and they may be open to disagreement.

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    Wait, aren't you the GOAT here at SE? Sounds pretty official to me... I agree that a tag used just twice in two different ways should be removed. – Jon Custer Jan 29 at 16:16
  • @JonCuster, GOAT is, I assure you, temporary, and not official. Mods have official (elected) stature and some formal responsibility for maintenance. I'm just an interested person. – Buffy Jan 29 at 16:22
  • Sure, but mods don't set the site's ethos - all us users do. From other sites I would expect that asking the tag to be removed is quite appropriate. – Jon Custer Jan 29 at 16:25
  • Doesn't "GOAT" (according to the other post) means "of all time"? So it cannot be just temporary, right? – user111388 Jan 29 at 19:30
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    @user111388 These sites always have a GOAT. User aeismail was GOAT for a long time. Since I first joined, I think. He may have been one of the founders of the site and was a long time mod until he gave it up in the last election. He and JakeBeal were hard to catch up with in total rep and I was only able to do so since their participation dropped. Both always give great answers when they can. There is no projection into the future. Like a runner, if you slow down, then you get passed. Maybe you can be next. I once had about 2K rep myself, of course. – Buffy Jan 29 at 19:36

Included a bunch of other tag information here in case it's helpful to you or others, but you can find a specific answer to the specific question asked in bold.

"This leaves an orphan tag, of course." - Tags that are not used on any questions are automatically cleared from the system (not immediately, but I believe this is a daily job that runs, not sure of the time). Orphans are short-lived but can be recreated in the future.

For broadly-used tags, SE refers to "burninating" as a method of removing them: What does it mean to "burninate" a tag?

If you systematically go through all questions using a tag and remove them, this will destroy the tag entirely. For a tag used on more than a few questions, it's usually best practice to ask on Meta first, and then go through editing to remove tags. For common tags this might be done over a longer time scale to avoid flooding the active questions.

For a tag used once or twice, I don't see any problem with experienced users removing them unilaterally - there's very little use in such tags, and the edits are visible to others who can raise the issue if it's a big deal. It especially makes sense if these tags are replaced with other tags that are more appropriate/in wider use.

Two other tools for dealing with tags are synonyms and blacklisting. Moderators can add synonyms (multiple users with a sufficient reputation can also do so, but unless the mods here prefer otherwise it's typically simpler to have them do it). The best way to address tag synonyms is to raise the issue on meta, like:

Should [coauthors] be a synonym of [authorship]? (suggests a synonym)

Please vote for synonym suggestions (asks for users with sufficient rep to vote on proposed tag synonyms, letting the community rather than mods handle this)

Please undo the synonymisation of the tag disability with health-issues (suggests removing a synonym)

Tags that shouldn't exist but yet keep being applied can be blacklisted but this requires staff intervention: How do tag blacklists work?

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    This is very helpful. I'm often at a loss for finding such information. – Buffy Jan 30 at 21:17

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