Use a consistent prefix to distinguish area tags instead of CoRR subject area codes

This is a continuation of a discussion which took place in comments on this post.

It is recommended to tag every question with at least one area tag (formerly called “top-level tag”). Currently area tags are named in the following way:

There are two problems with the current area tags.

• Names depend on whether they originate from CoRR subject areas or not, which is not an important distinction. Therefore tags look simply inconsistent.
• There is no advantage of having the corresponding CoRR subject area codes in the tags. As I understand it, the only purpose of these codes is to indicate that they are area tags. However, this is incomplete because not every area tag has a two-letter code.

I think that a more consistent naming is better.

If the Stack Exchange server had a functionality of showing area tags in a different color, we would not have to distinguish them by names. Because it does not have such a functionality, it is better to distinguish area tags by names.

Therefore, I propose the following:

Proposal. Remove the xx. part from the area tags of the form xx.description and instead add a fixed prefix to all the area tags. As the fixed prefix, I suggest to use either a. (for “area”) or just .. [Edit: I removed the earlier suggestions a: and : because it turned out that a colon cannot be used in tags.]

• I'd vote for either a. or area. as a prefix. I suspect area. would be a problem because it's too long, though. Feb 27 '11 at 19:29
• @Peter: Thanks for the comment. As you guessed, I wrote a. instead of area. because I thought that area. might be too long. Feb 27 '11 at 19:36
• the a. is very cryptic. Can tags be made case-sensitive ? that would be an option then. Feb 27 '11 at 20:55
• It seems that we can't have upper-case tags. And we can't have tags that begin with a "#". Feb 27 '11 at 21:35
• @Suresh: It is funny that you think that a. is very cryptic while you do not complain the same thing to the current subject area codes, which are equally cryptic (I really do not buy the argument that TCS researchers are familiar with CoRR codes). The point is that we lose nothing if we replace the two-letter codes by a fixed prefix, and a fixed prefix is more consistent. Feb 27 '11 at 21:48
• I created two answers with the two proposals, "a.something" and ".something"; please up/downvote your favourite. Personally I think "a.something" is cryptic, and I would strongly prefer ".something" (but can't upvote my own answers...). Feb 27 '11 at 23:28
• @Jukka: I consider that which prefix to use is a secondary issue. If we can agree that we should use a common prefix, I do not care much what the prefix is, as long as it is not too long. (If I had cared, I would have checked which characters are accepted as tags by myself….) Feb 28 '11 at 0:30
• @TsuyoshiIto: Actually I think TCS researchers are more and more familiar with CoRR codes, based on the increased frequency of publication in the arxiv: see for example geomblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/… Feb 28 '11 at 0:43
• @Suresh: Thanks for the interesting stats. I take back the claim that TCS researchers are not familiar with CoRR codes. Still I do not see what we gain by adding the codes to tags. [ds.algorithms] and [algorithms] are equally understandable. Feb 28 '11 at 0:49
• there's something stunningly hideous about the proposed tags (either the a.* or the .* variants). I wouldn't have minded area.*: is length really an issue ? after all we already have cg.comp-geom Feb 28 '11 at 0:52
• @Suresh: Now I am not sure if area. is too long. Maybe it is not. Feb 28 '11 at 1:29
• I like the idea, the nice thing about having a simple recognizable structure is that we can write user scripts to show the tags the way we like, e.g. in a similar way to papers: (primary and secondary) subject classification in one place using one color and keywords in another place using a different color. It seems that the only symbols that we can use for tags are: "+", "#", "-", ".". The system acts strangely regarding "#", and "-" can be confusing considering its other use. Feb 28 '11 at 1:44
• @Kaveh: And yes, the idea would be to use "." consistently and only for this purpose. Otherwise the proposal makes little sense. Feb 28 '11 at 8:22
• yes, with a user script it should be fairly easy to do Mar 1 '11 at 23:06
• A user script does not help all users of the site. I was wondering if the SE admins could just slightly tweak CSS for us (I guess tweaking the engine would be a much bigger problem). Mar 1 '11 at 23:15

Please keep in mind the following aspects:

• One of the tags appears in the page title (and hence also in Google search results). The logic seems to be the following: take the most common (least specific...) tag and replace each dash with a space. The end result is something like this with the current tags:

cc.complexity theory - Problems Between P and NPC - Theoretical Computer Science - Stack Exchange

• The maximum length of a tag is 25 characters. For example, these should be fine (just some hypothetical examples to illustrate the limitations):

These would be a bit too long:

Edit:

• AFAIK, the last three tags are not area tags (this is one of the reasons I prefer calling the former top-level tags "subject (classification) tags" to "area tag", since calling the area tags can be misleading). Feb 28 '11 at 21:43
• [area.artificial-intel], [area.distributed-comput], [area.programming-lang] are all perfectly understandable, if somewhat ugly. Feb 28 '11 at 21:53
• @Kaveh: they are just examples. I just wanted to show what kind of compounds would be too long and what are fine. Feb 28 '11 at 22:10

Proposal 2: like: , , , , , ...

• This format is good: it is short, it is not confusing, and the system supports it. It might not be very nice but using user-scripts we should be able to show these tags the way we like. So this is my favorite. Feb 28 '11 at 10:55
• Please add a comment if you are down voting an answer. Feb 28 '11 at 21:47
• I like [area.xxxx] better; this is too cryptic. Feb 28 '11 at 21:57
• I wonder what makes this "cryptic". Many people might not even notice the dots. In my opinion, this would be best because it is by far the least distracting. Area tags are also the most popular tags, they are displayed in many places (e.g. cstheory.stackexchange.com/users), and any extra prefix will make the pages look busier. Mar 1 '11 at 20:44
• You have a point. I retract my objection. Mar 1 '11 at 23:09

Proposal: like ,

Proposal 4:

• This is horribly long. Besides, tags have limited length (25 characters). Feb 28 '11 at 8:19
• @Jukka, it was a suggestion but now I agree with you. Feb 28 '11 at 10:52

Proposal 1: like , , , , , ...

• Again, this is too cryptic; I like [area.xxxx] better Feb 28 '11 at 21:57