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Over at the newly minted theoreticalphysics site, Dori mentions that as part of a year-old effort to clean "meta" tags, she's going to start removing the tag.

While I don't have very strong feelings on the matter, I do find the tag useful to quickly indicate what it is that the questioner actually wants.

Should we make an argument for keeping the tag ?

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  • $\begingroup$ my understanding was that you intended to start removing the tag all across SE ? $\endgroup$ Sep 15 '11 at 5:30
  • $\begingroup$ Well "This is now policy for all SE sites, and consequently, I'm about to blow away the tags help-a-mathematician and reference-request. " is what got me going. did I misunderstand something ? $\endgroup$ Sep 15 '11 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Suresh, I think so far we have been exempted from that policy more or less (probably some other sites were also). I don't think complaining about that is a good idea :). But also see my answer below. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Sep 15 '11 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ I see. so maybe I should just keep quiet now, as Kaveh indicates. $\endgroup$ Sep 15 '11 at 6:43
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I don't think the arguments for meta-tags being bad from Jeff's post apply to these tags.

The reason meta-tags are a problem is that they do not describe the content of the question.

does describe the content as well as . We haven't had any problem with them and there are quite useful. So I don't think there is any reason to remove them. I agree that there has been lots of bad meta-tags (e.g. subjective) but it doesn't mean that all meta-tags are bad.

Jeff continues:

How can you tell you’re using a meta-tag? It’s easier than you might think.

  1. If the tag can’t work as the only tag on a question, it’s probably a meta-tag. Every tag you use should be able to work, more or less, as the only tag on a question. Meta-tags, like [beginner], [subjective], and [best-practices], are useless by themselves — they tell you nothing at all about the content of the question.

  2. If the tag commonly means different things to different people, it’s probably a meta-tag.

We have had questions which were tagged just as . So I think what we call a meta-tag is different from what they call a meta-tag. We use meta-tags mainly for soft questions, i.e. question about TCS not in TCS. In comparison, non-meta-tags on cstheory are used in a similar way to subject classification and keywords for papers.

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  • $\begingroup$ well, the 'reference-request' tag can't really be used on its own, but it does relay the information of "I want/am fine with a reference to the literature and don't want/need a construction or specific example". However, I guess we always expect our answers to be well sourced. Maybe I am just misunderstanding the tag... I have definitely been an (ab)user of it. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '11 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Artem, no, it can be used on its own and has been used that way, it says that the user is looking for references/papers. $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Sep 23 '11 at 13:17

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