This is a follow up inspired by Improving our tagging (redux). Let's think about tags for dates and date ranges.
I'll begin by listing some of the prior questions that may bear on this question:
- Should we use century tags (like 20th-century) or alternative, typically numeric year-range tags (like 1900s)
- How can we clean up our date/event tags?
Here's a thought-experiement I would like everyone to think about, for this question and for any of the other re-tagging questions. Imagine that we are at a conference like RootsTech or Who Do You Think You Are Live, and we have volunteered to work a room where people can come to ask us questions. We have ribbons on our name badges and a sign behind us where we can pin up tags so the people asking questions can see which desk to go to, depending on what kind of question they have.
Take a look at your profile and sort your badges into classes. Pull out a list of your tag badges. What do you see?
I have one silver tag badge for united-states, and these bronze badges:
You can see at a glance that I am interested in methodology, that most of my answers have been about the United States and England, and that my focus so far has been in the 19th and 20th centuries. It shouldn't be much of surprise to see that I've also answered a lot of questions about census records; for England and the US, the most useful census records are (surprise) in the 19th and 20th centuries.
What do your tag badges tell you about your answers and your self-answered questions? Are they an accurate reflection of what you are interested in answering, or that you are likely to be able to answer?
Newcomers aren't likely to look at our profiles to see which badges we have. But it does give us a way to look at the tags as Jeff Atwood suggested on this post on the Stack Overflow blog:
Periodically asking questions like “who would ever subscribe to this tag, and why?” can reveal a lot about the nature of tagging on your site.
If I were a person in a hurry, and the site was busy enough that I only had time to look at these tags (either by search or subscription), then would this give me a selection of questions I could likely answer? Yes, it would. I'm far more likely at this point to be able to answer questions about the 20th and 19th centuries than I would about the 18th, 17th, or earlier.
Now -- for breaking down questions into time periods, is this good enough? Is there another way, and if so, is it a better way?
One could divide questions in England into before-and-after 1837, because of civil registration and census records after 1837 and (mostly) the lack of them before.
Canadian questions could be before-and-after Canadian Confederation.
For US Census records, there's a big divide before-and-after the 1850 Census because of the lack of every-name census records. For immigration, pre-and-post 1840, for naturalization, pre-and-post 1906. In the USA also, the colonial period is a different kettle of fish than later on when you have federal records.
Would it buy us anything to use tags to sort out questions from the different eras?
Maybe your answer is "no" and the century tags are enough. But what I'd like us to think about are ways to group the site's questions into pools that a person could look over to get inspiration for their own question, and that those of us who have 'expertise' (in the loose sense, not the I'm-certified sense) in an area could subscribe to a tag in case they needed to -- or to point a new user to a group of questions that might be useful.
In the same way we might say "you have a DNA question, why not look at the other questions tagged dna", are the century tags enough to do the job?
Now that I've seen some of the answers, I wonder: do we need time period tags (specifically, the decade and century tags) at all?