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A recent round of re-tagging highlighted that the way we are tagging questions relating to software and websites is highly inconsistent, and that not everyone is happy with the current state of affairs. This question seeks to reach a consensus on a tagging approach that:

  • Is easy for people doing the tagging to understand (especially for newbies), and does not require the intervention of more experienced users unless in exceptional circumstances
  • Allows individuals to easily locate questions related to the one they may ask/have asked
  • Allows individuals to easily follow/subscribe/filter to the tags they are interested in and be relatively certain that they aren’t missing questions of interest
  • Ensures that search engine results (which are prepended with the most popular tag on a question) entice newcomers to the site
  • Is helpful now, but also future-proof against growth in the site without a massive amount of re-tagging becoming necessary at any time

These requirements are not mutually compatible.

Background data on current tagging volumes (of course many questions have two or more of these tags so the volume of questions as a percentage of the site total is less than it might appear):

Software and website tagging data

And some observations and questions (in no particular order):

  1. (new tag) and (longstanding tag) seem to overlap significantly. Do we need them both?

  2. The guidance for says:

    Related to the effective use of a product (principally software) intended to support or facilitate genealogical research. Where relevant, should be accompanied by a tag identifying the particular products.

    However the tag is only used 5 times, so clearly it isn’t being applied consistently, given that we have over 200 questions about named products.

    Should we retrospectively apply it to all named products/websites? Or is naming the product/website sufficient to imply that product support is required.

  3. has no guidance, and is used for a mixture of questions relating to finding online records, transferring/synching data between programs, participating in message boards elsewhere, using named websites, seeking product recommendations, url standardisation, and sharing/privacy concerns.

  4. has 24 questions, but there are 156 questions that name websites!

  5. has 4 questions, which might fit into “recommendation” or “product-support” tags if we can’t justify keeping it separate.

  6. Do we need to differentiate between software and websites other than implicitly by product name. If somebody specifically wants a recommendation for a desktop software product or an online solution, they can specify it in the question — is there any real value in tagging for this? Perhaps people want only to follow software-related questions and are violently disinterested in website-related ones? Is there a clearcut distinction between software and websites any more? Should we differentiate between websites for locating records and websites for other purposes?

I’m going to put my suggestions into separate answers, so people can vote for the ones they like and discuss the ones they don’t like (or make counter-proposals).


Parking some data points here as they're too long to go in comments...

The tag-wiki from the now defunct

Use this tag for questions about software which can help with genealogy or family history research or record keeping. Do not use for questions about websites (which has a separate tag).

Most genealogists and family historians use software to help them perform their research and record the results. Questions using this tag could include:

  • How do I do X with a particular software programme?
  • What criteria should I use when selecting a software programme for X purpose?

If you're asking about a specific piece of software, tag the question with the name of the software as well. It would also be helpful if you were explicit in your question about the version of the software you're using and which operating system it runs on.

Don't ask:

  • What is the best software to do X?
  • Which software can do X?
  • What features should be supported in the programme I'm developing?

All these are likely to generate lists, opinions and debates and are not a good fit for our Q&A site. (Chat might be a good place to have those sorts of discussions).

Example Questions

What are the key features in genealogical software that will help me future proof my research?

How do I keep the different software and online trees I use in synch?

What standards exist for the exchange of genealogical information?

From the on-topic spiel of https://softwarerecs.stackexchange.com

This site is for questions asking for recommendations of software ready-to-use to accomplish a particular task, that is, “what software can I use to do …?”. While this includes software libraries for development use, note that recommendations of tutorials, data sources, media libraries (e.g. icon collections) etc. are off-topic – as are questions like “what technology to use for …?”

Good software recommendation requests have two components:

  • A purpose — a task to accomplish, a user story
  • Some objective requirements — a minimum set of features

How do other sites that allow software-recommendations (or other recommendations) tag them

travel.stackexchange.com : (Not all of these questions are software recommendations but some are, but it's a very low volume tag)

ebooks.stackexchange.com : (Not all of these questions are software recommendations but some are, but it's a very low volume tag)

astronomy.stackexchange.com : (Not all of these questions are software recommendations but some are, but it's a very low volume tag)

askubuntu.stackexchange.com :

askdifferent.stackexchange.com :

unix.stackexchange.com: (which is a synonym for )

gis.stackexchange.com: (with a tag wiki excerpt that says Questions seeking software recommendations are better asked at the Software Recommendations Stack Exchange)

photography.stackexchange.com :

superuser.stackexchange.com : -- points users to the software-recommendations site but there are 700 open questions

bioinformatics.stackexchange.com :

gardening.stackexchange.com :

Relevant to the 'shopping question' question

https://stackoverflow.blog/2010/11/23/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping/

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  • For newbies I think tagging well comes much later. I think our aim with them should be to get their question body formulated as a focused question first, later get them writing good titles and lastly get them tightening their tags. I think the tagging needs to suit the needs of the potential, mostly experienced, answerers because their purpose is to funnel questions to them. – PolyGeo Mod Nov 11 '17 at 22:27
  • @PolyGeo Understood, but that puts a burden on the more experienced users to do the tagging for the newbies. OK now, perhaps, but it won't be if volume increases. – ColeValleyGirl Mod Nov 12 '17 at 8:32
  • at Geographic Information Systems with about 30-50 times the daily posts we never find it a drag, also, after tagging schemes being highly contentious for a long time I think we have now come to a consensus that they'll never be perfect but our tags become more workable with each suggested tweak that we adopt or discuss and reject after understanding it better. – PolyGeo Mod Nov 12 '17 at 9:43
  • @PolyGeo how many users for GIS have that participate in retagging? – ColeValleyGirl Mod Nov 12 '17 at 11:35
  • I don't know how to quantify that. I know I do a lot and I see a lot of others involved. – PolyGeo Mod Nov 12 '17 at 11:56
  • @PolyGeo I'm just thinking about the workload per person. Sustainable if the workload per person is low. – ColeValleyGirl Mod Nov 12 '17 at 13:16
3

As there are only 10 questions with I suggest re-tagging them to the most appropriate combination of tags and burninating

2

As there are only 4 questions with I suggest we re-tag and burninate.

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As there are only 9 questions with I suggest re-tagging these to (or a successor) and burninating .

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0

We keep alongside a (replacing ) and apply to every question that names a software product or website for which support is required.

We apply to questions seeking a website recommendation as well as those seeking a product recommendation.

For questions about locating records on websites, we apply — with a website name if known (thus recognising that not all records are online even if we might wish they were)

We combine tags thus:

Or

If we do this:

  • and will almost certainly become the most popular tags on any question that they’re applied to over time, which might be an issue for SEO.

  • There are a couple of hundred questions to which or would need to be applied of which only circa 50 had the old and 24 have .

  • It would need policing to ensure that the right combination of tags is always applied, which hasn’t worked so well in the past and may not work well as question volumes go up (shame it’s not easy to just delete a tag).

  • It will allow people who want to follow all software/website related questions to follow and and (hopefully) see everything they’re interested in while volumes are low. (These are the people who will be disappointed if the tagging isn’t tightly policed).

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Any effort put into improving the associated tag-wikis (once the tagging approach in this area is agreed) should first go into the “umbrella tags” and and thed the activity tags. This work should be high priority, but only encompasses 10 tags.

Tag-wikis for the 4 standards-related tags don’t seem to be too horrendous (by our standards) and could be a low priority if any improvement is needed.

Creating tag-wikis for named-products/website should be low priority (as their use should be obvious), but shouldn’t be too onerous to do a little at a time when we do get round to it. We might want to review the existing tag-wikis in this categry to pick an exemplar — I suggest not using as the template:)

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I think part of one of your proposals could be simplified:

We keep alongside a (replacing ) and apply to every question that names a software product or website for which support is required.

I propose simply making the guidance on the tag be:

For questions seeking recommendations for software (including web apps/sites)

We could debate whether web apps and websites should be grouped with software, and the Software Recommendations Stack Exchange seems to agree on something like "web apps are, but websites are not", but I think we as a less technical SE can make a simple and pragmatic decision to say they can be grouped here.

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    I wondered about product-use (instead of product-support) and product-recommendation... We need to keep in mind that the length of tags affect SEO. – ColeValleyGirl Mod Nov 11 '17 at 9:12
  • I don't like product-support as a tag. It's not our job to be product support. The vendors who make the product are supposed to do that. Shouldn't our focus be what the actual problem is? – Jan Murphy Mod Nov 11 '17 at 15:43
  • @JanMurphy Is product-use better? We already have product-support but like you I'm uneasy about it. – ColeValleyGirl Mod Nov 11 '17 at 16:03
  • I don't like product-support either or product-use. If a question is about a genealogy product then I think we should just tag it with that product name. – PolyGeo Mod Nov 11 '17 at 19:13
  • I don't see what using the word "product" buys us. What's it supposed to refer to? – Jan Murphy Mod Nov 11 '17 at 21:53
  • If the tag is supposed to be "effective use of a product (principally software)" -- why not "using-software" or (shocking) "software"? – Jan Murphy Mod Nov 11 '17 at 21:55
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    @JanMurphy I was meaning that product's name, not the word product. My unease with the tag name of software is that it was being used as a catch all making it more granular than I think is useful. – PolyGeo Mod Nov 11 '17 at 22:13
  • I don't think we need tags for product-support or product-use at all - I think in most and possibly all cases the only product tag should be the name of the product being asked about. And if we are allowing software recommendations then a tag for that says that the product being asked about is unspecified but the question is being asked about products. – PolyGeo Mod Nov 11 '17 at 22:18
  • Re: the software tag being useful or not -- I would like to see some input from users like @lkessler who are using tags in the way they were intended by SE -- as something that users can follow. I – Jan Murphy Mod Nov 12 '17 at 2:28
  • @JanMurphy I too would like to hear from users like lkessler on this. "Tags are a means of connecting experts with questions they will be able to answer by sorting questions into specific, well-defined categories." is my guiding principle on how to tag but I think we, like all SE sites, have a great variety of users who seek and funnel questions in various ways, making an ideal tagging scheme unattainable at the outset. I think it can only evolve with more and more community experience and input. – PolyGeo Mod Nov 12 '17 at 2:35
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    @PolyGeo "by sorting questions into specific, well-defined categories." seems the nub of the issue to me -- our current categories are not specific or well defined – ColeValleyGirl Mod Nov 12 '17 at 13:19
  • copied to @JanMurphy – ColeValleyGirl Mod Nov 12 '17 at 13:20
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    @lkessler is away from home are present (judging by his blog) but I'm hoping he'll join in when he's able – ColeValleyGirl Mod Nov 12 '17 at 13:20
  • @PolyGeo "If a question is about a genealogy product then I think we should just tag it with that product name" -- I agree but others want an all encompassing tag as well and I'd like to hear their thinking (including how to maintain it as well as follow it -- following is easy; maintaining is work). – ColeValleyGirl Mod Nov 12 '17 at 13:22
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    @JanMurphy I feel like I raised the software recommendations issue at genealogy.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3270 where the answer I upvoted currently languishes in last place of four. Seeing that my view on them appears out of step with the community I am now trying to accommodate the community's view within SE guidelines. meta.stackexchange.com/a/124915/215590 is a good read on considerations when doing this. – PolyGeo Mod Nov 19 '17 at 21:58

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