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In light of the recent controversy and edit wars over tagging, it is clear that History.SE needs a community consensus on tagging. I would therefore like to initiate discussions on tagging specific topics, starting with the Second World War.

In the past, the standard has been to tag WW2 questions with and the relevant participants that is the focus of the question, e.g. or , and/or the location, e.g. . Recently, one user have been editing onto many questions, while another user have removed the country tags from many of the results. Surely all well-intentioned, but unfortunately inconsistent.

Therefore, this post seeks to develop and codify a standard practice going forward.

Detailed tags are inherently useful. Unfortunately, (1) There's a limit of 5 tags per question, and (2) Inconsistent tagging resulting from lack of space harms the utility of the tagging system. We therefore need to strike a balance between specificity/detail, and pragmatism, that the community at large finds acceptable.


The primary questions that comes to mind are:

  1. Should WW2 questions be tagged by theatre?
    a. If so, what theatre tags do we need?
    b. Further, do theatre tagged questions require the WW2 general tag still?
  2. Should we have country / regional tags on WW2 questions?
    a. If so, under what circumstances should country tags be assigned?
    b. Should we still use these if we want to use theatre tags?
    c. What about continental tags, such as or ?
  3. Should the tag be used too?
  4. Under what circumstances should the tag coexist with the WW2 tags?

If there are any other tags to consider, please suggest them.

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Tagging a question should be easy and comprehensive enough so it can be done "good enough" by the poster. We should not become the site of experts where the poster cannot formulate a good question unless edited by us.

My main concern is that while the theater designations are correct, they don't come naturally to people asking the questions. They know it's the second world war and Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and they have a question about that, so that is how they will tag it.

The theater tags are nice and probably correct but should always be in addition to the tags naturally used and understood by the poster. They should never replace them or remove one of the tags that the user is familiar with.


so to go through the list of questions:

Should WW2 questions be tagged by theatre

Only if there is enough room to fit in the tag without removing others or if the question is actually about the whole theatre.

Should we have country / regional tags on WW2 questions?

Absolutely. Why not? If I want to know about dutch coastal bunkers in 1943, I would tag it World War 2 and Dutch and maybe I find a tag for coastal defense. I don't know how a european theatre tag would help.

Should the tag be used too?

I think using the world war two tag and the war tag would be redundant. If both are used, the war tag can be removed, if just the war tag is used it can be replaced by the correct war tag. World War 2 is a big enough thing that people know the designation without being an expert.

Under what circumstances should the sino-japanese-war tag coexist with the WW2 tags?

I guess when someone actually has a question about it? I'm not that much of a history expert, but I guess in 1937 there was no World War 2 yet, so it would apply. But again, if someone tagged a question WW2 and Japan and China, I think that's sufficient. If the additional tag fits in, great. Otherwise, do not remove their common sense tags and replace them with specifics probably unknown to them.

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    Since the purpose of tags is supposed to be "sorting questions into specific, well-defined categories", I'd say we should either use them, or not use them, but at least be consistent. Saying it's OK to use them sometimes, if it can be fitted in, but not otherwise, rather defeats that purpose. – sempaiscuba May 16 at 11:45
  • That's not about the tag itself, but about the limit on tags per question. All I'm saying is do not force a tag unto a user by removing theirs. I hold that opinion for all tags. It's not inconsistent tagging for this tag, it's inconsistent for every tag that might be the 6th. – nvoigt May 16 at 11:49
  • That's fair. I think I'd argue that we may be trying to apply too many tags generally and that we may already have more than we need for WW2 in particular. I guess I'd ask what extra value the extra tag is expected to add (and that's also not just for this tag but for all tagging). – sempaiscuba May 16 at 11:56
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Absolutely not.

A tag should address only one of:

  • who;
  • what;
  • when;
  • where; or
  • not one of the above but too seminally important in history to be left out.

Otherwise every cross-combination results in an unmanageable number of tags.

Further, the categories in each tag-type should be broad, not narrow. On the order of 50 or so in each category still provides a cross product of 50^5 = 312,500.000 distinct categories, accessible by being familiar with only about 250 tags.

To be useful, a contributor should have a reasonable expectation of knowing, now, what tags will be used in the future. Otherwise subscriptions don't work, filtering on tags don't work, assigning tags doesn't work, and the number of tags covering cross-products simply grows without bound - because there is no basis upon which to deny a unique tag.

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    I agree with much of what you're saying regarding how to use tags, but is that a no to all of the questions raised in the OP? That is, since your post seems primarily focused on general principles, could you elaborate on applying it to typical WW2 questions? – Semaphore May 7 at 23:25

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