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As discussed in this completed proposal regarding all of the other content description tags and this subsequent discussion on tags in general, I would like to start a discussion about Genre tags and their use.

As discussed extensively both in the above posts and elsewhere on the Stack Exchange network (including in our own chat room), the purpose of tags is to clearly describe what the question is, rather than what the content is. This leads us to some inconsistent behavior in the way we use genre tags.

To be clear, genre tags are the following:

etc...

Currently these are used in three ways, not all of these ways are even as they should be and as far as I can see only one of these ways is valid:

On identification questions

NOT a valid use cases. In this instance, is not describing the question, it's describing the content of the question. The question isn't about science fiction and so shouldn't be there. This means that all identification questions would exclusively have their identification tag and nothing else.

On movie questions

NOT a valid use cases. We shouldn't be tagging these with genre tags anyway but this still happens on a daily basis.

In this instance, the movie, is a science fiction movie, that isn't going to change and therefore the tag is completely redundant. The tag wiki for would ideally state "An American science fiction movie", and this is where this information should be conveyed.

On everything else

This is the valid use - if your question isn't identification and isn't about a specific movie but is relevant only to a specific genre, you would tag that question with an appropriate tag for what the question is about and a genre tag. You could have ten basically identical questions each with with a different genre tag and all ten questions would have different answers (most likely) that require the differentiation provided by the genre tag. I'm not saying that is the only valid use - any non-movie tag that isn't identification is a technical question.


Now, there are a couple of other things to take into consideration:

  • feed bots for various sites operate off genres
  • keeping tags for one purpose is going to cause an edit overhead for all the questions they shouldn't be used on
  • a quick browse through the genre tags right now indicate that there are instances of use case #1 and #2. Chat seems to believe there are some use case #3s around but I haven't found any yet
  • use case #1 is extremely inconsistent to the point where it's nearly completely pointless using the tags in this manner

It would probably be worth completely getting rid of all genre tags and coming up with a better solution (merely mentioning the genre in the body and title of the question, perhaps) for the tiny use case in which they should actually be used.


With this in mind, I can see only a few possible solutions (although this could just be me being short sighted so if you have any better ideas...):

Solution 1 -

Ignore this post, continuing using genre tags, but use them consistently (which means editing every post on the site to ensure that they're used consistently, and not just when that particular person wanted to use them).

This would mean the removal of all instances of use case #2, the editing of genre tags onto every identification question where the information is provided, etc.

Solution 2 -

Remove genre tags from every non-technical question. Removing all genre tags from only non-technical questions (see above for what a technical question is) would be a large job and not prevent people from misusing these tags in the future.

This would mean the removal of all instances of use case #1 and #2.

Solution 3 -

Remove all genre tags from every question and edit the genre name into technical questions. This is the easiest solution - mods can remove the tags without edits, and moving forwards the tags can't be re-created by users without enough reputation to do so.

This would mean the complete removal of all genre tags from the site.

  • Solution 2 would be a large job really, though. It could simply be merged into identify-this-movie and readded to very few questions that really need it. But keeping users from using it in the future for IDs would be quite a job. But well, we already have that problem to a lesser degree for the -cinema tags, and it didn't yet get out of hand. – Napoleon Wilson May 10 '15 at 16:09
  • By the way, on movie questions that are not about the genre itself those tags already are forbidden right now. So only your 1st and 3rd current uses are valid according to current rules. Thus abandoning use-case 2 wouldn't change anything. – Napoleon Wilson May 10 '15 at 16:10
  • I have updated to point out that they shouldn't be used but currently are in instances. – user5603 May 10 '15 at 16:11
  • I saw that you tried to update it that way, I simply wanted to make it perfectly clear to anyone reading it, since I still feel it might get lost in the post that use case #2 is not valid even if we don't change anything. – Napoleon Wilson May 10 '15 at 16:26
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    Lookiong on the science-fiction tag wiki, I find: "To be used on ID-questions or questions pertaining to the genre of science-fiction in general, not for questions about individual movies." So it directly contradicts you on the validity on identification questions. And given that IMHO the only reasons why one would seek for the "identify" tags would be if one would like to either help with identifying movies or discover movies, I consider them indeed useful in that case, since you might e.g. be more interested in identifying/discovering science-fiction movies than in identifying dramas. – celtschk May 31 '15 at 7:23
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    Under #2, how would a sub-300 user ask a non-technical question about a movie that doesn't already have a tag? Would the question be posted in other-movies with a comment to "someone please create a tag for this movie"? – Damian Yerrick Jun 2 '15 at 3:55
  • I'd like to see some numbers for this. But honestly, without more community buy-in to help enforce this I don't really see this going anywhere without major mod enforcement. – DForck42 Jun 8 '15 at 2:02
  • @tomcody based on this, the scifi tag on my question was wrong, but the other two (pilot and cancelation) seem correct? – cde Aug 29 '15 at 1:36
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Based on your three options, I think my preferred solution is #2...

Genre tags should only be used to mark questions about the genre in general, not about any specific film, or ID question. I don't know if there are any questions at this point that fit this use but I don't think uses 1 or 2 are appropriate.

For example, the hypothetical question:

In horror, why do the girls always run up the stairs instead of out of the building.

This question is only about horror tropes, so it makes sense to tag it .

I don't believe that ID questions should be tagged with genres. I've often found that what people remember about a film isn't actually correct and it is better for them to just include that information in the question content, particularly when they think it could be one of multiple genre.

As to the "stuff tagged shows up in the Sci-Fi Chat"... I don't really care. When that happens, half of the time all that sci-fi does is come over here and say "you should ask this on Sci-fi.SE instead". I don't see why we should facilitate this. Plus, I'm guessing that the only questions they're really interested in are the ones that would be wrongly tagged "genre" under case number 2 anyway.

  • This will for all intents and purposes look like removing all genre tags due to the lack of content we have that falls into the valid use case proposed by solution #2# – user5603 May 14 '15 at 10:37
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tl;dr: I think for specific movies, the genre tags should be kept resp. applied.

The primary function of tags is to find things, and to favourite or ignore them. Now one may debate whether the tag on specific movies is helpful in searching or not, but for the other two uses, it's IMHO no question. If I'm specifically interested in science-fiction movies, I certainly am interested also in the specific movies. And if I don't want to see any science-fiction questions, I certainly don't want to see questions about specific science fiction movies.

Therefore I think genre tags on specific movies are useful.

Of course the perfect solution would be if one could make a tag imply another tag, and that having taking in account on searches and favourite/ignored tags. Then you could make e.g. imply and it would be sufficient to have the first tag (and ideally the software would automatically remove the second one, as it is implied by the first one).

Note that this concept would also make sense on other SE sites (for example, on Stack Overflow, the c++11 and c++14 tags certainly imply the c++ tag, or on worldbuilding.SE it would make sense to have the hard-science tag imply the science-based tag).

However without having an implied tags feature, I think it is definitely worthwhile to have those tags explicitly.

  • "Of course the perfect solution would be if one could make a tag imply another tag" - Sure, but as long as that isn't possible your solution just doesn't seem feasible, besides the fact that defining the genre of a movie can be very very very difficult, let alone subjective. (And let's not mention the endeavour of retagging each and every question on the whole site to date.) – Napoleon Wilson Oct 17 '15 at 12:07
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/q/223400/162011. – Napoleon Wilson Oct 17 '15 at 12:10

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