Some tags seem to attract a significant amount of off-topic questions.

Specifically, we have tags for specific programming languages like , , , , which seem to be used frequently on off-topic questions. This happens even if the tag description explicitly mentions that programming questions are off-topic. Newcomers simply do not read the description.

In the past, it was suggested to simply remove such tags, but it was decided not to do so, since the lack of a tag would hardly stop the off-topic questions, who would use other tags. Indeed, some off-topic programming questions often misuse instead, consequently notifying its followers / subscribers.

This problem might also affect other tags than those above, in other areas of CS.

(Please do not re-open the discussion for deleting such tags here. We are not discussing that.)

This problem could be mitigated if the UI was improved to somehow warn new users.

Here's a possible design. A tag can be marked as a "problematic" one by moderators. When a low reputation user is about to ask a question with a problematic tag, the UI shows a confirmation dialog titled "Your question might be off-topic!", highlighting the tag description (or wiki?), and asking the user to confirm the submission. Tag descriptions/wikis for those tags would be updated with this in mind.

A simpler alternative would be to warn all new users on all tags, or to make the tag descriptions more prominent somehow.

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    $\begingroup$ I believe this feature already exists but my Google-fu is lacking. I think it could work quite well. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2017 at 20:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ See meta.stackexchange.com/q/298887/160917 and meta.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/tag-warnings. I suggest making a specific proposal that we can vote on: exactly which tags should receive a warning? what should the text of the warning be? Then we can vote on the proposal. I don't think it's as useful to use this question to try to design a UI -- the feature already exists, the UI is what it is, and Stack Exchange probably isn't going to change that just for us. $\endgroup$
    – D.W. Mod
    Sep 24, 2017 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ @D.W. Good point. It's nice to have the feature already implemented. I sketched a proposal below. $\endgroup$
    – chi
    Sep 24, 2017 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ Alternatives: 1) Subscribe to the RSS feeds or newsletters of those tags and flag anything that comes in. (already implemented) 2) Some tags immediatley put a question on the Triage review queue. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Sep 25, 2017 at 13:08

1 Answer 1


As D.W. points out, something like this was already implemented on StackOverflow! Hence, this feature only has to be turned on.

I propose that this feature is turned on on all the language-specific tags (, , , , , , ) with the following warning text:

Questions about $LANGUAGE are often closed as off-topic!

If your question is about $LANGUAGE programming, it is off-topic on Computer Science, but it might be on topic on StackOverflow instead.

More importantly, I also propose to turn this feature on for as well, with the following text.

The programming-languages tag is often used for off-topic questions!

This tag covers the design, implementation, and analysis of programming languages. It does not cover their use, i.e. developing programs. (It is about "building the car", not "driving".)

Programming questions are off-topic on Computer Science, but might be on topic on StackOverflow instead.

I'm unsure about the car analogy, but I included it since I believe many "offenders" which post programming questions under this tag do not understand what programming languages design is about. (I surely did not understand that when I was a freshman.)

Feel free to propose better warning texts.

  • $\begingroup$ @D.W. Right. I listed all the languages I could find, and removed the ellipsis. $\endgroup$
    – chi
    Sep 25, 2017 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ Heuristic: If it's also an SO tag, it should probably be on the list. (I know that tags like [algorithms] and [data-structures] appear on both sites.) Can we use data explorer to create a short list? (cc @D.W.) $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Sep 25, 2017 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Raphael I performed a quick manual search using the top ~50 languages according to the TIOBE index. Most languages have no tag on CS (e.g. Perl), at least at the moment. I think the most frequently used tags are those I mention above. Even if we can't prevent all the off-topic questions, we should be able to mitigate them. $\endgroup$
    – chi
    Sep 25, 2017 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael It's been a while since this discussion has gone 'cold'. Are you aware of any status or opinion of SE staff wrt. the implementation of this? $\endgroup$
    – Discrete lizard Mod
    Jan 23, 2018 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Discretelizard Unfortunately, no. My guess is that the answer will be "no" as long as manual interaction is necessary; it's a matter of personal resources over at SE. Stack Overflow and maybe a few other big sites get hands-on treatment, for the other sites it doesn't seem to be worth it, mostly. (That's my interpretation, not an official statement.) Do you think we should ask? $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Jan 23, 2018 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael If it wouldn't be too much trouble, please ask. (I assume that by 'we', you mean the cs moderators?) (To avoid potential confusion, I mean about this feature. Not so much the kind of treatment) The reason I ask this is that I'm a bit against these tags and was considering re-re-opening discussion and came along these posts. So if the response would be of the form 'no' or 'not anytime soon', it might be worthwhile to actually discuss whether to do something and what. $\endgroup$
    – Discrete lizard Mod
    Jan 23, 2018 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Discretelizard I guess I meant us moderators, but in fact every user can ping staff if you can catch them in a chatroom. They are all approachable and friendly, in my experience. For now, I've pinged Shog9 here. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Jan 23, 2018 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael I'll keep that in mind, but it seems you have a much clearer idea of where to ask. Anyway, thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Discrete lizard Mod
    Jan 23, 2018 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Discretelizard No trouble, it's perfectly valid to go through site moderators. That's what we're here for! :) Just wanted to note that you can skip us via chat and Meta Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Jan 23, 2018 at 16:13

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