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This question asks whether programming language tags such as [java], [c++], or [python] are on topic at CS stack exchange. The answer says that questions about the programming languages themselves may be on topic but questions about writing in those languages aren't.

That answer is 5 years old and while I agree with it in theory, looking at questions with those tags reveals a graveyard of programming questions that should not have been asked here (and generally are very low quality). The top questions tagged [java], [c++], and [python] are generally not specific to one particular language. In the few cases that they are, they would also be fine under more general tags like [programming-languages] or [type-theory] and the language-specific tag seems unnecessary. For each of these tags, the majority of questions have 0 or fewer votes and a large number have negative votes.

I posit that the presence of those tags gives newbies the impression that their programming questions are on topic here. Even if there are theoretically good questions for these tags, in practice these tags are magnets for bad questions. Given the data, do we really think these tags are a net positive for the site?

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  • $\begingroup$ Please flag all programming questions for closing, and edit away programming-language tags if they are irrelevant. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Oct 25 '18 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ "Given the data, do we really think these tags are a net positive for the site?" -- no, certainly not. But they make offtopic questions easier to find, or so the reasoning goes. We can never prevent people from asking crappy questions, and people posting programming questions have already shown they haven't looked at tags, tag descriptions, questions, or the help section of this site. They won't be deterred by not finding their tags; they'd just use others. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Oct 25 '18 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ "Good" example. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Oct 30 '18 at 22:49
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I posit that the presence of those tags gives newbies the impression that their programming questions are on topic here. Even if there are theoretically good questions for these tags, in practice these tags are magnets for bad questions.

I have never had this impression and your hypothesis is not consistent with the user interface and with the behaviors that I've observed.

When you're writing a question, the choice of tags comes last, after you've: 1: decided to post on this site; 2: written a title; 3: written the body of your question. How many people would give up at step 4: choose some tags? We don't have data on this, but when you've gone through so much effort, are you going to let the absence of the most obvious tag stop you?

We do have some related data that points to the answer being “no”. Even on Stack Overflow where the tags exists and is obviously a core tag for the site's topic, a sizable minority of askers don't pick a language tag, but some other tag that is less relevant or totally unrelated. For example, as I write, there are 2 non-deleted questions in the question2answer tag — those people have a question to answer. That's just from the past 9 days (older questions are likely to be automatically deleted and doesn't include manually-deleted questions. Back when there was a homework tag, a lot of questions got posted with just this tag. Tags like question had to be blacklisted (even though that tag name could make sense for NLP). Here on CS.SE, we get programming questions with tags like , or just some choice of tag that makes absolutely no sense.

Removing the tags would have no impact on the flow of bad or off-topic questions. It would only make it harder to find questions to which the tags are relevant. So the tags are beneficial to the site.

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