I've noticed several newly created tags have very poorly-made tag wiki edits. One such example is that of the tag. The tag wiki (as of now) is

For questions regarding the concept of irony.

This is a standard textbook case of a circular definition. In this case, the tag wiki should be describing what irony actually is. If you see low-quality tag wiki edits like the one above in the review queues, please don't approve them.

  • It's unfortunate that one can't simply clear out a bad tag wiki: apparently they're not allowed to be completely emptied. – Rand al'Thor Jan 31 '17 at 22:48
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    This is important. We're growing a large bank of tag wikis that are just going to have to be cleaned up later. – user80 Jan 31 '17 at 22:50
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    Is that really getting through? That is... Not really much better than anything at all. – Zizouz212 Jan 31 '17 at 22:51
  • Pretty much every tag description for an author tag says something along the lines of "for questions about the writer ____ and their works". Just to clarify, that would also count as a circular definition, right? – user111 Jan 31 '17 at 22:52
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    @Hamlet no. That provides a usage guidance, which is useful. It may not be wonderful, but it's not bad. – Mithical Jan 31 '17 at 22:53
  • @Hamlet That may be true for others, but in almost all of the tag wikis I've created for authors, I include far more information than simply "for use on questions about the author and their works". – fi12 Jan 31 '17 at 22:54
  • @Hamlet Let me show one of my tag wikis to demonstrate what I mean. – fi12 Jan 31 '17 at 22:55
  • @fi12 I definitely wasn't referring to your tag wikis; in fact, I think I just approved a fantastic tag wiki you wrote for invisible-cities. – user111 Jan 31 '17 at 22:56
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    @Hamlet This is the tag wiki for Italo Calvino that was originally created: "For use in questions about Italo Calvino and his life as a writer." Here's my edited one: "For questions regarding the works of Italo Calvino, the Italian journalist and writer of the Our Ancestors trilogy, the Cosmicomics collection of short stories, and the novel Invisible Cities." – fi12 Jan 31 '17 at 22:56
  • @Hamlet Thanks, I see your point! – fi12 Jan 31 '17 at 22:57
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    @Hamlet Agreed with Mithrandir. It's useful to know that author tags are not only for questions specifically about the author but also for questions about their works. That kind of usage guidance is what people need to know when deciding how to tag their question. – Rand al'Thor Jan 31 '17 at 22:57
  • Rand, Mithrandir, thanks for the clarification! @fi12 you should post the two wikis for Italo Calvino as an answer to this question, so that we have some examples of good and bad tag wikis. – user111 Jan 31 '17 at 22:58

An addendum to this reminder: tag wikis and tag wiki excerpts do two different things.

A tag wiki excerpt is there for usage guidance. It describes what's going on in the tag, and provides a bird's-eye cursory view of whether your question should appropriately use that tag.

A tag wiki is more of a cursory view of the topic itself. You read a tag wiki when you want to know more about what the tag actually means, what resources are available related to it, and the like.

This means that you as a reviewer need to be aware of which you're reviewing. An excerpt that describes a tag as "for questions concerning irony as a whole, or irony as it appears in a specific work" is okay (though maybe not great). A wiki that says that is borderline useless.

It can be tricky to see which is which in the interface, so make sure you check.

  • +1, this is a very good point. Brb, finding documentation to support it ... – Rand al'Thor Jan 31 '17 at 23:16
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    Very true, however the suggested edits queue does a very bad job at presenting what one is reviewing. – Helmar Feb 5 '17 at 10:49


Here's another bad one from earlier today. I could find dozens more by trawling through edit histories: one, two, three, four, five, etc. etc.

May I take this opportunity to remind everyone of some of the standard reasons for rejecting edits to tag wikis and excerpts:

  • copied content

    This edit copies a significant amount of content from an external source. Generic descriptions such as encyclopedia articles and ad copy do not provide useful guidance; try creating something useful to this community specifically, and be sure to attribute the original author. See: How to reference material written by others.

  • lacks usage guidance

    Simply defining what a [tag] is rarely helps those using it unless the tag's name itself is ambiguous. Excerpts should describe why and when a tag should be used.

  • circular tag definition

    Tag excerpts amounting to, "[tag] is for questions about [tag]" are pointless and usually rejected. Excerpts should describe why and when a tag would be used.

(The last two of these are most relevant to the issue you raise, but I thought it was worth mentioning the first too, since that's often been an issue on similar sites such as SFF and M&TV, where people just copy information about a particular book or film verbatim from Wikipedia.)

Please also remember the advice which appears on the side of the screen whenever you're editing a tag wiki:

The usage guidance, or tag wiki excerpt, is a short blurb that describes when and why a tag should be used on this site specifically.

The full tag wiki is a detailed introduction to the topic, suitable as a destination for those curious about it:

► what questions should have this tag?

► some basic definitions

► brief introduction to the subject

► important links for learning more

► one reasonably sized page

See our advice on writing great tag wikis.

One important thing to take away from this is, as @Emrakul notes, that tag wikis and excerpts are two different things, and the guidelines for editing the two are different from each other.


How to make a Tag Wiki Excerpt

A Zizouz212's guide to... well... making a tag wiki excerpt

Tag Wiki Excerpts are intended to do two things: explain briefly what the topic of the tag is about (especially if it follows a specific context in the site), and describe when to use the tag. Here are a few steps you can follow:

  1. Make a blurb!

    Remember the elevator pitch you're supposedly supposed to make for the site? Literature SE: the site where your great books come alive! (Yeah, I know, that sucks). Think of a small blurb that can accurately describe the topic the tag attempts to convey. For authors, say something like where they are from, or what genres of book they wrote about.

    For , you could probably go along the lines of something like this: A technique used to express a meaning that is often contrary to what is read literally, similar to sarcasm.

  2. Interesting question quirks?

    Next, you need to look at the topic within the context of the site. Weird things that are off-topic? Cases where the tag shouldn't (or should) be used? Include that! It's part of your usage guidance for the tag - exactly what an excerpt is supposed to be about.

Now, you just formulate it together! As an example, here's one for irony:

For questions about the literary technique of irony, often used to convey a meaning that is contrary to what was written.

Or anything along those lines.

Of course, this isn't definitive. Standards can be created by the community. Happy Excerpting!

  • I would place a lot more emphasis on the second of your two points here. Just describing the meaning of irony doesn't make a good irony tag wiki, according to SE-wide guidelines (see the second bullet point in my answer). – Rand al'Thor Jan 31 '17 at 23:06
  • @Randal'Thor Feel free to edit it as you see fit. These are just basic guidelines, if we really want to expand on something like this, we're probably better off to create a dedicated meta post :) – Zizouz212 Jan 31 '17 at 23:07

Yes, please don't approve bad edits. While they do put something in, a tag wiki like this isn't good. There is a specific reject reason for edits like this - circular definition:

Tag excerpts amounting to, "[tag] is for questions about [tag]" are pointless and usually rejected. Excerpts should describe why and when a tag would be used.

In this specific case, however, I don't think the problem was the suggested edit - see the suggested edit on that wiki. The wiki was edited after, by someone with trusted user status, who could edit tag wikis freely. No blame here - just make sure that the tag wiki excerpts are helpful, whether you are suggesting edits or are editing freely.

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