Part of the general network-wide SE code involves automatically removing single-use tags from the system. If a tag has no tag wiki and has only been used on a single question, it automatically disappears after a certain period of time, leaving that single question either with whatever other tags were on it or simply .

Today @Gallifreyan noticed that Literature.SE had 12 questions earlier today, due to this automatic cleanup. This undesired state of affairs has since been alleviated (at the time of writing there are only 4 remaining), but it's going to happen again, and we haven't even found the questions which had a single-use tag together with, say, or .

Please can the "nuke single-use tags" rule be lifted for Literature SE?

We use tags for authors, and (at least currently) for titles of individual works and series. Under our policy that "all literature is equal, and no literature is more equal than others" (as exemplified by our topic challenges), it doesn't make sense to remove tags for authors without many questions. We must have dozens of books and authors about whom only a single question has been asked, and those books and authors have as much of a place on our site (and in our tagging system) as George Orwell and The Sandman. Please let them stay.

Yes, we could (and will, until this is fixed) try to write tag wikis for every new author and book to appear on the site. But this is a lot of work, and may not be feasible as the site becomes busier.

Finally, these is precedent for such an exception within SE: Science Fiction and Fantasy; Movies & TV; Arqade; maybe other sites too. Please can Literature be added to the list?

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    Gaming SFF Movies (and there may be more) Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 22:19
  • On one hand it'll relieve us of the trouble to re-tag orphaned questions. On the other hand, it'll leave tags with only one question and with no usage guidance unchecked. I agree it's better if the tags are not deleted, but we might need a script to find tags with no usage guidance - to keep the site clean. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 18:14
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    @Gallifreyan Tags with no wiki are easy to find via Data.SE (or just keep an eye on literature.stackexchange.com/tags?tab=new). Questions which have had tags silently removed, but which still have other tags remaining and hence aren't untagged, are difficult if not impossible to find.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 18:37
  • That's true, hadn't thought of that. This would mean there weren't actually 12 orphaned questions, but more. Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 18:39
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    A CM is looking into it, that's all I can say at the moment.
    – Mithical Mod
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 18:44
  • Whatever you do, please keep automatically deleting tags with no uses after a while. That is useful for deleting accidentally created misspelled tags without diamond intervention.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 9:08
  • @b_jonas Agreed. AFAIK, no site has an exception to that rule.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 17:25
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    Tags don't expire if they have a tag wiki. Is it a plausible solution to ensure they have tag wikis? Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 8:43
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    @doppelgreener We can certainly try, but it seems like an easier solution for a CM to just flip the relevant switch for this site than for us to have to not only keep track of all new tags but also hunt down existing single-use tags, and have to write tag wikis for not only authors and books we've never heard of but also potentially tags which have no clear usage guidance as yet.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 9:44

1 Answer 1


You're already doing the right thing here by creating tag wikis for tags that matter to you. For perspective: in the vast majority of cases, most tags, as well as the most useful tags, will be about things that have more than one question asked about them, so this entire discussion here is about an edge case. If you want to have a site policy about keeping low-use tags around for reasons that are more about some definition of equality than utility, we won't stop you, but you'll have to do the work of creating the wikis yourselves.

For a bit of history, the logic that allows single-use tags to exist on other sites is nothing more than a hacky workaround. It was given to Arqade before the system had the "wikis prevent tag removal" logic in place. If anything, we should be turning the single-use tag exception off on other sites, now that tag wikis exist. (But we aren't planning on doing that, because leaving things alone is simpler and less likely to cause problems than Doing Things.)

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    If by any chance you ever will decide to cancel the years-long practice of not deleting single-use tags on the sites that currently have this feature, please, by any means, let those sites know about that beforehand so they can prepare for it. Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 18:22
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    “in the vast majority of cases, most tags, as well as the most useful tags, will be about things that have more than one question asked about them” — no. 1.This is not true on sites like Arqade, Science Fiction & Fantasy and Literature where posts are tagged with the name of an author of work. 2. Even on sites where it is true for most tags, that's no reason to delete the minority without giving the community any oversight on this process. Commented Oct 7, 2017 at 9:54
  • Oh! This is very useful. So we just have to add a short description of what the tag means to tag wiki, and the tag will stay.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 13:20
  • @Gilles re #1 I think we're talking past each other. If you take the site policy about tagging with author/work name as a given, then you're right, what I said wouldn't be true. But my point was that such mandatory tagging rules aren't exactly encouraged or intended by the system in the first place; i.e. we came to different conclusions because we don't agree about the premise. I wrote a bit more about tagging philosophy elsewhere earlier today, if you're interested in a bit more color.
    – Pops
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:38
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    @Pops Given that the removal of single-use tags has a poor track record on Unix.SE (when I looked, 3/4 of its picks were tags that should be staying), where the tagging policy is pretty close to that of SO, the problem with single-use tags is not due to those sites' tagging policy. It's only exacerbated — and author tags are useful. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:54
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    If you truly believe the tag killer to be useful, why haven't you ever published any evaluation of its effectiveness? I.e. how many useless tags has it killed, how many useful tags, how many tags that should have been renamed? Why don't you provide any way for communities to have oversight? The tag killer feels like a gratuitous thorn in each community's paws. You create a problem, you refuse to fix it, and you only pretend to offer alternatives that obviously don't make sense. Why? Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 20:00
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    You're making this sound like some kind of conspiracy where, at worst, it's just incompetence. I don't think we've ever run any effectiveness evaluation. This comment section feels like an increasingly inappropriate venue for this discussion, though. Maybe we can take it to chat, or a main meta post about tagging philosophy?
    – Pops
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 12:25

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