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I ask because I've only just noticed a few questions to which the tag has been newly applied, and I don't really see why the old "books" tag wasn't enough.
I don't think we need it. I propose to merge [textbook-recommendation] into [books]. Any objectors please speak up.
By the way, 10k+ rep users can see newly created tags. I try to go through them every now and then to clean up, but I see I let [algebra] get out of hand ... now I'm not sure what to do with it.
I think the consensus around here is that clean-up activities like retagging should be minimally intrusive. Since retagging kicks questions to the top of the active queue, it would be best if you refrained from retagging outside the following situations:
I think there is a case for having either the "books" tag or the "textbook-recommendation" tag, but not both. I also don't believe in trying to fine-tune the tags, except for cases such as those David has mentioned (homological-dimension vs topological-dimension; I don't think one should have a "hausdorff-dimension" tag because there are other notions of topological/metric dimension and I don't want separate tags for all of them). For that reason I don't really want a divide between sheaf-cohomology and sheaf-theory; I would personally use both the tags "cohomology" and "sheaf-theory".
By the way, I view the "reference-request" as being exactly that, and not a "book-recommendation" tag.
Some random thoughts: 1) I find it far easier to use Google to search MO than to use MO to search MO, myself. 2) since I use MO almost exclusively through the "active" page, bumping of old stuff tends to jar me.
Using the site more or less in the way Yemon Choi described, I never paid too much attention to the tags. Sparked by this discussion I looked around a bit more. Here are my thoughts. (Some of what I write could be read as critizising others behavior; this is not my intention. I merely wish to describe my perception of the situation. I can well imagine and understand why the situation is at it is, and I also it is in no way problematic for me.)
My general impression is that there are way too many tags (about a thousand).
A key question to me is what is a good minimal size for a tag to make it useful as a tag.
I see two and two half use-cases for a tag:
The last two are the half-one, as I do not consider them at so important. For the first, a well-chosen title / the first lines (that are visible without opening the question) can by and large fulfil this purpose. And for the latter, I do not really know, but the general sentiment seems to be that serching the site with Google is anyway the way to go.
For 3. I actually do not really see any non-trivial lower bound for the usefullness, and it seems to me that various tags were (unfortunately) created in this spirit. However, as said I do not consider 3. as so important, and for 1. and 2. and also 4. I think there clearly is a lower-bound on the size, below which the tag is not really useful (and its existence is mildly harmful, on the one hand as it is more or less noise, and on the other hand and more importantly as the existence of, say, five too small, and thus in my opninion. not useful tags prevents the existence of one larger and thus useful tag).
Let me elaborate on the first line of the preceeding pargaraph. Why is there, for example, a thanks-tag ? (To answer my own question, it seems somebody found it a nice idea to create it, and then it was never deleted. Both, in particular the latter, understandable, and locally no problem. But the accumulation of such things creates in the long run masses of tags.) To give a somewhat less extreme examples, there is dedekind-domain, prufer-domain, euclidean-domain, ufds, pre-schreier used in total (not individually!) ten times; and some are dually used so the number of question with such a tag should be a bit smaller still. In general, about a third of the tags was used less than 5 times, many even only once.
For 1. and 2. I think everything that is not used at least somewhat frequently is not of much use; perhaps 20 rather more as lower bound (so roughly and adjusting a bit to later cretaion, used once every two weeks, and if I look for question with the tag I get a page full of questions). Even with 20, only a third of the existing tags would make the cut.
To be cont.
Now, for the concrete suggestions:
a. dimension-theory this tag was used slightly more than 30 times. (And there is homological-dimension, used 4 times, and cohomological-dimension used once). I think all this together is a fine size for a tag. True, it is used for topology and algebra, and some other things, but then in total there is perhaps one question every week with this tag, so, if one starts splitting this there is essentially never a question with each of the tags.
b. reference-request and related. This is addmittedly a large tag, and in my opinion a bit overused (what I mean is, just to express that one would be happy with a pointer to a written source answering the question at hand, to me does not make using the referenc-request really justified). I thus can understand the wish to have a specific tag for more general requests regarding intoductory or expository writings on a given subject (as opposed to highly specific requests for individual results), which seems to be the intention of the textbook-recommendation tag. In some sense I thus find it useful, though books serves a similar purpose.
However, I am not quite happy with the name, as it is too specific. To me a textbook is a quite specific type of (published) book.
To give a very recent example involving this tag (and its creator). Yesterday there was the question 'Survey of Algebraic K-theory since 1980 ?', which was in search of an analog of a paper (30 pages) of Weibel on the development of alg. K-theory up to 1980.
This was then additionally tagged textbook-recommendation and an answer was 'Handbook of K-theory' [as far as my limited understanding goes a fine answer].
So what is the problem? First, the question did not really ask for a textbook not even a book but it seems to me just whatever would contain the requested material in a well-organized and somewhat accesible form; whether a textbook, a handbook, a monograph, lecture noted (published or unpublished), a survey articel (or a couple of complementary survey articles)..., I believe was of no importance to the questioner; and, indeed, he expressed (neutral to pleasant) surprise that there was a book. Yet, also this book is not a textbook.
So, while this might be a bit nit-picking this question did not really ask for the recommendation of a textbook.
The point I want to make is that to me the precise meaning of textbook-recommendation is much more narrow then the apparently intended usage. Thus, I think, if this tag should continue to exists it should be renamed. (There is a similar issue with books for this purpose, but it is at least a bit broader, and more importantly already existed.)
I do not really have a good name (and am not a native speaker): still a try, while this sounds odd it might be good to be found easily (when searching the tags) introductory-expository-survey-overview. Or reference-request-expository also for reasons of being found easily (by people already using reference-request).
Afterthought: Perhaps I should add, as this might get lost or not be really visible from what I wrote, that I do appreciate (from one user to another on a to some extent community moderated site) the effort of David White.
And, in theory, I could see some merits of a sophisticated tagging-system. Yet, in practise, I am more than a bit worried that anything too complex will simply not be used properly/consistenly and then loose its usefulness and become (mildly) harmful instead.
Just to apologize for not responding - I am leaving soon for a trip to the UK and am, like, so behind on writing-up/refereeing duties, man. I will try and get back to this with some more coherent thoughts at a later date
David, I'm afraid we do not have the power to change the underlying software. However, I do not know about the particulars of the tag autocomplete box.
The current tagging system, which involves an ArXiv designation for general area plus some keywords, has worked reasonably well for more than a year. As far as I can tell, we haven't run into serious scaling problems, and it doesn't seem to be a danger in the near future. The solutions you propose would be potentially convenient if they were possible, though.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there have been previous meta discussions on related tagging issues. I am thinking in particular of this one.
Note in this discussion that several people were of the view that even very low use tags were still helpful and legitimate. Especially when used in conjunction with more catch-all tags, they can be very helpful. (I'm thinking of pairings such as [ag.algebraic-geometry] and [minimal-model-program]; the former tag serves as an indication of the general area of research, and is useful to everyone, while the second tag is probably not so meaningful to non-experts, but to someone who knows algebraic geometry, it immediately conveys strong information about the flavour of the question.)
In any case, I share the sentiment that some others have expressed here, that it is probably futile to try to be too systematic; with a lot of contributors at different levels of experience, both mathematical and with regard to the site itself, there are bound to be some inconsistencies, confusions, and annoyances with tags. If even the AMS classification system is an ongoing source of dispute (and it is, with legitimate points both for and against its current form), I don't think that we can expect MO tags to be any better. Overall, they seem to be working pretty well as they are.
I would agree that many of the low-use tags individually are helpful, yet I also believe that in there totally they tend to cause confusion and/or inconsitencies.
To illustrate my point, let me return to the rings/domains example: in itself I see nothing wrong with dedekind-domain, prufer-domain, euclidean-domain, ufds, pre-schreier, and also cohen-macauly-ring is fine, and perhaps over time we will get (or perhaps already have for some I did not check) the tags for, say, Bezout, Mori, Krull, Laskerian, gcd, Cohen-Kaplansky, Prüfer v multiplication, Prüfer star multiplication domains or rings.
However, what I do find slightly unfortunate is that I believe none of the questions tagged with the above mentioned tags is tagged (in addition) with commutative-rings. [Reading the thread you linked to now completely, before I knew only the end-part, I learned that at somme point even this commutative-rings tags was at some point considered as to narrow and to be subsumed in ac.commutative-algebra, though some disagreed.]
Faced with the choice of having them all tagged commutative-rings and not a more specific one and
having them all tagged with a more specific one and not commutative-rings I prefer the former.
(If they had both tags, well, I would not mind so much.)
Now, I could tag them in addition with the commutative-rings tag, however as said above by Scott Carnaham, one should not do so. Thus, I might consider suggesting to merge them.
In the very end, as said above, for me personally the tags are of little relevance. However, what I wanted to point out is that, in my opinion, tag-proliferation is not completely for free.
And, I would thus appreciate if at least tags like the I believe recently created, by an experienced user by the way, 'misapplied' tag (I already have doubts regarding the usefullness of applied, but misapplied how will this ever be useful as a tag?) would not be created.
There's a lot to digest and respond to from various people, which I sadly can't do properly right now. Hence this post of mine is going to be even less coherent than usual, I'm afraid.
Yemon seems to want fewer tags, even if this means they are less specific in filtering questions.
That's probably fair. I just don't see why the situation ``as people post more and more specific research questions it's clear our existing tags are going to be overloaded'' is a problem. If one were to start parsing the fine detail of the functional analysis tags we could easily create something like Borges's system with, IMHO, nothing gained. Since I don't search MO to find answers to questions (except to check that no one has already answered it) and I find Googling sufficient for my search requirements, I personally wouldn't gain from more precise taxonomy.
I guess I still don't understand why one wants finer tags as a general principle, rather than something to do on a trial ad hoc basis. I don't think this is going to significantly affect the likelihood or speed with which someone's question is answered. (See my recent questions about finite groups: I am happy to have general tags and a hopefully specific question.) If someone tags a question "Banach algebras" and writes a clear, well-defined question, that's good enough for me, I don't really see how matters would be improved by having separate tags for "Gelfand theory", "Fourier algebras", "uniform algebras", "function algebras", "nonself-adjoint operator algebras", "radical Banach algebras", "strawberry flavoured amenability", "exponential spectrum", "Beurling algebras", "topological centres", "semigroup algebras", "group algebras", "pseudofunction algebras", "spectral synthesis", "operator synthesis", "Q-algebras", "dual Banach algebras", "measure algebras", "approximate homomorphisms", ...
If someone has a question in algebraic topology related to spectra, do we need a tag for "spectra"? (Do we already have one?) If so then I agree one should differentiate between that and the spectrum of sp.spectral-theory, or the prime ideal spectrum; but I am not sure such specificity is needed.
(I should add that I have cared, to varying degrees, about all but two of the examples listed in the penultimate paragraph of my previous post, and those two exceptions are acknowledged topics of research which people are thinking about these days. So it wasn't a list of random obscure stuff, at least not in my mind.)
since the textbook-recommendation tag just passed the taxonimist-badge-granting level (50+) I thought I'd use this opportunity to thank you for creating and (to a significant extent) mainting this tag, which in my opinion developped very well and became a useful addition to the tag-system.