I can not explain with out taking an example.

See this question Gauge theory on schemes.

I hear "Gauge theory" every now and then and wanted to know what it is about. I did not enjoy reading Wikipedia article or some other things on internet.

Can I ask the user in comments below the question to say few words about Gauge theory or ask him to edit the tag info for that tag?

Tag info for Gauge theory is " Gauge theory in physics and mathematics refers to a field theory whose fields include principal bundles with connection" which I could not understand.

Is this considered as noise?

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    $\begingroup$ If such a comment appeared on one of my questions (as opposed to asking for some clarification) I would be a little irritated and would not respond. It is not the OP's perogative to make sure you enjoy reading about their subject. $\endgroup$
    – mme
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeMiller Thanks for sharing your opinion. I never said If some one ask a question, they should explain me about their question.. You are simply looking at super extreme case :) :) I take your feedback "If such a comment appeared on one of my questions (as opposed to asking for some clarification) I would be a little irritated and would not respond. " Thank you $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ My -1 vote means: a question about Gauge Theory is not a place to ask "What is gauge theory?" And similarly for other major topics in place of "Gauge Theory". $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @GeraldEdgar What I mean is every one might have some 1 line/2 line impression of what their question/topic is about... I belive this is more useful (for first timers) than reading a book or wikipedia article... I am not planning to ask details... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @GeraldEdgar I have no opinion in general, but the linked post is not just a question in the field of gauge theory, but is about the very scope of this field. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:39

3 Answers 3


Please do not ask for clarification when the content of the question is clear to specialists. The person asking the question is looking for an answer, not a discussion about basic definitions. Of course, a more accessible introduction to a question can be beneficial to non-specialists (and it tends to attract more up-votes), but I don't think we should expect people to provide such introductions (or tag info blurbs) upon request.

If the question is expressed in an unclear way, or uses unconventional notation, then I recommend asking for clarification.

In the case of your example, the notion of gauge theory, especially in the classical field theory sense, is well-known to experts. If you want to know more about gauge theory from a mathematical standpoint, I recommend:

  1. Talk to someone who knows, if such a person is around.
  2. If a knowledgable person isn't around, read a reference (e.g., the introduction to the Deligne-Freed IAS notes on classical field theory)
  3. If you don't know an introductory reference, ask for one using a separate question.
  • $\begingroup$ Ok. Agreed :) :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 12:19

As said by several users, comments to questions in the given field is not the best place for requests about the meaning of the field.

Anyway, I think it is plausible that some given subfield of mathematics is not clearly defined, or not defined in a way that is not clear to people outside the field. If this is your feeling, I think it is perfectly acceptable to post a specific question.

It's even not clear for me if gauge theory in mathematics exists as subfield of mathematics in its own sake (as suggested by the current tag info), or only exists through its physical motivation as a mathematical formalism (as suggested by the Wikipedia article).


  • $\begingroup$ +1 for "Avoid saying you don't like or don't enjoy... but you can say you find some given description unclear, confusing, incomplete, etc." and "If possible, say what is your current understanding." $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ Gauge theory does indeed exist as a mathematical subfield in its own right: I count myself among the number of practitioners. It has come to be useful in low-dimensional topology and the topology of manifolds with special holonony in its own right, separate from its origins. I do not know how I would define "gauge theory" or I would have edited the tag. The tag wiki itself is confusing and ambiguous (I do not know what a field theory is in any precise sense, eg). $\endgroup$
    – mme
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 21:09

Since your question is partly about tag-wikis, let me add a brief comment on this.

The main purpose of the tag-info is to give guidance on how the tag should be used. In many cases people who are familiar with the area know the intended usage just from the tag name. So this is more important if the tag-name is ambiguous1 or might be misunderstood by a non-expert.2 See also: What is a tag wiki? How do I write a good one?

The tag-wiki might be a good place to give some pointers to good resources about the topic and a very brief overview what the topic is about. (However, it is probably not suitable for a full blown introduction for some topic - similar to a Wikipedia or nCatLab article.)

It is great if some people do this - editing and improving tag-infos should certainly be encouraged. However, it seems that not many users of this site find the time to do this.3

Regarding a comment asking somebody to edit tag-info for a specific tag - I have certainly posted several such comments, you can find some of them archived in chat. However, it was slightly different situation - my comment was typically addressed to the user who created the tag. And the intention was mainly to have some guidance for the usage of the new tag on the site.

1A good example is that there are several tags for lattices - this word is used in several different meanings in mathematics. There were at least three posts on meta about this - in 2014, in 2015 and in 2016. The situation about tagging questions about these topics doesn't seem to be satisfactorily resolved.

2A good example is the tag (divisors). As you can see from the tag-info the tag is intended for divisors in algebraic geometry. But it is not surprising that some users just look at the name and use the tag incorrectly - you can see list of the posts where this tag was removed. (There is a proposal to rename the tag to make this distinction clearer.) Another example of a tag which is relatively often used incorrectly if . (To make the situation worse, in this case the tag-info is empty. Again, I will add questions where the tag was removed.)

3You can check some stats about editing tag-wikis and tag-excerpts in these queries: Recent tag-info edits, Number of tag-info edits (including deleted users) and Number of tag-wikis edited (only body).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "editing and improving tag-infos should certainly be encouraged. However, it seems that not many users of this site find the time to do this". I don't think it's a matter of time. Indeed, the site's feature for this are very poor, at least to my understanding. Edits would typically require discussion, and a discussion is not really possible, except specifically posting on meta for this, which is not practical, and discouraging for minor issues. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ @YCor I disagree (to some extent). I think that issue which require discussion is if there is unclear (or not enough consensus) on how the tag should be used - in which case I consider the fact that usage of the tag is unclear or inconsistent a bigger problem than a missing tag-wiki. The fact that these days there is not much discussion around tags is confirmed for example in the message by François G. Dorais which I quoted in chat. (Where we can discuss this further if this is too much of a digression.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ However, some edits to tag-wikis do not take so much time (at least for a user familiar with the area and in cases where the usage of the tag is clear). For example, adding a link to great resource you know does not take much time (in some cases even a post on MathOverflow might be suitable - especially if there is a post collecting good materials for given area). $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ Another example of an edit which does not take much time is adding some basic links (such as Wikipedia or nLab) - both to have some resources and also to help with the tag-infos which were simply copied here without proper attribution. Such problem was previously mentioned here on meta in these posts: Recent suggested tag wiki edits and Should tag-wiki include a source where it is taken from? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 6:11
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that edits without discussion are easy to do, under, however, the restriction of having the right to edit a given tag, which requires to have a certain number points gained on question with this tag (I was once blocked for such a reason). Another illustration of the awkward situation about tagging is the artificial embedding of "Help cleanup tags" as a multi-answer question, in which the settled cases are deleted. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ @YCor You don't need to have any score to be able to edit the tag-wiki, the only restriction is that under 20k any edit to a tag-wiki needs to go through the review. You probably mean tag synonyms - that is where you need score +5 to be able to suggest a synonym. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding the "Help cleanup tags!" - this was the decision made by the creator of the thread - which was François G. Dorais. Personally, option to have single thread seems reasonable to me, some issues are too minor to guarantee a separate question - but I might be wrong. I have mentioned a few times that I dislike the fact that the mods delete closed discussions in those thread - again other users might have different opinion than I do. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ I'm fine with this "Help cleanup tags" thread, it's just the less bad option according to what is currently technically possible. Clearly it's not a natural one. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 13:28

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