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Currently, contra its intention the "tag-removed" tag has more than $300$ associated questions, many of which are upvoted and have actually contentful tags. This seems like a situation ripe for mass tag removal; however, doing that via the normal process would result in bumping many questions to the front page for no purpose.

Is there a way to address this - say, remove this tag from all positive-net-score questions with at least one additional tag - without bumping questions so modified to the front page?

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    $\begingroup$ It's not unlike the untagged tag on other Stack Exchange sites. Short of synonymizing/merging with another tag (which I don't think is appropriate), there is no way to avoid mass bumping. $\endgroup$
    – Glorfindel
    Mar 8, 2021 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ Please feel free to bring to attention (however you wish) misapplied tags. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Mar 8, 2021 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ As @Glorfindel pointed out, there is no easy way to do that. SE could do this but only with extreme reluctance (which is justified but they might be convinced if they happen to have an overabundance of database-fu). In any case, the original use of "tag-removed", from way back in the baby years of MO, was that users would remove or replace that placeholder whenever questions got bumped to the front page. Considering I personally remember adding "tag-removed" to many thousand questions, I guess that worked quite well overall... $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2021 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ @FrançoisG.Dorais Ah well. To be honest I'm happy enough to be able to write the title of this question, so I'll count this as a win :P. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2021 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ As far as I can tell, the way to remove a tag without bumping is called burnination, see the "dictionary" in this post. However, I suppose that before that, the questions which have only that tag would need manual retagging. Somewhat related post on Meta Stack Exchange: Burnination vs. merging into a specific tag $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2021 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ It seems that also Mathematics used to have (tag-removed) tag - but it was a long time ago. See: What is the role of the '[tag-removed]' tag? and Could having (tag-removed) tag be useful? $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2021 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak I think that's ancient history when they were trying to bring over parts of the MO template instead of rethinking the platform their own way. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2021 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ Actually I don't really understand why there is the need for a "tag-removed" tag in the first place: why can't a question have an empty set of tags? Is this just a technical kludge due to the implementation of SE? $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2022 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ A related older question: 'Tag-removed' tags where they possibly shouldn't be. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2022 at 17:35

2 Answers 2

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From the comments it seems that some users do not know why and how the tag is used on MO. So let me address this first. (At least briefly - some of the links below might add a bit more context.)

  • Regular users sometimes use this tag for questions which are off-topic or outright spam.
  • MO moderators sometimes use this to remove a tag from the system - by merging1 a tag into . (Of course, they could merge into another tag - but situations where all questions in the removed tag would fit some of the existing tags are probably rare.)2

The usage by regular users probably isn't that important - since we're talking about posts which are eventually going to be deleted. So most occurrences of this tag on the site probably come from merging.

The usage by mods could be avoided in some cases. There is a process called burnination which removes all occurrences of the tag without bumping. But this can only be done by SE staff - not by the local mods.3 (And SE staff is willing to do this only if the tag has already been reasonably cleaned-up. And only for situations which are too big for manual retagging - so basically only for tags with $\ge50$ questions.)

I do not know what is the stance of the moderators now - but looking at the past removals, at least at some point in the past they seemed to prefer merging over burnination.4


So to answer your question whether it would be possible to remove the from MO, the best I can say is: Yes, this is technically possible. But, no I don't think it is likely to happen.

  • In principle, the moderators could request from the Stack Exchange staff to burninate tag.
  • But that would require at least some preliminary clean-up and manual retagging. If nothing else, at least retagging the questions which have only this tag. (At the moment, there are 35 such questions.) But maybe a bit more than that. (All would depend on the response of the SE staff.)
  • Even if the CMs would be willing to burninate the tag, that would seem like a nonsensical move if the tag would be recreated again soon after that. (I.e., if the mods still want to have the tag at their disposal and to use it as a target for merging. And if MO users want to keep this tag and use it for off-topic questions and for spam.)

Disclaimer: This is written from the viewpoint of somebody outside the MO community. I am in no way defending the existence of the tag . And I am not advocating for the removal of the tag, either. (I will freely admit that I do not like this tag that much - at the same time I think that there are several problems with tags on MO which are worse than the existence of .) I merely tried to explain how and why it is (or was) being used on MO.

In any case, the tag probably does not cause any actual harm. Still, if some question with this tag is bumped to the frontpage, it is a good idea to remove it manually. (Well, unless the question is very likely to be deleted anyway - for deleted questions the tags matter much less.)


Some additional links where you can find some explanations concerning the tag :


1If a specific example can help clarify things, you can have a look at this question: Generalizations of "standard" calculus. At the moment it is tagged . And in fact, if you look at the revision history, it shows that the original version had this tag. (Merging two tags replaces the tag in the revision history, too.) But if you check the Wayback Machine, you can see that it was tagged in April 2013 and in October 2013. So somewhere between these two dates the mods merged into . This is one of the tags discussed here: Tags that encourage off-topic questions.

2Probably the mods could use the tag for this purpose instead of . But basically the only difference would be that this tag cannot be used by regular users. Some information about the tag can be found in the corresponding tag-info on Meta Stack Exchange.

3There is a feature request suggesting that: Moderators should be able to remove / burninate a tag themselves.

4I should probably mention the fact that MO was running on SE 1.0 for a long time. I do not know whether the option to burninate a tag existed before MathOverflow joined the Stack Exchange network. If that's the case, using an "artificial" tag like this was probably the best solution how to get rid of some tag without bumping any questions.

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  • $\begingroup$ I should mention a change in the use by the community of this tag: out of 353 current (=non-deleted) questions tagged tag-removed, only 17 have been created since 2014 and only 2 (both closed) since 2018. The current use seems to have more or less converged to: only use this tag when removing tags without leaving other tags, and only when the question is highly off-topic and very likely to be deleted, and is no longer used to remove an irrelevant tag from an a priori reasonable question. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Dec 11, 2022 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ @YCor Changing your search from "created" to "lastactive" gives 18 questions between 2018 and 2022 (compared to 2 created in that interval). Of course, this only gives some information about usage by regular users. A moderator could in principle merge some tag into (tag-removed) today - and if that tag is only used on old questions, it would not influence only the old questions. (At the same time, there would be sudden increase in number or questions tagged (tag-removed) - ... $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2022 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ ... similarly as it jumped up by cca 50 questions when (calculus) was removed.) From the examples posted in chat it seems quite likely that the most recent merging by mods was removal of exact-solutions - it influenced less than 10 questions and it happended in 2018 or later. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2022 at 10:11
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Please remove or replace whenever you see it! This is the intended use of this non-tag!


Per comments by Glorfindel and François above, it looks like this is impossible. (I'll accept this answer once I can to move this off the unanswered queue, and of course unaccept it if evidence to the contrary emerges.)

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  • $\begingroup$ I hope you don't mind the edits. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2021 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ @FrançoisG.Dorais Not at all! $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2021 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW tag-removed has been both my best friend and my worst enemy for over a decade... $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2021 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ -1 from me since the current wording of this answer is not correct. It is not true that removal of a tag without bumping is impossible - as explained in several comments, it is possible but it has to be done by Stack Exchange staff. Some instances when this was actually done can be found on Mathematics Meta. (I will just add that this is only about whether or not this is technically possible - whether or not removal of this tag would be a good idea is a separate question.) $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2021 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe my previous comment was a bit harsh. (And I have now removed my downvote.) I will just repeat that burnination (complete removal of a tag is possible). But when this answer says "this is impossible" the word this probably refers to the second paragraph of the questions (i.e. "remove this tag from all positive-net-score questions with at least one additional tag") which is slightly different. (Probably I should have read the question a bit more carefully before voting and commenting.) $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2021 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ This is only slightly better than a link-only answer, unfortunately; it defers all explanation to two links to comments (which are "ephemeral by design). $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2022 at 16:52

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