18 votes

Defining and using "ask" tags

Tags: tags, ask

Deimos and I were discussing the use of "ask" topic tags this week, and we agreed it might be a good idea to get a consensus on these.

At the moment, Tilders are using four "ask" tags on topics:

  • ask

  • ask.survey

  • ask.recommendations

  • ask.help

(There may be more "ask" tags created in the future, but these four are what we're all using at the moment.)

Anything that's a question gets tagged with "ask". Some specific types of question will then get tagged with "ask.survey" or "ask.recommendations" or "ask.help", depending in the type of question being asked.

  • "ask.survey" is for questions about preferences and favourites. "What's your favourite horror movie?" "What's the best place you ever visited?" "What's your favourite type of holiday?" The asker is collecting data about people's likes and dislikes (even if they're not going to publish the results in a report later!).

  • "ask.recommendations" is for questions asking for recommendations. "What's a good browser to use?" "What book should I read next?" "Which brand of phone should I buy?" The asker is looking for people to recommend things to them.

However, Deimos and I wondered about "ask.help". One interpretation we came up with was that "ask.help" is for questions looking for a specific answer, where it should generally be possible for people to think "yes, this is the right answer to the question". This would include questions seeking help learning about an academic topic, such as happens in /r/AskScience and /r/AskHistorians over on Reddit. Another interpretation we came up with was that "ask.help" is for questions looking for guidance on doing something, like a "how to" type question. This would be more like the types of questions in /r/Help and like the Help menus in software and the F1 key - helping people get things done.

What do you think about the "ask" tags? In particular, what should the "ask.help" tag be used for? In general, are the existing "ask" tags okay? Do we need more "ask" tags? Do we need different "ask" tags?

23 comments

  1. patience_limited
    Link
    It seems to me that some of this granularity emerges from the top level ~ plus sub-group plus the topic post. As the Tags document suggests, tags are meant to be "lighter weight grouping", not a...

    It seems to me that some of this granularity emerges from the top level ~ plus sub-group plus the topic post. As the Tags document suggests, tags are meant to be "lighter weight grouping", not a substitute for groups.

    The deeper the taxonomy of official tags grows, the more risk that users will have to spend off-putting amounts of time researching the appropriate tag, rather than engaging in worthwhile conversation. [As an example, this is a system design problem I've seen in medical coding. Though top-level code accuracy is consequential, there are better uses for limited clinician time than browsing the 10,000+ diagnostic sub-categories in ICD-10.]

    Alternately, the site will require a moderation tier that grows expertise in curating tags at the expense of fostering healthy discussion.

    I understand there's a future with some automated tagging - the subtle distinctions among the proposed "ask" types don't lend themselves to this.

    If the functional intent is to allow users to filter for tags they do/don't want to see, then keep the "official" site-wide tagging generic, and allow groups to define the tagging schema most appropriate to the content (e.g. in ~health, "ask.referral", "ask.symptom", or ~comp, "ask.contribute", "ask.os", etc.)

    8 votes
  2. [14]
    Pilgrim
    Link
    I'm not sure I see much distinction between these two definitions. I'd offer that the ask.help tag could be used for a third-type of query: a more general request for aid, such as ask.help-tagging...

    One interpretation we came up with was that "ask.help" is for questions looking for a specific answer, where it should generally be possible for people to think "yes, this is the right answer to the question".

    Another interpretation we came up with was that "ask.help" is for questions looking for guidance on doing something, like a "how to" type question.

    I'm not sure I see much distinction between these two definitions.

    I'd offer that the ask.help tag could be used for a third-type of query: a more general request for aid, such as ask.help-tagging a post about "Can someone loan me $?" or "I'm in a bad situation with my boyfriend. What should I do?"

    Those are not "how-to" questions, nor are the answers to those questions likely to be something where one definitively says "yes, that is the right answer" (except perhaps for the money question, if you're the one doing the asking!).

    My .02 is to include it and wait and see how it gets used - the community very well may coalesce around a specific use.

    I think you've really nailed the overall approach and appreciate the forward thinking.

    7 votes
    1. [13]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      Think of the first interpretation as a "teach me" definition. People ask for information about a topic to learn things. "When did we invent the printing press?" "How does gravity work?" "Did...

      I'm not sure I see much distinction between these two definitions.

      Think of the first interpretation as a "teach me" definition. People ask for information about a topic to learn things. "When did we invent the printing press?" "How does gravity work?" "Did dinosaurs have scales or feathers?"

      Think of the second interpretation as a "fix it" definition. People ask for instructions about something they can't do. "How do I install a new Linux distro?" "How do I edit photos on my camera?" "How do I change the theme on Tildes?"

      Maybe that's the clue. Maybe we need to create tags that actually say these things: "ask.teach" and "ask.how".

      I'd offer that the ask.help tag could be used for a third-type of query: a more general request for aid, such as ask.help-tagging a post about "Can someone loan me $?" or "I'm in a bad situation with my boyfriend. What should I do?"

      I'd be inclined to create an "ask.assistance" tag for the first question and an "ask.advice" tag for the second question.

      My .02 is to include it and wait and see how it gets used - the community very well may coalesce around a specific use.

      We've been using tags on Tildes for a couple of months now, and two of the most prolific users and editors of tags - Deimos and I - don't have a common definition of at least one of these tags. That's why we decided to ask people, rather than wait for definitions to magically appear out of thin air.

      3 votes
      1. [12]
        Naethure
        Link Parent
        Based on what you wrote in this comment and in your post, how does something like this sound? ask (for anything that doesn't fit into another category) ask.survey (for questions about preferences...

        Based on what you wrote in this comment and in your post, how does something like this sound?

        • ask (for anything that doesn't fit into another category)
        • ask.survey (for questions about preferences and favorites, same as you said in your initial post)
        • ask.recommendations (for questions where the OP is asking for a specific recommendation or set of recommendations, same as you said in your initial post)
        • ask.info (for asking about facts or information about something, this would include the "teach" questions)
        • ask.assistance (for asking how to do things or for assistance in solving a specific problem, this would include the "fix it" or "how to" questions)
        • ask.advice (for questions about life situations or asking about resolving more open-ended problems where the answers are more subjective)
        4 votes
        1. [8]
          nsz
          Link Parent
          I think ask.advice is a good addition, it helps distinguish the two types of questions, but info and assistance idk if they are needed. Assistance is kind of implied with help, and info seems...

          I think ask.advice is a good addition, it helps distinguish the two types of questions, but info and assistance idk if they are needed.
          Assistance is kind of implied with help, and info seems redundant because google is used if you just want easy factual information, if your looking for something more nuanced, there are more appropriate tags.

          4 votes
          1. [7]
            Naethure
            Link Parent
            The idea of assistance was to replace and disambiguate help, not to be in addition to it. But based on @Algernon_Asimov's sibling comment, ask.how might be a better name for it. As I said in my...

            The idea of assistance was to replace and disambiguate help, not to be in addition to it. But based on @Algernon_Asimov's sibling comment, ask.how might be a better name for it. As I said in my response to him, I think most of my point was that if help is ambiguous, maybe the answer is to split it or rename it, rather than to try to have a recorded/understood decision about what it means (which just doesn't scale as well as having names that are more precise and are immediately understood by new users).

            I disagree with info being redundant. There's a difference between reading a pre-written definition and getting an explanation tailored to you, with the ability to ask follow-up questions. This is the reason why subreddits like ELI5 or the academic Ask* subreddits are so useful and popular. I think there's definitely a space in tildes for those types of discussions, and, in fact, they may be some of the most useful ones to have on this platform given that we try to stay away from memes and low-effort posts.

            4 votes
            1. [5]
              nsz
              Link Parent
              I had not realised help would get replaced, so I can understand assistance a bit more, though I still think it's more natural to use help in those situations. I agree with the direction you...

              I had not realised help would get replaced, so I can understand assistance a bit more, though I still think it's more natural to use help in those situations.

              I agree with the direction you envision for the site, just my first reaction to reading ask.info along with the description you give does not bring to mind the kind of discussion that happens on EIL5 or the academic subs on reddit. Maybe it's something with it being a contraction plus the context it comes up in on programs and websites, almost always encompassing short bits of quantitative information, not long-form discussion. The kind of stuff you get from an information desk at an airport, train station or tourist office.

              Also, I kind of think long-form discussion is the default response for any ask thread so a specific tag for it may well be redundant, but now, I can kind of see an argument for a tag that covers the kind of serious academic responses that happen on r/askhistorians. maybe ask.academia?

              3 votes
              1. Algernon_Asimov
                Link Parent
                That's a good suggestion.

                maybe ask.academia?

                That's a good suggestion.

                2 votes
              2. [3]
                Naethure
                Link Parent
                Hmm, I see the point about info not necessarily implying long-form as much as it could. I disagree with ask.academia, though, because I feel that it limits the tag in a way that likely was not...

                Hmm, I see the point about info not necessarily implying long-form as much as it could. I disagree with ask.academia, though, because I feel that it limits the tag in a way that likely was not intended: we should be able to have this type of an explanation/discussion about non-academic subjects as well. Think the Tildes equivalent of Reddit's /r/AskEngineers or /r/AskElectronics, or similar long-form in-depth factual Q&A format discussions about the practical/industry side of fields, rather than the academic side.

                I'd argue that long-form discussion is (or at least should be) the default response to any Tildes thread, though. It's not so much that the tag is for long-form discussion, as that it's for a thread that's asking a question with an answer that is A. objective and B. not something an average layperson is likely to know.

                2 votes
                1. [2]
                  Algernon_Asimov
                  Link Parent
                  Deimos and I have been discussing the various tags suggested in this thread. You'll be pleased to know he prefers "ask.experts" over "ask.academia".

                  Deimos and I have been discussing the various tags suggested in this thread. You'll be pleased to know he prefers "ask.experts" over "ask.academia".

                  4 votes
                  1. Naethure
                    Link Parent
                    Ooh, I like that! It pretty much perfectly captures the essence of that tag.

                    Ooh, I like that! It pretty much perfectly captures the essence of that tag.

                    2 votes
            2. Algernon_Asimov
              Link Parent
              I agree on all counts (as a one-time moderator of /r/AskHistorians). This is one reason why I'm keen for us to talk about these "ask" tags early on, because I think that the frequency of...

              I disagree with info being redundant. There's a difference between reading a pre-written definition and getting an explanation tailored to you, with the ability to ask follow-up questions. This is the reason why subreddits like ELI5 or the academic Ask* subreddits are so useful and popular. I think there's definitely a space in tildes for those types of discussions, and, in fact, they may be some of the most useful ones to have on this platform given that we try to stay away from memes and low-effort posts.

              I agree on all counts (as a one-time moderator of /r/AskHistorians). This is one reason why I'm keen for us to talk about these "ask" tags early on, because I think that the frequency of question-based topics will increase here on Tildes, and I know it's hard to change things like tags after they've been in place for a long time.

              1 vote
        2. [3]
          Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          "ask.info" looks okay: someone is asking for information. I'm a little concerned about the "ask.assistance" tag you're suggesting - but only because there's a subreddit on Reddit called...

          "ask.info" looks okay: someone is asking for information.

          I'm a little concerned about the "ask.assistance" tag you're suggesting - but only because there's a subreddit on Reddit called /r/Assistance which is all about people asking for financial assistance. We don't necessarily want to copy Reddit, but we need to be aware that we are getting, and will continue to get, a lot of our users from Reddit - and they'll come with preconceptions. Also, after I wrote the "ask.how" tag earlier, I realised that it's actually a grammatical phrase: people would ask how to do something.

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            Naethure
            Link Parent
            Yeah, I can definitely see how assistance becomes an overloaded term, especially coming from that context. I think upon further reflection I agree that ask.how is a pretty good name for that type...

            Yeah, I can definitely see how assistance becomes an overloaded term, especially coming from that context. I think upon further reflection I agree that ask.how is a pretty good name for that type of tag. I think most of my point was that if help is ambiguous, maybe the answer is to split it or rename it, rather than to try to have a recorded/understood decision about what it means (which just doesn't scale as well as having names that are more precise and are immediately understood by new users).

            1 vote
            1. Algernon_Asimov
              Link Parent
              I agree. I've come to the same conclusion after reading your and @Pilgrim's comments here.

              I think most of my point was that if help is ambiguous, maybe the answer is to split it or rename it

              I agree. I've come to the same conclusion after reading your and @Pilgrim's comments here.

  3. clem
    Link
    I would recommend an additional "Ask" tag like "ask.discussion" for the kinds of in-depth questions you might see on, say, /r/NeutralPolitics/ or a philosophy forum. This seems like the kind of...

    I would recommend an additional "Ask" tag like "ask.discussion" for the kinds of in-depth questions you might see on, say, /r/NeutralPolitics/ or a philosophy forum. This seems like the kind of thing that people would appreciate on Tildes, and I don't think it's included in "ask.help," "ask.survey," or "ask.recommendations."

    3 votes
  4. [3]
    unknown user
    Link
    One concern I have frankly... is activities like this going to turn Tildes into some kind of insufferable discussion-esque Stack Overflow? Are we going to start burninating tags, and spending...

    One concern I have frankly... is activities like this going to turn Tildes into some kind of insufferable discussion-esque Stack Overflow? Are we going to start burninating tags, and spending hours debating proper form and consistency over what really is at the end of the day just a textual string?

    I understand the need for some level of consistency; but I hope it doesn't get too far beyond just a casual thing.

    1 vote
    1. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      Firstly, this is an alpha testing website. It's not finished, it's a work in progress, and we early participants/testers are here specifically to try things out, see what works, and give feedback...

      Firstly, this is an alpha testing website. It's not finished, it's a work in progress, and we early participants/testers are here specifically to try things out, see what works, and give feedback to Deimos. I can't think of a more appropriate time to discuss the framework and operations of a website than while it's in development. This is what we're here for.

      Secondly, the primary purpose of this ~tildes group is insufferable meta-discussions about Tildes. :)

      Thirdly, tags are not just a textual string. They are already searchable and filterable, even in this minimal early-stage pre-release version of Tildes, and will probably gain more utility as the website continues to be built. It's worthwhile for us to figure out what we want them to be.

      9 votes
    2. nsz
      Link Parent
      While I get what you mean, I think it's appropriate here because it's happening in the ~tildes group that is intended for this kind of meta discussion. EDIT: Really should refresh before starting...

      While I get what you mean, I think it's appropriate here because it's happening in the ~tildes group that is intended for this kind of meta discussion.

      EDIT: Really should refresh before starting to write a comment.

      4 votes
  5. Zeph
    Link
    I believe ask.help should be used for questions such as how to fix or resolve issues, such as cooking, car mechanics, programming, etc.

    I believe ask.help should be used for questions such as how to fix or resolve issues, such as cooking, car mechanics, programming, etc.

    1 vote
  6. [3]
    haykam821
    Link
    On a similar note, should we implement tag info like Stack Overflow does?

    On a similar note, should we implement tag info like Stack Overflow does?

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      For those of us who don't use Stack Overflow (or who used to use Stack Exchange, but that was a few years ago, so we've forgotten some of the details, so now we need our memory refreshed), what is...

      For those of us who don't use Stack Overflow (or who used to use Stack Exchange, but that was a few years ago, so we've forgotten some of the details, so now we need our memory refreshed), what is "tag info", and how might it work here on Tildes?

      2 votes
      1. talklittle
        Link Parent
        Hover a tag and get a sentence description of what the tag means, and possibly also list related/alternative tags.

        Hover a tag and get a sentence description of what the tag means, and possibly also list related/alternative tags.

        5 votes