15 votes

How should we be tagging topics related to the coronavirus outbreak?

@emdash made an excellent comment detailing why they think the tag being used for topics related to the coronavirus outbreak, coronaviruses.covid19, "is a bit weird."

Their comment:

Offtopic: This is super, super nitpicky, but the Tildes tag coronaviruses.covid19 isn't medically or epidemiologically accurate. A coronavirus is a family of similar RNA viruses, which includes the viruses which causes SARS and MERS. The specific coronavirus at the epicentre of this pandemic is SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, which is the disease caused by having the virus—COVID-19 isn't the name of the virus itself. This is separate still from the outbreak/phenomenon itself, which wikipedia has called "2019-2020 coronavirus outbreak".

So effectively the tag syntax is [virus family].[disease] which is a bit weird. I'd probably would have gone for [virus family].[virus], i.e. coronaviruses.sarscov2. If you really wanted, you could tag the disease further down the chain to separate discussions on the virology/genetics/medicine from the human factors: coronaviruses.sarscov2.covid19 but that's getting a bit too verbose, probably (yes, this is coming from the same person who argued nested tags should usually be avoided, har har).

Pragmatically, all this doesn't matter all that much I guess, I'm still using the tag as it appears widely accepted now, I just wanted to talk to the void about it. It's also just interesting in general.


Finally, I would just like to point out that we were previously using a tag of just coronavirus, but that was later changed to coronaviruses.covid19.

28 comments

  1. [4]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    Meh... TBH, I think this is diving way too deep into the taxonomical weeds here. I am personally fine with the way it is, even if it isn't 100% accurate. IMO the point of the tags isn't absolute...

    Meh... TBH, I think this is diving way too deep into the taxonomical weeds here. I am personally fine with the way it is, even if it isn't 100% accurate. IMO the point of the tags isn't absolute accuracy but instead just meant as a way to conveniently group topics together for discovery and filtering purposed.

    coronaviruses.sarscov2.covid19 is ridiculously long, and since nobody is really referring to sarscov2 (except maybe epidemiologists) I think it's rather pointless to include that tag in the hierarchy, or even as a standalone.

    And the reason I also like the inclusion of coronaviruses as the parent is because even though sarcov2/corvid19 is the one currently in the headlines, that might not always be the case, so it will probably be nice to have all the coronaviruses grouped up and easy to find in one place, instead of having them all as standalone/unconnected tags.

    13 votes
    1. [2]
      emdash
      Link Parent
      Fwiw I agree in terms of arguing for pragmatism—this is the exact same reason why the ~science.formal/~science.natural groups were a total failure: because it tried to force generalists (i.e. the...

      Fwiw I agree in terms of arguing for pragmatism—this is the exact same reason why the ~science.formal/~science.natural groups were a total failure: because it tried to force generalists (i.e. the bulk of all users) to use taxonomic-specific definitions that weren't easily approachable to them.

      9 votes
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Yeah, pragmatism is honestly why I stopped going more than 2 deep with most of my tags. There are a few exceptions there, mostly <country>.<state>.<city> and my personal area of interest...

        Yeah, pragmatism is honestly why I stopped going more than 2 deep with most of my tags. There are a few exceptions there, mostly <country>.<state>.<city> and my personal area of interest history.military.<specific subject>... but other than those two, I have pretty much stopped using deeply nested topic tags... even in ~music and despite me having worked on this at one point and originally planning on trying to implement that there. :P

        5 votes
    2. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      You may be interested to know that this was pretty much my line of thought when I created this tag.

      You may be interested to know that this was pretty much my line of thought when I created this tag.

      2 votes
  2. [4]
    Algernon_Asimov
    (edited )
    Link
    Time to put myself in the firing line... again. Pitchforks at the ready, folks! I created and implemented this new tag. Coincidentally, it was because of a private conversation with...

    Time to put myself in the firing line... again. Pitchforks at the ready, folks!

    I created and implemented this new tag. Coincidentally, it was because of a private conversation with @hungariantoast. So you can all blame him! :P (In fact, he knows this, so I'm surprised he hasn't dobbed me in.)

    He messaged me because he was having a technical issue with tags, and he was informing me that he'd changed some tags I'd applied to a topic. In our to-and-fro, something occurred to me:

    By the way, you'll notice I'm using coronaviruses instead of coronavirus. This is because "coronavirus" is actually a category of viruses which includes a number of different viruses, of which COVID-19 is only the latest example. And, in keeping with the guidelines that say we should use plural tags, I've been tagging posts with coronaviruses because there's more than one coronavirus around. Actually, I've just realised I should be tagging these posts with coronaviruses.covid19. Oops.

    SARS, MERS, and even about 15% of the diseases we call "the common cold" are caused by different coronaviruses. So, the tag coronavirus wasn't accurate, because this is an inclusive category of viruses/diseases rather than a specific virus/disease.

    I don't disagree with @emdash's explanation. However, almost noone outside of a scientific laboratory knows that this latest coronavirus is called SARS-CoV-2. Everyone called this "the coronavirus", and then the WHO added the name COVID-19, which is now the second-most common way that people refer to this disease/virus.

    So, the tag coronaviruses.covid19 is a compromise between scientific accuracy and populism. It allows for us to discuss other coronaviruses such as SARS, MERS, and the common cold under a single umbrella, and it also uses the most commonly known name associated with the virus/disease.

    And I made the change. I retrospectively changed all tags on all topics related to COVID-19. I did this to make everything consistent. I was also taking advantage of the auto-suggestion feature for tags. I knew if every tag for this topic said coronaviruses.covid19, then as soon as someone started typing "cor..." they would see this tag suggested and would be prompted to use it.

    But if people don't like it, I'm happy to change it back.

    EDIT: Typos & formatting.

    9 votes
    1. hungariantoast
      Link Parent
      Lol yeah, I didn't want to force you into the discussion or blame you or anything. I probably could have messaged you and let you know about what was going on though, sorry! Also, I do think I...

      Lol yeah, I didn't want to force you into the discussion or blame you or anything. I probably could have messaged you and let you know about what was going on though, sorry!

      Also, I do think I like the coronaviruses.covid19 tag the best actually. I agree with @emdash that it "is a bit weird", but I think all the alternatives are even weirder and yours and @cfabbro's explanations have more or less convinced me that we should just keep the tag as it currently is.

      4 votes
    2. emdash
      Link Parent
      Tags are ownerless, despite creating the tag and implementing it, you are not to blame whatsoever. Thanks for expounding your reasoning though.

      Tags are ownerless, despite creating the tag and implementing it, you are not to blame whatsoever. Thanks for expounding your reasoning though.

      4 votes
    3. aphoenix
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      This is perfectly valid reasoning. I would argue for keeping it like this, unless there's a super compelling reason to change. This seems like it addresses common usage. Edit: thought I quoted...

      This is perfectly valid reasoning. I would argue for keeping it like this, unless there's a super compelling reason to change. This seems like it addresses common usage.

      Edit: thought I quoted this:

      I knew if every tag for this topic said coronaviruses.covid19, then as soon as someone started typing "cor..." they would see this tag suggested and would be prompted to use it.

      This is the perfect reasoning, especially when coupled with "what are tags for" which is "finding and filtering information".

      • people tend to use "coronavirus"
      • covid19 is better
      • having coronovirus automatically prompt people with coronavirus.covid19 is perfectly understandable - we all know what it means
      • pedantry in this case is silly; we're not a scientifically rigorous community
      4 votes
  3. [4]
    Deimos
    Link
    I don't feel particularly strongly personally, but I think it's valuable to have some combination of "coronavirus" and "covid 19" on most or all of the relevant topics so that people can find them...

    I don't feel particularly strongly personally, but I think it's valuable to have some combination of "coronavirus" and "covid 19" on most or all of the relevant topics so that people can find them with search and/or filter them out.

    I can help by doing a quick re-tag of everything through the database/backend if changes are needed.

    8 votes
    1. [3]
      vakieh
      Link Parent
      Is there a system in place (or future plan) for synonym or relationship linking of tags without needing to actually add them to each topic? Simple stuff like stemming up to related topics like...

      Is there a system in place (or future plan) for synonym or relationship linking of tags without needing to actually add them to each topic? Simple stuff like stemming up to related topics like coronavirus / covid-19 / sars etc.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        Deimos
        Link Parent
        Like most things, I have some vague ideas and hopes for things to do eventually, but don't know much specifically or when it might happen. Synonyms would definitely be useful, and it would also be...

        Like most things, I have some vague ideas and hopes for things to do eventually, but don't know much specifically or when it might happen. Synonyms would definitely be useful, and it would also be nice to eventually have some kind of auto-tagging that could work based on title keywords, domain, etc.

        9 votes
  4. Wes
    Link
    I would have thought covid19 the simplest term. Even for a topic talking about the spread of the virus, it's only of relevance because of the disease it spreads. I don't think it's that meaningful...

    I would have thought covid19 the simplest term. Even for a topic talking about the spread of the virus, it's only of relevance because of the disease it spreads. I don't think it's that meaningful to separate them.

    7 votes
  5. moocow1452
    Link
    This is where the ao3 system of synonym tags would come in real handy, since we could set coronavirus, covid19, and 2020 murder flu to all reference one another in search and pull up every...

    This is where the ao3 system of synonym tags would come in real handy, since we could set coronavirus, covid19, and 2020 murder flu to all reference one another in search and pull up every relevant discussion and article.

    7 votes
  6. [2]
    mycketforvirrad
    Link
    I personally like the simplicity of coronavirus as that is how it is often being referred to in article headlines and conversation. As always with tagging, I will defer to the consensus.

    I personally like the simplicity of coronavirus as that is how it is often being referred to in article headlines and conversation. As always with tagging, I will defer to the consensus.

    6 votes
    1. Whom
      Link Parent
      Yeah, I agree. Context removes any ambiguity, though I think cfabbro's point about futureproofing might make the current way superior.

      Yeah, I agree. Context removes any ambiguity, though I think cfabbro's point about futureproofing might make the current way superior.

      4 votes
  7. skybrian
    Link
    I wrote this in response to the original post but I'll rephrase it here: I think we should be following Wikipedia's lead, using commonly known names for things and disambiguating only when...

    I wrote this in response to the original post but I'll rephrase it here:

    I think we should be following Wikipedia's lead, using commonly known names for things and disambiguating only when necessary. This assumes we can edit later, so we don't need to "futureproof". Maybe next year we could rename "coronavirus" to "coronavirus2020" or something like that?

    5 votes
  8. [2]
    Adys
    Link
    covid19 is fine. coronavirus is also fine and more likely to get tagged this way (I'm sure I won't be the only one linking this XKCD). Slapping hierarchies on this or trying to go for anything...

    covid19 is fine. coronavirus is also fine and more likely to get tagged this way (I'm sure I won't be the only one linking this XKCD).

    Slapping hierarchies on this or trying to go for anything fancier is a sure-fire way to make the whole thing useless. If things need to be renamed in the future, let them be renamed in the future, and be pragmatic in the present.

    5 votes
  9. [2]
    asoftbird
    Link
    What's wrong with just covid19?

    What's wrong with just covid19?

    4 votes
    1. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      What's wrong with it is that most people weren't using it. Most people were tagging their posts with coronavirus.

      What's wrong with it is that most people weren't using it. Most people were tagging their posts with coronavirus.

      4 votes
  10. [2]
    patience_limited
    Link
    I'm going to be a pill, and suggest that top-level tags for all of the coronavirus-related posts should be virology and/or epidemiology. While it's useful for search to have topical terms like...

    I'm going to be a pill, and suggest that top-level tags for all of the coronavirus-related posts should be virology and/or epidemiology.

    While it's useful for search to have topical terms like coronaviruses.covid19, maybe we should also think about maintaining proper general science bins to organise topics for future reference?

    4 votes
    1. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      I totally agree that scientific posts about studying the virus or the epidemic should be posted in ~science and tagged virology and/or epidemiology. However, not all posts about COVID-19 are about...

      I totally agree that scientific posts about studying the virus or the epidemic should be posted in ~science and tagged virology and/or epidemiology.

      However, not all posts about COVID-19 are about the scientific aspects of this disease. A lot of the posts are about the social effects of the epidemic.

      I've been adding diseases to a lot of these posts as an umbrella term.

      4 votes
  11. [4]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    I'm resurrecting this old post to ask a related question. Do we need to apply the coronaviruses.covid19 to every single post about life during the pandemic? I posted something about an increase in...

    I'm resurrecting this old post to ask a related question.

    Do we need to apply the coronaviruses.covid19 to every single post about life during the pandemic? I posted something about an increase in domestic abuse during the lockdown and the only response was that it needed to be tagged with coronaviruses.covid19. There's a post about an increase in demand for internet services, which is tagged with coronaviruses.covid19. And so on. There are posts about life in lockdown, not about the virus itself, which are being tagged with the virus's name.

    Given that all life for the next 6-9 months (or longer) is going to be lived under the shadow of this pandemic, does that mean every single article about daily life in lockdown has to be tagged with coronaviruses.covid19?

    I feel like this tag should be reserved for articles about the actual virus itself: deaths, infection counts, lockdown policies, and so on. But articles about life under lockdown don't need to be tagged with the name of the virus.

    4 votes
    1. [3]
      Eylrid
      Link Parent
      Maybe there should be another tag for posts about life in lockdown* to separate them from posts about the virus itself? I think it's useful to have life in lockdown posts tagged, but agree with...

      Maybe there should be another tag for posts about life in lockdown* to separate them from posts about the virus itself? I think it's useful to have life in lockdown posts tagged, but agree with you that they don't need to be tagged with the name of the virus.

      Note: The tag would only apply to posts that are lockdown/isolation/social distancing specific. So it wouldn't apply to "What games have you been playing" posts, for example, even if the lockdowns are why people are playing more games right now. A post about a game platform having a "Stay home and play" sale would be tagged, because promoting isolation is specifically called out as the motivation for the sale.

      *or quarantine or whatever. We can bikeshed over what to call it.

      2 votes
  12. emdash
    Link
    Thanks @hungariantoast for posting this! I didn't really want to cause too much of a fuss, and I just want to be thoroughly clear that I, like @mycketforvirrad will simply "defer to the...

    Thanks @hungariantoast for posting this! I didn't really want to cause too much of a fuss, and I just want to be thoroughly clear that I, like @mycketforvirrad will simply "defer to the consensus", so I'm not strongly arguing for one option or the other. It's basically an argument of pragmatism vs. idealism—where do we draw the line?

    I also just found the whole epidemiology and classification of the situation totally fascinating. I'm sure I'm not the only one!

    3 votes