In the review queue, I often see edits just adding the tag. And in most cases, I don't see why it should be required there. Example:

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From already existing tags, it's quite clear what's looked for: alone does that (why should one look for an application which is written in c#?), the combination with makes that even clearer.

Making up a counter-example: Had the question just been tagged and , tags were "too broad", and for sure one had added the other two tags (and right with that). Again, the would have gotten obsolete.

So how should we deal with this? Are there really enough cases were it would make sense, to justify keeping the tag? And should it be added like this?

5 Answers 5


I'm of the opinion that it's a perfectly good tag and should be kept. Here's why:

In the question What is a meta tag?, Both Robert and Gilles set forth some criteria. Here's Robert Cartaino's:

Proper tags describe what the question is about. "Meta tags" are things users add to describe other things like why the question was asked, or something that describes the author, or any other bit of meta information that doesn't actually describe what the question is about.

Meta tags label questions with things like beginner or fun or emergency. You can often identify a meta tag by asking yourself this question: "Is this question about the subject of {beginner}?" If the question doesn't make sense, it's most likely a meta tag.

If we apply that test to , I think we find it works:

Is this question about the subject of software development?

Sounds pretty good.

Now let's try Gilles' criteria:

On Stack Exchange, a “meta tag” is a tag that does not carry any meaning. You should not use such tags, since they are meaningless.

Here is a “smell test” for tags:

  • Can you objectively determine whether the tag does or does not apply to a given question?
  • Can you say that a question is “about ”?

If the answer to these questions is no, you probably have a meta tag.

I would argue that we can objectively determine whether applies to any question rather easily. I can also say that, for example, this question is certainly about software development.

If we want to add in other criteria for determining what is and what isn't a meta tag, we should do so now.

  • 1
    Following this argumentation (which definitely has its points), let me tag a question recommendation. "Is it about 'recommendation'?" Definitly. Otherwise it would be off-topic. "Does it apply?" Sure. But it could be applied to any question. So apart from whether that's called a "meta-question", it's definitly too broad IMHO (see the comments on leventov's answer). Only good use I see would be grouping all dev questions. And I'm not sure that's really needed.
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 16:56
  • I'm not entirely sure that "Is it about 'recommendation'?" really makes complete grammatical sense, while "Is this question about the subject of software development?" makes more sense to me.
    – user46
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 16:59
  • 2
    Indeed software-development is definitely not a meta tag. But that is not the only criterion for a bad tag. software-development may well be too broad. Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 17:26
  • @Gilles Yes - at the time I wrote the answer, the question was asking if it was a meta tag.
    – user46
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 17:29

I think the only utility in having it is to be able to scope only library / framework recommendations while searching, or hone one's favorite tags.

However, presumably, as time goes on, we'll have tags for whatever languages and frameworks we've talked about, and non-specific noun tags like xml-parser or socket-library. These would be a much better utility when searching than the much broader tag, and ensure that each tag on the question allowed one more way of scoping it specifically. The other problem with meta tags is that they occupy a tag slot that could have been put to better use.

I don't know if it's really a meta tag in the intent behind using it, but given that there are other ways of going about it, I'm not sure it should stick around.

  • Thanks, Tim! I guess I tapped into the XY-trap with my question. Whether it's a "meta-question", or simply "too broad" or whatever reason... The real question is: Do we need it, shall we keep it? Changed the title accordingly.
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 17:03

I am the one who promotes this tag. Rationale: it could be useful to search combinations of with technology tags, for example + . I could be wrong with this.

  • 1
    Yes, in fact, that's the big pro I forgot to mention. I can follow this argumentation and see its use. I even remember that was my argument for some other tag on ASE long ago :) But: What else than "software development" stuff would you expect behind a tag like .net or c#? So isn't that like asking for "wet water"?
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 16:03
  • 1
    @Izzy yes, I'm going to agree. You convinced me.
    – leventov
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 16:05
  • @Izzy however, It would be nice to differentiate somehow purely programming questions (library/framework requests) and questions for programming tools: IDEs, code transformers, compilers, etc.
    – leventov
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 16:08
  • Sure. In the given example, the ide tag does that. software-development is much too broad for that – and concerning your comment, wouldn't make a difference as it could be applied to both ends (frameworks and IDEs, and even more).
    – Izzy Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 16:10

I think we should keep it. There are reasons why I'm looking for programs written in specific languages and not am looking for software-development.

Like I want to learn more about c#, I may would want to have a selection of programs that are written in that language so I can get a feeling about what can be / is usually done in that language. While I wouldn't ask this as a question ("Programs written in c#" would be closed immediately) it would be useful to such "meta searches".

The opposite part is true as well. I want to learn more about software-development tools. I don't care about a video player, be it written in my favorite language or not. I'm looking for tools that enhance the ability to code.

Also this kind of tag suits me fine if I want to filter out parts of software I have no idea of. An expert in text processing tools might have no idea of software-development and I have no idea of text processors (except vi) so when I as the one with the answers only see questions I know about that increases my odds of having time to write quality answers.


A relevant part of what this site could become is a repository of software with first hand experience of the people who use it. Categorizing, sorting and making this knowledge search able is something I see as very valuable. While this tag might not help enhance the specific question it also doesn't reduce its quality. It is also not too broad in itself. If we remove software-development we should remove video as well (because video-player, video-editor and video-storage would handle all situations better) and same goes for audio. But it still suits a perfect valid case: someone will search for video software and they are gonna look here.


As already described with my question, IMHO we should refrain from adding this tag to questions where tags are already clear, like in the given example. And unless there's clear evidence where it really would make sense, I even go that far to say we should remove the tag altogether.

  • 1
    I disagree with this, tags are for sorting and following. People might want to sort questions by categories, and an IDE certainly falls into the software-development category.
    – Seth
    Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 0:55

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