I've been seeing this a lot lately, and I was wondering what it was. What is it used for? Is there a certain reputation amount needed to use them?

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  • Where have you been seeing it? I've used the expression in several meta posts, but always linking to the blog post and with an explanation. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 5 '14 at 1:23
  • @Gilles I think I saw it somewhere on the meta, and you also wanted to take out the [alternative] tag from one of my questions because it was apparently a meta tag. – Rajiv Feb 5 '14 at 1:25

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 <tag name>”?

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

Example: is a meta tag. Subjective is very much a value judgement, and a question is not “about subjective”.

Example: is a meta tag: Every question is about an alternative to something, or none, it doesn't really mean anything.

The expression “meta tag” could also mean a tag on the meta site.

  • A user removed the tags metrics and reporting from a question of mine because he claimed they were meta tags. However, I added them because within the context of the software I was looking for, the software should provide metrics and reporting. In addition, being able to classify questions that look for software that provide metrics, or reporting tools I think adds value to the categorization. So while in some cases it may be meaningless, in the scenario I was in, it made sense because it described a requirement of the software I am looking for. Is my reasoning sound on this? Cheers. – Anil Natha Feb 12 '14 at 23:56
  • @SlyRaskal metrics or reporting don't feel like meta tags. I don't know if they were used appropriately, but they would make sense on the kind of questions you describe. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 13 '14 at 3:58
  • I am open to suggestions as to improve tagging on my existing and future posts. My understanding was that tags are supposed to describe the context of the post, but I suppose OS categorization, software type (web app vs. desktop software), free vs paid are the tags people are looking for here. Is that right? If so, that concerns me because how are we going to have enough differences between posts in order to categorize them efficiently. – Anil Natha Feb 13 '14 at 4:04
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    @SlyRaskal Tags have three functions: to direct searches, to be subscribed to, and to be ignored. We don't have much experience yet, but I expect that every question on this site will have one or more application domain or type of software as a tag, most will have a platform tag, and maybe (but I'm still not convinced) categories like open-source. On this basis, metrics and reporting sound like reasonable names for application domains, though maybe metrics is too vague and should rather be about the thing that is being measured. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 13 '14 at 4:09
  • Thank you for that great comment. Need to let that soak into my head tonight. Cheers. – Anil Natha Feb 13 '14 at 4:12

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 or or . 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.

You can read more about meta tags and why we don't use them here:

The Death of Meta Tags

  • Agreed – though 'emergency' in our case could be pointing to things like "ICE" apps for Android (there are many such "In-Case-of-Emergency" apps around, keeping info like whom to call, allergics, and other medical information) ;) – Izzy Feb 8 '14 at 0:04
  • Could you please respond to the comment I left to the answer Gilles posted because the scenario I am in feels like a gray area based on your post, which I might add I agree with. The tags I used aimed to describe the requirements for the software I was looking for. – Anil Natha Feb 13 '14 at 0:01
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    @SlyRaskal On the surface, it doesn't seem to me like a meta tag either, but if you have a question about why a particular action was taken, it's best to start a new meta question. That will allow those who took the action to comment, and will help others learn about these issues so they are not repeated in the future. – Robert Cartaino Feb 13 '14 at 14:01
  • Thank you for the insight. I did point the person to this discussion so we could figure it out, but perhaps a new discussion as you said would have been better. Thank you. Cheers. – Anil Natha Feb 13 '14 at 14:48

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