I've found several question which is tagged with the phone model of the poster, but the tag does not help describe or classify the question. Example 1 2. In those question the tags serve no other purpose than to inform the reader of the user's phone model (in case it matters). This is in contrast to this question where the phone model is a relevant sorting/classification criteria for the question.

I think this falls under the definition of meta-tags which have been discouraged and removed from SO and the other main sites. To quote an argument used there (see this):

There’s been a major uptick recently in tags that are not useful and just add noise. I want to stress that these are usually added in good faith, and I am not questioning anybody’s motivation – I know that they all mean well. But this particular category of tags is one that has been historically referred to as meta-tags on MSO, and these tags cause a lot of problems.

The reason meta-tags are a problem is that they do not describe the content of the question. They describe some other aspect of the question, like the author’s skill level, or the author’s motivation for asking it, or generally what “kind” of question it is (poll, how-to, etc.).

Meta-tags are actually a subset of a larger problem that I usually call dependent tags. These are tags that don’t say anything by themselves – you can’t tell what the question is about unless they’re paired with some other tag (or several of them). These tags are a problem because people don’t realize this and will often use that as the question’s only tag.

Another one:

The point of tags on Stack Overflow is to help other interested persons find your question by sorting it into clear, specific categories. This is not the same as indexing or summarizing the question. The differences are subtle, but important.

5 Answers 5


I definitely see now why it makes sense not to do this kind of tagging -- clicking the tag will show you all the questions where the user has Device X, when you really want to see all the questions about Device X.

That said, many questions need device and OS info, and the tags are a convenient place to put it, for consistency reasons. The information is always in the same place and clearly distinct from the question, so the potential answerer doesn't have to search the question for it (or remember it all as they read the question).

I think the optimal solution would be to have separate fields for device and OS version that the asker could fill in if it's relevant. The info could be shown in a separate box or something at the end of the question. I'm not sure how much work this would be for the SE people or if it's desirable to modify this site / some sites this way, since it's clearly not applicable across the board. Perhaps instead the FAQ could show a standard template that people should insert at the end of their question, something like:

  • Device: <make> <model> [sub_model]
  • OS Version: <#.#-version_name>
  • [ROM: <ROM_name>]
  • [Custom UI: <UI_name>]

I have been removing the tags when the model of the phone obviously has no impact on the issue. (Same with Android OS.)

It's not always so clear, though.

I think, however, that this is probably more analogous to OS tags on Super User than to what is done on Stack Overflow. Using a Windows 7 tag automatically discourages any Macintosh solutions.


I'd group OS versions in as being the same sort of potentially meta info as phone models.

I'd argue that with the number of times when the phone's model or OS version is important, but not mentioned anywhere the tags are useful, even when just pointers to the fact that the phone has a particular custom UI, or capabilities.

If the question is in anyway hardware related, then they're essential. If it's to do with UI or built-in apps then, again they're useful (the Contacts app on a Sense UI phone is different from a TouchWiz phone, and from a pure Android phone in many ways).

They may be meta-information but the information is useful enough in enough cases that without it I think we'd need to encourage use of more general meta tags (eg HTC-phone, or Dell-tablet, or HTC-Sense or Samsung-TouchWiz) but in many cases the questioner, if not an Android expert may not know that they have Sense, but will likely know that they have a Desire.

Do people really ignore all htc-desire tagged posts just because they have a Sony Xperia phone?

If we started getting people tagging posts with beginner-question, or expert-question then that's a different matter. Rather than forcing someone who may not know exactly what the problem is to decide what info is or isn't relevant, I think we should be encouraging question askers to give as much info as they can, and tags are one way to provide that.

  • 2
    but the purpose of the tag is for sorting/classification, not for description. If they are relevant to the question but not relevant to classification, I think the poster should only mention that in the description not in the tags
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 2:52

I think OS version tags can meaningfully describe the content -- but I only support adding them when the poster (or an editor) thinks they are relevant to that particular question.

I'd definitely discourage any policy, implicit or explicit, of mindlessly tagging all posts with an OS version. They do this on http://ask.ubuntu.com and it has been kind of a bad idea in practice.

  • but the purpose of the tag is for sorting/classification, not for description. If they are relevant to the question but not relevant to classification, I think the poster should only mention that in the description not in the tags
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 2:49
  • 1
    @Louis A classification is a kind of description, in my mind. Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 7:09
  • Yes, correct, but a description is not always a classification. What I am proposing to discourage is tags that are descriptive but not a classification, such as the examples in the original question.
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Jan 5, 2011 at 7:13
  • Any description is a classification if used as such -- for example, when used as a tag. ;) Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 3:04
  • 1
    The situation has become a bit worse, in my opinion. An awful lot of questions are using device and/or OS specific tags that shouldn't. In most cases it's universal. What the asker is doing is categorizing their device and not their question. I don't think there's anything for it but to encourage seasoned veterans to edit those tags off when they find them.
    – ale
    Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 12:42

It is often not possible for the asker to determine if the question is phone specific. The same goes for person who answers a question. I think any policy discouraging phone model tags will just fail. Even if we collect the information within an extra field, it's just not practicable.

I think the only way to handle version/model tags is to see them as "I have this question with this device/version (and I am not sure if it is device/version specific or not)". Anything else won't work.

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