Tagging FAQ

by Ruby13 min read28th Jul 20201 comment

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This FAQ is specifically for the tagging system. For everything else, see the general FAQ.

The major sections of this FAQ are:

Related important pages:

General

What is tagging on LessWrong?

Tags allow related content to be linked together. The system is straightforward:

  • Posts can be tagged with tags (example).
  • Tag pages provide the description of concept the tag is about a and list of all posts tagged (example).
  • The Concepts page displays all existing tags.
  • Tags appear in search results.
  • Tags can be used to filter the Latest Posts list on the Frontpage, allowing you to see more or less of posts with certain tags.
  • You can vote on the relevance of a given tag to post, indicating “I think this tag shouldn’t apply to this post” or “this post is a central exemplar of this tag”.
    • Technically, applying a tag to post is upvoting its relevance. Tag relevance determines the default sort order of posts on tag pages.
    • See the Tag Voting section of this FAQ.

What is the point of tagging?

Philosophically, the tagging system is an attempt to give posts on LessWrong longevity. In contrast to news and social media sites, where the main content being read is what was posted that week, we want users to read the best and most relevant content to them – whenever it was written.

Longevity and findability of old content also seems key to thinkers building upon each other. If I want to contribute new knowledge, it helps to build on what was already said previously – to maintain the conversation – and for that, we want to keep tracking of the “conversation”. Tagging is an attempt to do that.

Tagging accomplishes this through simple means: it allows you to conveniently find all the content on a specific topic. That can be done top-down from the Concepts page, or bottom-up from a tag on a posts page. Tags are also a quick way to learn the topics of a post if the title isn’t direct. Lastly, tags allow users to filter the content they are shown – getting more or less of certain topics. And although we haven’t built it yet, it’s possible we will build topic-specific discussion around tags.

Tag pages are similar to wiki pages. While we are still figuring this out, the tagging system may grow into a combined tagging-and-wiki system that provides explanations of key concepts used on LessWrong.

What are the Core Tags?

The LessWrong tagging system possesses six core tags that at a high-level capture the major topics of discussion on the site. They hopefully provide a good idea of what the site is about.

We aim to have these tags applied accurately and comprehensively across all posts on the site, so that they will be useful as filters to boost or reduce the presence of content on your feed.

Core tags also provide a natural way to cateogirze other tags on the site, e.g. on the Concepts page, though often other tags don’t fall neatly into only one (or any) of the core tags.

The Core Tags are:

Full descriptions of each can be found on their respective tag pages (click or hover). There are also some common confusions addressed in the next section. 

I’m confused by the Core Tags. How are they different?

Rationality vs AI

Both Rationality and AI are about minds – that's why AI is such a natural fit on LessWrong– and this causes many ideas applying to AI to also apply to Rationality. Some posts and tag might legitimately belong to both, but a good heuristic is that Rationality content should be of interest to a reader even if they're not interested in the design or engineering of artificial intelligences.

Rationality vs Practical

Both of these apply to topics that help people do better. The distinction is that we want the Rationality tag to be more exclusively about doing better by thinking better, in fancy words, by improving your cognitive algorithms. Practical, in contrast, is for all the object-level ways to do better, e.g. getting a good night's sleep and taking care of your health.

World Modeling vs The Rest

Almost all discussions on LessWrong concern models of the world, doesn't this tag apply to everything? Potentially, yes, but we wanted a name that applied to topics primarily driven by a broad curiosity about the world. Raw sciences and similar. "How does it work?" being the foremost question. Science might have been an alternative name, but many topics we wanted to include topics aren't implied by that, e.g. history.

In a way, the other core tags could be considered specialized sub-tags of World Modeling, and World Modeling is the catch-all for the rest.

World Optimization vs World Modeling

World Optimization is the tag intended to capture all discussion of topics directly relevant to trying to make the world a better place. That means discussion of altruistic causes, but also models of things which are especially relevant to changing things, e.g. incentive structures in large institutions. Many social models have felt appropriate in World Optimization for that reason.

World Optimization vs Practical

The difference between these two is largely scale. World Optimization concerns how we make the world at large better, while Practical are topics relevant to individuals trying to make their local situation. "Altruism vs Self-Help" isn't quite right, but points in the correct direction.

Who can tag?

At this time, all users can both apply, create, and vote tags. Users can apply tags to any post, not just their own. However, all new tags and general tagging activity are reviewed by the LessWrong team.

Who controls tagging?

Whether a post has a particular tag is determined by users voting on a relevance score. Applying a tag to a post is the same as upvoting its relevance to that post, removing a tag is the same as downvoting its relevance to that post, and the post has the tag if everyone's votes sum to a positive relevance score. The strength of your votes depends on your karma score, and is the same as the strength of your votes on posts and comments.

Unlike scores on posts and comments, the LessWrong team may occasionally override the voting system, for example, when clarifying a tag's meaning or splitting a tag into two tags.

Anyone can submit tags and edit tag descriptions, but the LessWrong team has the final say in which tags exist and what their descriptions are. In the future, if tagging is used heavily, we may build other dispute resolution mechanisms.

The LessWrong team currently has the final say in which tags are good vs not, which posts go in tags, etc. The team will make the final decisions in any disputes arise in relation to tagging.

In the future, the LessWrong core team might give authority to mods or others in making decisions about tagging.

What are the secret fancy URL parameters for linking to tags?

You may have noticed that tag titles are often displayed alongside the post-count for that tag. You can make this happen when you link to a post by appending the following to the url:

?showPostCount=true
e.g. https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/rationality?showPostsCount=true

Further, since tag names are often changed, you can cause a tag link to also use the current name with the url parameter:

?useTagName=true
e.g. https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/practical?useTagName=true

In conjunction, you have the url parameters:

https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/ai?showPostCount=true&useTagName=true

With those parameters added to the url, your link will show post count and always use the latest tag name.

How can I help with tagging?

I’m so glad you asked. There is much to be done. A few major tasks help the tagging system flourish:

  • Apply tags to posts. You can see existing tags on the Concepts page. See the Applying Tags section for more detail.
  • Improve existing tag descriptions. Many tags having poor or missing descriptions. See this list of tags in need of work or use tag grade as a filter in the Tag Details section of the Concepts page. You can use the tag grading scheme and tag description guidelines to direct you.
  • Create new tags. Many great tags simply haven’t been created. If there’s a clear need, create a tag. More detail.
  • Vote on tag relevances. Tag pages are improved when the most relevant posts are voted to the top. You can vote of tag relevances while on a tag page. More detail.

Applying Tags

Who can apply tags?

Anyone can apply tags to any posts.

I want to help tag, where’s a good place to start?

It's good to start by becoming familiar with LessWrong's existing tags. You can see them on the new Concepts page. Then are a couple of tagging strategies:

Tag-First

  • You might notice the absence of tags you think should exist. Great! You can create that tag now and then begin adding relevant posts to it.
  • You might see a tag and be surprised at how few posts it has. Awesome, you can add any missing posts you know of to it from either the tag page or post page (see the next section).
  • Make sure all your favorite posts are tagged.
  • Just tag whichever posts have come up on your From the Archives feed on the frontpage.

Post-First

  • Look at the list of high-karma posts here that don't yet have tags [onsite, optimized spreadsheet]. See if they fit any existing ones, or whether we're missing a tag for a real cluster, then make it.
  • Alternatively, we have an automatically updating spreadsheet (every five minutes) that tracks the tags on the most viewed posts according to our data. Causing those to have good tags is a high-leverage due to the high traffic.
  • If you’re an author, ensure all your own posts are tagged.

You might find that you end up iterating between the two approaches.

How do I add tags?

On the post page

The "Add Tag" button is located in the tags section at the top and/or bottom of a post page.

On the tag page

At the bottom of the posts list on a tag page, there is an "Add Posts" button.

 

How do I remove a tag?

Under the hood, tags are implemented with a Tag Relevance voting system. Therefore the purest way to remove a tag is by downvoting its relevance. On a post page, use the tag hover to up or downvote the relevance. On a tag page, you will see the tag vote buttons on the left side of the post item.

However, for intuitiveness, the tag hover-over on post pages will display a “Remove Tag” button when you have the ability to remove a tag, i.e., no one else has voted on its tag relevance

If someone else has also voted on the relationship between a tag and a post, your only option is to cast your vote. If your voting power is greater than or equal to the current tag relevance, you can remove the tag that way.

I’m tagging. How comprehensive should I be?

The point of tagging is to link together good related content. The point is not to tag every post with every tag that might conceivably apply to it.

Think of tagging as creating a curated list of material on a topic that someone interested in that topic would want to find. If a post touches on a topic but extremely tangentially, it might not be worth tagging it. If a post is low quality but technically discusses a topic, it isn’t necessary to tag it either. 

Don’t worry about it too much, but overall you can use judgment about what gets tagged. Not every post should get tagged. 

Should I be applying core tags to all posts?

Don’t worry about trying to apply the core tags to old posts you encounter. More specific tags are generally more useful. As we’re trying to fill-out the tagging system, it’s good to focus on the more specific concepts that apply to posts.

Should I tag event posts?

Almost never. The point of tagging is to surface relevant content on a topic to current readers. Even if an event was themed, probably that event announcement isn’t useful to future readers.

Tag Voting

Why tag voting?

While many posts might fall under a tag, a couple of situations frequently arise:

  1. Not all posts apply equally. Some posts are central examples of a tag that extremely relevant, others only have passing usage of the tagged concept.
  2. People disagree about which tags apply to which posts.

LessWrong solves these with a tag relevance voting system. It’s similar to karma, but it’s not karma. Users can vote on how relevant a tag is to a post with either small or strong votes (same as karma) and using their usual vote strength, however, this is still a separate system.

The tag relevance scores are used for the default sorting of posts on tag pages.

How to tag relevance vote?

On a post page

Hover over a tag to get its hover-preview. The card will have vote buttons.

Tag vote buttons are displayed on the tag hover-preview. These can also be used to remove a tag from a post, if the vote score becomes zero or negative.

On a tag page

On the left side of the post item where vote buttons for tag relevance.

On tag pages, these vote buttons are for a post's tag relevance score (not karma)

Making Awesome Tags

Who can create tags?

Anyone can create new tags!

We review all new tags, and will modify/delete tags which are duplicates, don’t match the general conventions, or aren’t that good. Don’t let this hold you back! Take it as reassurance that you can create tags with approximate impunity.

When should I create a tag?

Many tags don’t exist simply because no one got around to creating them.

The purpose of tags is to help people find (or avoid) related clusters of content. When a cluster exists but has no tag, then it's appropriate to create a tag for it. 

Good tags need to strike a balance between applying to enough posts to be worth creating, but not so many as to be useless. For example, so many posts on LessWrong have reductionist models that a reductionistic models tag would apply to too many things. (By too many, I mean hundreds.)

A good heuristic is that tag ought to have three high-quality posts, preferably written by two or more authors. 

  1. Tags are for collecting related clusters of posts.
  2. A good tag should apply to at least a few posts (~minimum 3) but not too many (e.g. shouldn’t apply to hundreds of LessWrong posts).
  3. Caution should be used when creating a tag that heavily overlaps with an existing tag. In such cases, mods or experienced taggers might weigh in how to best carve up concept-space.

What further wisdom do you have, oh, wise tag-creation-master?

A few good principles to keep in mind when creating tags:

  • The tagging system is collectively applied which limits its ability to maintain tags with high-degrees of subjective nuance.
  • Tags overall experience pressure to be as inclusive as possible. If a concept is at all loosely connected to a topic, someone will apply it.
  • The general result of the above is that a closely related, although theoretically distinct, concepts will end up blurred and having heavy redundant post overlap.

What does this mean for tag creation?

If you’re creating a tag, think about how others might broadly construe it. It’s good to write a clear description of the intended concept, but even better to have a tag name that fully conveys what you want the tag to be about. Generally, don’t rely on people reading the description if you can avoid it. 

Are there tags which are not suitable for LessWrong?

Kind of. As mentioned elsewhere, much of the goal of the tagging system is to give the site content longevity. That means it makes less sense to create tags of only temporary interest. 

Semi-relatedly, on LessWrong we try to minimize discussion of hot button or extremely politicized topics. It’s not that they’re not ever important, but certain topics are attractors of bad conversation online. Tags created for those topics may be rejected even if LessWrong has posts related to them.

What should I name my tag?

Names are one of the primary ways that people find tags, so it’s important to name a tag in a way that will be intuitive to most people. What would most people search for? Affect might be the more technical term, but most people will probably search for Emotions, making it a better tag name.

Further, many people will apply a tag to posts without reading the description or carefully looking over the currently tagged posts. This can easily cause the tag to “drift” from its intended usage. To prevent this, the tag name should try to be very explicit about the cluster it’s pointing to.

Many tags are best described by a name that is somewhat overloaded, e.g. Relationships. Here it is good to use Wikipedia style disambiguation, e.g. Relationships (Interpersonal) vs Relationships (Romantic). Putting the modifier in the disambiguation after the main word means people look for “R”, the first letter of the main word, still find it easily.

  1. Name the tag in a way that will be intuitive to most people for finding that concept.
  2. Have the tag name convey the precise concept, don’t assume it will be obvious to others.
  3. Use disambiguation where necessary, e.g. Exercise (Physical), not just Exercise.
  4. Use title case: Instrumental Convergence, not Instrumental convergence.
  5. Use & and / where necessary. These are cleaner and save space over the word “and”

Note that as described here, you can modify your tag links such that the current tag name is always used, even if the tag was renamed.

How do I write a good tag description?

Tag descriptions define the cluster of posts the tag is supposed to collect. It’s important for helping future taggers decide whether or not something belongs, and sets expectations of readers about what they’ll find.

Opening sentence

The opening sentence of a tag description should include the tag name or approximately the tag name, bolded, in a way that defines the cluster, e.g.:

  • A bucket error is when someone mistakenly lumps together multiple concepts that are in fact distinct and can vary independently. It is a fallacy of compression.

If a concept is likely to have multiple search terms, it is good to put these in the description. This will cause them to be found via search even if the primary tag name is different. This is a solution when multiple tag names seem appropriate.

Related Tags / See also

People interested in one tag are often also interested in “neighboring” tags. Moreover, people searching for a particular concept will often first hit upon a related concept. For this reason, it is important for all tags to include links to other tags in nearby concept space. This is accomplished with a See Also section.

For example, the tag for Productivity should contain a See Also section that links to the tags for Akarasia, Willpower, Motivations, and Practical. Practical is roughly the “parent” tag for Productivity and should be included too.

It’s bonus good to use the tag link parameters when linking to other tags in a description. This ensures the latest tag name is always used.

Tone

Feel free to be more experimental with your tone and emphasis than you would have to be on places like Wikipedia. We are not writing for an audience that is as broad, and we are less constrained to keep everything really defensible, so you can err on the side of writing things the way you would say it. However, it's also fine to stick with an encyclopedic tone if the muse doesn't strike you.

[Optional] Examples

For many, but not all, tags it is useful to provide examples of the concept in the description. For example, the tag for Gears-Level Understanding lists a few examples of such examples. [Even better is to also list some counter-examples.]

[Optional] Introductory Content, Sequences, and External Resources

It can be good to have a section in a tag description pointing out the best introductory or defining material for a concept. E.g., the concept of Slack was introduced in the post of the same name.

Also, it is not currently possible to tag Sequences or external links, so if some of those are relevant to a tag, it is good to include them under a Resources section.

Generally, the list of tags can’t provide context on the posts, and the tag description area is an opportunity to do that. Not required, but good.

[Optional] Quotes

A good quote can spice up a tag description. Including this after the opening paragraph is a good way to go.

  1. The opening sentence should use the bolded tag name (approximately) to define the concept.
  2. Include a list of “neighboring” tags in a See Also section.
  3. Examples are good when defining a concept (including negative examples).
  4. Consider highlighting or linking to key resources for the concept, especially Sequences and external resources that can’t be tagged.
  5. Quotes!

How can I edit tags?

Tag descriptions can be edited after the fact, not just at the time of creation. Every tag page will have an “Edit Wiki” button beneath the title (alongside a History button that lets you see all post edits).

How can I find tags in need of improvement?

Not every tag starts life as a Fully-Optimal-Ultra-Tag. Kind and generous users can find these fixer-upper tags and help them realize their potential and/or final form. You can systematically find such tags by:

  1. Looking through the Tag Details section of the Concepts page and noting where tags are missing descriptions of have few posts. (The section is sorted in descending order of post count.)
  2. [COMING SOON} Use the Tags Spreadsheet to view tags sorted by Tag Grade. Look for tags you think you can cause to move up a grade or two, especially Stubs.

If you’re about to embark on a tag-description-improving mission, be sure to check out guidelines for good tag descriptions.

You can discuss any tags you've been working on at the Tags Discussion/Talk Thread.

These tags are basically the same/there are actually two tags here. What do I do?

In the long-term, we expect there to be many instances of tags needing to be merged or split. The LessWrong dev team hasn’t yet built the tools for that, but if you message us (Intercom, etc.), we’ll sort it out.

I want to discuss a tag. How do I do that?

The dev team is currently working on Talk Pages for tags where their description and content can be discussed. Until that has shipped, please use the Tags Discussion/Talk Thread.

Boba and I are fighting over this tag, what do we do?

The LessWrong team will help sort out what should actually be done with the tag. Feel free to call on us in the Tags Discussion Thread or ping us on Intercom.

What is a tag's quality grade?

To aid in tagging work, we have made a tag grading system. Tags can be classified as A-Class, B-Class, C-Class, Stub, or Flagged. See the full criteria for each grade here.

Note: only tagging moderators may change the grade of a tag. If you believe a tag should have a different grade, please say on the tag’s Talk page [coming soon] or the Tags Discussion/Talk Thread. We may change this once the system is more established. 

All tags start out with a default grade of Stub. Usually, the mods will notice quickly if a tag is more than a stub, but you can ping us if you think we’ve missed something.

Where can I see a tag’s grade/class?

  • The grade is visible on the tag page beneath the tag's title.
  • Grade be used as a filter in the Tag Details section of the Concepts page.
  • A list of all tags with their grades can be viewed in the Tags Spreadsheet.

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New Comment
Further, since tag names are often changed, you can cause a tag link to also use the current name with the url parameter:

This sentence is ambiguous, since "current name" could refer either to the name the tag had when the link was created (current now, at the time of link creation), or it could refer to the tag's latest name (current whenever the link happens to be viewed).

There's a paragraph below that clarifies that this should be interpreted as "latest", but I missed that part earlier and got it the wrong way around, and have misused the parameter a few times as a result.