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After a short discussion about tagging and tag searches in the Teachers Lounge chat, I learned some interesting things. We've been talking about how to tag for some time, and we seem to keep circling the concept of tagging with model numbers for equipment in particular.

Originally, the sentiment seemed to be: Don't tag with model numbers, just tag with brands and maybe trademarks, such as [canon] [eos] or [speedlight]. The question keeps rearing its head, however, and there are still questions tagged with brand and model numbers.

As it turns out, tag search seems to support wildcards. You can do searches like the following:

  canon-*d => canon-450d, canon-500d, canon-7d, etc.  
  *-vs-* => film-vs-digital, dx-vs-fx, digital-vs-film, etc.  

Given that flexibility, I think that changes the game. Rather than trying to be broad in our tagging, it is probably better to be more specific. Discussions have revolved around the concept of broad and composable tags, but they never really seem to work. For example, [canon] [550d], or [speedlight] [580EX-II], etc. Searching through threads tagged as such is more difficult and less effective.

It seems that tagging with model numbers may give us more flexibility and searchability, provided we do it correctly. So, once again, the question is brought to the table. Should we tag specifically, like so:

  • [canon-550d], [canon-7d]
  • [speedlight-580EX-II]
  • [adobe-lightroom], [adobe-photoshop]
  • [nikon-d3x], [nikon-d300]
  • etc.

This gives us the flexibility to search specifically or broadly:

  • Search for all threads tagged canon?
    • canon-*
  • Search for threads tagged only for non-pro Canon bodies?
    • canon-*0d
  • Search for all threads tagged adobe?
    • adobe-*
  • Search for all threads tagged nikon?
    • nikon-*
  • Search for threads tagged only for entry-level nikon d-series bodies?
    • nikon-d30*
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I greatly prefer specific tags over general ones.

I would much rather look filter by [canon-450d] than [canon] [450d]. The ability to get down to specific hardware you are interested in by searching for a single tag really appeals to me.

If the information contained in the question is general enough to apply to a larger range of equipment, that is the time to add a more general tag, for instance, [canon] or [dslr]

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    Couldn't agree more. :) I think you tried to explain this in chat yesterday, but I did not fully understand until a mod from SO explained how tag searches worked. – jrista Aug 9 '10 at 16:24
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One complication: do searches for canon (no explicit wildcard) turn up results for canon-7d, etc.? I suspect few will know that wildcarding is possible; I certainly didn't.

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    Yes. If you search for just "canon", it shows everything that starts with canon by default. Its effectively the same as "canon*". Wildcards come into play if you need something more complex, like "-vs-". – jrista Aug 10 '10 at 1:25
  • This is a hugely important concern in tagging generally; we can't construct a system, well, we can't construct a system AT ALL, really, but anything that relies on specific knowledge about searching techniques and the like is a bit of a dead end. – ex-ms Aug 10 '10 at 3:03
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    We are not really constructing the system...its already in place, supported by the StackExchange infrastructure. The tagging proposal to use hyphenated names is something that most other SE sites already follow, and one which many of the members of this site have tried to follow on their own (early on, there were a lot of threads with hyphenated brand/model tags, then we oversimplified and just used brand tags.) I don't think were proposing anything that our users won't understand or be able to make use of. – jrista Aug 10 '10 at 16:21
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One of the problems is that model specific tags with hyphens can't be used with wildcards for the interesting or ignore lists. For this reason, I prefer the more general tag. Model names used in question texts still show up in searches.

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  • Not sure I follow what you mean, as they work for me? – Rowland Shaw Jan 2 '11 at 15:56
  • Can't be used with wildcards — sorry! – Please Read My Profile Jan 2 '11 at 16:03

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