Based on this meta post, and the closing of software/tool recommendations, what do we do with these tags? Do we need a separate tag for and a tag for ? Should we merge them? If not, what is the difference?

Remember, any registered user can suggest edits to tag wikis, and anyone with 1500 reputation can approve tag wiki edits.


Premature Optimization?

This may be a premature optimization. There are only around 150 questions between the two tags, so it's not a large statistical universe to work with. It may take some time to see how the community tags (or mistags) questions with various tags, and to learn what new tags people with the tag creation privilege will apply to the knowledge domain.

Once the question pool is larger, it will be much easier to retrofit the tags with extensional definitions.

Intensional Definitions

It's still worthwhile to try and differentiate the tags, although I see it as a continuous process that will need to be revisited. Here are my current thoughts on the matter.

The tag is really a superset of the various devices and implements used to manage a project. Sub-categories obviously include hardware, software, and communications devices, but also include less obvious categories such as reporting mechanisms and coordinating tools (e.g. a physical kanban).

Should implements such as a chess clock used for code-pairing be tagged as ? Sure. How about a Bic pen used to take notes during a status meeting? Probably not.

It seems to me that the dividing line between and something out of scope is whether it visibly supports a defined project management process. Based on that definition, software becomes the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but still allows for existence of physical and mechanical .

Of course, if 99.999% of the are software, is it really useful to differentiate for the edge cases? Probably not. The percentage of non-software tools-related questions is bound to be quite small, except when they are narrowly focused on a particular project management practice such as Kanban or XP coaching.

The real issue, in my opinion, is the way people use the word "tool." In common parlance, are often proxies for "How do I solve my process problem?" If the answer is not obvious on a process level...well, there must be a tool for that!

Rather than create an arbitrary distinction between and , it might be better to create less culturally-overloaded tags. For example, someone might propose or .

The superset tag could then be renamed to or to make it clear that the topics are about using or implementing specific , rather than for shopping list recommendations. This won't actually stop people from misusing various tags, but could conceivably cut down on the noise.

  • Tag optimization is an ongoing process that starts -- theoretically -- from day 1. Retagging 150 questions is much easier than retagging 10,000 of them..... With that said, I'll ask the Stack Exchange community managers what they think about your proposed tag naming scheme. I've never seen tags that used verbs instead of nouns, but for PMSE that could be useful. Thank you for your thorough, well-written assessment! – jmort253 Jul 14 '12 at 15:48
  • Although agreeing that the proposed tags could be more objective, I don't think a new user would ever think to tag something as using-project-management-tools. At one side, we'd have better tags. At the other side, we'd need to retag manually most of the questions, at least till the point of having such tags commonly used in other questions (and therefore, more visible). – Tiago Cardoso Dec 5 '12 at 18:19
  • @TiagoCardoso Just proactively alias some tags. For example, I'd make pm-tools an alias for using-project-management-tools so that anyone who wants to talk about tools will know what's what as soon as they try to tag it. I don't currently have alias permissions, or I would have done that already myself. :) – Todd A. Jacobs Dec 5 '12 at 19:21
  • It seems to me, @TiagoCardoso and CodeGnome, that shorter tag names with well defined tag excerpts would be more useful than long tags. Do either of you see a problem with making the tag wiki excerpt for pm-tools say the following: "This is for questions about using project management tools?" It seems like we might be putting the tag wiki excerpt in the tag instead, which might make them harder to use. ;). – jmort253 Dec 6 '12 at 4:07
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    @jmort253 While I think moving some of the wiki body to the excerpt may help, I don't think it really solves the problem. In programming, one uses descriptive variables like electrocute_end_user instead of i and j to avoid exactly this issue, and I think there's value in applying the same idea to wiki tags. – Todd A. Jacobs Dec 6 '12 at 4:38
  • Well @CodeGnome, being a programmer, I can definitely respect that logic, although traditionally I think of tags as properties, or adjectives, instead of methods, which would be verbs. ;) If we do go the verb route, what do you think about shortening to "using-tools" instead? Adding in "project management" on a site for project managers might be overdoing it a bit. ;) – jmort253 Dec 6 '12 at 6:50
  • I will say I was hesitant to use verbs as tags before, but if no one sees a reason why this would be bad, I say we give it a shot, especially if it could help avoid confusion..... So, how do you propose we start? Do you agree that aliasing the pm-tools tags as Tiago suggests is a good first step? – jmort253 Dec 6 '12 at 6:53
  • I still believe the problem is not on the tag name itself, but in what it should represent (in the same way as no one would use a i and j variables without knowing what they represent / contain). I believe that enrich the tag as a whole (wikis, excerpts) plus doing some retags + comments would be more straightforward and easy to adopt. – Tiago Cardoso Dec 6 '12 at 11:45
  • We definitely would need more community member in this discussion... but then we fall to the problem of bringing the community to the chat or meta. – Tiago Cardoso Dec 6 '12 at 11:46
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    In that case @TiagoCardoso and CodeGnome, lets just start editing some tag wikis. Once we've filled out some missing or out of date details, then we can revisit the idea of making the synonyms. Hopefully that will give some other people some time to swing by. I'll put it on my todo list to look at some trouble areas over the weekend. :) I'll try to hang in the chat room if anyone wants to stop by. – jmort253 Dec 7 '12 at 6:32

I had raised a similar question in our chat some days ago, without noticing that this was already being discussed here.

I do agree with @CodeGnome that there's a slightly difference between and and, thinking in the long-term, I believe worth to keep them apart.

One thing I believe we, as community, could do is to retag the questions we consider mistagged for and and then add a short comment explaining the difference between the tags. This way, we'll make the whole community aware of the differences highlighted here and seeding the idea of properly tag these questions.

  • I kinda feel like everyone might have a different understanding of what each tag means. I admit I get confused by these tags myself... I like CodeGnome's description of them, but unless the tag wiki's are very clear what they're for, I suspect we may run into some confusion or conflicts about when to use a tag in a different spot. What do you think of the first exercise to be to fill in all the tag wikis? Should we just have people start editing them and then bring questions to meta for any that we're not sure about? – jmort253 Dec 6 '12 at 4:10

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