There are currently a number of questions tagged unix. I think this tag is meaningless since every question could have it. (Then again, so could the computer tag on SU!)

We could ban the unix tag (I think the SE software permits this), or give it a useful meaning (such as questions requesting portability accross variants). I lean towards the former because of the potential for confusion. Then what is a good tag for questions expecting a portable answer? portable (ambiguous)? variant-agnostic (hard to guess)?

I've retagged a few unix questions — mostly the ones where there was or should have been a variant tag as well (solaris, linux). I think some of the remaining unix tags are superfluous (the ones about unix history make sense) but won't go further there's a consensus (which there clearly isn't now).

I've created distribution-choice in the process (there are probably more questions where it would apply) — it seemed appropriate, but feel free to argue. I've also created architecture; maybe design would be better, or something else? Ditto for bibliography.

I couldn't come up with good tags for a few questions:

Update: The unix tag is now banned.

4 Answers 4


On this question we discussed the [linux] and [unix] tags being used to mark things that are specific to those OSes; [linux] posts only apply to linux, and [unix] posts only apply to unix. In practice that hasn't been happening; we even had a bunch of posts tagged with both, which makes little sense, but xeno went through and retagged them all

It is possible to blacklist tags as a last resort, but I'm still hoping enough of the community will handle retagging that it won't be an issue. It might be worth adding something in the tag wikis for those tags, but I don't think it would help much

I don't think we should overload those tags to mean portability though; if a question is distro-specific I would expect it to be tagged with that distro's tag and with [linux]. Ideally I think tagging with the distro tag would automatically tag with [linux], since I can't see a way the former would be useful but not the latter, but there's currently no way to have automated tag dependencies (although it's been discussed in the past). I think your first example, [portable], might be a decent tag to represent portability

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    There's a big difference between [unix] and [linux]: the latter carries some information, but on this site the former doesn't. (Hmmm, has it been decided whether Android kernel questions are on-topic here? They would be Linux without being unix, but I don't think this justified tagging 99.999% of the questions with [unix].) Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 0:07
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    @Gilles If you mean "all [linux] questions are automatically [unix]", my intention was that [unix] would mean all unix questions that don't apply to [linux] Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 0:12
  • By the way, automatically adding [linux] to Linux distribution tags wouldn't work absolutely always, e.g., [debian] could be Debian GNU/kFreeBSD. Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 0:15
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    @Michael: I don't understand this — why do we need a tag to mean not-Linux, and how on earth are people supposed to guess that that's what [unix] means? Is there a tag for not-FreeBSD, not-OSX, not-Solaris, etc.? Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 0:18
  • @Gilles I'm explaining what I think when I see those tags. To me [linux] means "this question is about linux only, and doesn't apply to unix", and [unix] means "this question is about unix only, and doesn't apply to linux". If it applies to neither, it shouldn't be on this site. If it applies to both, there's really no need to tag it at all. Maybe that's not what those tags should mean, but that's what I would expect them to mean Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 0:41
  • Oh, I think I see: do you (and Stefan) restrict “Unix” to systems derived from the AT&T or BSD code bases, as opposed to Linux? I never understood why people made this distinction (and until now I've only seen it made by trolls or clueless people, but clearly you're neither). I could understand a Unix/BSD/Linux distinction, though the branded-Unix codebases have diverged enough to make it of little use, but I don't see a reason to single Linux out. Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 18:42
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    To me, "linux" is a subset of "unix"; I would find it rather confusing (as a user of this site) to find that "unix" is a tag that does not apply to "linux". (Unless we want to restrict the usage of "unix" to those OSes that can be legally be called UNIX, but this won't make much sense because it's unrelated to almost any question that can be asked on unix.SE) Commented Oct 11, 2010 at 20:00
  • @Riccardo Yeah, it's sounding like most people agree with that interpretation. In which case it probably doesn't make sense to have [unix], since it should apply to every post Commented Oct 11, 2010 at 20:04

I've created a tag, for those questions where portability is a key concern. For example, Searching for string in files recommending grep -R, while Search string in many files on HP-UX recommending find -exec grep or find | xargs grep.


Adding to The Micheal's Answer,

Instead of banning the unix tag, as it can still serve some purpose, can't we introduce a feature where the poster would be prevented from specifying both tags at the same time?

  • see my comments on Michael's answer. To address your proposal, I don't think preventing a combination of two tags is ever justified: interoperability questions should have both tags. Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 18:43
  • Yes, the proposal was made without thinking it all the way through :)
    – Stefan
    Commented Oct 6, 2010 at 19:59
  • It comes down to how people use tags, and I'm not a good person to ask since I generally don't use tags much. If the primary usages of tags are for interesting/ignored questions and for searching (which I assume is the case), then a post that has anything to do with unix should probably be tagged unix and likewise with linux. In that case it's essentially the opposite of my proposal -- every question should be required to have either [linux] or [unix], since by the definition of off-topic here it needs to be at least one. (Also, did you just refer to me as "the Micheal"? :) ) Commented Oct 7, 2010 at 3:46
  • oops my bad, but im not gona change it :P
    – Stefan
    Commented Oct 7, 2010 at 6:21

How about tagging variant agnostic questions (meaning: anything that is not specific to Linux or any other UNIX-like OS) with all?

(all-unices or all-variants could also be considered, but I personally prefer the shortest form.)

  • If distro-/platform-agnostic Questions pop up, this all tag should be implied. Also, it's not always the case that the Asker knows if her specific Question is relevant elsewhere other than her chosen OS, but such info should be available on a good Answer anyways. In short, all would be redundant.
    – tshepang
    Commented Dec 8, 2010 at 7:15

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