I will start by saying, yes, there are cases where it will be relevant for the question asked, right. But are those weird, rare cases reason enough to overcome the drawbacks of having them in first place?

What drawbacks? you may ask, well:

  • First of all, those tags are often misapplied, and by often I mean almost always. People don't even know when distributions tags are relevant for their questions, we can't expect them to apply the version ones correctly. This is one reason the almighty Thor Shog describes in his recipe to remove tags:

    2. Does the tag add any meaningful information to the post?
    This covers a pretty big range of issues, from folks typing complete sentences into the tag entryfield causing useless tags to be applied, to folks just going overboard and applying once-reasonable tags to questions where it is only tangentially-relevant, to folks just finding two different terms for the same concept and using both of them. I'll usually start by looking at the "related tags" sidebar: there should be a few tags listed, but if any of them are synonyms then they should be merged; if that's not the case, then I'll start looking through questions to see how many of them are actually about the concept represented by the tag (which I should have a basic understanding of after step #1). If the tag is superfluous on the vast majority of questions where it is used, then it should go.

    (the bold + italics is the relevant part)

  • Second, which is related to the first, whenever a tag gets misapplied following the above precept, it creates overhead on users that should be doing something more important. This wastes time of users which have to go against the tide just to remove these from the post where it's irrelevant.

  • Third, and probably more important, these tags more often than not displace relevant ones. This is probably the most harmful effect of those tags, since they literally prevent the experts on certain topic from ever finding the questions they can answer.

So, is there some positive case where the benefit of having these tags (all of them) is greater than the losses it produce?

  • 7
    Not for Arch... :-)
    – jasonwryan
    Aug 13, 2014 at 19:44
  • 2
    literally and ever are strong words; I suspect you mean it's inconvenient for such experts to find these badly-tagged Questions?
    – tshepang
    Aug 14, 2014 at 7:02
  • @Tshepang no, they are well used since that's exactly what happens.
    – Braiam
    Aug 14, 2014 at 11:37
  • 1
    I meant people can always find those Questions by simple searching, and even keeping a bookmark on such a search. It's just not as convenient as just subscribing to a tag. Now, that's a different case to these people will never find those Questions.
    – tshepang
    Aug 19, 2014 at 8:37
  • @Tshepang well, I've never seen an expert searching for keywords instead of tags to answer questions.
    – Braiam
    Aug 19, 2014 at 15:40
  • 1
    That you haven't seen them do such a thing does not imply they never do. Strong word.
    – tshepang
    Aug 19, 2014 at 17:09
  • @Tshepang ok, lets put it this way, is inefficient for any expert to search based in keywords instead of tags, hence they don't (because experts are smart people, no?).
    – Braiam
    Aug 19, 2014 at 21:03
  • You are ignoring the possibility that experts can bump onto stuff they missed via tag subscriptions using other ways, even if accidental.
    – tshepang
    Aug 19, 2014 at 21:13
  • @Tshepang that's why Stack Exchange makes such big efforts that whenever a question is asked The Correct Tags™ are suggested to the user, they are discoverable, etc. so such "accidents" don't happen. And seriously, that's the goal of my proposal, prevent accidental mis-tagging.
    – Braiam
    Aug 19, 2014 at 21:17
  • 1
    Yes, yours is a good proposal. Still doesn't mean experts won't find mis-tagged Questions. @Gilles repeatedly does (last I checked), and then tags them right.
    – tshepang
    Aug 19, 2014 at 21:23
  • @Tshepang I have been affected of that, just FYI.
    – Braiam
    Aug 26, 2014 at 21:54
  • Use the normal version free tag and just place versions in your post (maybe even in header), like most sensible people try to do.
    – AquaAlex
    Aug 27, 2014 at 7:33

4 Answers 4



Our question volume is pretty low. Our most used distro tag () got four questions in the last 24h. Our 2nd most used () got two. Things where this might make a little sense, like got zero question in the last 24h.

It's hard to see that overwhelming our Debian or Ubuntu experts. And our RHEL experts must have fallen asleep at the keyboard by now. OTOH, if we add a bunch of version-specific tags, it'll either require putting the general tag on as well (wasting one of five tag slots) or alternatively said experts to follow additional tags.

Not to mention, being an expert in Debian Wheezy, but having no clue about Squeeze, has got to be pretty rare.

  • as you say on the top of your post; NO :-)
    – AquaAlex
    Aug 27, 2014 at 7:36

I can't really think of any great reasons, for example one might ask how to add a service to boot in RHEL 7, this seems approriate for a RHEL 7 tag because it moved to systemd, but the reality is that this should be 2 questions, "how can I determine what init system I'm using?" and "how can I add a service to boot with init system X?" because using systemd applies to more than rhel, and in some systems you could swap them. Also rolling distro's are versionless, and so versions don't really apply well to them. I also suspect most people would follow distro tag and not distro-x.x

  • 1
    So, if I read you corretly, you are against them.
    – Braiam
    Aug 13, 2014 at 15:33
  • mentioning the specific version of software you're using is far more important most of the time, as most distro's are far more similar than different, reality is there are really only a few distinguishing things such as package manager, some filesystem layout, and init system. even a specific version of a distribution doesn't align you regarding patch updates. Aug 13, 2014 at 15:42
  • on the other hand I wouldn't be surprised to find out that I've used them for things like the scenario I've mentioned above, where I know it's a "distro specific" thing, like the init system and managing services, and I'm not familiar with this distro. Reality is I still should have looked at the software specifically, and asked questions about figuring that out. Aug 13, 2014 at 15:44
  • 1
    simply put, probably against them, not having them is not as user friendly, but they really don't add much value most of the time. Aug 13, 2014 at 15:45
  • I've often made tags such as these for the very reason you mentioned, where a feature is in one ver. of a distro and not another, such as rhel6 vs. rhel7. So I would say we should have them, but let's not go crazy and create them just to have them, if a Q warrants them, then make the tags, but otherwise don't go making spurious tags.
    – slm Mod
    Aug 13, 2014 at 18:29

I don't remember ever seeing a post where the version tag was useful. Some questions are specific to a distribution (or, technically speaking, to a distribution and its derivatives) or a small set of distributions. Some questions are specific to a range of versions in a distribution. But to a specific version? Sure, that happens very occasionally, but it isn't such a useful case to warrant a tag.

There's no such thing as expertise in Ubuntu 12.10 as opposed to all other versions. A tag like isn't useful to search in, as many issues that apply to Ubuntu 12.10 also apply to other versions and so will only have the tag — or only or or whatever because the question is about a specific version of a specific piece of software, not about a specific version of the distribution.

If anyone has an example of at least two questions that are about a specific version of a specific distributions, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.


I remove these tags pretty regularly on new questions and encourage others to do the same when you are sure something is not a distro specific issue (and as you point out Braiam, more often than not it isn't). Sometimes I'll add a comment to that effect.

I think that may have a positive effect in demonstrating to people the extent to which linux issues are linux issues and not my-fav-distro issues. That's not a good reason to have the tags, obviously, but it does mean this is not a total loss, communication/dissemination/organization wise.

One of the most common confusions for new users seems to be conflating a specific DE with a specific distro. That can be corrected by swapping tags and leaving a comment. It's no harder to do than casting the first close vote (wink wink), so I don't see a problem with making this a "recommended practice" here.

Although I agree the tags are mostly misused, I don't agree with eliminating them. I think there are questions where they may be appropriate. I went through the newest questions tagged fedora and removed the tag from the first two, and then hit this one. While the solution may prove to be about components that are not unique to fedora (e.g., systemd) or that could have a more specific tag of their own (e.g., in this case, plymouth; I did this with firewalld for one of the other questions), it may also likely describe a phenomenon involving the interaction of components in a way that is unique to the distro, or at least, unique enough that it reoccurs. That's important, because using the distro tag now makes it much easier for other people to find the question in combination with the other tag (login), potentially saving us from dupe after dupe.

I do think the distro-x.x tags should go and have their questions reassigned to distro as they hamper searching. If there's a recurrent issue on Fedora 18, 19, and 20, and someone tags it fedora19, that's just a hassle. In this case, the excessive misuse and limited legitimate value justify the erasure.

  • Distros tags are ok, the problem is the fedora-20, fedora-19, fedora-18, fedora-16, rhel6 (or 5, don't remember), centos6/7, etc., your first part should go here meta.unix.stackexchange.com/questions/3037/…
    – Braiam
    Aug 20, 2014 at 15:52
  • Yeah. By some weird coincidence I was editing that in when you added the comment O_O!
    – goldilocks
    Aug 20, 2014 at 15:53
  • I don't understand what you're saying about unix.stackexchange.com/questions/150803/… : that it should be tagged fedora, or that it should be tagged fedora-20? Aug 20, 2014 at 19:23
  • @Gilles That it was originally tagged fedora and I think that is an example of a legitimate use. I don't like the distro + version tags (fedora20); they would seem to defeat the purpose of tagging via excessive specificity.
    – goldilocks
    Aug 21, 2014 at 16:11

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