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As I commented here, there are some questions (at least that one) which would naturally fit with a big-list tag. However, these tags are generally looked down on at Math.SE and MathOverflow. Is this a tag we should avoid on Mathematics Educators SE?

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    $\begingroup$ I suggest you add the tags tag to your question. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Mar 24 '14 at 2:11
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I think we should have a big-list tag or something related. It is somewhat unfortunate that OP presents this tag so negatively; it is true that on MO, for example, there are some issues around questions tagged like this, yet I would not know anybody having proposed to get rid of the tag. I claim would this tag not exists there would be more problems around these same questions; the existence of this tag is not the problem, in fact the tag is more part of the solution or resolution of some conflicts there.

The main reason to have it is that there are very roughly speaking two main types of questions (of course there is some grey area two). And, I claim this is more or less independent of the subject, and the same issue exist on various SE sites, not just the math sites (tex.SE has the tag, and Stack Overflow had the very same discussions as MO).

  • Questions that invite a somehow "complete answer." A common type of question on this site is such that it is reasonable to attempt a "complete answer"; of course this does not mean this answer would be the only possible one or the end all and be all for this question, but still there is a sense in which one attempts to answer the question as asked, completely, if one can; or as completely as one can. In this case, different answer while possibly complementary, can also have some considerable overlap and perhaps present one and the same thing slightly differently.

  • Questions to be answered by many partial answers. There is another type of question were the intent is not really to invite one or a few users to attempt a complete answer, but rather to invite a great many of small contributions that in their entirety create one answer. A typical examples is What are some great books for inspiring children to explore mathematics? another Good, simple examples of induction? Here, the intent is (I think) not to ask for (attempts of) complete answers, but rather for small contributions, everybody shares one or two of their favorites, and in the end one will have one "big list." (As opposed to each answerer collecting in their answer all the books they consider to be fitting as an answer, possibly partly duplicating existing answers. Same for the examples question.)

These two types of questions are so fundamentally different that they should be distinguished, in my opinion. It can even be useful to have special recommendations for such list like questions. Namely, it can make sense, for one user to give several answers, one for each item they want to contribute, or one for each type of item they want to contribute. To stay with the book question: in the long run such a question can be more maintainable and useful, if each book has its own answer, or if there are really many answers, books are grouped together along type and content (latter additions being edits to other peoples answer as opposed to new answers). By contrast, what happens with no special guidelines for such questions is that there is little structure as some books are together in one answer just because the same user happened to be the first to think of adding them. In this way the questions become more a collection of personal/subjective "I liked those best," which is not so much the intent of an SE site. But, with some special instructions in place, and some maintainance, such questions can become one structured resource of (expert) recommendations on a given subject. Having a tag to signal this helps this process.

It is true it is a "meta tag" and we could have several different tags that would not be meta tags for the same purpose, but this would make things somewhat more complicated to maintain and understand. In general, I am really against meta tags, but there are some that showed their usefulness on other sites that, yes, are different but then MO and tex.SE are not that similar either and both have it. One of them is big-list, another one is , which is also a pure meta tag, yet also useful, and we already have this one.

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  • $\begingroup$ I deleted another answer I gave, as I assumed (wrongly) that eerybody was on the same page regarding an aspect of this. So, now I start on step earlier with my arguments. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 17 '14 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ I understand the use of the tag, but I don't understand the need. If an answer happens to be complete for a question marked big-list, is the tag removed? How is having a tag better than simply allowing partial answers without requiring a special signal? To a math educator who is not already part of the community, what does the tag communicate? (Note: this site need not copy habits from other sites you've used. If this tag fails to meet a felt need here, there's little reason to introduce it.) $\endgroup$ – Jon Ericson Mar 18 '14 at 7:14
  • $\begingroup$ @JonEricson yes I would suggest removing it then if the answer came early on. But also you will never get a complete answer to some things and even if you would it would not be a good idea to have all in the same answer box. But rather you might want to take advantage of sorting relevance via votes. A point of the tag would be that such questions tend to get very highly voted and thus visible. So, if somebody sees such a questions and intends to ask a similar one chances are they might note the tag and thus the info in the tagwiki. THis also goes for answeres. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 18 '14 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ The MO tag-wiki is very improvised [I typed it up in a minute or two; though I think I ran it through meta to see if anybody would object] but still conveys some info that is important there, I think. This does not mean we should necessarily adopt the practice from there only that also here we likely will have something specific to say about such questions. There is simply a huge difference how to proceed if a questions is sucpetible to get one or two orders of magnitude answer then the typical question. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 18 '14 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ Finally while this is a bad reason, some people seriously dislike these types of question on other sites, which I assume you know as it is also like so on SO, AFAIK. So, they can put that tag on ignore. I agree this is quite a wild hack; but it helps to balance differing preferences. Sorry for the long comment @JonEricson. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 18 '14 at 15:53
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    $\begingroup$ For the record as the general question just came up on main: I changed my mind and the above is not my current opinion, but I leave this up (for now) for the historical record. $\endgroup$ – quid Sep 17 '14 at 22:12
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I think there are some questions appropriate to a big-list tag (the one you mentioned; but also questions like "What are common mistakes in the field of ?", "What is a good reference for ?", but also the following questions here on the site: What are some great books for exploring mathematics? (not kids' books and not textbooks) or What are some great books for inspiring children to explore mathematics?

The question is: Will SE allow such questions?

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    $\begingroup$ I think that a large portion of Math Ed is about finding alternative ways to do or teach math. It would be a disservice to the community to disallow these types of questions and I believe they will contribute to a large portion of the questions on the SE. $\endgroup$ – David G Mar 17 '14 at 4:43
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I took a moment to get my head around on the math sites. Here is the Math.SE tag wiki:

Questions asking for a "big list" of examples, illustrations, etc. Please do not ask too many of these. Please do not use this as the only tag for a question.

This meets the first criteria for being a meta-tag:

If the tag can’t work as the only tag on a question, it’s probably a meta-tag. Every tag you use should be able to work, more or less, as the only tag on a question. Meta-tags, like [beginner], [subjective], and [best-practices], are useless by themselves — they tell you nothing at all about the content of the question.

Please take a moment to read the blog post I linked to, but the short version is that meta-tags break the tagging system and encourage behavior harmful to the community. This is a brand new site; no need to fall into bad habits right from the start.

Here's the MO tag wiki:

Questions designed to generate a "big list" of certain results, examples, conjectures, etc. via many individual answers, each contributing one or a few instances. Such a question should typically be in Community Wiki mode (CW); after asking, please, flag for moderators attention requesting the question to be made CW.

Again, this indicates to me a meta-tag. But it also reflects an outdated attitude toward Community Wiki. Here's our current thinking on that feature:

If we haven't said this enough already, questions rarely, if ever, need community wiki. What about answers? We removed the ability for users to make a question community wiki, but left the ability for users to make an answer wiki.

The intent of community wiki in answers is to help share the burden of solving a question. An incomplete "seed" answer is a stepping stone to a complete solution with help from others; an incomplete question is a hindrance and an obstacle to getting a solution as no one understands the inquiry. It is in answers that the goal of community wiki, for the community, by the community, shows its truest colors.

Yet even in answers, true collaboration is scarce. Most of the time, a single individual can provide a complete answer. There are even times where a question looks like it'll need a massive effort, but one gallant user steps up to the plate with an impressive and comprehensive answer.

Summary

Please don't create a tag in the mold of Math and MathOverflow. To the extent the tag works for those sites, it's because of a deeply entrenched culture that need not carry over to this site.

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    $\begingroup$ On CW: The software turns a question CW once it reached 30 answers. Thus it seems you should agree big-list should be CW or change the software. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 17 '14 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ On meta tag: I think I can claim to be one of the users most actively fighting against meta tags on MO; but this one has some merit as it signals a completely different type of question where one does not/should not actually even try to give a complete answer but it is about contributing a piece or severl pieces of information to create a useful resource in the end, the relevance being ranked by voting. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 17 '14 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ @quid: If you look at the big-list questions, you'll see that very few of them come anywhere close to 30 answers. As it happens, we are looking at improvements to the system that will avoid auo-CW in many of the places it is enforced. If the tag has merit, please use your answer to defend it. Keep in mind, the blog posts I've linked to above. $\endgroup$ – Jon Ericson Mar 17 '14 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ Whether or not many of the questions actually reach 30 answers is not really relevant, the relevant thing is the general principle: many answers implies CW. If one subsribes to this there is no reason not to make them CW sooner if one notices. Also it is not that few (sure things get misstagged all the time; also I do not wish to be held repsonsible for the (mal-)practiceces of communities I am not part of; here the MO list of course some "did not fly" or got shut down earlier but there are not few with 30+) $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 17 '14 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: And 8 are open yet unanswered. To me, the tag is very low value and not something worth initiating on a brand new site. $\endgroup$ – Jon Ericson Mar 17 '14 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ As you recommended I just added an answer elaborating on my point. Just one point to set this into perspective, these 8 are less than 2 percent [and some of them just somehow 'escaped' closure but the comments show they were discarded]. (Amost off-topic, IMO the relatively more problematic meta tag, but we have it already, is reference-request.) $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 17 '14 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ @quid What is the problem with the reference-request tag? $\endgroup$ – Markus Klein Mar 17 '14 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkusKlein the stress is on "relatively" I do not find it overly problematics; but more problematic than big-list. So what is not so good about it: first, it is (also) a meta tag. Second, it is not so clear how it should be used, and IMO often gets misused very often. For instance asking for books with vaguely defined specifications is not really a reference-request; asking for some quite specific item of the literature that you suspect or know must exists but you do not know the details this is a reference-request. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 17 '14 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ Third, it can (and will, I fear) be used in somewhat meaningless ways, like most any question can be decorated by a add-on question for literature on the subject, then tagged also reference request. So it is a bit pointless as a tag. Fourth, even if used correctly often it serves mainly a negative purpose (on some sites and in some minds) namely to signal: this is only a reference request. (In the early days of MO suggested procedure was to CW reference request, for the bad reason to avoid gaining points; to be clear I was against this, possibly even made some contrib to this being dropped) $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 17 '14 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ Fifth, dually to the thrid point, for numerous (most!) question users will also be happy with a pointer to relevant literature or other resources. So, basically everything is a reference request in that IMO too broad sense. And, due to 3rd and 5th, the usage of the tag becomes pretty arbitrary. Put differently I think for an MO question (I name this as only there I have a meaningful overview) I could predict pretty well if it has a big-list tag or not, for reference request much less so. @MarkusKlein $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 17 '14 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ @quid Okay. I see your point. How can I emphasize that I am more interested in literature than anekdots? $\endgroup$ – Markus Klein Mar 18 '14 at 6:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Markus Klein: Tags are a poor way to communicate that. The best way to ask for answers supported by literature is within the body (or perhaps the title) of the question. reference-request is a prime example of a meta-tag. $\endgroup$ – Jon Ericson Mar 18 '14 at 7:07
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkusKlein I second Jon Ericson. A question to ask is: would this emphasize via the tag ever make somebody change their decision "open/ignore" question if it were/weren't there. $\endgroup$ – quid Mar 18 '14 at 15:35

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