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Note: The original question here was meant to be an information-gathering survey but was clearly misunderstood and has been changed to match a useful answer to a different question.

What are tags useful for?

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I apply tags to warn solvers who would just waste their time looking at my puzzle

This can be liberating as it eases guilt when a puzzle targets a small audience.

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Straight from the tags page itself:

A tag is a keyword or label that categorizes your question with other, similar questions. Using the right tags makes it easier for others to find and answer your question.

Basically, tags are a categorisation system. What are they useful for?

  • To describe what kind of question is being asked. If you see a puzzle tagged , you know it's going to have a riddle element to it; if you see a puzzle tagged , you know it's going to have a cipher element. That way you get an idea of the approximate nature of the puzzle without having to read the whole thing.

  • To help increase searchability. If you want to find a particular riddle, then you don't want a bunch of cipher puzzles cluttering up your search results, so you add [riddle] to the search terms. See also How do I search for questions with (or without) specific tags? on main meta.

  • To act as a 'bat signal' for experts. If I see a question tagged or , I'm going to have a look at it and see whether I can apply my knowledge of riddling or maths to solve it. This is also where the concept of favourite tags comes in: an expert in geometry, say, can favourite the tag so that they get the puzzles they're most interested in - and most likely to be able to answer - highlighted for them.

  • To warn people off the things they're not interested in. Conversely, if I see a question tagged , I'm very unlikely to be able to solve it. I may give it a cursory glance, but there are so many others on this site much better suited to solving such puzzles than I. Personally I don't ignore tags, but this is where the concept of ignored tags comes in: someone who hates riddles, say, can put the tag on ignore so that they don't have to be bothered by such puzzles.

For more information, see Why do we tag questions? and How do I correctly tag my questions? on main meta. Of course none of that is Puzzling-specific, but a surprising amount of it does apply to Puzzling as well as to more conventional Q&A sites.

To find out how individual tags are used, we have the tag wikis, which should ideally include usage guidance for the tag and tell you exactly what kind of questions are supposed to have that tag. These are editable by anyone (subject to community approval for those of you with less than 20k rep), so we can all take part in shaping and improving them to provide the best possible guidance for each tag.

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    $\begingroup$ The point of this question is to break it down and find out what actually happens. $\endgroup$ – humn Oct 12 '16 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ @humn I don't really understand what the issue is here. Tags are a categorisation system - what other way is there of using them? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 13 '16 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ Let's find out. $\endgroup$ – humn Oct 13 '16 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think @humn is asking "What are tags for," or even, "How should tags be used," but rather, "In what ways do you, personally, use tags on Puzzling.SE?". This is meant to be a survey, to determine for what purpose tags are most used in practice on this site. So if you can break your bullet points into separate answers, we can see who actually uses tags for those purposes. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 13 '16 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ Tags shouldn't be used for anything other than what the tag system is designed for. If they are, they need to stop. This is a point that makes this survey... kinda moot. It means there actually is a correct answer to this question, and this is it. $\endgroup$ – user20 Oct 13 '16 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ @GentlePurpleRain What Emrakul said :-) Essentially, humn is asking the wrong question: tags are intended for a particular purpose, so we should be looking at what that purpose is (and perhaps how some people can improve their tagging practices based on that) rather than polling people on how they (perhaps inappropriately) use tags. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 13 '16 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Emrakul, one of my favorite aspects of this site is how it encourages flexible thinking. Many members probably do apply tags just as instructed but many obviously don't and this question addresses the other side as well: using tags when searching and filtering. $\endgroup$ – humn Oct 14 '16 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Emrakul I don't think there is a correct answer to "How do you use tags," although I would tend to agree that there is a correct answer to "How should you use tags." Whether the question as asked is worth asking, or belongs on meta at all, is something else to discuss, but the question as asked doesn't have one correct answer. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Oct 14 '16 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ @GentlePurpleRain Fair enough, I'll go with that. $\endgroup$ – user20 Oct 14 '16 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ @humn I've spent a while today wondering what to reply to your last comment, but I see you've now gone ahead and done it :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 14 '16 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the time and effort, @randal'thor, misdirected voting kept occurring and this question was just becoming a mess. I'll look into how surveys are really done around here before trying again. $\endgroup$ – humn Oct 14 '16 at 22:45
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I use $\small\boxed{\kern1mu \textsf{Ignored Tags}\,}$ to distinguish, but not actually ignore, popular tags

This creates a three-way system:

  1. Highlight for Favorites

  2. Lowlight for the vast majority of puzzles

  3. Normal for puzzles I would miss otherwise

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