I ran across a puzzle tagged "trivia" recently. Its descriptor mentioned that it required non-essential knowledge of pop-culture to solve. This seems like a slightly narrower version of the "knowledge" tag, with the only difference being the pop-culture element. I'm unsure that that difference is really a necessary one.

A similar proposal arose here. It was stated that the knowledge tag was possibly too broad as a tag, which is a possiblity.

Perhaps we could create a merged "knowledge-and-trivia" tag. I'm not sure that this would be the best solution, but hey, that's why I'm here.

So, when do we reach a consensus?

  • $\begingroup$ Just FYI, you generally shouldn't accept an answer so quickly on meta. Community policies are formed out of meta consensus, and it's very possible that the answer you've accepted (currently scoring 0) will be downvoted and another answer will become consensus/policy instead. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jan 22 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ OK, I unaccepted it. Thanks for the info! $\endgroup$ – Brandon_J Jan 22 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Randal'Thor Not sure if I should start a new question for this, but how do we define a "consensus"? and how do we decide that a policy should be run? a threshold on the amount of upvotes? or is there a system for this? thanks! $\endgroup$ – Omega Krypton Feb 2 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ @OmegaKrypton No, there isn't (and shouldn't be) any firm threshold. As with many things which are based on people rather than numbers, it's woolly and requires some human judgement and common sense. Basically, a "consensus" is when the voting community broadly agrees on something. That may seem circular, but it depends on so many factors - number of people voting, importance co issues involved, strength of arguments pro and con, ... - that it's hard to nail down any further. See here. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Feb 2 at 9:47

This has long been an issue for me. When I ask a knowledge/trivia question, or when I'm helping another user with tag edits on their question, I often have no idea which of the two tags to use, and often choose at random or use both interchangeably. That's a big red flag that we don't actually need two separate tags.

The names and descriptions of the two tags are also counterintuitive. I'm open to being persuaded that we do need two tags, if we can define clear differences between them, but the names and aren't very helpful in enabling people to immediately understand which one to use, and neither are the respective tag wiki excerpts.

I do understand that there are broad-strokes differences between the two tags, as laid out in Bass's answer: might be used for puzzles requiring e.g. knowing the periodic table or national flags of the world, while might be used for puzzles requiring e.g. knowing plot details of Lord of the Rings or the words of a pop song. The problem is, and it's an important problem:

Where do we draw the line?

Questions about the periodic table or national flags might well appear in a trivia contest. Pop songs and famous novels are knowledge a person might have. Either type is information that not everyone will know, that some people will know by heart but most people outside of 'nerd-dom' wouldn't, and that could be found on the internet. It might be argued that one type is more 'obscure' than the other, but what's obscure to one person might be common knowledge to another.

TL;DR: the difference between the tags is too fuzzy and ill-defined to be useful. Merge 'em.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not convinced either way that they need to be merged, however it's abundantly clear that if they stay separate, then the difference needs to be much better defined. $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jan 23 at 0:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Alconja If someone can come up with a reasonable objective definition of the difference, I might reconsider this answer. But I think the difference between "needs external resources" and "needs specific cultural knowledge" is too fuzzy, too personal/subjective, and above all not important enough to be worth separating these tags. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jan 23 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ For me the difference is: Trivia = facts. Knowledge = understanding. Looking up the 10th digit of pi is trivia, having to calculate it is knowledge. That Prince Charles is next in line for the throne (trivia) vs knowing how the line of succession is calculated (knowledge). I.e. I can easily look trivia up, but I have to study/learn knowledge. However, I don't think that's really how people use either tag right now (and certainly isn't how their wikis are written). $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jan 24 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ To add to my prior comment. I agree with you that the current definitions are not useful, but I think the distinction I make is actually useful, since it helps inform whether I'd be able to tackle a puzzle or not (I should be able to solve a trivia based puzzle so long as I know the topic, since I could google things, but would likely only work on a knowledge based puzzle if I already had some skill/education in the given area). $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jan 24 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Alconja It's useful to you, but would that distinction be easy to define objectively? And arguably that definition of knowledge would cover all mathematics puzzles, which seems odd. Not to mention, since it's so different from the way the tags are used currently, this would involve manually retagging 100s of questions, rather than a simple mod merge of tags. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jan 24 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ FWIW I still voted with camp merge, largely because of your last point (i.e. whilst I do think it's possible to make the difference unambiguous and useful, what's already there is a mess and trying to retag is as good as impossible). $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jan 24 at 22:24

I think we should keep both.

Both of the tags essentially serve the same function: they are warning flags for the solver, essentially saying

It is entirely possible that this puzzle is completely unsolvable to you.

This is critical information for the solver, because knowing when to give up on a difficult puzzle is never easy.

Out of the two tags, the tag is much less alarming: whatever knowledge is needed, it is not going to be of the obscure/useless/ill-defined variety, or if it is, it's at least going to have some scientific articles written about it.

The tag is a much stronger warning; the question might require detailed knowledge of the evolutions of Pokey Men, plot details of all games in the Zelda series, or side characters in a TV show that has never even aired in your country. In other words, you might just be completely out of luck, no matter how hard you try.

Here's how I read the tags when solving:

"At some point, you are going to need Google, but you'll probably know what you need by then."

"Feel free to google partial answers and guesses to get you on the right track. Also, be prepared to give up early if nothing seems to be making sense."

Since these are completely different meanings, with very distinct implications for the solver, I'd like to keep the tags separate.

  • $\begingroup$ FWIW I view these tags fairly differently. To me knowledge implies a deep(er) understanding of a specific field/area that the average person may not even have awareness of let alone interest in. Whereas trivia is more about shallow(er) facts relating to a culturally relevant field/area. I would expect the average person to see an isolated piece of trivia and recognise and understand it (even if they didn't already know it). With knowledge, I feel like it may require either specialised education/skills, additional context, or some "study" to fully grasp the information. $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jan 22 at 4:32
  • $\begingroup$ Note that this interpretation can apply regardless of the topic. By example, the yellow electric pokemon is called pikachu (trivia) vs the dragon type pokemon that can reach level 100 the fastest is immune to dragon-type moves and has a unique egg group combination (knowledge). Because, whilst both examples are "trivial", you'd never hear the 2nd in a pub trivia contest, nor would I expect the average person to understand what I just said (heck, I didn't even understand it, I just grabbed it off google). I.e. you need additional contextual knowledge to understand what it means. $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jan 22 at 4:32
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    $\begingroup$ Not that I'm disagreeing with your answer to the specific question asked ("Merge? No, keep both"), but more highlighting issues that still exist with the actual usage of these tags... $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jan 22 at 4:33

I did some research:

Therefore a merge would result in a single category of 1213 questions. This however would (temporarily) scupper at least mine and Rand's chance of the Generalist badge.

I can't find any facts relating to the degree of independence that this data demonstrates - previous merge data from other tags might prove to be a useful indication of whether a merge should take place or not.

Personally, I prefer knowledge is learned and trivia is information, so no merge.

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    $\begingroup$ or the idea that 100trivia=1knowledge. $\endgroup$ – JonMark Perry Jan 24 at 5:14
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think "but this delays my badge" should be a factor in deciding how the site is organised. We'll get Generalist badges sooner or later anyway. Patience, my young padawan. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jan 25 at 6:54

I agree to a large extend with Rand al'Thor but I also found the discussion in the comments of his and the others answers interesting.

I also think that prior to merging, it would be beneficial to separate the two tags by a more objecivly evaluable description. So the question of the OP could possibly extended to: "What would be a good distinctive descirption for either of the tags".

For me the distinction between and lies more in the time-dimension. Both refer in one or onther way to "information", but is something which is only relevant in a rather short-time context (pop-culture, trends, memes...) and while it can go into deep detail and be hard- to near-impossible to guess for those 'not in the know', it is also something which viewed from a long enough time-distance in the future becomes sort of meaningless. (Except for students of history.)

on the other hand is information of lasting value.

In a similar sence, ties information into a certain 'category' or 'field' whereas is information which is a bit more random. I've somewhere heard the term "white information" as analogy to "white noise". is that to me.

Now, while it might be hard/impossible to agree on good distinction between the two, I don't believe merging is the right solution either. Because even if we get ten different "distincitions" when asking ten different people, my guess is that all ten would agree that "combining them into one" is not making it better.

If we ultimativly fail to come up with a commonly accepted differentiation, I think we should rather burn both. They both have then proven to be no real use - because they mean anything to anybody, which makes the virtually useless.


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