I noticed that in the question Dermott's Law and Major Moons, revision 4 (edit made by diamond moderator JDługosz) adds to the question. Originally the question was tagged only .

While the question is pretty clearly based in science, the tag places restrictions on the answers that can be given (my emphasis):

For questions that require answers based on hard science, not magic or pseudo-science, but do not require scientific citations.

Adding the tag to a question also doesn't really help categorize it; IMO, the original tag categorizes this particular question far better. The question is about moons; it's not about science-based.

Unless the OP expressed consent with such an edit, in which case I feel that should have been mentioned in the edit summary (rather than just the boilerplate "edited tags") -- no material to that effect appears visible on the site at present -- should we really be making edits that restrict the type of answers that are acceptable to a question, by adding such tags?

My feeling is no, we shouldn't be making such edits, because they risk changing the intent of the question.

How does the community feel?

  • $\begingroup$ When editing tags, there’s no blank to give a reason. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Of course there is; just use the "edit" action link, like everyone below (IIRC) 10k. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 9:30

5 Answers 5


On the whole? I'd say we shouldn't.

Edits to questions should respect authorial intent, when possible. It's the golden rule of editing someone else's work: You may have typed the words or made the changes yourself, but you're doing it on the author's behalf. Yes, there are exceptions, and at the end of the day, posts belong to the community, not just the person who wrote them. But eliminating or discouraging (or allowing!) a large number of possible answers that the OP does not want, without any apparent benefit, should not happen. By adding or removing such a tag - really, if it's a meta tag - someone's doing just that.

Incorrect meta tagging has been discussed time and time again on Worldbuilding meta, and the consensus does seem to be that if the question clearly incorrectly uses a meta tag, it should be removed. However, we haven't talked quite as much about when such tags should be added; I don't think there really is such a consensus. However, if we go back to the golden rule of editing, then it's clear that we really shouldn't be adding the tags if the author doesn't want them. When it doubt, ask in a comment, in case the OP simply wasn't aware of the tag's existence. Dialogue with the author never hurts. If they decide that they do want the tag, encourage them to add the tag themselves. Especially if they're a new user, this is a small step towards increasing literacy in the tagging system.

In this case, there's an interesting issue. On the one hand, answers to the question almost certainly need to be based in science. Answers that don't are highly likely to be deleted as Not An Answer, because they just wouldn't address the scientific concerns of the question. From a certain perspective you could argue that answerers wouldn't need the tag; it should be very clear what sort of answers the OP is looking for (and, as Michael pointed out, science is our default). On the other hand, one could argue that the tag is appropriate for classification, which is one thing tags are very useful for.

I'll add a third distinct opinion to the two already here and say that in this specific case, asking the OP is probably the way to go. If they don't want the tag to be used, I'd say respect their opinion. If they acquiesce, tag away. But on the whole, I'll advocate a policy of commenting first, edit later. That's the best way to avoid an edit war.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, there's always Should our default position be that answers should be science-/logic-based, rather than magic-based? where the consensus pretty clearly was to assume that questions should be answered based in the sciences unless there's good reason to treat it otherwise. That post is well over two and a half years old (gee, has it been that long?) but in my opinion still relevant. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ As for commenting first, editing later; I personally think it's even better to point out the tag's existence, and suggest OP edits to add it him-/herself. That way, there will never be any doubt about intent on the OP's part, even after several rounds of comment purges. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Regarding your first comment: That's a good point; I had forgotten about that discussion. If we work with that assumption, then the science-based tag really is only useful as 1) A categorizer, and 2) A clarification when things get murky, and it's even more doubtful as to whether it should have been added in this case. Regarding your second one: Yes, I definitely agree that it's better for the OP to do it. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ I edited your middle paragraph slightly because I found your double use of "it" irksome. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ I did also ask Does [hard-science] imply [science-based] imply [reality-check]? way back when, which (unfortunately) didn't get much attention. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the edit, @MichaelKjörling; that was a typo of mine. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 22:53

I would say that in this questions case it is ok. This is because the question is asking about a specific scientific type formula and clearly requires scientific answers. That said I wouldn't have added as the question doesn't really need knowledge of science but knowledge of Dermott's Law. This leads me to thinking that someone looking for questions involving the science of moons probably wouldn't be looking for this type if question.

In general I would not add tags like or as they can restrict the type of answer given. I would recommend leaving a comment to suggest the addition of the tag and wait for consent to do so. If the question is obviously requiring a science based answer the community will give these answers regardless of the tags so their is no desperate rush to get them in.


As a question it's leaning towards hard-science rather than science-based, but that's a bit restrictive if not wanted by the asker, I have no problem with the science-based tag being added in this case. Any answer that wasn't at least science based would not be an answer so it's more administrative than when asking about, for example, dragons.


Let me try again.

The meta post implies an ongoing issue with people adding tags against the wishes of the OP.

The example is a first-time poster whole-network newbie, who can be assumed to not know the nuances of all our tags; the question already had answers and an accepted answer. The question was unusual in being more of a straightforward “real answer” like we find on more conventional SE sites, as opposed to the kind of creative showcase we have here typically.

The specific question is properly tagged as science-based, and might, depending on the OP's wishes, actually be hard-science.

Why does this action on this question inspire this meta query? That's just not right, and I found the implication (explained above) to be offensive.

Now, on to the question in general. There have been cases where tags are changed, changed back, changed again, while ongoing discussion in comments with the poster and others. Fine. What’s wrong with that?

I submit that anyone with a silver (or gold) badge in that tag should proactively apply or remove it as needed, considering the text of the post and the author’s presumed experience level in knowing the tags. Change it presumptively; it can always be changed again.


This particular question and quickly-accepted answer is actually hard-science! It refers to mathematics and is clearly about help with computations, not just something to do with moons of which there is great variety here.

I don't think there is any ongoing issue with experienced users classifying posts better. This question is unusual, and asking your meta question using this post as the motivating example might give the wrong idea.

It's not about science-based: that tag never works that way. Your criticism makes no sense.

<sarcasm>Have you read the question?!</sarcasm> <noscarcasm>I don’t understand how you can suggest that this was wrong in this case.</noscarcasm> Is there any doubt that it doesn't fit the implication of the tag you quoted at the very least?

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    $\begingroup$ "Have you read the question?!" You didn't notice that I edited both the question and the accepted answer for formatting? I even left comments alongside on both to point that out. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ Generally speaking, particularly if I see a diamond moderator having done something that gives me pause, I'll bring it up on Meta. (Of course, that goes on other sites as well.) Obviously, not everything that gives me pause is going to be a problem, and not everything that some people feel are a problem are going to be ones that the community as a whole feels are a problem; but the way I see it, it's better to ask and discuss than to ignore and set poor examples. Since I can't really flag an edit for review (unlike a post), Meta is one of the few meaningful venues left. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ This isn't meant as a criticism but I would suggest not responding to people questioning your actions with statements like have you read the question?. Although I am sure it isn't your intention this comes of as confrontational and defensive which often leads to making problems worse. This applies to all users and isn't a big problem but as a moderator it is especially important that you appear open and willing to listen to criticism. $\endgroup$ Commented May 29, 2017 at 10:47

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