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I'm editing tag wikis and two new ones have appeared (one in just the last few minutes).

As used in their questions, these appear to be "era" tags. They would have been more conveniently called and for quick searching, but more to the point...

There could be dozens, maybe even hundreds of such tags. However, previous to this time we had two:1

(for questions relating to the Medieval era as a whole: 500ad-1500ad)

(for questions about the Victorian Era of the UK, approx 1837-1901)

and a similar tag...

(for questions taking place in a medieval setting similar to culture...)

But, more to the point, do we want "era" tags? My concern is that they are dependent on not one, but two variables: where and when. In other words, means (e.g.) 1850s England, but not necessarily 1850s Japan. However, during that time England was very colonial and so the time-reference has widespread applicability (e.g., it could apply to India).

Compare this to the tag, which completely overlaps and I suspect only has meaning in the United States.

Discussion: Do we want to continue using Era tags? If so, do we want to focus them only on time periods, or on both time periods and places? Do we want to rename the tags to all have an "-era" suffix to make them easier to find?


1HOWEVER! I have not taken the time to search tag-by-tag through the entire list to see if there are more era-based tags. There could be more.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd be careful merging "medieval-europe" with "medieval". There are also "medieval" eras in China and the middle East that do not coincide temporally with that in Europe. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Dec 28 '18 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ I do like the idea of era tags. I don't know anything about making them (and honestly, tend to ignore them!) but I do recognise their functionality and utility. So, sally forth and tagify all of Time and Space! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Dec 28 '18 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas, literally that is the problem. It's a two-variable system that is poorly defined and biased to a western world-view. However, wading through the forest of info below you'll find two perspectives: do we develop tags that are "timeless" and not intrinsically associated with Earth history (the disassociated perspective) or do we create time+location tags that are tied to Earth (the associated perspective)? $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 28 '18 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ Hm. I'd prefer the "timeless" option, myself. I mean, my own world has some aspects that are positively "medieval" in nature. And you can hop on something that's similar to a train and go visit them and use something like a camera to take pictures of them. In other words, I don't see much sense in tying era tags to specific places & times from Earth history. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Dec 28 '18 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas, it's almost worth locking this question and opening a new one, The number of time+location tags could be enormous, but they'd be very specific. I took a crack as a proposal for timeless tags, it's listed below and currently sitting at a vote of -3. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 28 '18 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ Okay. Lock away! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Dec 28 '18 at 16:51
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I was just going to make this a comment but...then I kept typing and realized it needed to be an answer.

First...I like it: My OCD really appreciates the intent, to simplify a bunch of tags down to a simple few that apply across cultures.

Second...it unfortunately makes no sense to do that: So the problem with making the tags acultural (if that's even a word) is that the tag then loses it's meaning. Making the tag more generic makes it a meta tag, and worse a meta tag that provides no valuable context.

  • I can be an expert in Medieval Europe...but odds are I am NOT going to be an expert in the whole world between the same set of dates.

  • If we don't include the cultural context I don't know anything about the world being discussed and the tag has no value. The technology level, culture, religion, military, and political stuff during any given time period varies DRASTICALLY from location to location.

  • The point of the tags after all is to 1. take us to questions we like, are an expert in, or have questions about. Generic time windows don't do any of those things, unless you are just a really big fan of 938 - 1012 CE for some reason and 2. They help provide context. If I see a question with the medieval-europe tag, I can get a lot of context outside of what is provided in the text of the question, again, generic window era tags wouldn't do this for us.

So...what to do, what to do.

(thanks for compiling the list @Cyn)

  • ancient-history × 105 (very broad, spanning thousands of years; writing to fall of Rome)
  • bronze-age × 5 (4000-1000 B.C.E.)
  • byzantium (no use, no description)
  • cold-war × 20 (1947 – 1991)
  • far-future × 101 (hundreds to thousands of years)
  • feudalism × 14 (Fall of Rome to 1500 C.E.)
  • future × 16 (no description)
  • industrial-age × 21 (near the Industrial Revolution)
  • medieval × 475 (500-1500 C.E.)
  • medieval-europe × 82
  • middle-ages × 30
  • modern-age × 163
  • near-future × 323
  • prehistoric-times × 41 (before written language)
  • pre-industrial × 20
  • renaissance × 34
  • stoneage × 10
  • victorian-era × 8
  • western (no description)
  • wild-west × 5 (1800's in American West)

1) I think we can safely merge the pre-history stuff, i.e. stone-age, ancient-history, prehistoric-times. This information is so far back that it feels safe to squish it all together.

2) I haven't looked at the questions but it feels safe to say we can merge western and wild-west

3) medieval, medieval-europe, middle-ages and fuedalism: Some research probably needs to be done but I'd hazard a guess that 99 - 100 percent of these questions are in reference to Europe. Likely safe to synonymize/merge.

The rest I am pretty comfortable with. Ironically I recall the conversation we had when we built the era's tag list out in the first place and I totally supported making it more generic and less culture specific...


I've changed my mind/Here's the point of this ramble.

  • Without the cultural contexts tags with a time window don't really have any value.
  • That the tags list is western-centric is a byproduct of the fact that the majority of our users are western and thus the topics we discuss are what we are familiar with. This is not an insult to other cultural traditions
  • Nothing is stopping users from creating tags with different era/cultural contexts. I would, as an example, love to read up on some questions set in the 3 Kingdoms era of feudal China, but I am nowhere near qualified to write those.

Discussion: Do we want to continue using Era tags? If so, do we want to focus them only on time periods, or on both time periods and places? Do we want to rename the tags to all have an "-era" suffix to make them easier to find?

To make a finer point. There is some clean-up we can certainly do, my opinion is listed out above. But it does not make sense to reduce the tags to certain time windows in global history.

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  • $\begingroup$ We have a conensus concerning the use of time references. I just posted a community wiki answer with a draft of generalized ages/eras. I'm not married to them or the basic structure, but it's a starting point. Take a peek at it and see how well it fits. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH is there a link? I've never used the wiki before? $\endgroup$ – Cyn Dec 26 '18 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyn, here's a link, but it's actually near the bottom due to a downvote. A community wiki simply means everyone can edit and I don't get any rep for whatever happens - not that anyone gets any rep for Meta anyway. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Sorry to be obtuse, I thought the wiki was a separate place, like chat is separate. So you mean the answer on this question? $\endgroup$ – Cyn Dec 26 '18 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Cyn, No problem. It takes time to learn all the ins-n-outs of SE. Yes, the answer to this question that begins, "This community wiki is meant...." $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ As someone writing a novel set in "ancient Egypt" meaning around 1300 BCE, I find myself regularly pulling my hair out when people throw together early Bronze Age (5-6K years ago) and Roman era (2K years ago and even that is a big span) times, and everything in-between, and tell me they're the same. There are entire books written that make it seem like even just the current country of Egypt was pretty much the same during this 3-4 thousand year span. Never mind the rest of the region or the rest of the world. And you're suggesting throwing all of pre-history in there too? Yikes. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Dec 26 '18 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyn Your point is well taken, and if there is a need and quantity of questions that make an ancient-egypt tag or whatever else necessary there is no reason we can't create them, I suggest merging them because I doubt that is the case at this point in time...though it seems like it'd be safe to break Rome out of the ancient history tag... $\endgroup$ – James Dec 27 '18 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @James I know the tags have to follow usage, I was just kvetching for a moment there. Looking at the numbers, I think there is enough to justify splitting pre-historic from ancient and I think we should add one for Era-Greco-Roman or perhaps call it Classical Antiquity, even though technically that's a broader period. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Dec 27 '18 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Cyn not a bad compromise. I'd be fine with that. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 27 '18 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ Can tag names be modified directly? I suspect the simplest path to success here is simply to make the tags easier to find by adding, (e.g.) an "era" prefix/suffix. Anything to make them all a common group such that people can see how to bring up the list when they're tag hunting. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 28 '18 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ After that, people will add new tags (more frequently) in the form of the existing list if they need to reference a different time+location reference. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 28 '18 at 16:57
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I'm against it because that has a huge potential to be source of confusion.

The names of eras are heavily dependent upon the local culture and history and, while some can seem almost universal, they would cover very different things for users on different parts of the world as you pointed out.

Like, for me, 'western' is not an era. It's a location, as in 'western countries', or a kind of movie based on a distorted view of reality, the 'western movies'. A tag that would read 'western-era' would have no meaning from my point of view as a non-US person.

Besides, if we allow eras, we run to risk of multiplying tags that wouldn't be very useful, since some users might want to tag eras from works of fiction that they used as inspiration, such as the Ages of Middle-Earth.

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  • $\begingroup$ So are you suggesting we get rid of the 19 era tags we already have? Five of which have been used in over 100 questions each. You're getting upvotes and I'm getting downvotes but I think we're really saying the same thing: Keep era tags in general but overhaul them to make more sense, especially to remove American bias. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Dec 26 '18 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ I did not realize that we already had so many era tags on this site. I think we should move away from 'eras' and go with what Monica Cellio proposes on the comments on your answer: technological level or something alike. That way we would have something truly universal on a site dedicated to worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – Sava Dec 26 '18 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ I find the idea of tech level very useful. BUT a historical era is useful in its own right. We just need to be picky about them. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Dec 26 '18 at 21:28
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I'm for properly categorized era tags as they can really help in understanding how to approach an answer to a question. And it helps for people looking at questions from similar eras. Those new tags though are not useful, for the reasons mentioned.

I went through all the tags to find everything about an era. I might have missed one or two. It's a mess. Lots of duplication, overlap, overly specific periods, even a typo:

  • ancient-history × 105 (very broad, spanning thousands of years; writing to fall of Rome)
  • bronze-age × 5 (4000-1000 B.C.E.)
  • byzantium (no use, no description)
  • cold-war × 20 (1947 – 1991)
  • far-future × 101 (hundreds to thousands of years)
  • feudalism × 14 (Fall of Rome to 1500 C.E.)
  • future × 16 (no description)
  • industrial-age × 21 (near the Industrial Revolution)
  • medieval × 475 (500-1500 C.E.)
  • medieval-europe × 82
  • middle-ages × 30
  • modern-age × 163
  • near-future × 323
  • prehistoric-times × 41 (before written language)
  • pre-industrial × 20
  • renaissance × 34
  • stoneage × 10
  • victorian-era × 8
  • western (no description)
  • wild-west × 5 (1800's in American West)

I would love to see a huge overhaul. Though the retagging will drown out new questions for a time. Let's standardize things. It will make it so much easier to research old questions and to answer new ones, that the disruption will be worth it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for taking the time to go through the list! However, I understand Sava's point. Many of those terms only have meaning in western culture (e.g., almost none of them describe African eras). If era tags make sense, it might be better to create a series of "Era: XXXX-YYYY" tags (e.g., "Era: 500-1500 C.E.") and shift the named eras (in my example's case, "medieval") to be synonyms of the dated tags. Note that you're missing the "future" and "far-future" tags. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Yes, I agree with the suggestions for how to overhaul them. I left out the future tags on purpose but, sure, I'll add them to the list. I found the existing tags to be a hodgepodge. For example, we have Bronze Age but not Iron Age. And yeah it would be soooo much easier if all era tags had the word era in the label. Maddeningly, you can't search for tags by words in the description. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Dec 26 '18 at 20:04
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, that tag set is a mess. Too much of it is tied specifically to Europe, the west, or Earth -- on a site about worldbuilding of all types. I think we probably need to think in terms of technological, cultural, and maybe other types -- "bronze age" describes a tech level and works for aliens in Alpha Centauri, and "feudalism" describes something that applies at various times in England, Japan, and assorted fictional worlds. Let's stop thinking about dates on Earth. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 26 '18 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio, not to be a nudge, but the point of the era references is to specify a specific technological and cultural condition by referencing something specific on Earth. Something that we can know or research. I've no personal objection to avoiding dates - but in the end, dates are what everyone is thinking about. Date + location is very specific. "era" without date or location depends on the description of the tage and the hope that people read it. If you're sure you want to avoid dates, we can move forward. I just wonder about the growing pain. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea of @MonicaCellio of going by tech levels, or something alike, instead of dates on parts of Earth. Current era tags could be made into synonyms and the TL (Tech Level) tag would have the explanation of what it represents. TL have been used in many works, it wouldn't be that hard to make them. $\endgroup$ – Sava Dec 26 '18 at 21:06
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I'm not sure about this idea so please up or down vote, comment, etc. What if we had...

A comprehensive and sequential set of tags for tech level, such as:

  • Pre-Fire Era
  • Stone Age Era
  • Bronze Age Era
  • Iron Age Era

and so on (I will leave it to others to delineate the complete list). Or they could read "Era: Bronze Age."

And we had a handful of carefully cultivated tags that correspond to specific times/places in earth's history. Not overly specific but ones that are very common and generally understood, even if they didn't occur everywhere. For example:

  • Medieval
  • Victorian
  • Industrial Age

There would also be a few tags that could represent era but really have other meanings and would exist only if they were used for the other meanings. For example, Western is a genre (in literature, TV/movies, etc...think Firefly) and feudalism is an economic system. Though we'd have to be careful with these.

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  • $\begingroup$ Let me post what I've been working on and you'll see how much work needs to go into this. If we do the work, the result will be resplendant. But it's going to be work. So much of how we define "ages" and "eras" is tied to the specific culture defining those terms that it's a challenge. It doesn't help that the medieval era is defined by a blacksliding of development which may or may not happen on another planet. You'll see what I mean. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ OK, it's up. Note that I'm not discussing the location/culture-specific variants. I propose we address that later, if necessary. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 22:26
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This community wiki is meant to be edited by one and all. As you edit, please remember that we are trying to come up with a list of terms that make sense to worldbuilding, not Earthlings (or, specifically, Americans. I hope my brothers and sisters understand what I mean). The goal of this project is to create a series of eras/ages that are defined by advancing technological and cultural achievements - not simply the timeline of Earth. This is especially problematic with the medieval era.

These era classifications are for the purpose of defining predictable technological and cultural references for the purpose of worldbuilding. Because different areas of the Earth developed at vastly different rates (often resulting in regional "eras"), the eras defined below may not conform directly to Earth history.

  • As you edit, please pay attention to how I've formatted things and try to keep that formatting. Organization is our friend.

  • I am not married to the syntax of the tag names. Their primary purpose here is both ease-of-use and recognizability.

  • Just to beat a dead horse, when you look at these, please remember to take your nationalist-glasses off. I found it a real challenge to look past my U.S. historical upbringing just to think of how this might apply to the Phillipines, Africa, or Australia. Remember, fictional worlds may be nothing at all like Earth.


era-pre-history

Period of time before organized groups of specified sapient beings. The specified beings have not developed tools or art of any kind.

era-stone-age

Period of time defined by the first appearance of organized groups of the specified sapient beings including the first appearance of tools (manipulation of environment), basic weapons (organized defense), and art (expression of ideas). Tool development during this era begins with stones crafted for specific purposes and ends with copper metallurgy. Art development during this era begins with nothing and ends with pictoral art (e.g. cave drawings). Weapon development for this era begins with clubs and ends with primitive edged weapons including knives and swords. Groups of beings are principally tribal and often nomadic.

era-bronze-age

Period of time defined by the use of bronze for stronger tools (manipulation of environment) and sophisticated edged weapons (organized defense) and the bow and arrow. Art (expression of ideas) begins to advance to codified writing systems. Permanent communities develop with stone foundations. Mining, forestry, and agriculture have become common in many communities. The wheel is invented and the first wooden-plank hulls appear. The first organized religions and governments are established. Written law begins to appear. It should be noted that no world is wholly within any one era at any one time. World development allows many societies to progress at different rates depending on many factors.

era-iron-age

Period of time defined by iron smithing (specifically the development of carbon steel) with advances in manual mass-production including advanced smithing and crafting resulting in the first organized trade guilds. Writing results in rapid growth of religion, government, and education. Naval science began to advance with the invention of the trireme. The end of the iron age is defined by the invention of paper and the introduction of rhetorical algebra.

era-philosophy-age

Period of time from the end of the iron age to the beginning of the medieval or middle age. This age saw little advancement in metalurgy and the sciences, but substantial advancement in government, education, engineering, religion, philosophy, and military tactics. Chariots are in regular use and large ports facilitate trade from remote areas (though oceans cannot be arbitrarily crossed yet). Works of fiction begin to appear as do formal histories. The depiction of art has expanded to both abstract and factual art invoking both color and depth. Coinage becomes a recognizable part of family life, though barter is still the predominant form of exchange.

era-medieval-age

The medieval age sees the development of large armies and the regular use of explosives. Chemistry advances to include rudimentary pharmacology. Permanent hamlets and villiages give way to towns and cities forcing the development of early sewage, water, and food transport systems. Formal financial systems are developed and coinage is now a regular part of life. Textile and construction technology advance with the development of waterwheel-driven automation. Personal armor gives way to the need for mobility in the face of flintlock firearms. Syncopated algebra is discovered and organized animal husbandry is introduced. Stage theatrics such as the presentation of plays outside of religious contexts are introduced. Ships that can traverse oceans are introduced.

era-discovery-age

Defined by the rise of colleges and universities and the desire to understand why things work the way they do. Empirical experiment begins to give way to mathematical analysis and modeling. Calculus is discovered and many of the basic sciences are discovered including electricity, biology, thermodynamics, physiology, and material science. By the end of this age ocean-going ships are common place, militaries have converted to firearms and cavalry, governments are introducing representative organization, and individual civil rights are being won. Global trade is introduced.

era-colonial-age

Defined by the desire or need for growing societies to expand to new lands combined with the technological foundations to permit massive displacement in short periods of time. Cartography and navigation mature. Communication over distances advance with the development of semaphores. Early development of factories to advance mass production is seen and underground sewer and water distribution becomes common. Calculus is discovered and chemistry expands to include regular development of acids, fertilizers, and explosives. Government is in its golden age as law, philosophy, and economics combine to displace religion as the primary motivator for government. The first hot-air balloons are seen.

era-industrial-age

The industrial age is marked by substantial advancements in science and art as the conceptualization of ideas (modeling) becomes increasingly important. The age sees the development of blimps and dirigibles, as well as the first airplanes. Steam and combustion displaces wind and animals as the primary forms of mobilization. Mass assembly revolutionizes lifestyle as inexpensive manufactured tools, utensils, furniture, and construction supplies produce a boom in city size and living standards. Regular education for the young is introduced, medical sciences become preventative rather than reactive, and global trade matures. Machines are so common that protective trade organizations form to influence government in a way not seen since the introduction of guilds.

era-science-age

This age sees the displacement of religion in favor of science as the principal instructor about environmental, behavioral, physiological, and celestial attributes. The search for truth becomes the search for facts. The scientific method is perfected and with it the development of weapons of mass destruction. The world's first mega-cities are seen and representative government begins to give way to participatory government, allowing for increased protections for previously minority beliefs and biologies. Global communication becomes a reality and machine computation replaces human computation. Advances in chemistry lead to substantial advances in transportation and flight. Theh civilization leaves the planetary atmosphere for the first time and begins to harness nuclear energies.


Here is where we move into the future eras. We likely need to leave the , and tags alone.

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  • $\begingroup$ I appreciate the initiative but this would require every user of world-building, both random-one-time-visitor-guy and crusty-ol-wubbers to memorize a whole set of rather complex jargon specific to our little corner of the internet. Its and interesting thought experiment but I think changing to this system does more damage than it fixes. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 26 '18 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ @James, is the issue the naming syntax? The scope of change from (e.g.) "medieval as it is in europe on earth" to "<name>: tech definitions, culture definitions" is by itself enormous and basically exceeds your concerns - even if we use the old tag names, which are a pain because there's no way to get a whole list without searching the database. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ @James, however, if this isn't the direction y'all have in mind, let me know and I'll delete it. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ but it doesn't meet the intent of a tag...I am not an expert in: "<name>: tech definitions, culture definitions" I am an expert in medieval europe. (I am not, but just as an example) $\endgroup$ – James Dec 26 '18 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ @James, that was a concern I expressed to Monica. It's almost impossible to disassociate eras/ages from our understanding of Earth - but we don't want to associate with time periods. I hate to point it out, but we can't have our cake and eat it too. If we want to disassociate from specific Earth history and focus on tech/cutlure development, what you see above is what we'll more-or-less end up with. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ I don't disagree with your last comment, my argument is that we shouldn't try to dissociate at all, there is no reason to do so other than to arbitrarily simplify things, good conversation that is worth having though. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 26 '18 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ @James, the flip-side of the problem is a nearly never-ending list of era/age tags that reflect (in its own way) a time-location pair. "era-colonial-africa" and "era-shogunate-japan" are almost the same time period, but vastly different due to the two locations. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ @James, ah. At the moment we have two moderator opinions somewhat at odds. When you and Monica get a chance, could you have a conversation about which perspective should hold sway? Disassociation vs. association? $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 26 '18 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ we should do this in chat, but it'll have to be tomorrow, I have to run for now. Have a nice evening...or...timezone. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 26 '18 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ Decisions like these should be made by the community, not by moderators. The fact that James and I have diamonds does not mean we have bigger votes in this discussion. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 26 '18 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Your opinions will always carry more weight. Rather than expressing an opinion in comments, moderators should post answers so the community can comment and vote. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 27 '18 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ As a community member, I'm flattered to be included in the discussion and for my opinions (along with those of any community member who joins in) to count. But yes you moderators have more weight, and should. My ability to carve up history may or may not be better than any one of yours, but that's not the sole outcome of the discussion. You all know better how this works on WB than those of us who haven't been around as long. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Dec 27 '18 at 15:48

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