I have been reading a bit of the meta discussion going on about the question quality here at the Physics StackExchange (SE). Especially in the wake of the demise of the TheoreticalPhysics SE, there is a bit of tension between people who want Physics SE to be primarily a place of high-quality/high-level questions, and those who want Physics SE to be much broader. I have sympathies for both camps. Here are some relevant meta discussion:

Research-level tag

In light of the continued usefulness of the tag, I believe Physics SE should consider emphasizing the tag to help professional physicists extract high-level questions from the noise. I went to the active list and selected the first 7 question that I judged to be research-level, or nearly so:

None of these were tagged , to the detriment of the community. Only three questions got the tag this month.

I have no idea what would be an appropriate way to emphasize this tag, but I don't think its unreasonable to consider changing the main banner of the website (currently "Here's how it works..."). Other ideas: give it a place in the FAQ, or make it "pinned" to the list of frequent tags.

Popular-science tag

The current not-logged-in front page of Physics SE has these questions:

  • Proof that the Earth rotates?
  • Surviving under water in air bubble
  • Is a proton collision (collisions like in the LHC) visible to the human eye?
  • How can Magnets be used to pick up pieces of metal when the force from a magnetic field does no work?
  • Is play-dough liquid or solid?
  • Does a car consume more fuel when it's raining?
  • What is the Earth truly rotating about/revolving around?
  • Why myopic people see this picture differently?
  • Why do whips hurt so much?
  • Is my boss wrong about our mechanical advantage from our pulley system?
  • Can the photoelectric effect be explained without photons?
  • Can one black hole suck in another black hole?
  • A Musical Pathway
  • Noether charge of local symmetries

Note that most of the questions are definitely not homework, but also definitely not of professional interest to researchers. I think most of them are captured by the idea of "popular physics", e.g. "Why is the sky blue?", "Can anything escape a black-hole?", etc. Some of these are great questions, and the internet would be a better place if there were definitive answers available on Physics SE for them, but they aren't of interest to researchers.

(There is a tag, but this refers to "Questions that ask about some aspect of physics research or study which doesn't involve the actual physics." For example, Q: Where can I find the lifetime of obscure particles? A: The PDG's Review of Particle Physics. Incidentally, this tag appears to almost always be misused as a synonym for "vague or crappy question".)

Dilaton has pointed out that we already have a tag. Currently, it only has 14 questions tagged. I claim we should emphasize this tag just like we should emphasize . Furthermore, it is important that we develop a reasonably objective definition. (@Manishearth worries that this tag might determined more by subjective tone rather than content.) I propose this definition:

Popular-science questions are accessible to a layman with minimal physics training. They would be appropriate in a newspaper article or non-academic magazine. Such question are distinct from research-level questions, which are of professional interest to physicists. They are also distinct from homework questions.

I have suggested this as the tag wiki excerpt, which is the short-definition of this tag and which appears as a tooltip when someone hovers over the tag. (Someone with 20k is needed to approve it.)


I note that , , and are pleasingly separate (that is, very little overlap) but should ideally capture about 15 % of the questions posted on the site, as the bulk of the questions are expected to be standard good conceptual physics questions that need no additional level tag*. It's my hope that this simple categorization would enable researchers to co-exist peacefully with laymen, which may even encourage a bit of public outreach. In Physics SE's current form, I expect that researchers are actively being driven away because of the difficulty in finding research-level questions.

The tag was proposed here. The consensus at the time is that it was a good idea. dmckee's objected, citing arguments against meta tags as advanced by StackExchange founder Jeff Atwood, but most did not find these arguments compelling.

I reiterate why these arguments fail, in this context: First, a // distinction is not particular subjective. Second, and tags could not be used "defensively" to enable violation of the normal posting standards. I think there is a danger of the tag being used in the manner, but the consensus seems to be that this danger is manageable. Third, none of these tags are likely to be used pejoratively.

Lastly, I emphasize that since the tag would be mutually exclusive with and , it would not really contribute to any sort of "tag explosion" like you might worry about if we started adding other meta tags like subjective, poll, or philosophical.


Clarifying edit:

I change the percentage of questions that are rougly expected to need such a level tag at all from 95% to 15% as the bulk of the questions most probably falls into neither of these three categories. This point was for example discussed in the comments directly below this question, as well as in the comments here and here.

This number means, that ideally about 85% of the questions should have no level tag at all, maybe 5% should be shown to researchers (37 users follow currently research-level) who have a very specialized interest and knowledge, 5% to students who are looking for good additional example problems to prepare for an exam for example (there are 36 people following homework too) and 5% to people who want to learn about physics in a simplified weay without beeing bogged down by math an physic jargon they are not interested in.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, feel free to tag those on your own if you think they need the tag. You're right, we probably need to remember to tag research-level stuff. I'm against the popular tag, though. Partly because it's the usually the tone of the post that determines this. (It's really late now, so I'll elaborate later) $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 24 '13 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ Since at @Qmechanic is retagging a lot anyway and he is very knowledgable, maybe he could help correctly attaching research-level along the way? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 24 '13 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth: I look forward to discussing this with you, especially if it helps us formulate an objective-as-possible definition of "popular-science". Dilaton has noted that this tag already exists (I had no idea). Since it is not widely used, I grant that I probably can't claim there's a consensus it should exist. Hopefully we can develop one. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ Excellent post. And yeah, the problem of researchers being driven away by the difficulty of finding research-level questions is a big one. We've already lost most of the physics researchers that used to be very active on this site. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Jun 25 '13 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ To me, the tag wiki's definition of "research-level" doesn't match up with what is implied by the name. One of the questions on your list of research-level questions, "Relation of Higgs couplings to masses of fundamental particles," is a question I asked. I don't really think it's a research-level question according to the common understanding of "research-level," although it may possibly fit the definition given in the tag wiki. $\endgroup$ – user4552 Jun 25 '13 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, does anyone know how math.SE gets by? They have far more questions than us, their range of levels is at least as broad as ours, and they don't have analogies of popular-science (ok they have a tag but it has only been used 20 times) or research-level. If there is anyone who participates heavily there (I don't), they might have an insight or two. $\endgroup$ – user10851 Jun 25 '13 at 4:44
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    $\begingroup$ And building on what @BenCrowell said - our tag wikis in general are in a deplorable state, and if we were to have such level-indicating tags, a first step would necessarily be to have them well defined, and have everyone on the same page as to what they mean. For starters, I get the impression research-level was started purely to absorb TPE questions, and I get the vibe that some people still want to exclude experiment from its purview - this is something that needs to be settled. $\endgroup$ – user10851 Jun 25 '13 at 4:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Ben, I think of research-level as "the physics equivalent of MathOverflow", not as its literal meaning. I think this jibes with accepted definition in the tag wiki. Basically, anything interesting to grad students and above qualifies. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 5:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Chris, I think Math.SE survives because MathOverflow exists. As you probably know, the TheoreticalPhysics.SE was essentially an attempt at a MathOverflow for physics, but it died. Still, I think you're right that it would be good to get their perspective. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 5:06
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    $\begingroup$ Related: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/4295/2451 $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Mod Jun 27 '13 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ Hi Jess, in a follow up discussion of this proposal, there has come up the issue that some people are worried and think that every question on the site should now belong into one of the three categories. However, as I have understood it the bulk of the average non-homework good conceptual questions (they might well be technical a bit) will not need any level-tag at all, such that questions do not need to be forced into one of these three categories if it would be inappropriate. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 27 '13 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ If I understand this correctly maybe you could consider updating your nice proposal to clarify this point a bit? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 27 '13 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe using a star system will help: a single star for introductory level (first three years university), two stars=intermediate level (third year and masters) and three stars=advanced level (masters, PhD) and maybe zero stars for the popular science. $\endgroup$ – user5402 Jun 29 '13 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Dimension10 have you seen this? I is horrible, because it shoots down this proposal even though the majority of the people who stated their opinion by votes or otherwise agrees with this proposal and has adopted the idea of level-filtering ...:-/. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 6 '13 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the prevalence of pop-sci questions on the anonymous homepage: we were testing an alternative to the default "Active" sort for anonymous users, but after mixed results (and... let's say one or two complaints) we've reverted to Active until we can come up with something that's clearly better. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Aug 10 '13 at 3:53

For the tag, I think there are two issues:

  • We haven't defined what exactly constitutes research level. Solution: Define it better by discussing on meta. (I don't know enough to contribute to that discussion)
  • We don't have enough people patrolling the main page retagging. Solution: Whenever you see a research level question on the main page, quickly retag it. That goes for everyone :)

Regarding : I am against this, for multiple reasons.

Firstly, its a meta tag. Not exactly allowed in the first place. exists to better accomodate the TP community (and it's not exactly a meta tag in the first place, just a broad tag). exists because the site will experience withdrawal symptoms if removed (a lot of people rely on it already).

Secondly, it's a very unclear and subjective matter if something is popsci. Take a look at the current stuff tagged and you'll see what I mean. Popsci is usually confined to introductory relativity, String theory (and M theory), and QM explained in layman's terms. However, a lot of posts asked by laymen which have to do with other physics with have been tagged with this. So it's currently being used as a tag which denotes "layman's terms". Too broad, and a complete meta tag. If we use it to mean the topics listed by me above, that could work, but I don't see much use of it then.

Besides that, a lot of it depends on the tone the post is asked in. Tags should be on the basis of topic, not tone.

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    $\begingroup$ The popular-science tag should mean explanation in laymen term independent from the physics topic, in the same way as the research-level tag means research-level independent from the topic. Both are level tags and equally important for people who do not only want to filter topics put the level of these topics they enjoy too. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 25 '13 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ For example students preparing for exams could look for additional exercises and hints how to solve them using homework, researchers and people interested in higher level stuff can prefer research-level and ignore homework and popular-science at the same time, and laypeople who feel scared or bogged down by too mathy technical stuff can favor popular-science and ignore research-level and maybe homework too. So I disagree with the popular-science tag being bad, it is equally important and legitimate as the other ones to filter (out) things different people are (not) interested in to see. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 25 '13 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton no, it is not too hard to determine a set of (sub)topics which are research level. For example, newtonian mechanics is not research level, but AdS/CFT is. On the other hand, someone can ask for a layman's explanation of any topic. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 25 '13 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ you seem to miss or not understand that the proposel of this question wants to establish and encourage a standard way ofbfiltering questions two dimensional (by level and topic) instead of only one dimensional (just by topic). The two filtering directions, namely topic and level, are completely independent from or orthogonal to each other. And to define the level filtering direction properly, all three level tags are needed. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 25 '13 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ (A) I think we get many more than one pop-sci question per day, hence my examples. Please try logging out and looking at the Physics.SE front page. Remember that this is what researchers will see when they first come to the website. (B) You have not actually provided arguments against meta tags except to say that they are generally discouraged. You'll find that Jeff Atwood's arguments are actually very cursory, and I stated in my post why they fail here. It's not enough to say "it's meta, so we shouldn't do it". $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ (B) Well, we seem to have gotten away with the homework tag. I think that Physics.SE is in an unusual position. I could be wrong, but I don't think anyone on the original SE thought advanced programmers were leaving the site in droves because things weren't properly tagged "beginner". But that's exactly what folks like Diliton and me are claiming is happening here. (C) Homework doesn't just exist because we can't remove it at this point, it exists because it's crucial to avoid driving crazy those people not interested in hw questions. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ (D) I can't see at all how research-level is less of a meta tag than pop-sci. Both refer to the technical level of the question. Let's concentrate on the (proposed) definition, rather than inferring something from a mere 14 tagged questions. I agree that tone should not part of the definition. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ (D) Strongly disagree, and I think this is born out by the wiki definition of research-level and also how it's used in practice. Chaotic systems can be research level, and they can be tagged Newtonian. In quantum-mechanics, the eigenvalues of a square well is probably homework, but symmetries of a modified Ising model is probably research level. "Is the universe really a hologram?" is related to AdS/CFT, but it's pop-sci. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ @JessRiedel I think we should just start doing it, instead of getting entangled in pointless discussions. Manishearth obviously does not unterstant the concept of two dimensional filtering, meaning that filtering by topic and filtering by level are independent from each other but can immensely increase the usefulness of the site. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 25 '13 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ I would also highly appreciate and estimate what @Qmechanic has to say, since he is an immensely clear thinking and knowledgable theoretical physicist, and could therefore estimate how helpful the possibility to filter the level in addition to the topic could be to prevent good people from leaving because the site is flooded by too basic stuff and even attract new researchers to the site. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 25 '13 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ (B) @Manishearth, I should correct my claim: I believe researchers are being turned away in droves. Yes, the existing researchers made a stink when they left back in December because they were already established. But new researchers won't bother to make an account and sound the alarm. They'll just silently move on (in droves!), and the site will be vastly poorer for it. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth, being the best among physics sites is a low bar. The quality here is far below MathOverflow. Also, note that homework questions have been endorsed by the Physics.SE community, so long as they are asked properly. Downvoting isn't appropriate. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth, after mentally filtering the active tab for >5 votes, and comparing to the top-voted monthly tab, I strongly agree with your suggestion for the main page. I believe this would have a very positive impact. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 25 '13 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ @JessRiedel re:HW: Yep, but very few are asked properly. If we outright deleted improper HW questions, there would be very few to be seen on the main page. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 25 '13 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Dilaton. The research-level tag should not indicate the topic. For someone who has a hard time coping with Kinematics, Lagrangian Mechanics seems research-level, but to someone learning String theory, etc., Lagrangian Mechanics is certainly not. So the "difficulty level" filtering that you suggest in my opinion, is very subjective. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Jun 27 '13 at 14:10

I exactly agree with the nice and helpful suggestions in this question. Categorizing the questions as suggested by , , and could very nicely help making the site better for people interested in all of these three mutually exclusive categories of questions.

People could then not only filter topics they are interested in, but also the level of the posts they enjoy to read. I am quite sure this would help releasing a lot of the accumulated tension between the different groups with different knowledge and background on physics we now have.

So maybe people who know what a research-level questions in certain topics is could start attaching that tag as they see fit, people interested in obtaining nontechnical equation free answers could use the popular-science tag, and the homework tag is already getting put where appropriate anyway.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks very much for the kind words. Now that you've written out popular-science, it's obvious to me that simply calling it popular would be ambiguous. I'll edit my post to make this improvement. $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 24 '13 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ @JessRiedel I thank you for these nice and helpful suggestions ;-). The popular-science tag already exists, so I think it would be the easiest thing to just use and attach it. Since you have more than 500 rep, you can (re)tag too without needing the approvement of anybody. And if something is wrong with the tags, Qmechanic always has an eye on it, he helped adjusting things when I was retagging the saved TP.SE questions too. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 24 '13 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ Oh perfect, I had no idea that tag existed. Good, that means I won't experience as much back lash in applying it :) $\endgroup$ – Jess Riedel Jun 24 '13 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JessRiedel I think that the tag wikis of homework,research-level, and also your description of popular-science are good enough for now. Yesterday I have pinged some other moderators in chat to give their thoughts about your proposal too, but up to now they seem indifferent or at least not willing to take part in the discussion, maybe one has to still wait a bit. As said, I doubt that Stack Exchange really strictly forbids any level-filtering if needed for good reasons. We have good reasons, why the possibility for people to filter the level of questions is needed urgently. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 26 '13 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JessRiedel To me, Manishearths arguments why popular-science should not be allowed, whereas the other two level tags are tolerated, make no sense from a logical point of view. All of them are level tags that fullfill exactly the same purpose, and when applied together cover nicely what different people with different background knowledge in physics potentially want to hide or enhance. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 26 '13 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea, but I still don't understand when popular-science tag should be used. Would "Why do we not have spin greater than 2?" or "Does the uncertainty principle apply to photons?" be popular science? What about conceptual questions which dont fit in any, like "In coordinate-free relativity, how do we define a vector?"? $\endgroup$ – jinawee Jun 26 '13 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ @jinawee there are many questions (106), where people explicitely ask for explanations in layman terms or mention that they have (almost) no background physics knowledge, or are only interested in a simplified explanation. I think for these cases [tag:popular:science] would be applicable without any controversy. The two examples you mention I would say are "normal good average" conceptional quetions that do (without) further specification need no specific level tag. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 26 '13 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ If the idea of level filtering were accepted by the majority, it could be promoted a bit such that everyone knows about this possibility. The OPs could then choose themself to use research-level if they want really hard-core answers, popular-science to not getting bogged down by math, or homework if they are looking for some hints to solve a problem. Heck, with this I would even no longer be too much against homework :-). As another example, I think most of my questions would be normal average conceptual questions, that do not need a level tag in most cases (I hope so at least ...). $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 26 '13 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @jinawee now this nice proposal is threathend ... :-/ $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 5 '13 at 22:30

The problem of Physics stack exchange not being conducive for research have been bought up time and again. I don't think any good solutions/suggestions have been put forth yet.

Personally I don't think that reorganizing the site based on homework, popular science, and research level is an ideal solution. But encouraging tagging could help organization and segregation. And defining research level as graduate level physics and above should serve us well. It would certainly help, but I don't know if it would necessarily solve the problem.

I am highly in favor of separate homework section from the main site, as it forms a fair chunk of the site, and is needed to avoid flooding.

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    $\begingroup$ Here I desagree with you. Not that the average good conceptual non homework questions will need no level tag at all, as it has always been the case. So the retaging may not be that massive as you think. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 28 '13 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ The tag wikis of the three level tags are quite reasonable, only the research level tag wicki could probably be a bit better formulated as pointed out elsewhere. I dont think that the realization of this level filtering needs large community efforts since retagging can proceed slowly and gradually. In fact, people have been attaching homework since quite some time and I am observing that people, who have probably read the proposal for level filtering and agree with it, have already started to attach research level and populare science too if needed on questions on the front page. It works. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 28 '13 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes the, research level tag approximately defined as graduate physics and beyond, had a reasonably well defined boundary and it will be extremely useful. it will work atleast partially if not wholly, but will it help the site attract researchers. I dont know, perhaps it could help. $\endgroup$ – Prathyush Jun 28 '13 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ Ahm Prathyush, after thinking about it I do agree that level filtering is not a complete solution, but it seems to be the least common denominater enough people potentially agree with. If you slightly edit your answer, I will remove my slipped ayay downvote ;-). To making the site more attractive for researchers, it would also belong that moderation strictly disallows any nononstructive attacks on legitimate mainstream physics and people working on it. Unfortunately this is not the case as you can see from here. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 28 '13 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ Just today, a moderator deleted my comments below a question about a statement concerning a particle physics topic, taken from a horrible website of a non physicist whose purpose is nothing but to rant and troll against legitimate mainstream physics, is not a reliable source of physics information that should be put any trust into ... :-/. At TP.SE trolling about mainstream physics would never have been tollerated or even be allowed by the moderators, but they have all been physicists who perfectly understood how an academic community of physicists works, what are its needs, etc sigh ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 28 '13 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton You have been warned before, don't make sweeping statements and assumptions about the moderators (or anyone for that matter). I can't believe you're still doing that. We do disallow NC attacks on physics, or on anything for that matter. However, those don't qualify as attacks. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 29 '13 at 10:11
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Prathyush, have you seen this the nice and upvoted level-filter proposal suggested here gets threathend :-/ $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 5 '13 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton I am starting to think that a dedicated site for theoretical physics makes a whole lot of sense. $\endgroup$ – Prathyush Aug 6 '13 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Prathyush exactly what I think too. However I am not sure how much sense it would make to propose a new one here (as the same problems with bad political and bureaucratic overmoderation could affect it soon too even if it succeeds), or maybe even better somebody could start a theoretical physics site outside the SE network, for example if a university with a strong theoretical physics fraction is interested in supporting such a site. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 6 '13 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Prathyush I will write Lumo a mail if he would allow an extended discussion on TRF about if and how a theoretical physics site can be started somewhere, if he can start a new article to give people interested in this the appropriate space such that it does not have to be discussed off topic. Or maybe he will allow me to write a guest blog and things can then be discussed in the comments ;-) $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 6 '13 at 13:42

I note that popular-science, research-level, and homework are pleasingly separate (that is, very little overlap) but should capture 95% of the questions posted on the site.

That should bother you. Here's why:

first page of tags

This is what the first tags page looks like right now. It indicates a healthy site, catering to a broad range of interests. Note that with a few exceptions it mostly describes what this site is about. If your interest or expertise falls into one of the areas described by those tags, you'll likely find a reason to keep you here on the site. You can follow topics that interest you, ignore those that don't, and even get customized lists of questions that match your specific interests. A host of tools in the software itself make use of this information, and it's clear which topics are popular here, and which ones are less well-served.

Now picture a site where the top three tags are , and , with the tags that describe specific topics trailing off behind them. (Let's imagine y'all ignore my advice and start slapping [popular-science] on any question you don't think falls into either [homework] or [research-level]). You might imagine this would result in the same list pictured above, with a couple of extra tags at the start - you would be wrong. Every time we've seen this done, it has resulted in topic-specific tags being neglected in favor of the broad, easy categories. The bigger the category gets, the more poorly-tagged questions result...

Worse yet, it carves the site up into separate districts based on fairly subjective criteria that have little or nothing to do with the actual subjects being asked and answered. They may start out "separate but equal", but... That never lasts. Pretty soon, one or more tags develop a reputation for being... Let's say "dirty". You don't want this tag on your question. You do want it on questions you don't like, since then you can ignore it. No need to put effort into editing or closing bad questions - just shove them in the ghetto and pretend they don't exist.

Tagging is not a tool for moderation; they are a tool for organization. The categories that a question falls into should be obvious based on the question itself - if a 3rd-party is required to arbitrate, then tagging has failed. Leave tags for topics.

And you know better than to suggest there are only three topics here on Physics.

  • $\begingroup$ Dear Sho9, these three tags should exactly help in categorizing the questions in a second level based direction, to allow people retrieve not only the topics they are interested in, but the topics at the level they enjoy. What does not come out clearly enough (maybe I should edit the question?), that even when adopting this complementary tagging scheme, the bulk of the questions is still expected to need no additional level tag. So most of the questions would not be tagge with any of them and therefor these tags would not be more important than the topic tags. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 10 '13 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I understand you, @Dilaton - Jess clearly states he's looking to capture 95% of the questions here in these tags, with the specific intent of dividing up the site. I should note that there is no support for this sort of "dual-tag" organization within the software - every time a site has tried to divide themselves up this way, they've suffered for it. The exception to this is... Meta, where meta-tags are required on every question - and let's face it, meta isn't much of a Q&A site. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Aug 10 '13 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ And we have indeed 37 users, probably researchers from the formar TP.SE following the research-level tag for example. From interacting with them I know that for the site to be useful to them they need to be able to extract the questions at their level, which are of interest to them. Without this, they most probably will leave, the site has already lost many researchers and experts that have been here, say two years ago ... :-/. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 10 '13 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: there's a huge difference between an optional tag that a handful of people follow, and a system that forces every question into one of three categories. Do you suppose those 37 users would be happy if folks started blindly shoving every nominally "advanced" question into that tag? I hardly think so - it would destroy whatever meaning it currently holds. Ditto for homework, pop-sci... $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Aug 10 '13 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that is exactly what I was trying to say: these two tags should not be attached to 95% of the questions, at most to say about 15% ones. So about 85% of the questions should have no level tag at all, maybe 5% should be shown to researchers who have a very specialized interest and knowledge, 5% to students who are looking for good additional example problems to prepare for an exam for example (there are 36 people following homework too) and 5% to people who are learning about physics in a simplified weay without beeing bogged down by math an physic jargon they are not interested in. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 10 '13 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ Then we agree, @Dilaton. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Aug 10 '13 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ I informed Jess that we said that not 95% of the questions should be covered by these categories in the comments below this proposel and gave him the link, but he did not update this proposal. Maybe I should do it now to clarify this point, because other people were confused by this too (saying Jess just revert it if he does not agree)? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 10 '13 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what the point is then, @Dilaton - you don't need to "encourage the use of" tags that are only being used where they're applicable. If you're involved in answering questions in one of these tags, then you probably know enough to use it appropriately; otherwise, rely on those who do. $\endgroup$ – Shog9 Aug 10 '13 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ This is right of course, the use of these tags does not need to be encouraged, for research-level and homework it works quite well as there are knowledgable people doing and/or supervising the tagging (I sometimes attach research-level too to questions that would have been welcome on TP.SE). For popular-science its usage might need some clarification as we see from the corresponding ongoing discussions. In summary, my point is that the use of these tag does not need to be encouraged, but they should by no means get burnicated either ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 10 '13 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Shoq9: See my answer here. The last statementg about broad categories . $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Aug 11 '13 at 7:16

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