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Will allowing tags for specific gardening hardiness zones be a good idea? I think so. For instance, someone may ask a question about when to plant some veggie/fruit and the answer may be wildly dependent on the last frost date in your zone. That will allow for answerers to know if their answer will be setting up the questioner for a major fail (say, by planting bell peppers in March in zone 4).

This is similar to the already asked question Are area specific questions ok?, but just wondering about tagging them as such.

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    I posted an answer on that related question regarding why hardiness zones may be much less useful for this site than you think. – bstpierre Jun 9 '11 at 2:20
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It seems to me that zone-specific tagging should not be done unless the zone itself is a complicating factor in a question. For instance, only one of these questions should be tagged with a zone specific tag:

  • How do I care for my lime tree in Florida?

  • How do I care for my lime tree in Minnesota?

The first isn't dramatically different from the question:

  • How do I care for my lime tree?

But the second question is greatly complicated by the specified climate. It's a question about growing a plant far from it's normal range.

But the tagging system must be systematic and universal. If we start mixing systems, we'll end up with a real mess. Imagine, for instance, if someone suggested the minnesota tag for the second question. It's possible we could use just one tag: out-of-zone or some such to cover all these issues.

The other issue is whether askers will know their own zone or whether their question is complicated by where they live. We need expert gardeners to help us, I think.


We don't have too many tags yet so I only see one location-specific tag so far: desert. I can imagine it being a useful tag in the future. I'm not sure the tag is appropriate for the question, however.

Our tags are currently dominated by plant-specific tags as seems entirely appropriate.

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    I agree, I think that geographic questions are inevitable, even though there are lots of other factors (such as rainfall). I like the idea of using zones since they are established "rules of thumb" used for years by the horticulture community. Also, it seems much better and more useful to visitors who are arriving via web searches than questions referring to "southern portion of east Upstate New York". – Randy Jun 9 '11 at 3:07
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Related, I was thinking it would be great if the user name / avatar / badge count section that appears next to every answer and question also included some geographic information about where the user is based. This is irrelevant for Stackoverflow and most of the other Stackexchange sites, but it is important here. It is very useful to know which region a writer is talking about. Of course it would be up to them to fill it in, and how detailed it should be. (size of country, variation in climate, and personal privacy preferences all come in to play)

  • Seems like it'd be wroth asking a feature quest question here. I thought of that too. – Jon Ericson Jun 9 '11 at 17:31
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No, location tags are just another variation of meta tags. Meta-tagging is explicitly discouraged.

The Death of Meta Tags

If a tag does not describe what the question is about, it should not be used. A question tagged is not likely about "Zone 9", but a piece of meta information about the question itself.

The reason meta-tags are a problem is that they do not describe the content of the question. They describe some other context of the question that should be contained in the text. You'll know a meta tag when you see it because meta tags don't make any sense unless they are paired with other tags. Inexperienced users often don't realize this and they start using those tags by themselves. It starts breaking the tagging system.

This isn't an obvious problem at first, but this was a big problem on other sites before we learned how to deal with them. We'd rather not repeat these mistakes on every other site, so we explicitly discourage the use of meta tags.

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    I'm not sure that's the best way to think of zones. While they do provide context, they aren't really meta tags either. An analogy might be the language tags on Stack Overflow. Questions about growing limes in Minnesota rather than Florida would be as different as questions regarding removing a file in sql or in bash. In other words, a question tagged zone-9 would likely be about the special conditions found in Zone 9. It seems better to have some objective tagging system in place rather than get variations on tropical, hot, south, and so on. – Jon Ericson Jun 8 '11 at 23:54
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    Strongly agreed with Jon. I will gladly subscribe to my zone's tag, just so I can see questions (and answers) about problems specific to my climate. Questions should not be tagged with the zone just because the questioner happens to live there. But tags for questions that are specifically about zone peculiarities or growing a plant out of its normal zone (e.g. limes in Minnesota) would benefit everyone. – nicholas a. evans Jun 9 '11 at 19:30
  • Strongly agree with both above comments. If I were to ask you how to write a switch statement you would ask me what language. If I were to ask Jon Ericson the best time to plant tomatoes he would ask me where I live. A tag for a zone is as necessary as a tag for a programming language. – Logicalunatic Feb 1 '12 at 5:07
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Tags for context have always been useful on other Stack Exchange sites. The difficulty here is going to be creating tags with meaningful context; I personally don't know enough about gardening to understand "hardiness zones", so I wouldn't be able to add this information to my questions without research first.

If it's important information to add to a question (i.e. if you really need to know this before you can answer many questions), then it would be good to have these tags so questions from people like myself can be re-tagged to make it easier to find answers relevant to the zone you're working in, both for those looking to answer, and those searching.

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    This isn't really a correct assessment of how tags are supposed to be used. Tags are not to add context. If "it's important information to add to a question," it should be part of the question text, not the tag set. Tagging is to provide categorization, not information. – Robert Cartaino Jun 8 '11 at 23:05
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    Okay, but categorization provides context, and context is useful information. As an example, seeing a generic SQL question tagged with SQL-Server on StackOverflow makes it clear that this is specific to MS-SQL and that PL-SQL answers aren't going to be useful. – Paul Turner Jun 9 '11 at 9:42
  • On stackoverflow you will find the following tags: asp.net, .net, asp.net mvc, Visual Studio 2010 When I first arrived here I fully expected each zone to have it's own tag. -edit = accidentally hit enter without holding shift... – Logicalunatic Feb 1 '12 at 3:31

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