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Stack Overflow is successful because of a combination of the SE technology and the meta-rules defining how to use that technology successfully given the topic at hand.

The stack about Gardening require different meta-rules than a technology QA site.

The location of a gardener is growing in is as important as the language a programmer is coding in.

If C# is a valid tag on StackOverflow.com then Minnesota should be a valid tag on gardening.stackexchange.com

https://stackoverflow.com/questions/174155/switch-statement-fallthrough-in-c

Perhaps a tag for each State isn't the best way to tag the location but a location tag is definitely needed.

  • That is a meta tag which really isn't helpful. This information should be contained in the question There is discussion underway on MSO to add geotagging to posts. I don't have time for a full answer but that in short is how I feel. – wax eagle Feb 6 '12 at 16:45
  • Is C# a meta tag in stack overflow? If not, then location isn't a meta tag here. – Logicalunatic Feb 6 '12 at 16:50
  • Is it because of a lack of a universal way to tag location? – Logicalunatic Feb 6 '12 at 16:50
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    in some ways yes. Yes c# is a meta tag in some ways, although it gives more information than a location tag would in a lot of ways. Gardening while slightly different from location to location does not change substantially (in implementation or instance) from place to place. – wax eagle Feb 6 '12 at 17:47
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I'm not sure that location is as important as are the conditions that occur in that location. We often use location as a stand-in for understanding those conditions, but it would usually be better to embed the relevant information.

E.g. in your question What can I plant to attract butterflies and other pollinators in Minnesota? location is helpful, but you might get better answers if you mention the climate, your soil type, the size of your yard, etc.

Reason 1:

A question tagged with may get answers that are also relevant to New Hampshire (because of similar winter climate) and, say, Argentina (because of similar soil composition; I'm totally making this up). So from this point of view, you're over-narrowing the field by applying the tag.

E.g. a better title might be "What perennials can I plant to attract pollinators in USDA Zone 4?" or "What annuals can I plant to attract pollinators in a 95 day growing season?"

Reason 2:

The location tag is hard to standardize. If we tag by country, we have far too much variation (e.g. geographically large countries like USA and Canada). If we tag by state/province, we still have too much variation (e.g. California). Tagging by city is just silly.

Reason 3:

A location tag doesn't convey enough information. Even in a single (small) state, say Massachusetts, there are wide enough variations that it is hard to give advice based on the just state: on the Cape you will probably be dealing with sandy soils and relatively warm temperatures, in the western mountains you will have colder temperatures and different soils.

Furthermore, someone tagging a question who lives in an apartment in the Bronx is going to have a completely different situation that someone who lives on 80 acres of farmland outside of Potsdam.


In this answer I laid out a number of reasons why USDA Zones are useless as tags. I think the same arguments are relevant here. Questions should contain all the information required to answer the question. Tags are a poor way to communicate this information.

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You're using the wrong analogies to base your arguments. When you ask "how to attract pollinators", people won't ask what location you're in — it's the equivalent of "What is the purpose of a GC". Regardless of location (programming language), question can be answered. However, when you ask "how should I take care of my tree", people will ask what tree and what location. Now that's closer to your example and the tree is the equivalent to the programming language. We have tags for those. The location is perhaps a loose equivalent of asking what what your skill level is.

Well, not exactly, but look at it this way: I could give you general suggestions to take care of your tree (programming language), but I could probably give you a better, specific answer if you told me the location (skill level). The first is critical to the question (cannot be answered without it), whereas the second helps refine it. The intricacies and sublocations, sub-sublocations, etc., make it a pain to regulate, and I fully agree with bstpierre's reasons for not requiring location tags.

  • My analogies are just fine, thanks. Besides, when I asked the question "how to attract pollinators" the first response was a comment asking for my location. I'll relink it below. What is the gardening equivalent of a programming language? – Logicalunatic Feb 8 '12 at 22:05
  • To me: Tree care = programming | apple tree care = programming in C# | specific type of apple tree care = specific ways of doing X with C# – Logicalunatic Feb 8 '12 at 22:10
  • @Logicalunatic eh, have you read your question? Your title was "What can I plant to attract butterflies and other pollinators?" That is way different from "how to attract pollinators" that you've been throwing around here. For the second, I can generically answer with plant native flowers, avoid pesticides, etc., whereas yours asks for a list specific to Minnesota... – Lorem Ipsum Feb 9 '12 at 3:38
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I concur with bstpierre that location doesn't normally give enough information in and of itself; however, I personally think adding the location provides additional helpful information, and is important, whether or not having tags to convey this information is important.

Tags would be helpful to allow users to see groups of questions from a specific area, anyhow—rather than being a method of educating answerers about the facts.

Location can tell you more than just some potentially incorrect climate data (although questioners might take their unusual weather for granted and not mention it, whether or not they mention location, if it's all they're used to). It can give you an idea about what pests might be present, elevation, magnetic fields, diseases, laws, culture, day length, etc.

I don't think something less specific than a state (for the USA, anyway), would be terribly helpful, however, when you could just say the state instead.

In conclusion, I'm slightly in favor of the idea of having non-mandatory location tags (specific—not super general tags that encompass huge areas like the PNW, the Rocky Mountains, or just the country, if it's huge), but I think the specific location should still be mentioned in the question, even if you tag it. People don't always look at the tags, anyway. I think they're nice for badges and browsing, but I don't like it when questioners only put important pieces of information in tags (whether here or any other SE site).

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Location tagging is absolutely necessary.

When I ask how to do a switch statement, people ask what language I'm programming in.

When I ask how to attract pollinators, people ask what location I'm gardening in.

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