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On StackOverflow and many of the other StackExchange sites, it makes sense to normalize tags to all lower case since there's no real distinction between, Perl and perl. (Some would argue there is a distinction, but practically we know what is meant.) But reading the tags on the Philosophy site, I'm struck by the number of proper names we use as tags and how strange it is to see hume, rather than Hume. The first seems a nonsense word and the second is an 18th-century Scottish philosopher. Popper and popper are also completely different, though I imagine we'll have few questions about machines for making snacks out of corn kernels.

At issue isn't so much the meaning of the tags, which, while confusing at first, are unambiguous, but the aesthetics of the site. Professional programmers are used to seeing normalized capitalization, but I'd imagine professional philosophers would be put off by the names of philosophers being all lower case.

Does StackExchange support capitalized tags?


As an aside, making all tags capitalized (i.e., Ontology and Induction) would not be inappropriate here, I suspect. All caps (PLATO) would be too much, of course. If we had questions about e.e. cummings we might run into trouble, but I'd say capitalizing all tags would be a good choice too.

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No, the Stack Exchange network does not currently support tags with capital letters. They're normalized to all lower-case. I just tried again to make absolutely sure.

That said, I'm not sure I agree that this is really a problem. Yes, it's generally considered appropriate to capitalize proper names like Hume and Popper. But as you mentioned, I seriously doubt that it's going to cause any confusion on a site specifically targeted to questions about philosophy. If you see the name of a famous philosopher in a tag, it's reasonable to assume that the tag covers questions about that philosopher.

If you really think that this is a potential source of ambiguity, please take some time to edit or create the tag wikis for your favorite tags. All registered users can now propose tag wiki edits, and they will take effect as soon as they have been approved by another user with at least 1500 rep. And of course, another benefit of doing so is that the person who makes the edit gets +2 rep for their effort!

Beyond specifics, capitalized tags pose a possible implementation problem. Are [Hume] and [hume] to be treated as the same tag? When searching or tagging a question, do users have to make sure to enter the tag using the correct case? Or if we treat them as synonyms, we'll have to completely revamp the synonym system in order to deal with this, and what have we really gained in doing so? I don't support the suggestion to title-case all tags. As you mention, some tags would be improperly capitalized, and doing so would make our site needlessly different from the rest of the sites on the Stack Exchange network, raising the barrier to entry for new users already familiar with one of the other sites.

I don't much buy into the argument that this is different from the case of the tags on Stack Overflow that are used to refer to specific programming languages. No one has a problem with [Java] not being capitalized, and no one thinks that [java] refers to a deliciously caffeinated beverage. As usual, domain knowledge is key, and that's a primary reason why we have separate, focused sites instead of one massive Q&A site to rule them all.

I seriously doubt that professional philosophers will have that hard of a time getting used to all of the tags being normalized to lower case. This is already pretty popular across the Interwebz, especially with them there newfangled Web 2.0 sites. You know, kids these days, they don't know how to capitalize anything. Now, get off my lawn!

  • My position isn't that there is any (or at least not much) ambiguity in lowercase tags. Rather there is a (small) speed bump associated with a large percentage of our tags. Everytime I see aristotle, I must mentally translate that to Aristotle. It's a usability issue. And I utterly reject the notion that we should just get used to all lowercase. We've had mixed case as a standard for over a millennium, our technology handles case better than it ever has in the past, and mixed case has been shown to increase readability of text. – Jon Ericson Jul 13 '11 at 20:32
  • @Jon: Fair enough. I think I understand your argument, I'm not just not sure if it's worth the seemingly-substantial effort required to retool the whole tag system. But I'm not in a position to do that anyway, so I suppose you'll have to wait for an official answer from one of the developers. – Cody Gray Jul 14 '11 at 3:42
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I like this idea in principle, but like Cody says it might be somewhat challenging to implement and tricky to manage. In theory you could retroactively fix all current tags with a simple script, and force all tags entered, for example, as "hume" to "Hume", but what about lesser known authors, or new authors, or new words and acronyms? The system would constantly have to be updated with new proper nouns abbreviations and the like — it would probably more of a hassle then it's worth.

Just wait til A.I. is invented so a computer can intelligently categorize all posts all for us. But then I suppose it would be able to answer the questions for us too... :P

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