So, I should have posted this before I did it, but I noticed that the application of the census tag was pretty diverse, in a way which wasn't very helpful. The "tag wiki" summary was not very helpful, and the full explanation of the tag suggests co-tagging with a specific place (e.g. [usa]).

This doesn't seem to be of much use, as tags are meant to help people find questions. I would think that a single specific tag is much more effective than combining tags.

EDIT: I should say, "in this case." I noticed, for example, tags like language and japanese and can see a case for using those as they are currently. Interest in language is sometimes a flag which transcends specific boundaries. Interest in "census" (especially as minimally-defined in the tag wiki/excerpt) is not really a thing, as best I can tell.

Therefore, I created a new tag, us-census and wrote a tag wiki entry for it, and changed the tag on most of the extant questions using the census tag.

Next time I'll post here first but... any objections?

  • The uk has a similar project nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/…, as does Australia for its historic censuses ... should we not have similar tags for these as well?
    – Marcus D
    May 18, 2016 at 13:08
  • I would tend to agree with that approach, especially if there are questions here which clearly require answers from people knowledgeable in those data products. May 19, 2016 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


Let me start by saying that every effort to raise the quality here on Open Data SE is much appreciated :)

In this case, however, I have some reservations.

the application of the census tag was pretty diverse

In what way? As far as I can tell, all questions are about census data one way or another. If not, then the tag should be removed from the respective question.

The "tag wiki" summary was not very helpful

Improvements are always welcome :)

Interest in "census" (especially as minimally-defined in the tag wiki/excerpt) is not really a thing

An under-defined tag is one thing. However I wouldn't go so far as to say that there is no interest in questions outside of the US.

Now to your proposed tag. I currently see a few issues:

  • As a non-US citizen it took me quite a while to realize that refers to an institution and is not just a combination of a country () and a topic ().

  • Currently 5 people follow the tag. If we remove this tag from all of the questions, then these 5 people won't see those questions highlighted any longer, although they would be very relevant. On the other hand, co-tagging all questions with seems pretty redundant. (This is basically the same dilemma that we have with the tag.)

I get your point that currently people cannot favorite questions that deal specifically with the US Census (although they can of course favorite or ignore and separately). Searching, on the other hand, is not a problem: [usa] [census] has exactly the same effect as [us-census] and is only 3 characters longer.

One idea might be to think of the tag as an equivalent to the tag. In that case, however, I'd suggest that we call it to avoid any confusion and limit it to questions dealing with US Census specifics.

In any case, I look forward to hearing how others think about this.

  • Why do we use tags? I have favorite tags to help me find questions I might learn from, or help answer. As it was being used, the census tag was not helpful in either case, or no more helpful than being more specific. Also, I have little sympathy for the theoretical scaling problem: the US Census Bureau is a major provider of open data. There will be many questions about its products. The other examples you offer are not countries which have, as far as I know, extensive census data or communities looking for/offering help. Mar 14, 2015 at 13:36
  • Regarding people who follow the "census" tag, how many of them care about non-US-census? The interest is because it was the only game in town. Mar 14, 2015 at 14:03
  • 3
    I have to admit that as a non-US citizen, I wasn't aware of the fact that "US Census" is actually the name of an institution and not just the combination of a country and a topic. I've updated my answer accordingly. Mar 14, 2015 at 14:06
  • 1
    I was about to raise a question on the very question. I think there will be lots of confusion around the meaning of [us-census] and merging with [data.gov]. Just looking at the common usage of the [census] tag, when it is used in the US, it is often used with both the [usa] and the [us-census] tags, which then takes out the value of the [us-census] as a single tag. When people from other countries use it they use [germany][census] or [france][census]
    – Marcus D
    May 18, 2016 at 13:13
  • @MarcusD I haven't been following the Meta board much -- but I'm not following your comment here. Is there a proposal to merge [us-census] and [data.gov]? I would probably argue against that. I stand by my model for how tags are useful, and would refer to the many product-specific tags on Stack Overflow itself as an example, and refer to my answer to your other comment for more... May 19, 2016 at 16:17

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