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At the beginning of our site (not even a year ago), there was an effort to tag every question with one of the "big three" engineering disciplines (electrical, mechanical, and civil). See: Don't forget those “high level” tags

Partially because of this, and partially because almost anything can be considered to fall under "mechanical" the tag has been applied everywhere. (451/1345=34%)

My questions are:

  • Has the tag become so broad as to be (relatively) worthless?
  • Does some thought need to be put into describing the limits of the tag?
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    $\begingroup$ So, one of the big three covers 34%. If my math is correct, that's to be expected, right? $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Nov 16, 2015 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ @mast from that perspective it seems logical, but if the point of tags is to allow you to only focus on questions that you care about, having a full 1/3 of questions on the list makes it too broad. 100% of the questions can be tagged with "engineering", but that doesn't make it valuable to do so. $\endgroup$
    – hazzey Mod
    Nov 16, 2015 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ I get that. But from your question, I read there was an effort to tag every question with one of the "big three". I'd say they succeeded. Perhaps a better question would be whether that was such a good idea, instead of whether too many got a tag that was obviously intended to be put on a large percentage of the questions. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Nov 16, 2015 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ If I'm not mistaken there are close to three dozen engineering subdisciplines and inter-disciplines. Perhaps eschewing the big three in favor of the narrower categories may be helpful for users in identifying relevant topics. $\endgroup$
    – wwarriner
    Nov 17, 2015 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ I think you're mischaracterizing the point of the "high level tags" discussion a bit. I'm not aware of any general effort to sort the site strictly into ME, CE and EE tags. So-called "subdisciplines" are fine, too, as are general subject areas like statics, fluids, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Air
    Nov 20, 2015 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ To put the numbers in context a bit: 10% of SO is tagged javascript; 14% of SU is tagged windows-7; 13% of Physics is tagged quantum-mechanics; 13% of SF is tagged linux; 14% of ELU is tagged meaning; 14% of TWP is tagged professionalism; 17% of Cross Validated is tagged r; 17% of DIY is tagged electrical; 17% of Academia is tagged publications; 20% of Chemistry is tagged organic-chemistry; 29% of DBA is tagged sql-server. $\endgroup$
    – Air
    Nov 20, 2015 at 1:36

2 Answers 2

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Has the tag become so broad as to be (relatively) worthless?

Personally, I think it's more an issue of ignorance on the asker's part that many of the Questions here get flagged with the tag.

Being trained in engineering, it's easier for a lot of us to distinguish that certain topics should be tagged certain ways. For example, a question on beam bending for a building system could be tagged with and that wouldn't be technically wrong. However, I think or or are more fitting since the question is about a specific topic of mechanical engineering.

Eliminating the tag would only serve to confuse. For example, a question about designing an engine based on a set of criteria could have the tag, but the tag is still the most appropriate.

Does some thought need to be put into describing the limits of the tag?

Looking at the tag's entry, it seems pretty well-defined. It even says However in order to use this tag the question should be about a mechanical system or machinery.

At this point, it's just the user not reading the wiki entry before adding the tag, which is understandable for someone new to the site.

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Has the tag become so broad as to be (relatively) worthless?

No. Not yet anyway. With only 400 or so total questions with this tag, I only have to scroll through the first page of mechanical engineering-tagged questions before I get to ones that I've read before.

As the site grows however, I can see the utility of this tag decreasing. That's when more specific tags will become much more important, e.g. materials engineering, chemical engineering. For the time being I rather enjoy weeding out all those pesky "electrical" and "civil" engineering questions :-)

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