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Regarding this question:

Can a Giant Fire Beetle choose to not emit light?

It seems clear to me that the question warrants the tag over , but I was told repeatedly that was more appropriate, and the discussion ensued. I'll post them here in case the comments are deleted for being non-pertinent:

Screenshot of comments

I don't understand the claim that the tags don't mean what they're described as meaning.

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The tag wikis should probably be amended. The whole "more commonplace than a monster" thing is weird, considering dire wolves could be considered both an animal and a monster.

Regarding the conflict over tagging your question, I'll cite mxyzplk himself, the moderator who's usually here to blow the "it's a folksonomy!" horn:

Tagging is an emergent folksonomy. It does not need to be a strict logically correct hierarchy and overlap between two tags is not something we must do something about. Let people use the tags they find helpful and make sense to them. Overly curated tagging is IMO harmful to the point behind them and turns it into an advanced-users-only Dewey Decimal system instead of just letting people use terms that are meaningful to normal players.

Two sentences bolded by me. That means: the fuss over "it's this one, not that other one!" is wasted effort and operating on an assumption it must be just one. Use both. (Count me surprised an edit lock got used over this.)

Historically on this site, tag usage defines the wiki. The wiki doesn't have the authority to define how a tag's used — the people do through how they agree to use it, and they can change that wiki, and we've done so numerous times in the past to clarify what a tag should be about. Tag wikis just provide some guidance to reflect how we're currently using them. Neither, for that matter, does a moderator have the authority to just unilaterally decide what a tag is for. They're also citizens in this regard, not emperors, and they have to give other citizens the chance to say how the site should work unless it's violating some common agreement.

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    \$\begingroup\$ But in response to "Let people use the tags they find helpful and make sense to them.", this isn't people using what makes sense to them, it's tags being changed by moderators after the fact. What mxyzplk described won't happen when it's being altered and controlled. \$\endgroup\$ – Zso Feb 19 '16 at 0:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I endorse this message. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 19 '16 at 0:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zso I think in this case SevenSidedDie was just correcting what he saw as an incorrect usage of tags and enforced his correction. (This is a thing that happens every now and then in the course of curating the site.) Here, however, the "correction" wasn't one, and enforcement was unnecessary. I think your usage of [animal] was fine, and should be there if you think it makes sense. I also think using [monsters] makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 19 '16 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Does that meant he tags are going to be changed back, or the question will be unlocked? \$\endgroup\$ – Zso Feb 19 '16 at 1:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, it means the process of discussing this has started. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 19 '16 at 1:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zso Locks over content edits are usually temporary, and SSD said in comments that the lock here was temporary. In a case like this, it'd be extraordinary for it to last more than a few days. Like mxyzplk said, we've started discussing it, we'll work out what to do with the tags (animals? monsters? both? something else?), we'll probably reach some kind of agreement, it'll be unlocked, we'll do an edit reflecting that agreement. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 19 '16 at 1:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ So what are the 2 tags meant to represent, and what is the difference between them? It sounds like you have a mental definition, but I have no idea, and I suspect I'm not the only one. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Feb 19 '16 at 2:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zso The lock was purely because I read a declaration of intent to ignore the directive to discuss it on meta and engage in edit warring. Moderators can be wrong in a content dispute, but edit warring is never right and we're also here to prevent them. The lock had the intended effect: the discussion has been taken to the appropriate venue. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 19 '16 at 2:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie But you locked it before I posted the "It does seem pretty clear..." comment, because I clicked 'Edit' right after I posted it and found I couldn't. \$\endgroup\$ – Zso Feb 19 '16 at 2:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zso I'm not sure how it looked on your end, but I locked it in response to seeing your comment. It took me 13 seconds to see the comment, read it, and lock the post, according to the timestamps. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 19 '16 at 3:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ FYI to anyone who's not aware: You can mouse over any relative timestamp on Stack Exchange (i.e. the "X time ago" timestamps) to see an exact date-time timestamp in Zulu time (UTC+0, the Zulu is NATO phonetics for Zero) that is accurate down to the second. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 19 '16 at 3:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zso Oh, that's because I made a mistake the first time (it wasn't temporary), so I unlocked and relocked with a temporary lock that expires on its own. You're probably looking at the later lock rather than the first one. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 19 '16 at 3:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zso and doppel: A fellow mod alerted me to another error: I was under the impression that a content-dispute lock only locked the post it was on, not the whole page, but it did lock both the question and its answers and prevent further answers… and I didn't double-check that it did was I'd assumed. That's an embarrassing mistake; it was much more than I intended, and probably makes it a much more disproportionate action than I had in mind. My apologies for that. (I've manually cancelled the lock, in any case.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 19 '16 at 7:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanHenderson In games that make that separation, maybe that would work. But even in D&D that isn't always done (e.g. B/X D&D has bears, berserkers, and dragons all in the same list), and would make the tag's wiki deceptive or useless for all but a few games. Even 5e lists giant beetles, hawks, phase spiders(!), and worgs (“large monstrosity”, not even just “beast”) in the same “misc. creatures” section. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 19 '16 at 8:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dan Please remember that of the hundreds of games we have here that feature animals and/or monsters, only one of them has a Monster Manual. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 19 '16 at 8:24
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I think the underlying confusion here is procedural.

On the Stack Exchange, tags are an "emergent folksonomy." This means that each tag gets created by users at the moment a question needs it and is thereafter used as folks see fit. Nobody pro-actively curates them; tags are allowed to grow organically until/unless an active problem emerges.

Tag wikis (what you're calling definitions) are accordingly descriptive, rather than prescriptive: a tag wiki should tell us how the tag is being used, not tell us how the tag should be used. You've stumbled across a set of poor tag wikis that need to be changed to match how their tags are commonly used.

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Tags need to be distinct or they're not useful. The only distinction that makes useful to have on the site is that it labels something particular that's different from what labels. To do that it has to be distinct in how it's used.

The tag's history of use suggests that the community thinks that the distinct use for is to label questions about normal, mundane creatures — the kind of creatures you might find in a farmyard, as a beast of burden, or in a hunting forest on Earth.

So let's look at how the tag has been used. (In the process I found out that we had a pile of them that should have been tagged instead, and fixed that in the meantime. This doesn't undermine my point because, at worse, it removes questions that would have supported my point.) The questions appear to fall into five categories:

  1. Domestic animals and pets (5 of 23, 22%)

  2. Wild mundane animals (8 of 23, 35%):

  3. Unspecified animals, but mundane from context (6 of 23, 26%):

  4. Giant versions of mundane animals (3 of 23, 13%):

  5. Monsters that are only superficially like a mundane animal (1 of 23, 4%)

That makes for 83% (19) questions being about very normal, mundane animals, and 17% (four) being about animal-like monsters. Sliced another way, that makes for 97% (22) questions about Earth-appearing animals of normal or giant size and 4% (one) question about a creature that doesn't appear on Earth in any size.

The question about the shadow mastiff is an obvious outlier, and is probably mistagged — it's probably more sensible to label it with instead of .

The fire beetle is similarly out of place: it's not a mundane animal, either domestic, wild, or giant. It's a D&D creature that's was invented and is only superficially like a mundane animal. In this breakdown it would be in company with the shadow mastiff; one question is the weakest of precedents.[1] an oddity, in that it is and has been a D&D “monster” for decades without the connection to a real-world animal being obvious, but it's apparently (whether by design or accident) very similar to a giant luminous click beetle.

So given this look at how the tag is being used, a clear distinction is being made between monsters and animals. That's good, because having a clear distinction is the only reason the tag is meaningful and useful enough to keep around, instead of merging it into . To maintain that distinction, questions about monsters should be kept out of the tag.

There is probably room for, as doppelgreener suggests (and which I already upvoted), a few odd creatures to have their questions categorised by both and , since there are examples that are on the borderline between them and not obviously exclusively either/or, such as the dire toad and the fire beetle (and possibly giant chameleons used as riding mounts…).

The point of putting on a question, regardless of what the wiki says, is so that when someone is looking for questions about monsters, they can find questions about monsters. Since giant toads, fire beetles, and such are widely considered monsters by the playerbase of D&D, they should turn up when browsing D&D questions tagged with . Similarly, creatures that are archetypically animals should show up when browsing ; I don't think fire beetles (or dire toads or giant chameleons) are what people browsing that tag will be looking for, given its overwhelming use for very mundane, domestic animals… but they're on the borderline, yes, and an argument can be reasonably made for including them.

So to answer the titular question: yes, the tag wikis don't seem to describe how the tags are actually used, so they should be amended to match actual usage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an excellent analysis of the use of the tag, but I'm not seeing anything about whether the use is aligned with the tag wikis, and whether anything should be changed in them, which is a major part of the original question/confusion. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Feb 19 '16 at 4:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm fine with this definition (or any definition really) but if it's to be the definition the tag wikis should be changed to better reflect it. Oops, BESW beat me to it as usual. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Feb 19 '16 at 4:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ For one thing, after a quick google, the beast in question seems to be a giant form of the luminous click beetle, so has an earth-like smaller counterpart, and so would be in the 13%. But my issue is that the descriptions of the tags having nothing to do with whether D&D animals have real-life counterparts, and so you can't use that as a distinction (and stressing that having a distinction established is important) for whether the tag applies, in its current form. What you're explaining is not part of the tag. \$\endgroup\$ – Zso Feb 19 '16 at 5:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zso The fundamental confusion here, I think, is procedural: on the Stack tags are an emergent folksonomy and the tag wikis (what you're calling definitions) need to be written accordingly. The tag wiki is descriptive, rather than definitive: it should tell us how the tag is being used, rather than telling us how the tag should be used. You've stumbled across a set of poor tag wikis that need to be changed. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Feb 19 '16 at 5:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zso Ha! I didn't know that about luminous click beetles. The connection isn't obvious (they're not Dire Luminous Click Beetles), but it certainly fits. As for the wiki: wikis don't dictate how tags are used, they're written by us to describe how they're already used. So a good analysis describing how it's already used 100% overrules whatever is written in the tag wiki. (Edit: What BESW said.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 19 '16 at 5:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ In defense of my dire toad question tagging, I tagged it monsters and animals thinking that the tag monsters was for questions about monsters generally while the tag animals narrowed the kind of monster I was asking about (a monster that just so happens to be an animal, much as tagging a question both monsters and undead for a question about, like, shadows or spectres). If that's tagged incorrectly and should be one one or the other, that's totally okay. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 19 '16 at 10:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I think that's the reasoning that has come out of this meta, so you're in good company. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 19 '16 at 23:21

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