Currently, the tag has been used mainly for two purposes on CV:

  1. Statistical measure of deviation;
  2. Notification messages shown when statistics-related software fails.

We have a tag. According to Wikipedia: error (observed - true function value) and residual (observed - estimated function value) are related but not same.

We have the tag , but it is a synonym to . We also have .

Is it worth it to fix this? If yes, how? Please, present a proposal considering two actions:

  1. looking forward (i.e. to stop tag being used for different purposes from now and on);
  2. to fix this looking backwards (i.e., retag in a proper manner existing questions).

Edit 1.

Looking forward the action which will result from this question, it was mapped (05th, July, 2013) among the 125 questions, 8 relating to software error messages.
They are (from newest to oldest):

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Status-completed (Edit 2).

  1. As far as I could go, I asked to CV's moderators to create the tag as suggested by @A.M. (and with no objection by @gung). @chl gently, helped me in this step;

  2. As suggested by @gung in #1 item, the tag wiki excerpts were edited (with peer review) for and to avoid confusion in future questions;

  3. From the eight questions above, five of them had the tag replaced by as suggested in both answers (but not at once, as suggested on @gung's answer, item #3). Two of them (2 and 7) crashed in the meantime, and one I overlooked about the tag usage (5).

  • $\begingroup$ @gung. Thank's for your always helpful editions. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ You're welcome, @AndreSilva. +1 $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 22:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A error-message tag was just added to the list. $\endgroup$
    – chl
    Commented Jul 15, 2013 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ I don't like [error-message] tag. Currently its wiki excerpt says to always use another tag in addition, which is a good sign of tag that should not exist at all. However, I am afraid that if we eliminate/burninate it, people will start using [error] tag whenever they have a problem with an error-message. What to do? $\endgroup$
    – amoeba
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 10:21
  • $\begingroup$ @amoeba; so far, [error-message] has been useful to reduce pollution in the [error] tag and it's been a trap to easily detect off-topic questions, which can be closed and deleted. But we can try burninating it now this is more consolidated issue. But something should also be done in respect to [error]'s name, so not to come back as it was before. $\endgroup$ Commented May 5, 2017 at 10:59

2 Answers 2


To fix this for new posts, you really want to stop using the ambiguous tag completely.

I suggest:

  • [error terms] for error terms
  • [error messages] for program error messages

Both will show up just fine when people start typing 'error'. No re-training will be necessary when the old tag is made to stop popping up as an option (i.e. immediately)...except for the few people who have the power to create tags and don't know about the change.

To fix this for old posts, there is going to be a lot of effort to re-tag things regardless, but there is an advantage to ceasing all use of [error]:

  • It will be absolutely clear what posts remain to be tagged at any given time. It will always be the case that all posts tagged with [error] remain to be processed.

As a side note, no matter what tag scheme is chosen, separately processing batches of questions tagged with program names should help a bit, since the rate of need for the two new tags will differ for those tagged with programs versus those that are not. 'Separately' could mean assigning a given person to only process program-tagged or non-program-tagged questions, or just sticking to one type on any given re-tagging spree. You may even want to automatically tag program-tagged questions with the new program error message tag and non-program-tagged questions with the new error term tag. It will be wrong, but it will be less wrong than what we have now. ...and again, if you use my suggestion, you will still always know which questions' tags still need human vetting.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank's for the answer. +1 for the reminder that error questions for software error will probably be tagged with software tags (like R). That will help fixing (if it's going to be fixed), looking backwards. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 12:46

My opinion is yes. Tags are one of the most important SE features for keeping the site organized. I believe it is crucial to have tags organized properly to keep the site running smoothly, and will always require some level of effort at upkeep / maintenance. There are several options that exist for doing so:

  1. Edit tag wiki's, and especially (IMO) tag wiki excerpts to indicate how the tag should be used.
  2. Make a tag a synonym of another tag.
  3. Extensive (typically) editing of tags on existing questions.

Option #1 is the easiest and most practical, although it mainly only has an influence going forward (i.e., your second #2). Option #2 is very difficult to do in practice; you cannot nominate or vote on tag synonyms until you have 5 votes on the tag, and no one ever looks at the tag synonym vote page, so suggested synonyms just sit there collecting dust. (Note also that once a tag is made a synonym, it is harder to find the indexed questions--a problem that has never been fixed to my knowledge.) In my opinion, option #3 can be disruptive when it's done with more than a couple of threads, so you are either disrupting the main page, or it's a major pain to do it over time.

Thus, my primary suggestion is to edit the tag wiki excerpt (option #1). The question is what we should have for the various tags, and that should be discussed here before moving forward.

Below, I note some of my suggestions regarding these issues.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ [error] (in the statistical sense) & [residuals] are close enough that one tag (ie [residuals]) could cover both & the excerpt could inform people of this. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 22:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Questions about [error], in the sense of error-messages, probably don't belong here, but should be on SO instead; although we could make an [error-message] tag, if people want. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 22:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm fine w/ [deviation], [standard-deviation], & [bias], as they are. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 22:49

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