I do not have the reputation to make tags, so my original question had a pretty random tag. Originally, I wanted to use the tags "distillation" and "vacuum", neither of which exists. Another user with the requisite rep added the tag "distillation" since, as he said, 44 different topics have "distillation" in their titles alone, not to mention questions which deal with distillation but do not have that word in their title. Later, some other user deleted the "distillation" tag, apparently on the grounds it is too specific a tag and all such questions should be tagged "purification" and nothing more specific than that. I guess by that logic there should be no purification-related tags (extraction, centrifuging, filtration, evaporation, crystallization, affinity-purification etc).

Personally I think there should not only be tags for "vacuum" and "distillation", I think there should also be tags "fractional-distillation" and "vacuum-distillation", "steam-distillation", and "simple-distillation." So, I am putting these potential tags out there for discussion.

Just as an example of mis-tagged questions, consider this one on steam distillation of Acai powder. I would have expected that to be tagged "steam-distillation." Currently its only tag is "reaction". Simple search shows there to be dozens of questions with similar issues.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for bringing up a discussion about the distillation tag. -1 for taking it way further! While we're yet to decide if distillation is not too specific, I think everyone might agree that fractional-distillation is too specific. We don't like to have just one or two questions tagged with something. Also, some tags will not add anything useful to the question, like vacuum. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Jun 15, 2015 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @M.A.Ramezani distillation is a decent enough tag, especially if there are over 40 questions concerning it. However, tags about specific types of distillation are going to be very rarely used so are not helpful. Also vacuum isn't really a tag which is going to be used very often and it's pretty vague. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Jun 15, 2015 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ @bon Did you actually count how many questions discuss different types of distillation. You know there are at least 16 questions involving fractional-distillation? Currently about 15-20% of the tags on chemistry have fewer than 16 questions. % $\endgroup$
    – Shaka Boom
    Jun 15, 2015 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ Yes but how is it any more helpful to have fractional distillation rather than just distillation. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Jun 15, 2015 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ @bon Because someone who is interested in fractional distillation does not care about steam distillation. $\endgroup$
    – Shaka Boom
    Jun 15, 2015 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ By that argument we should have a ridiculously large number of tags for highly specific topics which are only of interest to a minority of people. The purpose of tags is to sort questions into general categories rather than to nail down the precise meaning of the question in every case. Well worded titles should work equally as well as highly specific tags and are easier to search for. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Jun 15, 2015 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ @bon Just the mere fact that there is a question about steam distillation which is tagged only with "reaction" I think is pretty strong evidence that this site has tagging problems. Having tags that are too specific is not one of those problems. $\endgroup$
    – Shaka Boom
    Jun 15, 2015 at 17:20
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    $\begingroup$ @ShakaBoom That question is poorly tagged. I would tag it with experimental-chemistry as a general tag and extraction as a more specific tag. distillation would also be acceptable but I don't see that it is at all useful to have tags any more specific than that. Steam distillation is something that could easily (and should) go in the title, which makes it much more searchable both on the site and especially in search engines. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Jun 15, 2015 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ @bon "Extraction" is a different purification technique in which water and an organic solvent, such as dimethyl ether are mixed with the solute and separated with a separatory funnel. $\endgroup$
    – Shaka Boom
    Jun 17, 2015 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ @ShakaBoom. I was not aware of that. I thought that extraction referred to the general process of removing a desired compound from a mixture/solution/anything else similar. Someone needs to improve the tag wiki for extraction to make it more clear. As I said before, I support creating a distillation tag. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Jun 17, 2015 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget 'fractional distillation' like 'Vigreaux', 'liquid-liquid extraction', 'Dean-Stark water-separatory distillation', 'short-path' distillation versus long, the difference between actual 'distillation' and 'sublimation'... $\endgroup$
    – DrAzulene
    Jul 5, 2016 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


My 2 cents..

I'd argue for "let's create tags that we can imagine will have 20-30 questions over the next year."

I think at the moment that , , and are all relevant for your original question. seems OK and clearly fits that rule of thumb. I think your sub-tags seem very specific and comments here seem to echo that.

My initial worry about is that it might be mis-applied. I think it's quite legitimate to have concerns about vacuum safety and vacuum equipment, pumps, etc. considering the frequency used in experimental chemistry. A quick search turns up lots of questions already, so I think it's worth creating.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to rephrase that, if you don't mind: My initial worry about vacuum is that it might be very very very very very very feasibly mis-applied. I'd imagine that outta 100 questions tagged with vacuum, 95.95% be mis-applied. :) $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Jun 16, 2015 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.Ramezani Agreed, although looking through the questions with search, it's clear that there are plenty of reasonable topics with vacuum safety, etc. $\endgroup$ Jun 16, 2015 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ Yes @Geoff - But the problem is, not many do searches before applying tags. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Jun 16, 2015 at 19:26

I am the offender who cancelled the . It came up in the new tags category, I read the post and applied as I thought this would fit the scope reasonably well. I did only read the comments, when I was about to leave one myself. Not wanting to cause further harm, I just left the whole thing alone. I am glad you bring it up on meta now.

In general I think is probably an underused tag. There may be a couple of questions that deserve it in the first place.

Now that I read the comments and this post, I am convinced, that there is use for a , as there is use for , , .
Currently there are about 100 questions with distil* in question title or body, so there seems to be the need for it. As usual, this needs to be rolled out over a suitable course of time. When editing such questions, make sure to edit everything and not only applying a new tag.
And please write a tag wiki for it.

Taking it further than that is not necessary. A few guidelines about that can be found in the archive of the mother ship: How do I correctly tag my questions? tl;dr Do not use tags to summarise your question.

I do not think we need a tag with the name vacuum. To me it suggests primarily a question about vacuum. I agree with M.A.Ramezani, that this tag might be misplaced more often than not. I would not even know how to start defining a scope for that.
If it is a question primarily about safety working with/ in vacuum, tag it . If it is about the equipment, seems appropriate.

Tags are a good way, especially with a steady growing site, to organise the site, grouping questions, making them more visible for users who enjoy the favourite tags feature. Making tags too specialised or too undefined means, that you either miss half of the questions that might be interesting, or that you have to subscribe to a lot of tags, rendering the feature almost useless.

  • $\begingroup$ I was going to ask a Meta of my own and then found this question. I totally agree. All the existing workup tags seem fine (sublimation as well), and so should distillation. In fact, so should workup. These are all good concepts for more detailed searching. $\endgroup$
    – user467
    Jun 22, 2015 at 0:26

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