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First of all I would like to apologise to all our users in the southern hemisphere for giving it this name. I know you are heading towards autumn and similar to winter bash you are a bit left out. Sorry. (You could propose a different name though.)


Recently there has been some movement on meta and in the chat regarding reissuing the great retagging event, blacklisting the reaction tag, and the usefulness of the homework tag. Further tag additions, reworkings, and/or purges are also in various stages of informal discussion, and there are meta posts here, here and here regarding various potential cleanup activities not directly related to specific tags. There are multiple posts for these types of maintenance efforts on meta already and I invite you to use the search function for more context.

As a consequence, in order to better coordinate our efforts, as many attentive users may have noticed already, we created a new chat room: Spring Cleaning. This chat room will serve (1) as a central location for coordinating Spring Cleaning activities, as well as (2) a permanent record for discussing borderline questions that might not be a good fit and to either salvage them, or as a last measure delete them. We are all in for transparency, so this is our way of including every user.

This post serves both as a placeholder to make everyone aware that things are moving fast around here, as well as a reference guide/FAQ for the various cleanup activities ongoing and/or planned. There will almost certainly be edits to it, some likely substantial, and more, related meta posts will be spawned.

As this post is accompanying a recent/ongoing event it will be featured in the side bar for the duration of April 2017.

As always, we welcome every opinion and every helping hand. Please join us, and stay tuned for more.

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  • $\begingroup$ In re: the Github issue. I'm in and watching. As long as the repo is public, one needs only to have a Github account and go to the target repo and watch it. Additionally, branch and fork and all the usual git workflow actions (push, pull request, etc.). $\endgroup$ – Todd Minehardt Apr 1 '17 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddMinehardt The coordination of the cleanup action is happening in an internal "Project" of the repo, which I've unfortunately not yet found a way to expose to nonmembers of the organization. (The repo just holds 'valuable' content salvaged from deleted Q's/A's.) There's a whole bunch of details that need to be made available to the community about process, procedures, resources, etc., that will go in an answer to this question -- it'll hopefully be up by the end of the weekend. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Apr 1 '17 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddMinehardt Oops, typo: it's a Project on the organization, not the repo. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Apr 1 '17 at 15:39

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Why go to the trouble of editing every question tagged with , if it's going to be burninated anyways?

Well, for some tags, question-by-question editing/retagging indeed may not be all that valuable. As long as we manually take care of any questions tagged only with , if we can be fairly confident that the vast majority of the remaining questions will (1) be left with a satisfactory set of tags and (2) be of sufficiently high-quality, then there's likely not a huge benefit to an in-depth process.

However, consider a tag like , soon to be on the chopping block. There is a very high likelihood that many questions tagged are of ... questionable ... quality. Indeed, this is one of the reasons is up for burnination and/or blacklist, as it has morphed into a proxy for a variety of negative evaluations of questions, of varying levels of nebulousness. After is scrubbed from the site, we will have lost a valuable tool for narrowing search efforts to try to find and deal with such low(er)-quality questions. Thus, we want to exploit this sorting aspect of such a tag now, before getting rid of it.


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How does the cleanup process work?

The following procedure is subject to change, depending on how well it actually works in practice.

In theory, a Spring Cleaning event will have in attendance:

  • A moderator (for handling unusual circumstances)

  • A coordinator, preferably a Spring Cleaning chatroom owner (could be the same person as the moderator)

  • Some number of editors (the moderator could get involved with the editing)

The GitHub Project note cards for each Spring Cleaning activity will be laid out with lists of questions and/or tags/co-tags for editors to work through. In a formal chat event, the idea is that the coordinator will generally oversee the focus of work of each editor, in order to avoid work duplication and edit collisions. The pace and fluidity of such events is such that explicit assignment of tasks to individual editors is likely not practical. But, to the extent possible, editors should confer with the coordinator before moving on from one tasking to the next.

In events with a large number of editors involved, there is some risk of edit collisions on the notecards of the GitHub Project. Therefore, if practical, only the coordinator should update the Project note cards to indicate a particular task has been completed.


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  • $\begingroup$ What happened to this project? The GitHub Projects page is a 404 for me right now. Was it abandoned? $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Mar 6 '18 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @GaurangTandon AFAIK the activity on the GitHub project has been idle for some time. If you're not a member of the Chem.SE organization, then you don't have access to the project. Request membership to ChemSECleanup. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Mar 6 '18 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ There's no one around there...? github.com/orgs/ChemSECleanup/people $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Mar 6 '18 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @GaurangTandon You can't see the membership either, unless you're a member of the organization. Trust me, there are still members. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Mar 6 '18 at 14:56
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What are we doing about new questions tagged with ?

The Spring Cleaning room owners will establish feeds that will cause notices to be posted to the room whenever any new questions are posted with applied. Such questions should be promptly edited, at minimum, to remove and re-tag as appropriate. Application of further edits, up-/downvotes, close votes, flags, etc. as appropriate are encouraged.

Once has been dealt with on a new question, please ping one of the room owners to notify them the question has been resolved. They will then edit the feed post to clear the notification from the chat timeline.

If needed, this search link should show most (all?) outstanding questions the Feeds bot has posted to the Spring Cleaning room.


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How do I get started?

First of all, thanks for your interest in helping out! There are a couple of administrative things you need to do first in order to be ready to participate.

  1. If you don't have a GitHub account, go and create one (it's free).

  2. Go to the Spring Cleaning chat room and say hello.

  3. Ping one of the Spring Cleaning room owners with your GitHub username to be added to the membership roster of the Chemistry Stack Exchange Cleanup GitHub organization.

  4. Visit the event scheduling Google Doc, add your Chem.SE username, and fill in your availability for the cleanup chat events.

  5. Browse through the Projects in the GitHub organization to familiarize yourself with how things are laid out, and how the Projects interface works.

And that should do it! Now just keep an eye on the Spring Cleaning chat and Meta Chem.SE for word on when cleanup activities will be happening.


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What is a "co-tag"?

As used here, a 'co-tag' of a given tag of interest on a particular question is simply another tag that is also applied on that same question.

For example, consider this meta question itself. As of this writing, it has four tags applied: , , , and . For this question, each of these tags would be considered a co-tag of each of the other three tags in this list.

So, if we were doing a (very meta) meta cleanup of , I might be interested in tracking down all posts tagged with both and . In this context, would be the co-tag of the tag of primary interest.


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How can I quickly find questions that have a given co-tag?

  1. Go to the SEDE query here.

  2. Type in the name of the main tag being cleaned up into the Tag for co-tag frequency search box (e.g., for this initial cleanup, type reaction).

  3. Click Run Query.

  4. Do a search of the webpage for the co-tag of interest (Ctrl+F on most browsers).

  5. Click the matching link in the Posts w/At Least These Tags (Site Search) column of the query results

This will take you to a Chem.SE site search results page with all questions having both of those tags applied, as well as zero or more other tags.


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Do I need to wait for a chat event to work on Spring Cleaning?

Yes and no.

One of the main purposes for scheduling specific chat events is to avoid flooding the front page of the site with old questions for long stretches of time. Since we're a relatively small site and the pace of the front page activity is modest, a lot of users see new questions by observing them as they appear on the front page, rather than actively searching for questions relevant and/or interesting to them. Thus, a whole bunch of edits to old questions can be very disruptive, as new questions posted at the same time as those edits could be 'drowned out' by the flood of edited questions.

So, yes: working independently on Spring Cleaning by handling a few questions per day is absolutely welcomed. In particular, if a question needing cleanup happens to appear on the front page, it's a great chance for an opportunistic Spring Cleaning edit.

But, no: please don't aggressively Spring Clean outside of a scheduled chat event, so that the flooding of the homepage will be confined to a narrow slice of time.


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  • $\begingroup$ Wow, just read this today. Too late though. This should really have been pinned at the top of the room ಠ_ಠ $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Apr 26 '18 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ @GaurangTandon There's no way to pin answers. The sort order can be changed by each user. Might be worth editing the question with an "IMPORTANT! Read this answer!" sort of thing, though. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Apr 26 '18 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ I was just joking :P Though, yeah, given that this has already come up on meta three times (1, 2, 3), once every year, before as well as after Spring Cleaning, it might be worth looking into. $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Apr 26 '18 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ @GaurangTandon Ueah... One of the difficulties with the Stack Exchange sites' setup is that there's not really a good way to keep meta posts in front of everybody all the time. Even if we had some sort of "Read these first!!" meta post to keep them ~pinned, there's really no guarantee that everybody would even see it, much less read it. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Apr 26 '18 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, right, agreed. $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Apr 26 '18 at 2:32
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What actions should I take when cleaning up a post?

In general, you should deal with posts essentially the same way you would outside the context of a Spring Cleaning event.

First and foremost: Upvote or downvote as appropriate!

Beyond that, the needed actions will depend on the condition the post is in, and whether it fits the guidelines for what are and aren't good questions for the site, or for what represents a high-quality answer.

If the post overall has good content and is on-topic for the site, then it should be edited in the same fashion as any post on the site, just as if a Spring Cleaning chat event were not occurring.

If the post doesn't meet these criteria, or if it's in such bad editorial condition that substantial edits would be required to salvage it, then other actions such as voting to close or raising a flag may be appropriate. The specific approach to questions in this category will depend on the particular Spring Cleaning event that is occurring.

  • In some instances, the focus of an event may be to work through a given set of questions as quickly as possible. In this case, the event coordinator will indicate where to document questions that need further attention.

  • In other instances, the focus may be on handling all relevant questions in detail, during the event. In this case, the event coordinator will indicate whether flagging, voting to close, or other actions should be taken. The action to be taken may change over the course of the event: for example, if the frequency of flag-raising or close-voting increases to the point where one or more review queues gets flooded, the strategy may change from active raising/voting on questions to filing them away for later action.

When in doubt, just ask in chat!


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Won't questions with more than two tags get over-counted in the co-tag search?

Yep. But, it doesn't really matter.

If the SEDE query that generates a list of co-tags is used to find co-tags for, say, , a question tagged with will show up in the co-tag count for all of the three other tags. But, the tag counts are really used only to approximately sort the co-tags by prevalence, so that high-occurrence co-tags (e.g., ) can be handled differently from low-occurrence co-tags (e.g., ).

Another side effect of this multiple counting is that by the end of a given tag cleanup effort, the actual number of questions left to be cleaned up on any given co-tag will be far less than the original co-tag count, since any questions that had been tagged with previously-cleaned-up co-tags will have already been taken care of. The co-tag search thus provides an overestimate of the amount of work that will be required for a given Spring Cleaning event, which should hopefully provide a sense of rapid progress to the participants.


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Wait, so if SEDE only updates once a week, aren't these lists of questions/co-tags outdated?

Yes, they are. However, for the purposes of organizing a Spring Cleaning event, they will be accurate enough to enable the event team to reach, say, $98\%+$ of the relevant questions. Any posts that slip through the cracks can be located for final cleanup by a manual site search.


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What is a 'question ID', how do I find it, and how can I use it?

Every question on any Stack Exchange network sub-site is assigned an ID number that is unique on that sub-site.

The ID number for any question can be found in the URL of the question link. At this writing, question URLs have the form:

https://{SE subsite}.com/questions/{question ID}/{description}

For this FAQ question, {SE subsite} is chemistry.meta.stackexchange, and the question ID is 3673. Note that meta sites are distinct sub-sites from their parent Q&A, so for Spring Cleaning purposes, {SE subsite} will be chemistry.stackexchange. (FWIW, there is no question 3673 on the main site).

Question IDs are useful mainly as a very short reference to a specific question, since entering a question ID into the site search box will take you directly to that question. In the context of Spring Cleaning in particular, the short length of the IDs is useful because GitHub Project note cards have a very tight character limit.

As an interesting sidenote, the {description} in a site link doesn't actually matter. A link reading, e.g., https://chemistry.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3673/cheese-doodles will still take you to this Spring Cleaning overview question.


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What is "SEDE"?

SEDE is an acronym for the Stack Exchange Data Explorer, a modified-SQL interface to an archived version of the databases underlying the Stack Exchange site network. The data in SEDE is usually updated weekly, on Sundays around noon UTC.


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Hmm, this co-tag has a lot of questions to it. How can I search for "co-co-tags" of both of these tags?

We've got a SEDE query for that: it's here.

Follow the same steps as for finding a regular co-tag.


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Where did these lists of questions/co-tags come from?

Most lists of individual questions were curated manually by various site members, via the site search function.

Most lists of co-tags were generated from a SEDE query, here.


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