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Yesterday, Jeff felt our medicine tag was too large:

This is problematic, because you now have 328 things tagged medicine to the point that it's far and away the #1 tag on the site ... this is egregiously wrong so I am undoing it. It's already caused a ton of damage since the #1 tag is frequently wrong. I'm bringing [health] back for now, we need to retag hundreds of questions that erroneously got [medicine] attached that have nothing to do with medicine

In other words, we've been using the medicine tag too generously and it covers a too large amount of different topics, from Does regular handwashing with antibacterial soap prevent disease? to Does lean mass aid burning calories? to If you shave or wax, will the hair grow back stronger or thicker?.

In early beta, we settle to use the field of research the topic calls on as category tag. As a result, the health tag was made a synonym to medicine because those questions could be best answered by an health professional (nurse, doctor, etc.). If we're gonna need to split all the health-related questions meaningfully, we are going to need to find what are the subdivisions of the medicine tag. Health is just too vague. We can't allow that to exist.

Oh, and then we'll have a ton of fun retagging questions.

So, ya, any ideas?

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If we keep for everything concerning illnesses and health there are some questions tagged with medicine that should be moved into a different tag:


  • This is a difficult one as many nutrition-related questions are about the effects on health of certain foods. I don't think the medicine tag should be removed from those, they are in the end also medical questions and should remain tagged as such. We should remove the medicine tag from all nutrition questions that are not about health effects, but that are not that many.

  • and as subsets of
    For all those questions that are about the human body, but not about diseases or medicine.


  • about how to get rid of bacteria and similar questions.


  • Some questions are not really medical questions, but about doctors, hospitals and other aspects of healthcare.

Seperating the general biology questions from the medicine questions probably has the biggest effect. One could make an argument that nutrition questions should be seperate from medicine questions, but I'm not yet convinced that that would be useful.

  • I think we ought to remove the medicine tag from nutrition question. A dietician is better equipped to answer those questions than a nurse or a doctor. – Borror0 Aug 16 '11 at 17:10
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    nutrition absolutely should be separate from the extremely generic "medicine". – Jeff Atwood Aug 16 '11 at 17:16
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All questions that would appropriately be tagged with are essentially about medical issues and should be tagged with , that is why I originally proposed this synonym and later created it. Health is an extremely vague term, and any time someone is asking about whether something affects health he is asking a question about medicine.

There is just no sensible way to divide health and medicine, they are one and the same topic and I strongly oppose arbitrarily dividing this topic. If you have a question about health you ask your doctor, who has studied medicine.

There are cases where the medicine tag is wrongly applied, we have the nutrition tag for some questions and we probably should add a personal hygiene tag and remove those questions from the medicine tag. What those questions, where the medicine tag does not fit, have in common, is that they are neither about medicine nor about health! Applying the health tag here does not make any more sense than applying the medicine tag, both are equally wrong in these cases.

Removing the synonym from health to medicine does nothing to solve this mistagging and I am convinved we should reinstate this synonym. There are questions mistagged as medicine that are neither about medicine nor health and we need to find appropriate and reasonably useful tags for those.

Medicine is the most popular topic on Skeptics, I don't find it suprising, medicine is a field full of pseudoscience that needs to be debunked and discredited. Medical pseudoscience is the reason I am participating in this site, medical pseudoscience actively harms and sometimes kills people. I consider medical pseudoscience the most important of all Skeptics topics and I am not surprised that it comprises a large part of the whole site.

We could divide medicine into the medical subfields, but I don't consider this solution practical. We have additional tags we can use for the more common medical issues like , , or . If used additionally to the medicine tag those should be useful to further divide the topic.

I strongly oppose subdividing into smaller pieces, we should correct wrongly tagged questions, but remains a completely useless tag that should be eliminated.

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    are you a native English speaker? I think you're missing some important connotations here to the word "medicine", at least the way we commonly use it here in the USA. When we say "medicine", we generally mean the stuff that comes in pills and bottles that you take when prescribed by a doctor. – Jeff Atwood Aug 16 '11 at 14:55
  • @Jeff I am not talking about medication, but about "the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease" from Merriam Webster. – Mad Scientist Aug 16 '11 at 15:01
  • OK, I'll ask again, since you did not answer. Are you a native English speaker? I realize this is technically correct, but in a way that doesn't reflect common usage here in the USA. "health" is a better choice for summarizing this; when we say "medicine", we generally mean pills prescribed by a doctor. – Jeff Atwood Aug 16 '11 at 15:15
  • @Jeff: Whenever applicable, we use the name of the science: chemistry, physics, psychology, economics, etc. Medicine is not any different; it's the proper term. If we wanted to talk about pills and other drugs, we'd use pharmacology. – Borror0 Aug 16 '11 at 17:03
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    @bor I suggest using [medical] in that case, as a native speaker, it doesn't have the weird connotations that [medicine] does. – Jeff Atwood Aug 16 '11 at 17:04
  • That's what tag excerpts are for, @Jeff. More importantly, medicine is a pretty specific term, that refers to one kind of science. On the other hand, health is a rather vague term which comprises many things such as hygiene, nutrition, health care, nursing, and so on. Since you complained that the medicine tag was overused, I'm confused as to why you would prefer us to use a vaguer and larger umbrella. – Borror0 Aug 16 '11 at 17:16
  • @bor all I can tell you is that tagging a question as [medicine] -- unless that question specifically references pills, or other drugs -- feels extremely unnatural to me as a native English speaker. You're probably going to see a lot of incorrect use of that tag. – Jeff Atwood Aug 16 '11 at 17:22
  • @bor I agree that health is too broad, and I definitely support the more specific alternatives in the other upvoted answer here, like physiology, hygiene, healthcare, etc etc. Anything that gets rid of the [medicine] or [health] -- both are bad and too broad IMHO -- in favor of something more specific and less confusing is better. – Jeff Atwood Aug 16 '11 at 17:25
  • [medical-science] is what is used by Harvard, although I am quite sure that people in the US go there to study medicine... ;-) – Sklivvz Aug 16 '11 at 20:54
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The problem

After a lot of chatting and trying to understand how tags are supposed to work (everybody has a different opinion):

  • tags should be unambiguous in naming
  • tags should be big enough so that they generate a stream of questions (so people can subscribe to RSS)
  • tags should be small enough so that as the site grows they don't become catch alls

The solution

I propose:

Examples

Use

Use

Use

Not medicine

  • I have issues with every proposal so far, including mine. For this one, I think it is going to take a lot of policing - medical-science versus medical-practice is going to be too subtle for someone anyone who hasn't spent the time to read about them. I don't consider calamine lotion as a prescription-drug (available over-the-counter where I live). I do consider the hepatitis vaccine to be a prescription-drug. So these distinctions are going to require careful moderation by experienced users. – Oddthinking Aug 17 '11 at 14:35
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    I agree with you: in any case, every proposal will require policing, including keeping [medicine] as is. Regarding [prescription-drugs] I understand your point, but can't think of a different tag ([drugs], [medicine] are too ambiguous, [medicines] is too similar to [medicine]). Feel free to change my answer if you have better names :-) Finally, regarding the categorizations, I too feel that both examples were borderline. Honestly, I am not a tag-nazi and I find a little ambiguity or miscategorisation perfectly acceptable. – Sklivvz Aug 17 '11 at 14:45
  • How do you feel about [pharmaceuticals]? – Oddthinking Aug 17 '11 at 14:52
  • what about proper nouns like [medicament], [pharmacon], [treatment]? – Sklivvz Aug 17 '11 at 14:56
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    According to the thesaurus [medicinal-drug] and [medication] are also good candidates – Sklivvz Aug 17 '11 at 15:00
  • @Oddthinking: Pharmacology makes more sense than pharmaceuticals Though, both are much better than medicines. – Borror0 Aug 17 '11 at 15:12
  • I don't understand the distinction between medical practice and medical science, I agree that we should remove healthcare questions from medicine, but I don't think we should further subdivide medicine, especially not along such a vague line. I also don't think drugs/medication should be removed from medicine. – Mad Scientist Aug 18 '11 at 6:44
  • Well, if you fundamentally disagree with splitting medicine, there's no argument. However, assuming we had no choice, then this way wouldn't be so bad... – Sklivvz Aug 18 '11 at 6:54
  • @skl it's [medical] not [medicine] -- that alone is a hugely positive change. – Jeff Atwood Aug 28 '11 at 15:05

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