Thoughts on Tags

Hey guys. I’ve been writing for a little while and reading for much longer. Does anyone else get intimidated by a story with too many tags? I’ve definitely found in more recent times that a lot of stories aren’t for me, either because they’re too niche or have a theme that I don’t go for; I assume most people are like that which is why he have such a healthy cornucopia of content. But one of the ways I filter through all the content is by checking the tags. I have a tendency to avoid stories altogether if they have a tag that I don’t like (scat, incest, among others), but when a story has a like thirty or forty tags, I feel overwhelmed and just assume that whatever’s happening isn’t for me. That’s perhaps not a fair judgment, but also I find it’s a bit trickier to use tags to find what I am into because what I like about a story tends to be more conceptual and less about the themes themselves.

Conversely, I have found that I struggle to think of tags for my own stories. Part of that is because they do tend to be simple in nature, particularly when it comes to the actual sex involved. I appreciate when other people suggest tags because I often overlook ones that would help people who might like my story find it, but I have also found that I’m afraid to add a tag that might be appropriate because it may set the wrong impression for the story; in one story, “Race Change” was a tag I used, not because it was a story about race changes but because that was an element that was included as part of a larger event. One reader even commented that he thought to avoid the story because of that tag, but was relieved when he read it that it was not what he thought it would be. Because there’s no weight to tags, it’s hard to wield them and actually describe what kind of story it’s actually going to be, so particularly when I see thirty or forty tags for one story, especially those that run for several parts and have a wide variety of themes, it can be tough to really get a sense of what I might like vs. what I’m going to find a turn off.

Does anyone else grapple with this, either as a reader or an author? I know I shouldn’t judge books by their covers (tags), but also, I can’t read every book on the shelf just to see if I might like it, and I for sure want people who would like my books to pick it up and at least want to flip through it. Thoughts?


You’re not alone. I had the same thought when seeing several of the stories that are currently on the front page with three lines worth of tags. I haven’t read them, simply because it looks like they’re throwing every possible fetish into the story, and it makes me imagine that the story will be a huge mess. I kind of wish that tags were capped at 10 for that reason. Just pick the 10 or fewer tags that best describe your story rather than turning it into some SEO nightmare.

I’m also cautious about putting too many tags on my stories, especially when they relate to controversial topics. I initially had the “Incest” tag on my most recent story, because there’s a very brief scene at the end where both a father and a son get ensared. But I decided to take it out, because I realized that with the “Incest” tag in place, some unregistered readers wouldn’t get to see my story at all. Besides, we don’t ever see the father and son characters having sex in the story (although I think it’s implied that this might eventually happen).


I actually love tags, but I understand exactly what you’re talking about. Tags function a little bit as trigger warning and a lot as advertisements. I wrestled with putting an incest tag on one of my stories because the people involved weren’t blood relatives - then realized that’s silly, because that’s not actually what’s important. If someone doesn’t want to see that, they shouldn’t read that story, and if they’re looking for it, they should be able to find it; the tag helps both sides of the equation. (I’m writing Nanites Amok, for reference.)

The fact that series “inherit” all the tags of their component stories sort of screws with that dynamic a little but it also makes sense. The alternative is assigning a series only the tags that appear across all component stories and if someone’s got a Thing they really don’t want to see for good reason (sexual violence, for example) then they shouldn’t be surprised by it.


I agree with this.

One of the things I really wish people wouldn’t do is put a tag simply because something is mentioned as a one-off thing. Like, for example, having the Rimming tag because one person spends a nano second licking ass before the fucking happens, which then takes paragraphs. A single, nano-second of an activity is not a tag make.

I honestly think its the same with the Incest tag you mentioned above - having both a father and son enslaved but no actual sexual content between them in story doesn’t make for Incest tag.

I also agree with the note that there are so many new stories that are just basically ignored by me due to a lack of interest in what they have within them.


I couldn’t agree more. I generally cap my stories at four or five tags. I only want to include the tags that play an important role in the story, not just anything. It may get me fewer clicks, but I’m okay with getting fewer clicks if it means not bogging someone down with every tag that could even possibly relate to my story.

Also, a suggestion - sometimes I see stories with tags on them that aren’t even in the story. There is a function where you’re able to edit tags on the story. If a story is tagged with something and that thing is not there, definitely remove the tag. It’s not fair to tag your story with what’s basically deception.


So, I think this means that we’re creating more work for Martin. :stuck_out_tongue: Combining the above with some of my own ideas, this is what I think would be the most useful, but I fully acknowledge that this is probably a lot of work and may not be practical in the real world.

I think, on the various story listing, it would be useful to have a button that toggles between showing chapter tags and full story tags. Personally, I’d want to leave chapter tags on by default, but be able to toggle to story tags. As brought up above, other people might feel differently if they’re trying to avoid a specific activity that occurs anywhere in the story. So, that probably means a User Profile preference with a temporary override toggle on the listing screen. That would be the most useful, I think, but simpler would be to just put it in the User Profile and people can go there if they need to toggle it. Or maybe list combined tags at the top of a story when you click on it, then chapter tags for each chapter? :man_shrugging:

Possibly combined with the above, if story tags are used, perhaps have a limit on the number displayed, like the Top 10, based either on a straight usage count across the whole story or on weight (see next para).

Maybe add a weighting system. This would allow authors to indicate how much any given story is about the specific tag.

Some kind of tag-approval system would be really nice. This could could actually be implemented along with tag weighting, where either authors or registered readers could add tags, but only authors could assign weights. Default weight might be a fixed value, say 10, or maybe have to add up to 100. I see the latter getting unwieldy very quickly, though. Tags added by others get a a weight of 0 and only show up for the author until they add a weight or delete the tag as incorrect.

How does that all sound? (And Martin, is any of this feasible or would it take too long to implement and/or not work with our setup?)

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I think this would be pretty cool, but I also sort of feel like it might distract some authors from actually writing as they try to measure how much of which tag they want to put where, etc. I think self- or community-defined tags in general are a major strength of the site. The conventions/expectations of how they’re used might be the things worth setting or discussing, and separating series and chapter tags out might help clarify the advertising/trigger warning dimensions for people with (hopefully) minimal strain on Martin or the ability of readers to add a tag and improve the site’s overall usability.

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I was not sure based on your comment if you are aware that anybody can already edit the tags - unless the author has locked them explicitly. The edit dialog is right under the rating panel at the end of each story.

@RobinHood70 and @Dace

As for your suggestions, you always have to remember that people need to understand and be able to use the features. And be willing to. I don’t really see that with weighted tags at all. Also the separating of story and series tags would mean that you need to be able to configure series tags independently from the story tags.

Quiz: How many of you are even aware that you can edit the series name and its summary separately? Honest answer please. I’ve added that (before, the summary and title was defined by the first story and could not be changed) about a year ago, and I don’t think this is ever used. At least not that I’m aware of.

It does make sense for certain tags to be ‘story only’, i.e. that these tags are not propagated to the whole series automatically. “No Sex” comes to mind immediately, because people tend to attach that to introduction chapters etc. and then the whole series gets tagged with “no sex”. I could also imagine that it would make sense for stuff like “incest”. These tags would then only get propagated if all chapters of a series carry them.

This is a change I could actually be done without too much effort. But it would be a given set of tags which don’t propagate. And it would also mean that those tags wouldn’t count towards the “3 tags minimum” for a story - otherwise the series could end up with less than 3 tags.

If you really insist, I actually can add a tag-edit dialog for the whole series as well (together with a lock button to disable the automatic propagation from the stories). But I would only do that, if you really think it’s worth it.

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I didn’t mean story tags as independent from the series, just as the amalgamation of all the tags on the series, like they are now. In other words, no change in functionality, just a change in what’s displayed where.

With weighting, that would automatically take care of the “no sex” issue, since presumably only a few chapters would have that tag, so the combined weight (whether it’s a true weight or just counting the number of chapters with that tag) would minimize the “no sex” down to a lesser tag, assuming most chapters actually did have sex in them.

And yes, I’m aware that you can edit series descriptions and titles separately from chapter descriptions and titles. I think I may have even done it at some point, but I’m not 100% certain of that.

(Edit: yes, I have, on Truth Be Told.)

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If I understand your concept of weighted tags correctly, the author / user would have to add a number to every tag set (using a slider or whatever) to define its weight. That’s not only completely unusual (I’ve never seen this anywhere) it’s also not transparent to the user. It would need a whole lot of explanation. I don’t want to increase the hurdle for using a feature this way, the acceptance will be really low, I speak from experience.

What we can do easily enough is to change the property of a tag in itself - not the assignment to a story, but to the whole tag. Like give a tag like “no sex” a property which causes it to be handled differently. Like I suggested before.

Currently, tag assignments to stories and series are stored as a simple set (an unordered list), so they don’t have an inherent order in which they can be displayed. So I simply can’t sort them in any way without changing the underlying data model.

Which can be changed, of course, but then again, each assignment to a series would need a separate property (the order, its weight, whatever). Even if this is calculated automatically, like based on the number of stories this tag is actually used on, it would mean a major change and a data migration.

I don’t say that this is out of the question, but is has to be worth the effort.

Adding a property to a tag itself, like “only promote if set on all stories within a series” is easy to do, in comparison. Even though it might not fulfill all of your ideas right now, it would be a step in that direction.

And actually offering the option to make the list of tags on series to be editable manually is much less of a change that weighted or ordered tags. So I’d be willing to do that, if you really want it. But they’d still be listed in an arbitrary order.


For my part, I think the current tags work just fine. :smile:

I’m not intimidated by a lot of tags but i will check them to make sure nothing unappealing is in them. In my opinion the more the merrier as long as they are accurate, though i only look for certain one like nanities, alien, tf and the sort.

Ironically we have a similar issue with tagging (non fiction) material at work. Some people don’t know what is available and under-identify their material, other people go nuts. Either extreme is not helpful. I think when you’re identifying a story you should probably just focus on the main descriptors plus anything you think is really an essential trigger warning. For instance if some guy puts on a leather jockstrap to go out to the bar in your story and that’s just a detail of his sexy outfit, I don’t think it should be tagged with “leather” or “underwear”. It’s false advertising and visual clutter. Focus on what the story is really about, like getting roofied at the bar and being turned into a living mannequin (drugged, statue).

I think most stories would be best tagged with about 2-6 things.


Absolutely agree. I think most stories only have about 6 tags, at most, that truly apply to them. There are rare exceptions, but even then, they’d maybe be ten tags. I have no idea what’s happening with the stories tagged with a million tags, but I’m certain that not all of them are accurate.

I used to be very minimal with tags as I find them a nuisance to tick off. What I found was that other people added ones I had ‘forgotten’ to put in. This happened several times, so I started adding more. Many of the categories overlap - for example - slave + obedient + submissive. It is hard to know which to choose. I try only to include tags that are really relevant to the story and which feature in a big way. Sometimes even the ‘main heading’ tags rather overlap - for example, ‘mind-wipe’ and ‘hypnosis’. Having said all of that, when searching for stories to read, I use them myself as I have a few fetishes that really turn me on and without tags I’d have to trawl through a lot of stories to find them.

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Thank you for your example about “obedient” and “submissive” because that gives me the chance to bring up the fact that I’ve created so called “alias” tags long ago (this was about the first thing I did after taking over from Hugh), because I realized that tags are only useful if different terms and ways of naming them still have the same result.

If you search for the tag “submissive” you’ll also get all stories tagged with “obedience”. Because those two are marked as alias, see here:

The small symbol next to the tag name means “this has an alias” and hovering over that brings up the list of aliased tags. BTW, if you think that there are tags which should be aliased but are not, just let me know.


Frankly i love the tag system that we have. Nifty has categories but it is so hard to find stories to like since people only tag 1 or 2 and no summary but it’s still better than mcstories which have up to 4 i think and even then i hate it. The worst are the blog sites where people just don’t tag. I wish more sites had tags like this, archive of our own is pretty good with tags for the most part except it might be the example of excessive.

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Oh jeez, AO3 goes extremely excessive sometimes. I love the site for things that don’t fit on this site - excessive violence and such - but I just skip any story with more than 20 or so tags, and some of the things on there are just unwieldy. But I do absolutely agree with you @flamefox23 - the system on this site absolutely beats both Nifty and Mcstories.