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There seems to be a class of question that is more than one that would be asked by someone who really isn't a sysadmin or is just starting their career (where the [beginner] tag is very appropriate.

Something like a middle ground for someone to use who is by no means an IT beginner but they are starting to work on a technology that is new to them. Something like [fundamentals] so that there isn't the connotation that goes with the [beginner] tag.

Something that would give us a middle ground where someone wouldn't have to preface a bunch of questions with "hey I'm new to this tech, not IT in general."

Do you guys (and gals) see any value in that type of tag, and how would you define its use?

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4 Answers

Keep in mind that the tagging system is mostly used for searching. I don't see how a [fundamentals], [beginner], or other tags is very useful for finding questions.

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I've said this on StackOverflow, SuperUser, and everywhere anyone has ever mentioned anything like a [beginner] tag. Tags like [beginner] and [fundamentals] have two problems - they are not well-defined nor do they have a strong meaning to describe the content.

What is a fundamental or beginner concept to you might be second nature to me. Let's take the recurring theme of a system administrator with 15 years of experience in Linux- and Unix-based systems. This admin takes over a Windows system. He is not a beginner, nor does he know what the fundamentals of running a Windows system are. He does, however, understand key words such as "batch script", "service", and "shell" and can use these key words to tag his question in meaningful ways.

Even if the tags weren't applied by the asker, you still have the problem of defining what is fundamental or beginner - not everyone draws the lines in the same place. And it's harder to define skill levels than it is key words (especially technical words).

All of that said, however, a methodology for defining things like "beginner", "intermediate", "advanced", "fundamentals", and other similar words would be of benefit to every Stack Exchange community. The specifics would have to be done by every community, but a process that has worked once and can be applied multiple times would be useful in developing communities to be able to categorize questions.

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And just a random two-cents: When the "third-place" chat goes live, this kind of discussion is much, much easier and I think will redefine most of the stack exchanges out there. Non-real-time communication isn't that great for this kind of dynamic discussion. It's good for letting people get their thoughts in the open, but not good for settling points and reaching agreements. –  Thomas Owens Jul 26 '10 at 3:05
    
yes i would have preferred to talk it over there, but this is the format we have for now. –  Zypher Jul 26 '10 at 3:19
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Beginner/fundamental tag is useful in allowing people to just ignore it (rather than voting to pitch it to SU inappropriately). I think it would also be of great value to a ... beginner! I would've devoured every beginner tagged question if i'd had SF when I started out.

As for defining what qualifies as beginner, I don't see that it's necessary. It'd also be impossible. But like everything else in the spirit of the trilogy, the commmmunity will reach consensus. If a person tags their question and an expert feels that it's more advanced, they can remove the tag - or add it in thhe opposite scenario.

I think it's important to avoid ivory-tower attempts to lock things down too rigidly in search of The One Truth. These sites are vibrant (and useful in the really real world) in part due to their flexibility.

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I see merit in having beginner and fundamentals tags because I believe it helps others to get an idea of what level they need to address their answers to.

As an example, if I saw a question that had the beginner or fundamentals tag I would assume the OP needs to be led by the hand. For the same question without such tags I would make what I think are reasonable assumptions about what I would expect the OP to already know about the topic.

Same question - two very different answers, depending on the tags used (or not used).

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