I wonder if having a tag of type around is necessary. The excerpt and wiki say:


Use for questions which involve a GIS principle or theory and are software agnostic


A large proportion of questions asked at GIS SE come out of someone's use of GIS software.

However, there are some where the question is more theoretical than applied, and in those case, using the gis-principle tag acts to alert potential answers that the asker is not interested in being provided with the steps to use in a particular software.

It does not help sorting questions by their specific GIS subject. I believe it is already pretty easy to infer if a question is theoretical, applied or both, by just reading what is written in the title and body.

Moreover, I see this tag carrying an implied message that usually questions in GIS SE should be software related (for example: we don't have a counter tag for 'gis-principle' as 'gis-application').

Currently, the tag is used only on 77 posts and it would be easy to eliminate it.

Should we treat theoretical GIS questions different from applied ones, when comes to tagging?

  • 1
    Isn't the "GIS" in "GIS-principle" a little redundant on our site?
    – underdark
    Sep 16, 2016 at 8:49
  • @underdark I'm thinking no more so than in tags like gis-professional. If either dropped the "gis-" I think users would be wondering "what type of professional?" and "what type of principle?" or using them for various other types due to their ambiguity.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Sep 16, 2016 at 11:33

1 Answer 1


I think it is a useful tag even though it is not often used.

Part of the case I see for it is mentioned in my answer to Asking good Questions for GIS Stack Exchange? where I say:

Start by mentioning the GIS software and version that you are using, or explain that you are asking about a GIS principle or algorithm instead. This saves potential answerers having to try and guess, or to ask, all of which may slow down or prevent an answer to your question.

However, it is also intended to try and help those asking How could we encourage more non-software related questions? For example, @KirkKuykendall was the first to raise a possible need for some sort of "non-software" tag.

Personally, questions on GIS principles are rarely something that I would attempt to answer, but having that tag enables them to be easily found by those who are keen to.

Another often overlooked use of tags is the self-assembly of FAQs. In this case I would expect that our FAQ on GIS Principles might benefit every student of GIS and many Geography students.

There is of course no need for a complementary gis-application tag because almost every question could be tagged with it, and there seems to be nobody calling for a higher percentage of GIS product questions, whereas the call for more GIS principle questions seems to surface reasonably often.

  • 1
    Personally, I don't search for theoretical or applied questions, but for subjects I am interested in. Also, I don't believe the tag make a case for those asking How could we encourage more non-software related questions? (me included, and that is why I asked this question); because we would be treating theoretical questions as a special case of this site. Sep 15, 2016 at 21:11
  • 1
    @AndreSilva I think theoretical questions are a special case because they appear to be something of a near extinct species on this site. Simply having the tag says to those thinking about asking them that it is OK to ask, and helps to pre-empt them when asking, from being asked what software they are using, which delays their question being answered.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Sep 15, 2016 at 21:17
  • 1
    I believe the help center and the tour page already emphasize the scope of our site. Remember that tags were designed to describe the subject of a question, which [gis-principle] does not; it is a meta tag. Also, why would someone ask OP about a software if the question is software agnostic? Sep 15, 2016 at 21:48
  • @AndreSilva I think this is a case where pragmatism (rather than a purist approach) has a place. Tagging is hard. I think of it as wheel greasing and it is not always easy to decide where to place grease when grease is in limited supply. The gis-principle tag is a meta tag, and that is a strike against it but I think not a knock out.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Sep 15, 2016 at 21:54
  • 1
    Ok, we are thinking different on this matter. Let's see if more users can share their opinion. But I appreciate your time. Thanks. Sep 15, 2016 at 22:02
  • 5
    Some people have speculated that the reason for the "near extinction" of theoretical questions is that nowadays almost every question that doesn't explicitly refer to software is immediately challenged and closed. People who have been interested in GIS as a science, with attendant foundations, principles, and general procedures, have abandoned this site during the last two years. (cc @Andre)
    – whuber
    Jan 3, 2017 at 22:09
  • @whuber That's exactly the purpose of this answer i.e. to prevent such questions becoming extinct by supporting a simple mechanism (the gis-principle, algorithm, etc tags) to protect them from early closure which can so easily happen when they are mistakenly interpreted as being questions where the asker had not gone to the effort to test what they were asking about.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Jan 4, 2017 at 0:24

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