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I am wondering whether tags can legitimately be used to provide context to a question, or if they should be there only to classify the questions and ease searching.

As an example, there has been this question recently: Possiblity of Using Transistor as Resistor. And here is an extract of some comments that have been made (in case they get deleted):

pipe: Sounds like you're actually designing an IC. If that's true, you must inform us about this quite vital information.

OP: [...] Yes, I am designing an IC circuit for a research purpose [...]

[... some more comments, and some time passing ...]

me: I'm downvoting because it is a shame you still didn't update your question to indicate you're designing an IC. This is obviously a crucial information. Giving it in the comments is not enough. If you update your question appropriately, I'll remove my downvote.

jbord39: dude it's been tagged IC the whole time.

me, falling off my chair: An IC tag? We're supposed to see that and guess it means you're designing an IC? Seriously, just add a sentence to your question.

I don't think my point of view is completely broken in this specific case (except I made my last comment as if it was OP answering, but this isn't really relevant). I don't see how we could assume the tag implicitly says your question is about ASIC design. But it's true that, for example, on Stack Overflow, tags are often used to indicate the relevant programming language, without mentioning it again in the question itself. And it's also true that I never think of looking at tags to check if they provide additional context information, which may be a mistake.

So my questions are:

  • Do you always check the tags when looking at a question?
  • Is it often used to provide some additional context, not explicitly indicated in the question text?
  • Is this legitimate, or should all relevant information be provided in the question text itself?
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a plot twist here. I added the integrated-circuit tag after the fact, so "jbord39: dude it's been tagged IC the whole time." is not true. \$\endgroup\$ – pipe Jul 31 '16 at 19:06
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On EE.SE the tags get so wildly misused and over-spawned that it's nigh on impossible to moderate it all away with the small group attempting to do so. (And I admit freely to not being a big enough part myself)

As such my only interaction with tags is to delete wrong ones, add relevant ones and once in a while look at merge/deletion proposals and weigh in if I can.

Other than that, if it's not in the text, my answer will NOT consider it.

I have seen questions in the line of, for example, titularly asking about using a transistor, being tagged with "LED" "Power-Supply" "Arduino" and it being about how to identify which pin is the base on the physical package.

I'm sorry, but if that's the way the broader community uses a valuable resource like tags, that's when I stop paying any heed to them in the process of answering.

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Tags are irrelevant to the content of a question. They are for limiting search results only.

My brain has long ago tuned them out when reading a question. If it's not in the question body (comments don't count either), it's not in the question. I'm totally with pipe in your sequence above. I wouldn't have noticed the tag either. The downvote for not adding pertinent information to the question, especially after it was pointed out, was justified.

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