There have been a few edit wars recently concerning the tag. This question is an attempt to reach a community consensus on the usage of this particular tag.

So, what exactly is this tag for and when should we use it?

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    askubuntu.com/tags/command-line/info ;) "Questions using this tag might be related to Bash - the default command line shell in Ubuntu, Shell-Scripting and Programming." – Rinzwind Apr 19 '14 at 12:13
  • Notice that I upvoted the question because I think that this should be settled not because I agree with your conclusions. – Braiam Apr 19 '14 at 13:46
  • @Braiam of course not! Please feel free to downvote the answer though, that's the whole point of this Q. It would also be great if you could post an answer explaining your point of view. – terdon Apr 19 '14 at 14:02
  • If I modify the current tag excerpt to remove any ambiguity would you agree? I agree that tag excerpt invites to many interpretations, and that's not useful. – Braiam Apr 20 '14 at 20:13
  • BTW, the tag wiki specifically say related to "bash", "shell scripting" and "programming", nothing about programs that runs on the command line. – Braiam Apr 20 '14 at 20:29
  • It says they might be related to bash. Not that they have to be. Anyway @Braiam I would ask you to not edit that tag's wiki. There is no ambiguity in the excerpt and in any case, your view on its use is clearly not shared by the community so please, just leave it alone. – terdon Apr 21 '14 at 10:38
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    Just on a personal note: I have never understood edit wars. Just ask a mod, post a meta question, chat about it, but for the community's sake let's keep away from these edit wars. [terdon: I know this is not the issue you raise and I don't think you are in one of these wars, so no offense intended; Thanks for asking this question.] – don.joey Apr 29 '14 at 17:38
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    About the content: for the difference between shell, terminal and console: unix.stackexchange.com/questions/4126/… – don.joey Apr 29 '14 at 17:42
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    I consider this more of a problem: "There have been a few edit wars". Any user that retracts/rollbacks/edits an edit from another user that has his fair amount of rep should come to chat and ask about it or explain why. Not just hammer around and keep rolling back and forth. Those edit wars are a disgrace and I am disappointed in several users; even more so since some of them I considered moderator material and I believe this reflects badly on them. – Rinzwind Apr 29 '14 at 18:29

This is the tag's wiki excerpt:

Questions about using the command-line interface (CLI).

And the only usage guideline from the tag's wiki is:

Questions using this tag might be related to Bash - the default command line shell in Ubuntu, Shell-Scripting and Programming.

That's not very restrictive, my take on it is that any question that is explicitly seeking a CLI solution can be tagged with this tag. I don't care what else it is about, if it is asking for a solution that is run from the terminal, it can be tagged as .

The Ubuntu community differs from most *nix ones in that it is very GUI oriented. There are actually Ubuntu users who never use the terminal(!). Most questions on this site are about the GUI aspect of Ubuntu. Therefore, people looking for a CLI solution tend to tag their Qs with . This is a good thing!

One of the primary uses of tags is to help "experts" get to questions they can answer and that they find interesting. Personally, I do most things from the command line and the only questions I enjoy answering here are those about the CLI. Removing this tag makes me miss these questions since they are no longer highlighted for me (I have in my favorite tags).

One issue here is that is a synonym for . From the perspective of an "old-school", as opposed to Ubuntu, Linux user this is silly. The shell is one thing and the command line is another. Yes, they are related but no, they are not identical. Still, the synonym does make some sense on a site like ours where most users will not be aware of the distinctions and I don't think it is a problem or a reason to limit the use of .

So, in summary, in my opinion, the tag is applicable to any and all questions where the OP has specified that they want a CLI and not a GUI solution. This means it can be applied to questions about apt-get, to questions about parsing text, to those asking about which command does what etc. Basically, anything at all that is achieved using the CLI and not the GUI deserves this tag.

  • What is the distinction between the shell and the command line on an Ubuntu system? Genuinely curious. – Michael Kropat Apr 23 '14 at 21:36
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    @MichaelKropat the shell interprets commands that are given on the command line. For example, if I run ls -l, I am using the shell to launch the program, but the -l flag, while still part of the command line, is not managed by the shell but by ls itself. There are dozens of different shells, but you use all of them from the command line. – terdon Apr 23 '14 at 23:07
  • Related answers which explicitly prohibits such actions, except on doubt, meta.stackexchange.com/a/99074/213575 meta.stackexchange.com/a/32450/213575, this talks about redundant tagging in first paragraph meta.stackexchange.com/a/176406/213575, this raises concern about the possible abuse meta.stackexchange.com/q/110675/213575. – Braiam Apr 24 '14 at 1:47
  • @Braiam Your first link is about code tags. This site is not about programming, I don't see why the same approach would apply. Anyway, even if it did, it does not change the fact that this community disagrees with your views on the CLI tag. Your second link is also not relevant because programming languages but nevertheless, it basically shares my view: "If you're not sure, then use both". Your third link also: "Do re-tag questions to use well-known and popular tags that are relevant to the question". The 4th is a question with no answers talking about badge abuse, again, irrelevant. – terdon Apr 24 '14 at 9:37
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    @Braiam in any case, even if you were to find and post 132 different Q&As that, in your view, support your position (you haven't), it would not change the fact that this site, this community does not agree with you on the use of the CLI tag. In fact, it overwhelmingly disagrees with you, so please drop this. – terdon Apr 24 '14 at 9:39
  • Ok, see those links in the light of this comment and tell me, is that behavior (clean up irrelevant, add relevant) wrong? – Braiam Apr 24 '14 at 14:43
  • @Braiam no, that sounds great. As long as you only clean up irrelevant and not overlapping tags. – terdon Apr 26 '14 at 1:18
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    I downvoted. Not every question on apt-get should have the tag command-line. People will start adding the tag ubuntu again if you follow that logic. – don.joey Apr 29 '14 at 18:04
  • @don.joey That's true, but following Braiam's logic none of them should, which is much worse. It's a broad tag, and will and (for the most part) should be used broadly. – Seth Apr 29 '14 at 18:12
  • @Seth Indeed, I am also in favor of a broad tag, but that does not mean everything slightly related to the CL should be bombarded as a command-line question. If it is important for the question, it should have the tag, otherwise it can perfectly live without it. I mean a question with rm does not necessarily need the tag command-line (even though nothing is against it having the tag! [and here I clearly disagree with some of the edit crazy people]). – don.joey Apr 29 '14 at 18:38
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    @don.joey No, it doesn't.. I don't see anyone bombarding the tag onto questions. I just see people removing it from otherwise deserving questions (hence this entire question being asked). – Seth Apr 29 '14 at 18:39
  • @Seth, ok that makes sense. I was thinking about the future, you clearly know more about the past of that tag. I am strongly against removing redundant tags from questions. If that is the point (which is not really what I can deduct from this question nor its answers), then I agree 100% with you. Deleting tags is really not the most important things to do and it tends to get a bit on my nerves when tags are deleted for the fun of it. – don.joey Apr 29 '14 at 18:40
  • @don.joey This question has a big background in chat. It started as an argument against removing the tag from questions. – Seth Apr 29 '14 at 18:42
  • @Ok. I will not add to it here in the comments then. – don.joey Apr 29 '14 at 18:42
  • @Seth downvote reverted in light of new info. – don.joey Apr 29 '14 at 19:14

Here are a my personal principles:

  1. I prefer a tag too much, rather than one too little. Better too much information, than too little.

  2. I am strongly against removing redundant tags from questions. Redundancy serves a purpose and hence I prefer to keep the command-line tag for past questions where it is relevant.

  3. Tags should be edited if they are wrong. That means 14.04 for questions that hold for all ubuntu releases, misspellings in tags, tags for which a dupe exists,... Editing tags out that are not wrong, is vandalism. When a tag is wrong is an area with fuzzy boudaries. In case of doubt, meta or the mods settle the issue.

  4. Users that abuse their edits, should see their edit powers be taken away from them.

This is a matter of semantics and of 'fingerspitzengefühl'. Hard and fast rules are hard to come up with and to enforce. Some 'don't worry, feel happy'-style is needed.

Like Terdon I am also in favor of a broad tag. But that does not mean everything slightly related to the CL should be bombarded as a command-line question. If it is important for the question, it should have the tag, otherwise it can perfectly live without it.

In practice: a question with rm does not necessarily need the tag command-line, but nothing is against it having the tag! In other words, the command-line tag is not needed for all questions that use the CL but if a question has the tag, there is no reason to remove it. This is a fuzzy line, but I think it is the best one.

For past tags: let's not go edit crazy. Deleting tags is really not the most important things to do and it tends to get a bit on my nerves when tags are deleted for the fun of it. Our attention sould be more on barely tagged questions and on tags with synonyms. There is more important work to be done.

  • I have mixed feelings about your answer, for one part, you follow the principle to add relevant tags to answered question, but for another you don't remove the redundant/unnecessary ones, you say that they should stay... I mean, if they add no value to the question, why leave them? – Braiam Apr 29 '14 at 20:41
  • Remember that our average question is a very rough diamond, we have to flesh out the question out thin air most of the time. – Braiam Apr 29 '14 at 20:49
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    I agree with this as well. I am not advocating forcing the tag where it does not belong. My main point is that it can be applied to any question asking for a CLI solution. Since more tags tend to be better then fewer, if you still have space after adding other tags to your rm Q, stick a command-line on to it since that can help bring in the experts. I am not suggesting (at any rate, I did not mean to suggest, I've edited my answer) that all rm questions be tagged as CLI, all I mean is that they can be so tagged and the tag should certainly not be removed if it is already there. – terdon Apr 29 '14 at 22:08
  • Ok, let me see if we can agree in something, @terdon: If both tags apply to the question, then use both. If one tag applies to the question, and the other tag applies to the first tag (but not directly to the question itself), then omit the latter. That's is in a nutshell what I try to apply. Redundant tags goes away. Don't use non-applicable tags to draw in more readers. And don't omit applicable tags to shield readers from subjects they're not interested in. source – Braiam Apr 30 '14 at 1:54
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    @Braiam obviously you only add a tag if it applies to the question not the other tags. And no, don't use non-applicable tags, again obviously. Those points have nothing to do with redundancy which is not always a bad thing. As you said, if both tags apply, you can use both, even if they're redundant. Your tag edits tend to leave questions with just one tag and that's what I'm trying to avoid in cases where other tags can also be applied. – terdon Apr 30 '14 at 9:38
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    @Braiam if a tag is not clearly wrong, you really should not bother editing it. I disagree with "Redundant tags goes away." That's the whole point of my answer. Keep redundancy. If you disagree, ask a meta question about it and try to get the democratic advantage for your case. In the mean while, please stay away from deleting tags that are redundant. There is so much other valuable work you can do (and in fact do) on this site. Don't let redundant tags ruin that work. – don.joey Apr 30 '14 at 9:47
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    The way I see it is rather simple. If a tag applies (I.E. will help an interested party find the question to answer it), apply it. If it doesn't apply to the question remove it. When in doubt leave it alone. – Elder Geek Apr 30 '14 at 22:38

A proposal

To solve this discrepancy this is my proposal:

  • Modify the tag wiki/excerpt to fit the current most accepted usage: questions that explicitly ask for a solution using the CLI and not the GUI.
  • Remove the synonym with the tags: shell, terminal.
  • Write a extensive tag wiki for each of the tags now unsynonymized, explaining the differences.
  • Retroactively enforce this usage.
  • People that is expert on a pre-existing tag + command line should stop being lazy and follow both tags. The system allows you to follow a tag in a single click and once it done you don't have to bother about it. Also, there's no limit in the amount of tags you can follow.
  • Put some pressure on the FP queue so the questions are correctly tagged, and explain the importance that new questions are correctly tagged (this is more a long term plan, but I saw 7 questions tagged with only 14.04 while reviewing, and people were ignoring the tag).

I hope this will solve the discrepancies and will offer a solid ground that we can also apply to other tags.

Background and questions

Ok, let me extract the fundamentals of your proposal:

  • Anything that is related to the Command line and its tools should have the tag.
  • Questions where OP explicitly say that wants a solution using the CLI and not the GUI

Lets talk about different topics. Just bear with me.

  1. Consistency. If we follow the fundamentals, then all dpkg questions will have the tag, no trouble there. All bash questions should have the tag. All vim questions should have the tag. All ping questions should have the tag. All dig questions should have the tag. All sudo questions should have the tag. All lynx questions should have the tag. All tty questions should have the tag. All rm questions should have the tag; et al. These has something to do with the CLI, like 70% of all binaries, and only works in the CLI. Does this means that all of those should use the tag?

  2. When I look for the most upvoted questions the first question is about the shell, no problem, then you see people trying to do stuff from the CLI, good, a sudo question, :/, more people for "do X from the CLI", a unity question (!), shell questions, user managing questions, the first apt question (out only 128) then more "how to do X from the CLI, plox!", mmm... found a duplicated. Ok, we see a pattern, is almost only used for stuff where OP explicitly say that the solution has to be typing commands in a CLI. We see the same pattern when looking at frequency and questions with more than 20k views. The current usage of the tag agrees with your statement of "OP explicitly say that wants a solution using the CLI and not the GUI", nor so much with the other. Top askers and answerers also follow this pattern. The tendency demonstrates that it will be prejudicial for what most users have accepted is the current behavior.

  3. Since, we already have talked about current usage of the tag, lets move the topic to redundancy. Vim, is a editor, is also a text-processor, is a command line tool (lets forget about gvim, it has a separated tag), it can be used as IDE of sorts, etc. Does that means that we need to add all those tags? apt is: a Debian (.deb) package, a package manager, a command line tool, something that installs and remove software, it also upgrades stuff, does that means that they also need all those tags? The main point is, if you already know that apt is a command line tool, isn't it redundant that you also add the command line tag? Frankly speaking, there are like 30 tags (bare version specific tags) that would apply to 99% of the questions on the site. Does that means that we should add them, if there's another tag that already means the same withing a more narrow category? If you know that you can answer question from an specific topic, but not another, what will happen if a question has both tags? Think about the noise those tags will get and their effect on the whole site.

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    I don't think the average vim question needs the command-line tag, but I'm not barring the possibility that someone might ask a question that warrants both. Personally you want to make the tag too narrow. Most questions about rm probably deserve the tag though. – Seth Apr 19 '14 at 19:22
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    vim is different and I would not consider it part of the CLI tag posse. It is a separate program and whether it is run with or without a GUI, I would not argue for its being tagged as CLI. I also wouldn't argue against it but things like vim, emacs, mc, top and the like that give an n-curses interface (or however they work) are not the type of thing I am talking about. However, anything involving the shell and coreutils and actual command line commands can be tagged as CLI. But yeah, basically most of your list should be tagged as CLI, yes. – terdon Apr 19 '14 at 22:43
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    @terdon that you can, doesn't mean that you should. I propose to re-purpose the tag usage to fit the current usage, which is "do X from command line". Will you go back and retag more than 20k questions (here a snipped of it) just to fit your proposed usage? That's maddening, and SE said that tags aren't hierarchically ordered but the most fitting wins. In those cases adding more tags wouldn't improve the possibility of an answer in a important proportion. – Braiam Apr 19 '14 at 22:52
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    But, but, that's exactly what I am proposing and you, based on your edit history, disagree with. I want that questions about "do X from the command line" be tagged with the CLI tag. That is my proposed usage and that is the way it's used by, as far as I can tell, everyone except you really. – terdon Apr 19 '14 at 22:54
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    No! That is precisely the main issue. More tags is always better than fewer tags. That is clearly stated in the tagging guidelines and it also makes sense. You should tag from the general to the specific and always try and include as many tags as are relevant. If more than one tag can be applied, it should be applied. That goes double for when a question has been answered since it will help future visitors find it. – terdon Apr 19 '14 at 22:57
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    Yes, that question is one example (you know perfectly well that he wanted a CLI solution), this is another. I have seen many more but don't know how to find them. I have often seen you removing the CLI tag from questions about various CLI tools, or apt-get options and syntax etc. The main point is that tags should only be removed if they are not relevant. If they're relevant leave them or, better, add them. – terdon Apr 19 '14 at 23:01
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    @terdon you are taking that too extreme. It says "try to include at least one very broad tag" (ie upgrade) and "other tag to narrow the topic down within that broader category" (apt). What you do is "use as many tags applies even if some of them are already covered". If it needed to be represented graphically, this is what the guidelines say and to what I adhere fervently, and this is what I interpret you propose, which I wouldn't ever agree. Sorry, but drawing skills sucks. – Braiam Apr 19 '14 at 23:14
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    No, I am proposing exactly what your 1st image shows (and your drawing skills are fine :) ). Include one general tag (CLI) and more specific ones (apt, upgrade and anything else). The guidelines also say "You are limited to 5 tags, and you are generally better off trying to use all 5 of them. That's my point, if a tag is relevant use it. A question about apt-get should be tagged as both CLI and apt. Broad tags such as CLI, are great for bringing questions to the attention of the people who can answer them. As long as you have tag space available, add relevant tags. – terdon Apr 19 '14 at 23:21
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    You seemed to have misunderstood my position. I am following the whole guideline. I want both general and specific tags and I also want as many as possible. So, both cli and apt and software-installation as well. That's precisely what the FAQ post states. Anyway, the way the tag is used now is how I want it to be used and I believe you are trying to change it. If you're not, then great. Oh, and by the way, I am one of the top answerers in the tag, right there in the list you linked to. – terdon Apr 20 '14 at 0:10
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    Yes, I want to index all command line questions with the command line tag. Kinda sounds like common sense when put that way, doesn't it? Anyway, let's not do this in the comments. Either take it to a chat room or just let the community decide which was the whole point of this Q. – terdon Apr 20 '14 at 0:42
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    @Braiam It's Easter and my advice for you is: please take an holiday and don't touch any tag for some days, a week, a month, an year. Make something else: give good answers, edit bad Q and A (there are too many). We like to have more than one tag per question - this you can't understand, so it's not for you! – Radu Rădeanu Apr 20 '14 at 1:12
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    @Braiam If you only want questions specifically about apt, you would favorite only apt. If you are a generalist in command-line, you would favorite only command-line. If you are a generalist in command-line but don't know a thing about apt, you would favorite command-line and put apt in ignored tags. (I just want to make sure you are also aware of ignored tags feature). But if one is a generalist in command-line and have favorited only command-line, one would expect questions about apt to also pop up; if we don't tag the question both as apt and command-line, it would a great dis-service. – Aditya Apr 20 '14 at 11:29
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    I upvoted your answer. Here is why. You are doing incredibly valuable work for the community and you are raising questions that need to be raised. That said, I prefer a tag too much, rather than one too little. In that sense, I would prefer the attention would be more on barely tagged questions, on tags with synonyms, and more. In that sense, I agree: "Write a extensive tag wiki for each of the tags now unsynonymized, explaining the differences." – don.joey Apr 29 '14 at 17:50
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    Maybe you should edit all the boilerplate out of your answer and just keep your suggestions. I'll do it for you, but feel free to revert of course. – don.joey Apr 29 '14 at 17:52
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    Personally, I couldn't care less about the tag as I am just as likely to provide a CLI answer as a GUI answer based on what I think the OP would be most comfortable with. (This is typically clear based on what they've tried). It would seem logical that if someone thought a tag applied someone else might think so too and might find the answer that way. An obvious mis-tag like apt for a question about unity I would likely remove but in most cases I'd rather answer the question. – Elder Geek Apr 30 '14 at 22:57

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