8

There are some rather poor titles that while they make sense to the person asking, are rather useless at helping anyone else know what the question is about from the title alone or for people coming to the site from Google.

For examples,

All of the ones above were found by searching for questions with the word this in the title.

The problem with question like these, What is this small insect? is that they are not very useful to anyone other than the OP. There are many, many kinds of small insects, not just the one in question.

The other example is people asking "Is this question on topic?" on meta which isn't very useful at all.

For example we could change some of them to

  • What is a fish hook with a solid hook eye called?
  • What is the purpose and name of this swiss army knife tool with a hole and a sharp edge on one side?
  • Can you help me identify this long green fish caught in southern Ontario?
  • What kind of animal might have stripped off the bark and made a large number of holes in this tree in the woods? (We could add the tree location in the title but I don't think it would be absolutely necessary, and might make the title too long.)
  • What is this round, shiny black bug, about 10mm long, found in Singapore?

Can we try to make the titles more unique and descriptive and specific to the question?

  • I just tested by asking "Cougars: how dangerous are they to hikers?" It should be quite obvious to a human that I am asking about....cougars. However, the search engine which comes up with "questions that may have the answer" thought I was asking about alligators; wild horses; kangaroos; portable electric fences; dock leaves; coyotes; bulges on a tree; polar routes; finally, FINALLY cougars; and Easton Axis and Axis Traditional. The search engine thought I was asking a question about "How", or maybe "What" There were more "questions that may have the answer", but no more about cougars. – ab2 May 14 '18 at 23:42
  • Can you please give examples of what you might change the titles to? – cobaltduck May 18 '18 at 11:29
  • Ironically, someone actually changed the title to the question I asked yesterday about hiking through the Nevada desert. They changed it to have the word "rummaging" in it. So it looks like you already have moderators that have begun doing this. – Michael d May 18 '18 at 19:20
  • @Michael d, I think that was an unfortunate edit, and hope you'll roll it back. That said, I don't think it's the same as clarifying the "what is this" types of questions Charlie Brumbaugh is asking about, although I may have misread this. It's our responsibility to be careful about changing the intent of the question. See Rory Alsop's answer on this meta post. – Sue May 18 '18 at 22:06
  • @cobaltduck, I added a few more examples. If Charlie agrees and leaves them in, I hope they're helpful to you. – Sue May 18 '18 at 23:38
  • @sue the alternatives sound more like riddles ;). Especially the last one. – Ricketyship May 19 '18 at 5:58
  • 1
    For the love of god, yes, please and thank you. All of those are clickbait titles, intentionally (to get on the HNQ) or not. Good riddles can be guessed from (or ignored by) their title alone, and are a x1k better than what is this bug clickbait. 90% of the time the title should be what the last line in the body says, but that's not going to get you on the HNQ... The problem is that there's an incentive to obfuscate your question. - When you make a PSA meta that says (why) your title was changed because it was [clickbait] @me and I'll UV. – Mazura May 20 '18 at 17:38
  • @Mazura, thanks for this passionate comment. I don't know how much time you spend here, but obviously you're much busier at other sites. It's nice of you to contribute to a meta discussion. We have a very dedicated group, and work hard in meta. That said, input from outside the core group is vital for growth. If you want to change a title, to add detail, minimize potential sensationalism, or anything else, please do, and invite others. We handle our "suggested edits" queue quickly for people who don't yet have full editing privileges. Thanks again! – Sue May 25 '18 at 1:36
5

I've been wanting to ask this question for a long time now. Many questions here have titles which make it rather difficult to guess what the content is all about. However, I do believe the google search takes into account the answers as well while doing a search.

Regarding changing the title, personally I would want to change them to something more meaningful. But, there's been some discussion regarding the editing part. Should we edit the question which could result in the actual intent being lost? Sue was supposed to ask a question on this (I believe she's been busy and hasn't gotten time to get that meta up yet).

  • 1
    Changing the intent usually isn't a problem with these edits because you aren't making the question different so much as making the title clearer. outdoors.meta.stackexchange.com/posts/1190/revisions – Charlie Brumbaugh May 15 '18 at 13:47
  • As for this post, I completely agree that the title of these types of questions can be made more detailed and meaningful without changing the intent of the question. Your answer is perfect as far as I'm concerned. – Sue May 18 '18 at 21:55
  • Ricketyship, I'm sorry I haven't gotten around to asking that separate question. I'm still passionate about it! Feel free to do it, or maybe we could work on it together. @Michael D commented above that a word in his title was changed. That edit was assumptive, and not necessarily helpful, which concerns me, so addressing that type of edit in a meta post is still important. Rory Alsop's answer here is very clear about not changing intent. – Sue May 18 '18 at 22:20
3

This is something I do on Gardening all the time. Someone asks "what is this houseplant?" and you edit it to "What is this houseplant with long spiky leaves and a small orange flower?". You're not changing anyone's intent and you increase the chances of answers right now as well as the value to future searchers.

I think this happens most often when there are pictures in the post. If the asker had to describe the fish hook, bird, fish, or tent pole in the body then they would do it in the title too. I think this is a valuable activity for volunteer editors and I would approve such edits in a heartbeat.

  • Hi Kate! I started this exact same answer yesterday but didn't have a chance to finish it. I'm so glad you did! This has been discussed frequently there, and the mods highly recommended it even if there's nothing else in the question that needs to be touched. – Sue May 22 '18 at 23:40

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