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This is barking up a similar tree as this former discussion. The subject of titles on Arqade is one with a long history here. You know me, I'm the answerer to our corpse question, so I'm not talking about titles in entirety. Our policy has always been that we are fine with a slight bit of vagueness for making an interesting title as long as the problem is clear and contained all the same, and also makes sense to search. So for example, this question got a fix to fit our policy proper because...

I'm getting distracted. Ahem. Point is I'm not talking about those.

I am talking about questions like the following:

These are questions whose titles are indeed, very vague. It's not that the game isn't clear from the title, but rather that these are such broad-spectrum problems that can be applied to not just "a lot of games" (or the alot of games), but "too many games". Tag dependency isn't a rarity, for example I see a question like How do I build a house for my NPCs, I can tell at a glance if the question at least may be in the collection of games I play (do I play any games that have NPCs that I could build houses for?). The above three, though, I can't tell. I can derive that one is a game that can be played online and offline, one is a game that has secret areas, and the last one I could honestly think was game-agnostic. But that basically doesn't narrow anything down. These ones, the generic nature of the problem overrides the otherwise present clarity in presenting what the problem is.

Titles generate interest - mostly by specifying what the problem is but also by being distinct. They're the most prominent aspect of the question on the front page, the first item that we visually filter on. At the very least, the title should be able to narrow down the potential scope of games that a question is about to a manageable thought level. "Every online-offline game", "Every game with secrets", "Every game with difficulty levels"... those are not really manageable thought levels. The amount of pre-filtering it does for a reader is negligible compared to other questions, because it most quite easily hits the "too many things!" level.

We have it a bit easier than other sites like, say, Stack Overflow, who had such problems with titles like "regular expression help" that they called their folks to arms (and the problem does persist). Because our tag diversity is backwards compared to the majority of the network, we actually have tags being able to at least give some filtering without needing to click on the question. However, I feel that for the exceedingly general-case scenario questions whose at-word game scope is too large, it would still be nice and helpful if we considered adding the game name into the title. Organically, of course.

I don't think we need to wage a giant revision stampede to fix this immediately, I'm thinking that this is more a thing we could consider as we march onwards. If people agree that at least for these cases, it would make sense to be clearer. Tags are great, but I feel that the situation of these without identifiers in the title is significantly different, and I think it's enough of a difference that we can give them a different sort of attention in doing this kind of fixing. What do you folks think?

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    I think part of it is our culture in titles of genuine questions, but quite misleading if that's all you're reading. If we start adding "in X?" to those questions, we sorta loses that bit. We delight in and enjoy making people do a double take. – Frank Mar 14 '14 at 19:06
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    I remember that at some point Jeff had to put the top tags at the start of the <title> element of a question because when Stack Overflow didn't, it was getting outranked through SEO by scrapers that did. Doesn't putting the game name in the title cause harm to us in the primary interface of Stack Exchange, Google Search Results? – badp Mar 14 '14 at 19:06
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    @Frank Double takes are fine and I love those. This isn't about double takes, this is about complete and utter lack of getting anything. I had originally included a comparison list of "Titles I don't think we need to change", but opted to simply condense that to the example Terraria question, that even I as someone who hasn't played Terraria, could guess it was a Terraria question when I saw it on the front page today. That one wasn't a double take, but it also wasn't a complete lack of anything. – Grace Note Mar 14 '14 at 19:07
  • @badp We put them there because for the situation of not having them at all, putting them in the front is more useful. We'll lose some measure of juice if it ends up somewhere not in front, sure, but not much more than we lose currently with the existing titles we do organically, and definitely not as bad as when we had nothing at all for these titles. – Grace Note Mar 14 '14 at 19:09
  • @GraceNote You probably have numbers I don't, but the ones I do say that 90% of our visits come from Google and referring traffic only counts for 1.32%. Yes, stackoverflow.com was our top referrer last month, but that only counts for a total of 0.5% of traffic. Now, I can understand the point for titles about self-harm and the likes, but in general, I think we only stand to lose here. – badp Mar 14 '14 at 19:28
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    I'm not saying that we have a right towards misleading network users into engrossing our traffic statistic, but that's not the ultimate goal here. The goal here is making the internet a better place to be. If Stack Exchange makes the internet a better place to be, then the internet is better the higher we rank up in search engines for relevant queries - and it seems that the automatic "tag dash question title" way is the best way to achieve that goal. – badp Mar 14 '14 at 19:29
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    @badp This isn't about misleading users to engross traffic statistics - this is in fact about the very opposite, questions which probably are so blandly titled that they have zero attractiveness. I don't presume these to make enough of a volume of our current question base to be a significant change over what we already have in title-clarified questions, nor do I presume these to even account for a significant portion of our traffic, at least not one that will be so devastating if we were to make little fixes as we see some. – Grace Note Mar 14 '14 at 19:36
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    @GraceNote Except, those questions' bland titles don't really matter. For the 90% of our traffic coming from Google, the very first thing in the title of the question in the search results is the pre-pended tag, since Google seems to pull from the title. And for anyone viewing questions from within Arqade, the tags are usually right there to tell you what you're looking at. There are very, very few places to find a question where you can't immediately see what game it's about right there. Pretty much just Linked/Related/Hot in the sidebar, and things like close-as-dupe searching. – Billy Mailman Mar 14 '14 at 20:12
  • Also, I think the SO Regex title issue is entirely unrelated. In their case, the tags were doing their job, but the titles contained almost nothing except what the tags already said; not actual description of the problem. But the questions you pointed out on here are all perfectly descriptive of the problem. If we get titles like "Skyrim problem HELP", then yeah, that's absolutely the sort of thing they were running into, and something we would need to change. – Billy Mailman Mar 14 '14 at 20:12
  • +1 for "the alot of games" – Batophobia Mar 20 '14 at 21:03
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    @BillyMailman, I agree that the Google drive-by who leaves instantly doesn't have this problem. The problem is for the one who is interested enough to go peruse the home page, where we have a few seconds to get her excited about what you've built here, but the headers don't include the one thing most likely to pull her in - the name of some game she's into. I do think we should keep the most fun amibiguous ones, but we can do a lot better in pulling in new people if the "how can I level up fastest" type includes the real lede - the game. – Jaydles Mar 21 '14 at 16:33
  • @Jaydles As I pointed out, anywhere within Arqade, the title is present, except the sidebar. On the homepage, for instance, it's right there under the title, rather prominent and obvious. – Billy Mailman Mar 21 '14 at 16:42
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    @BillyMailman, we simply don't agree on what's prominent and obvious, as discussed here. – Jaydles Mar 21 '14 at 18:00
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This is only a problem because we only have the one-size-fits-all SE tag engine, and the organization of our site does not map very well onto the rather limited tag system. A more powerful tagging system would solve this problem. If this site would have been created from scratch and wouldn't have to use the existing tag system, we would likely have ended up with something like one game tag per question and then a game-specific list of subtags. The game tag would be far more prominent in all lists, e.g. as the game icon, making it easy to see at a glance about which game a question is. Such a tagging system would solve this problem as the software would know that the game tag is very important and it would display it along with the question everywhere. I don't expect anything like this to be implemented though, as SE has been extremely reluctant in the past to make any big changes to the tagging system.

But I also question whether this is actually a problem. There are several different ways to reach a question on this site:

  • via search engines: There is no issue here as the search terms almost certainly include the game, so there is no potential for confusion

  • via favorite tags: Many users browse SE sites using their favorite tags or any tag-specific listing. This is mostly a matter of size, the bigger the site becomes the more likely it is that users will filter out specific questions instead of looking at all of them. There is also no issue here.

  • Looking at all new or active questions on the frontpage. You might have to look at the tag sometimes to know what it is about, so there is a small issue in this use case.

  • via the hot questions list: Here this is certainly an issue as the title is shown without any tags.

I don't consider the hot questions list important enough to make any compromises in good titles, all the other considerations are much more important in my opinion.

I sometimes add the game name in titles, but only to rather short titles or to avoid the duplicate question title restrictions. For longer titles I think adding the game is a net negative and I would avoid that.

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    I agree - I don't consider this kind of issue one that warrants compromises in good titles. But I'm also not sure that I'd consider ones like the three I picked to be good standalone titles. They're the ones that I feel are applied to by the very final paragraph in your whole answer here - those are the only ones I even care to look at with this discussion. Ones that are often short, but more relatedly are very susceptible to duplication when bereft of the game name. – Grace Note Mar 15 '14 at 21:45
  • @GraceNote My own rule is to avoid any newline in a title, if the title gets so long that there is a linebreak I'll try to shorten it. So your examples probably fit my rule. I'd still like it better if we could have a consistent rule on this, but that does not really work with the tag system we have right now. – Mad Scientist Mar 15 '14 at 21:57
  • I also try to use the 'no newline' rule, although I've broken it on occasion for clarity – Robotnik Mar 21 '14 at 4:08
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    You don't have the main reason we feel they need to be included in any case when they're needed to figure out the game - browsing question lists as a visitor, before you've learned to look at the tags or filter by them. – Jaydles Mar 21 '14 at 14:12
  • @Jaydles That is more of a general UX failure, and I'm not sure if it is worth compensating for it if the price is a large amount of repetition and increase in title length. SO works the same way, but nobody really want to add "in C#", "in Java" or "in PHP" to almost every question. – Mad Scientist Mar 21 '14 at 14:45
  • @MadScientist, SO's questions, on average, are much better at conveying whether they might interest a browser, IMHO, and the really generic ones DO generally include the language in the title. – Jaydles Mar 21 '14 at 14:52
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As has been mentioned, the only place a question title is displayed without a tag is in the "Hot Network Questions". Worst case scenario there, you clicked a hot question and then see the game it is for. I don't see an issue there, seeing as many of our questions that end up on that list are there because of the "WTF is this?" factor.

Additionally, putting game names is not guaranteed to make the question unique. Say I ask "Where are the other humans?" This would fall under your potentially duplicate title criteria. So I change my question to "Where are the other humans in the game Portal?" Now I get answers for Portal by Valve, which is not what I wanted.

To get answers I wanted, I would have to change my question again to "Where are the other humans in the 1986 video game Portal made by Activition?" Where does the madness end?

It gets even worse when we are talking about the same game but have different systems that have different functionality. Just look at Minecraft or TF2.

  • I'm not sure I'd consider "Where are the other humans?" to be as generic sounding as the class of titles I'm looking at. The style of the question implies a setting wherein this is actually a significant mystery - that I would say is a pretty narrowing scope direction. Like with all things scope, the matter is how it is scoped, not the raw quantity. The point here isn't just to include the game name, obviously - the point here is disambiguity over the very-generic. If the game name alone ain't enough or the game name makes it worse, then that would be the wrong direction to go. – Grace Note Mar 21 '14 at 14:20
  • You wouldn't have to even go that far, if you were just trying to disambiguate the game. "Where are the other humans in the 1986 Portal game?" should make it clear that it's not the same Portal Valve made. – Troyen Mar 23 '14 at 1:16
  • @Troyen You could also just use publisher. Point remains, that kind of information belongs in a tag, not the question title. The two are almost always shown together anyway. The question title brings users to the question body, where the additional details can be given. – Batophobia Mar 25 '14 at 22:00

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