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Title customization options added
January 9, 2013 10:00 AM   Subscribe

As a compromise over the recent release of titles, we've added the ability to set your title font faces and sizes just like the body and byline fonts/size options on the preferences page.

This feature will let you change the size (works best to decrease if you're in a smaller viewport), it will let you change font faces (works best when body faces are already customized), and also offers the option to hide them on front pages (of www, ask, metatalk) if you set the size to zero.

As always, preferences are cookie-based so this will work per-device at the moment you save your preferences page. So if you'd like the Plain Theme and no titles on your mobile device, you can set that and save it, and still have the default theme and titles on your desktop computer.

I do want to also take a moment and say that we made a change and didn't communicate it well beforehand. That's my fault and I'm sorry. Second, whether you love it or hate it, we're very appreciative of the feedback and thoughtful responses to the ideas in Monday's thread. In the future, big changes like this will not be launched without communicating to the community first, floating ideas for feedback, showing mockups where appropriate, and getting more feedback before releasing to the site.
posted by mathowie to Feature Requests at 10:00 AM (720 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

I also want to add that we're going to wait-and-see some more on the features so additional tweaks to the titles like colors and margins are still best done with Stylish or other browser-based tweaks for now.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:01 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you.
posted by cgk at 10:03 AM on January 9, 2013


Thank you Matt.
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:03 AM on January 9, 2013


Looks nice in 8pt.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:03 AM on January 9, 2013


Yay! Thank you.
posted by dabug at 10:04 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, perfect. Another opportunity to insert gibberish in all aspects of my web experience.

In all seriousness, though, I'm finding it a lot less obtrusive at 1-2 pt larger than the text itself.
posted by supercres at 10:05 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


You guys are the best. Thanks for putting up with all of us, and for all the stuff we'd only notice you doing if it broke down.
posted by anildash at 10:05 AM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Though, uh... I might keep it like this for a while.

(Thanks!)
posted by supercres at 10:06 AM on January 9, 2013


Well done. Many thanks.
posted by Pudhoho at 10:06 AM on January 9, 2013


Still extremely terrible. Would like to go back to normal please.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:07 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Many thanks - I'm going to try it out now.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:07 AM on January 9, 2013


Thank you!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:07 AM on January 9, 2013


Drinky Die, setting "title font size" to zero does that.
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:08 AM on January 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


Still extremely terrible. Would like to go back to normal please.

Pro Tip: Set your font size to zero.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:08 AM on January 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


You guys are phenomenal! What a responsive and quick turn-around to a very contentious issue.
posted by OmieWise at 10:08 AM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Drinky Die, setting "title font size" to zero does that.

Sure, if normal is opaque FPP text like: "10 damn fine examples of it."
posted by Drinky Die at 10:09 AM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Drinky Die, you're letting your lack of manners show.
posted by OmieWise at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2013 [39 favorites]


Thank you much. This is SO much better with just a small reduction in font size. It reduces the title dominance and lets me focus on understanding the body text as an introductory sentence.

Thanks also for being so responsive.
posted by Miko at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, if normal is opaque FPP text like: "10 damn fine examples of it."

Perhaps discussion of the pros and cons of titles can stay in the other post? We definitely don't need two fast moving threads on the same topic.

(and thanks for the preferences mods!)
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


mathowie: "In the future, big changes like this will not be launched without communicating to the community first, floating ideas for feedback, showing mockups where appropriate, and getting more feedback before releasing to the site."

Fantastic, Matt. Thanks so much for constructively listening to all of the feedback on this change. I think this will make future changes much less difficult.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Setting them smallish looks good on the blue but not so good on the green (where full-size titles were a good thing). I know there was talk in the previous megathread about setting subsite-specific sizes; is that coming?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks. I kind of liked the titles on AskMe (esp at size 8 font), but they were poison on MeFi.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2013


Sure, if normal is opaque FPP text like: "10 damn fine examples of it."

There is no profile setting to make other users do what you want, sorry.

believe me, i have tried
posted by elizardbits at 10:11 AM on January 9, 2013 [42 favorites]


Thank you for this.

Somewhat strangely, I find the titles helpful on AskMe but annoying on the blue. I don't suppose you'd want to make things fiddly enough for us to adjust them separately.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 10:11 AM on January 9, 2013


Sure, if normal is opaque FPP text like: "10 damn fine examples of it."

Yep, but that's one bad example and not normal. The title field is still barely 48hrs old on the site, and gives posters a new avenue to communicate, but the newness is going to be rocky for the first week or two as people realize how to use it (not just repeat their post/question, etc).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:11 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can someone give me an explanation why "Default On/Option Turn Off" is preferable to "Default Off/Option Turn On"? I'm honestly interested in why it is important to go with the Default On approach over the Default Off approach. What are the reasons why that is preferable?

Seems to me that the latter allows the people who like the Titles to have them there without missing anything and without any change to the site's culture or past behavior. (Good for Title lovers; good for non title lovers; no change to how site operates so no risk of effect on site culture)

The former allows the people who hate titles to get rid of them, but in so doing losing information and with a change to the site's culture and past behavior. (Good for Title lover; bad for title non-lovers; change to how the site operates so potential risk of effect on site culture)
posted by dios at 10:11 AM on January 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


Sure, if normal is opaque FPP text like: "10 damn fine examples of it."

To be fair, it's not like opaque FPPs are a new thing, with or without titles. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge.
posted by Miko at 10:11 AM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


It would be fascinating to see how many people, as a percentage of active users, set their title font size to zero, if the mods would consider sharing that after a while.
posted by jbickers at 10:12 AM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


You are such a mensch, Matt. I don't even know yet if I'm going to change my preferences, but your responsiveness is one of the things that's kept me hanging around here. I'm buying you a beer or 10 at whatever future meetup we're both at.
posted by rtha at 10:12 AM on January 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


Thank you very much Matt, both for providing a setting in Preferences, and for your comment about getting more feedback in future before major changes are made. It's much appreciated.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:12 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks, Matt! Really appreciated, especially the cookie-based settings. Looks good in Firefox!

However, the default titles-on setting for the Blue may still be an issue when we look at how posts may be created from now on (i.e. more and more people post by putting important info in titles, which hides more and more useful content from those of us with title font set to 0). I still think that default title-off is a better choice, allowing people who actively want titles to turen them on.

But I'll go back to the other thread to talk about that. If the thread loads ;-)
posted by maudlin at 10:13 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you. Being able to have titles in monospace really fits in with the hideous retro-futuristic vibe I cultivate on my desktop.
posted by Lorin at 10:13 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am pleased with the ability to adjust. Thanks!
posted by ocherdraco at 10:13 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It would also be heavily biased as people adjust to a new style of post creation that puts essential information in the title field.
posted by softlord at 10:13 AM on January 9, 2013


Can someone give me an explanation why "Default On/Option Turn Off" is preferable to "Default Off/Option Turn On"?

Because readers who aren't members don't have preferences.
posted by Pudhoho at 10:13 AM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thank you! 0 is perfect.
posted by odinsdream at 10:14 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know there was talk in the previous megathread about setting subsite-specific sizes; is that coming?

We don't have plans for that, no. This is an attempt to give folks a some basic control over the general experience at a server-side level (so that e.g. folks without the ability or inclination to run client-side scripts or css can still have a reasonable level of baseline control over title appearance); down to the nitty-gritty at the level we're talking more about user-side tweaking of your browsing experience.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:14 AM on January 9, 2013


Yup, this works for me. 'bliged
posted by deo rei at 10:15 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you. For me, this makes the titles a little less obtrusive and tricky to navigate.
posted by RokkitNite at 10:15 AM on January 9, 2013


So, not being a student of fonts, can people share their preferred body/byline/title font settings? I have all mine set to verdana, but I would like more ideas.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:16 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die, you're letting your lack of manners show.

I stated my opinion and asked "Please" for a change. I am sorry if you find it offensive that someone disagrees with you, but I have not spoken with any lack of manners.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:16 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, kudos to mathowie and the mod team for engaging with the MeFi community on this contentious new feature. No apologies are necessary when you hear us out—at often voluminous length—and adjust the site accordingly. We know that you all take long and broad views of Metafilter, not only the feedback from the vocal contingents from multiple sub-sites and crunched data from the entire population, but also how it fits into the whole World Wide Web (the source of new users, after all). Unlike the walled garden of Facebook or the unmoderated back alleys of Reddit, the Blue, Green, and Grey has distinguished itself as the best of the web by example as much as links.

Thanks again!
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:16 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I tried to set the font on my phone, "verdana" got autocorrected to "beans".
posted by jeather at 10:17 AM on January 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


I do want to also take a moment and say that we made a change and didn't communicate it well beforehand. That's my fault and I'm sorry.

Thank you for the new preferences, and thank you for saying this.

I think I can safely speak for most of us when I say we know that you want the best possible experience for both your members and visitors. We also know that you're not going to implement negative changes for nefarious purposes. We've had ten years of ample evidence that you're a good person with a particular vision for this place, who truly wants to do right by this community you built from scratch.

However this pans out, I'd like to take a sec to say: thanks for being That Guy. I for one am quite grateful that we have such a well-meaning caretaker. We're lucky to have you.
posted by zarq at 10:17 AM on January 9, 2013 [50 favorites]


I've been really enjoying this, thanks.
posted by salvia at 10:17 AM on January 9, 2013


Zero is lovely. Eight is also tolerable, so it's nice to know that I have a fallback in case people start putting critical context in their titles often enough that it becomes distracting.
posted by Scientist at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because readers who aren't members don't have preferences.

1) Readers who aren't members often enter MeFi via Google, not the front page. They can see the title at the top of the post page.

2) Leaving AskMe titles default-on is fine (few people have complained about that in the other thread.)

3) We seem to be doing just fine at converting non-members into members. YOU get a preference! And YOU get a preference! EVERYONE can get preferences!
posted by maudlin at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I will probably try it first set to zero, but it's awesome we have a choice so that everyone can have the experience here they want. Thanks, Matt, couldn't ask for better than that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


This pretty much means that titles are here to stay though, huh?
posted by Scientist at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2013


10pt franklin gothic seems to be the sweet spot for me.
posted by empath at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2013


Still extremely terrible. Would like to go back to normal please.

Setting it to 0 will make it normal, no? Thanks Matt & Co., it's much appreciated.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2013


mathowie: "I do want to also take a moment and say that we made a change and didn't communicate it well beforehand. That's my fault and I'm sorry. Second, whether you love it or hate it, we're very appreciative of the feedback and thoughtful responses to the ideas in Monday's thread. In the future, big changes like this will not be launched without communicating to the community first, floating ideas for feedback, showing mockups where appropriate, and getting more feedback before releasing to the site."

This is the real treat, I think.

Mathowie, do you have any thoughts on doing A/B testing in the future, or opt-in stuff? I know Metafilter's still a one (two?) man band, but it seems like it might be useful.
posted by boo_radley at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2013


So, not being a student of fonts, can people share their preferred body/byline/title font settings? I have all mine set to verdana, but I would like more ideas.

I'm really only a kindergartner of fonts, myself, but I've used Verdana 12 + 10 as my body and byline fonts since forever and I'm finding I like Georgia 14 as a title a fair bit. Verdana 14 is interesting though I am not sure how down I am with the look of the face at that size right above the post text, which is why I'm using the serif face instead. (Georgia is also the default font for the dateline separators on the front page.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:19 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


*immediately sets title font size to zero*

Ahhhh... Look! Interesting things to read again!
posted by likeso at 10:19 AM on January 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


I just changed my title font size to 200. This is delicious.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:19 AM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Awesome sauce! The titles really broke my brain. I wasn't mad about it but it really did change the way that I interacted with the site.

You know how when you are on the phone and the connection is bad and your own voice echos back at you? It was like that.
posted by futz at 10:19 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I recommend 20pt Papyrus for all settings such that it seems as though every word is being shouted at you by a local thai restaurant's geocities website.
posted by elizardbits at 10:19 AM on January 9, 2013 [39 favorites]


AskMe is much improved by changing the font and size - MeFi is still impossible to read. There's a context break between the title and the summary - two different descriptions of the same thing that trips up the reader and causes me to simply skip from one stunt headline to the next. Sort of like Fark, only harder to read due to the stuff between the headlines.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:19 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Annnd change made, and I am a happy bunny. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:21 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


(As Brandon Blatcher proved with his "Animated GIFs" post, simply turning off the titles will not be a viable option going forward.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:22 AM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yep, but that's one bad example and not normal.

It's pretty much the best style if titles are displayed, because it avoids the redundancy.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:22 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and if I could make a suggestion... this might be a good time to post something to the sidebar.
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


He had a hat...
posted by Pudhoho at 10:23 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


All helvetica made it look odd. All baskerville made everything authoritative. All westminster didn't work. What fonts are supported?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:24 AM on January 9, 2013


Mathowie, do you have any thoughts on doing A/B testing in the future, or opt-in stuff

We've toyed with A/B testing in the past but it's a relative pain to setup and a lot of work to gather data from. I'm thinking more along the lines of in the future, showing mockups in MetaTalk of a new major thing, possibly showing a hidden page where members can test something out, etc and getting feedback here.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:24 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whichever fonts are on your PC, the man of twists and turns
posted by fightorflight at 10:25 AM on January 9, 2013


In the future, big changes like this will not be launched without communicating to the community first, floating ideas for feedback, showing mockups where appropriate, and getting more feedback before releasing to the site.

I also appreciate this because regardless of how I feel about titles I think part of the dislike was a dislike for the way the rollout was handled, which seemed unlike how changes have historically been made and out of character for Mefi.
posted by jeather at 10:25 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's pretty much the best style if titles are displayed, because it avoids the redundancy

I'm finding the best titles are the ones that are somewhat related, not a straight repeat, but not totally integral to making a post make sense. Again, this is a new option when writing a post and people will figure out what works best over some time.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:25 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's pretty much the best style if titles are displayed, because it avoids the redundancy.

Or you can have a title that sums up without adding any information you wouldn't get from reading the above-the-fold content, as in this very post.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:26 AM on January 9, 2013


Hooray, thank you for this!
posted by sperose at 10:26 AM on January 9, 2013


As Brandon Blatcher proved with his "Animated GIFs" post, simply turning off the titles will not be a viable option going forward.

Just pretend hama7 came back.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:27 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Or you can have a title that sums up without adding any information you wouldn't get from reading the above-the-fold content, as in this very post.

I don't see the title, I'll have to go look now.

The first sentence just looks like repeating the information in the title to me?
posted by Drinky Die at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2013


What fonts are supported?

It's not a server-side thing; you can use anything you have on your computer/device. So you can in theory go nuts with this, custom fonts made from your own handwriting or whatever, though if you regularly browse from multiple devices keep in mind that you'd need to install any unusual fonts on all of those devices to not see a fallback to the default sometimes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:28 AM on January 9, 2013


Wingdings for all!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:29 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you!

VERDANA 6-POINT IN THE HOUSE
posted by Greg Nog at 10:29 AM on January 9, 2013


I'm still not a huge fan but at least now my eyes don't want to crawl out of my skull in protest of the font salad.
posted by Justinian at 10:29 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alvy Ampersand: " Just pretend hama7 came back."

o.O

Whoa. Never noticed that.
posted by zarq at 10:29 AM on January 9, 2013


(translation: thanks)
posted by Justinian at 10:29 AM on January 9, 2013


So, not being a student of fonts, can people share their preferred body/byline/title font settings? I have all mine set to verdana, but I would like more ideas.

Verdana 8/10 and DejaVu Sans Mono 10 for titles.

AVERT YOUR EYES
posted by Lorin at 10:30 AM on January 9, 2013


mat, cortex, everyone: I do hope that you share or at least study the choices of type size people make as an important data point both toward how people feel about the titles, as well as about how people feel they should be weighted relative to the rest of the content.

Additionally, I hope and feel that this is a substantive enough functionality change that it should be mentioned on the sidebars of each site, so that everyone is aware of the customization as an option, not just people who have been sitting on MeTa since it was announced.
posted by softlord at 10:31 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am title-agnostic, but I set my titles to 10 pt Verdana Bold and suddenly everything was way way way better.
posted by KathrynT at 10:31 AM on January 9, 2013


Arial 12 does the trick for me.
posted by eugenen at 10:31 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ahhhhh the old metafilter is back. Thanks!!
posted by Grither at 10:31 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I set the title text size to the same as the smaller byline text size and I like it a lot better now. I don't consider setting it to zero to be an effective option since people are now going to be communicating essential information through the titles.
posted by grouse at 10:32 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


THANK YOU! (set to zero...ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh)

buuut...can the default PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be set to 'off' to avoid the data balkanization that has already been mentioned extensively?

mathowie: "In the future, big changes like this will not be launched without communicating to the community first, floating ideas for feedback, showing mockups where appropriate, and getting more feedback before releasing to the site."

suggestion: top title bar (where the mefi mall gets announced every year)...just a simple:
We're thinking about trying out THIS (link to pic) new feature, wadda ya think? Yes[ ] No[x] Don't care[ ] DISCUSS (link to talk page)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:34 AM on January 9, 2013


Thanks, set it to 1 for the moment to remind me they are there.

Slap*Happy writes "(As Brandon Blatcher proved with his "Animated GIFs" post, simply turning off the titles will not be a viable option going forward.)"

It's viable to the extent that many people skip over mystery meat and that is just more mystery meat.
posted by Mitheral at 10:35 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


body font: helvetica
byline font: helvetica
title font: arial

Thanks for driving me subtly crazy.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:36 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks, Matt & Co.
posted by scody at 10:36 AM on January 9, 2013


showing mockups in MetaTalk of a new major thing, possibly showing a hidden page where members can test something out, etc and getting feedback here.

I'd be happy to sign up for a beta program if you want to test any interface changes. I think a lot of other people would, too. You might even consider permanently adding a beta.metafilter.com domain for any experiments you feel like trying.
posted by empath at 10:36 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this, and for listening to the feedback and being open to soliciting comments before future large changes.

I understand that this is a compromise and concession to those who are against titles, but I think this is the most confusing and least helpful outcome.

The ability to toggle splits the user experience and fragments how people interact with the site. It is true that everyone interacts with it differently anyway, but I am talking about the akin which users create and read post content. When you allow users to choose whether to follow the new site format or not, you get a mish mash of people seeing and writing different things in different fields.
Possibly one camp (titles on or off) will win out over time, and maybe that is what you foresee happening here, but until that does happen it is going to be a lot of confusion. People do adapt, but if only some people are adapting to the new format and others aren't, it's going to be a mess. While I am personally anti-title, I wish that there was just one decision here.
I want to see the same metafilter as everyone else, and moreimportantly i wantto see the metafilter posts how their creators meant them to be seen, but now i don't know if users are creating posts with the assumption that my titles are on or off.

Of course, people have different scripts and preferences already, so people are seeing metafilters without favorites or with different fonts or deleted posts, but seeing different structures that affect the content and whether it is even delivered at all is a whole new ball game.

To me, titles were bad but fragmenting user experience by allowing title toggling is worse.

I do appreciate the ability to customize how titles are displayed, though, and how all of the mods have been so nice and responsive about the uproar.

Apologies if this should go in Monday's thread instead, and if so feel free to remove or move this.
posted by rmless at 10:36 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Honestly, thank you. This is why I always end up coming back to the site.

I set the size to 2, because I am weird.
posted by dogwalker at 10:36 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wingdings for all!

This is exactly where I went, and sadly can't get it to work. The blow is softened by not having serious intent to keep it that way, so 0-point it is.
posted by Drastic at 10:36 AM on January 9, 2013


"So, not being a student of fonts, can people share their preferred body/byline/title font settings? I have all mine set to verdana, but I would like more ideas."

Comic Sans FTW!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:37 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


11pt Verdana bold. Aaaah. So nice. I actually like the titles now.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:37 AM on January 9, 2013


Thanks for doing this, Matt.
I think I'll still stick to the Stylish hack for the blue, though, because the titles work just fine for Ask.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:38 AM on January 9, 2013


Does anyone else think that it's a little jarring to watch the title switch back to the default font upon clicking a link to a post? With the people using the size-zero workaround for the front page, preserving the font size setting on post pages would be untenable, but maybe preserve the font choice?
posted by darksasami at 10:38 AM on January 9, 2013


Thank you for this. Font size: 0. My metafilter is back. <3 <3 <3
posted by phunniemee at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you! I was somewhere in the "meh" range yesterday - didn't hate them, didn't really like them - but I think I actually quite like the titles (at least in Ask) in a slightly smaller-than-the-question font. Screenshot. They're not obtrusive, they're easy to read, they add information without taking up too much room. Yay!
posted by insectosaurus at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


buuut...can the default PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be set to 'off' to avoid the data balkanization that has already been mentioned extensively?

Why do you care what the default is?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:40 AM on January 9, 2013


Helvetica Neue 10 for bylines.
Helvetica Neue 12 for posts.
Helvetica Neue 8 for titles. (for the moment)
posted by zarq at 10:40 AM on January 9, 2013


You know, one thing I am finding is that 72 characters is on the restrictive side. I wonder if, as part of the tweaking, you might consider something a hair longer, say 100 characters?

I know cortex mentioned 72 let in 96% of extant titles, but maybe we could make it get 99%.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:41 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


...but maybe preserve the font choice?

Right now the font size and face setting only applies to the front pages where they're new. As Matt mentioned, we're going to wait-and-see some more on any changes. So for the time being, titles on comment pages will be the same as they have been.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:41 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


THANK YOU! A bajillion times over!
I do want to also take a moment and say that we made a change and didn't communicate it well beforehand. That's my fault and I'm sorry. Second, whether you love it or hate it, we're very appreciative of the feedback and thoughtful responses to the ideas in Monday's thread. In the future, big changes like this will not be launched without communicating to the community first, floating ideas for feedback, showing mockups where appropriate, and getting more feedback before releasing to the site.
This made me choke up a bit :,) Thank you so much for listening and for saying this!
 .:::.   .:::.
::::: W.F. ::::
:::::: + ::::::
':::: MeFi :::'
  ': 4 eva :'
    ':::::'
      ':'
posted by Westringia F. at 10:42 AM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I continue to be mystified by people who have intense reactions to this change, but kudos for implementing an approach that will give users greater ability to configure things to suit their preferences.

Thanks also to those in this thread who have provided a vivid demonstration of the principle "You can't please everybody."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:43 AM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Why do you care what the default is?

um...read the second half of the sentence. or any of the answers you've gotten the last 50 times you've asked this question.

'mystery meat' is NOT the same thing as 'half a corpse'
posted by sexyrobot at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


I want to see the same metafilter as everyone else, and moreimportantly i wantto see the metafilter posts how their creators meant them to be seen, but now i don't know if users are creating posts with the assumption that my titles are on or off.

This will never happen. There's an enormous amount of customization available on all parts of MetaFilter, even more when you figure in third-party customization. You can't control the way other users want to view the site, nor can creators control the way their posts are read. For heaven's sake, we can't even get people to actually read the links before commenting. You can set your preferences to what works best for you and let the rest of us do the same.
posted by gladly at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sweet, thanks (I'm posting this here rather than the other thread where I posted asking for this just a short time ago). This really does make a difference.

I currently have the font set to verdana (same as the body) and the size set to 11 (same as the body also). But you've added enough other styling to the title so that it's still clear that it's different and a title. Yesterday I was struggling to read anything beyond just skipping from title to title and yes, it did actually give me a headache (I already had tired eyes). Whereas this I can read all the text and either look at or ignore the title, and I'm back to reading through the posts like I was previously. I don't know if it will be enough to make me like the titles but now I feel like I can actually give them a real chance. Knowing I can turn them off regardless helps with the trying in good faith thing too.

I definitely recommend those who also dislike the titles try making them smaller/better styled for a while before just turning them off, it might be enough to make ti work.
posted by shelleycat at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


buuut...can the default PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be set to 'off' to avoid the data balkanization that has already been mentioned extensively?

Why do you care what the default is?


Good point, it does not matter either way at all. So just turn it off. :)
posted by Drinky Die at 10:45 AM on January 9, 2013


Why do you care what the default is?

Your ability to follow these threads and retain information from one post to the next seems somewhat impaired these past two days, otherwise you'd stop demanding we repeat ourselves over and over. Maybe you're hoping for an answer you like better this time? I dunno. It strikes me that you're not discussing this with us in good faith.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:46 AM on January 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


So can anyone give me a substantive answer to my question? It was offered in good faith and it would be helpful to know the answer.
posted by dios at 10:46 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


mathowie: We've toyed with A/B testing in the past but it's a relative pain to setup and a lot of work to gather data from.

Have you looked at a 3rd party tool like Optimizely*? It really makes UI based A/B testing pretty simple.

*Not affiliated, but am considering purchasing.
posted by Jacob G at 10:47 AM on January 9, 2013


What I've now done is set title sizes to 1 (rather than 0) which ends up rendering them as a small, unobtrusive line on top of the post body text. They are barely noticeable that way, but if for some reason I need to read one I can copy & paste it into a text editor or zoom in on it until it is readable. I recommend this unfortunate kludge for those who dislike titles but also dislike missing out on key packets of information.
posted by Scientist at 10:47 AM on January 9, 2013


I think that just as the mods stamped out games with the "more inside" links, they should also stamp out games with the title, and I will help them by flagging posts that do so with "display error".
posted by deo rei at 10:47 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


WHAT.
THE.
FUCK.
MATT!

Can't we plese just go back to not having preferences for this? I am against this change, as it's clearly a cowardly capitulation to those overly vocal, stagnant, conservative haters who threatened to off themselves and their accounts if the slightest change got made.

The titles were awesome, and to see them just get tossed aside like this is really upsetting. I'm upset. My eyes are crawling out of my skull. Kill preferences with fire!!!!
posted by carsonb at 10:48 AM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Thanks for this.

I still would have preferred it to be a site-specific change instead of all of the metafilter properties, but this solves the problems in the short term. In the longer term, I would love it if someone or several someones could:

1) analyze the distribution of chosen title font size settings (presuming giant/ariel == "did not change") and get a better count of votes (a la Miko's suggestions in the other thread)

2) come up with a way to even start analyzing how posts are constructed for the Blue, so we can come back in a month or two and see if titles did actually change anything. (I'd love to help with this, actually, it's an interesting problem.)
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 10:49 AM on January 9, 2013


I never noticed you can make body size 0. It makes the front page look cleaner with just titles but hides the post text and comments when you click on the title. If not for that I would be rolling title only on my ipad.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:49 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ooh, 12 pt titles are so pretty. Thanks, mods!
posted by leesh at 10:50 AM on January 9, 2013


Can someone give me an explanation why "Default On/Option Turn Off" is preferable to "Default Off/Option Turn On"?

Because we believe the change is a good one, and we're offering the ability of a quick opt-out as a compromise for the folks who really can't abide the titles, not as a suggestion that not-showing-titles is what we think of as the ideal default. I understand that you disagree with the idea of titles being shown, but that's a point of disagreement and it actually does matter to us that we give the title-as-default thing a go.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:51 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Can't we plese just go back to not having preferences for this? I am against this change, as it's clearly a cowardly capitulation to those overly vocal, stagnant, conservative haters who threatened to off themselves and their accounts if the slightest change got made.

The titles were awesome, and to see them just get tossed aside like this is really upsetting. I'm upset. My eyes are crawling out of my skull. Kill preferences with fire!!!!


Please tell me you're being sarcastic. Or joking. Or something else that doesn't make me think you think those with opinions differing from yours ought to be silenced.
posted by cooker girl at 10:51 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just: thanks.
posted by progosk at 10:51 AM on January 9, 2013


(and so titles where banished from the Land Of Whelk's Laptop and all was happy in the kingdom once more)
posted by The Whelk at 10:52 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


You are a good dude, mathowie.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:52 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the sidebar update, too.
posted by zarq at 10:52 AM on January 9, 2013


So can anyone give me a substantive answer to my question?

As someone upthread said, defaulting a feature to on is usually for non-members, but also concerns uptake among members. If we defaulted every feature to off by default, we'd have things like perhaps 10% of users even enabling MeFi Mail. If we did it for every feature, the site would essentially never change for users and non-users alike and I get that maybe this is your goal, but it's no way to evolve a site or improve functionality if you can't be sure more than a small subset of super users has tweaked anything can use it.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:53 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks, Matt! As a quick fix, I dialed down titles to 8pts and the results are ... very livable! I'm going to try and leave it like this instead of killing the titles outright. Yeah, I guess my problem all along was how eye-catching they were, and how they subconsciously encouraged skimming over in-depth reading. Now they've been tamed, I may not mind them being there at all.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:54 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


dios: So can anyone give me a substantive answer to my question? It was offered in good faith and it would be helpful to know the answer [about why opt-out is preferred over opt-in for titles].

As has been mentioned (several times, both in this thread and the other one) the reason is that making titles opt-in would essentially nullify their usefulness in achieving the initial design goals.

Titles have been implemented primarily to make the site more comprehensible for casual, not-logged-in users who aren't familiar with site conventions (apparently lack of titles is confusing for a lot of people who aren't used to the way MetaFilter does things) as well as to avoid the problem of people rendering their AskMe questions incoherent by burying the core of their question in the title field.

Making titles opt-in would mean that most people reading the site, and especially all non-members, would not see the titles. Therefore we would continue to have the problems listed in the paragraph above this one.

Titles were not implemented for the benefit of the users who are members of the site and familiar with its workings and who know about (or even have access to) preferences to customize the site to their taste. They were implemented for the benefit of casual and novice users who do not understand how the site works and who are unwilling or unable to obtain that understanding, so that the site would behave more like their preconceptions lead them to expect it to behave.

I think that that is honestly part of the reason why there has been so much friction; the admin team was thinking more about casual user needs, and didn't really consider the concerns of regular users very much. Nevertheless, in light of the stated design goals it would not make sense to implement titles as an opt-in feature.
posted by Scientist at 10:55 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So who won this one, Superusers or Cabal? (for those of us scoring at home)
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:55 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Add me to the list of people who don't care that much about titles (I don't love them at the moment; will fiddle with the settings one of these days to get something good but don't much care either way) but really appreciate Matt's apology and the long-standing tradition of meaningful user input and dialogue on the site. Mistakes or arguments happen, as they do everywhere, but their resolution is just head & shoulders above most places.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:55 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please tell me you're being sarcastic. Or joking.

I am fairly certain carsonb was being sarcastic and joking.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:55 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have all mine set to verdana, but I would like more ideas.

Someone in the other thread mentioned Calibri so I gave that a go too. Size needs to be bumped up a bit but it is quite nice, clean and readable. It was just a bit smooth and bubblegum looking for me but was worth a look.
posted by shelleycat at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2013


Now I can't tell if cortex is being sarcastic or joking. There's no bottom to this hole!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just did the same thing as Afroblanco and I'm in agreement. I don't mind the titles now that the body text is more important, so to speak. And they're still there if I need context.

Thanks for everything, mods, and especially to you, Mat.

(on preview: thanks, cortex. sometimes my sarcasm/joke meter dips below normal.)
posted by cooker girl at 10:57 AM on January 9, 2013


So who won this one, Superusers or Cabal?

They don't play until the semifinals, this was Superusers vs. Tampa Bay.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:57 AM on January 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


Uururhgh I don't know how it's possible for 8 pt titles to still be incredibly distracting but it is. Going to give it a few days to try to get used to teeny tiny titles. I guess if it doesn't work I'll be setting them to zero again.

Thanks for all the options, Matt & all.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:57 AM on January 9, 2013


Also: apologies to carsonb for any misrepresentation.
posted by cooker girl at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2013


This will never happen.
Gladly, in the very next sentence I explain that I know how users have different preferences already but why I think this change is unlike those preferences because it affects the structure and meaning of the content itself.
posted by rmless at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


cooker girl, I never kiss and tell.
posted by carsonb at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you so much for your responsiveness to your community and your dedication to improving both our experience here on the site and our experience here as invested members. I truly appreciate your efforts and your humility. Same goes for all the mods. Thank you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you for the answer Matt and Josh. I trust that you fully understand my criticisms of this has never been a criticism of you or opposition for opposition's sake. It has been advanced in an earnest desire for what is best for the community, which I know motivates you both as well. We just disagree. And between the two of you and me, it is clear who has the most expertise in developing a successful community, so I hope you are right again and my concern is misplaced. I've been wrong before. I hope this is one of those times.
posted by dios at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2013


Set everything to zero. Site amazingly clean.
posted by Trochanter at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


as well as to avoid the problem of people rendering their AskMe questions incoherent by burying the core of their question in the title field.

Making titles opt-in would mean that most people reading the site, and especially all non-members, would not see the titles. Therefore we would continue to have the problems listed in the paragraph above this one.


We're going to see more of them, not less, I wager. Now that hiding titles has been sanctioned by a pref, people will make posts and ask questions expecting the titles to be read, and people with titles hidden will moan in the threads and try to enforce the etiquette.

What was formerly a clear problem (a post dependent on a title) that was fixed by the mods will become a never-ending etiquette battle with no clear solution, unless these things are default-off for members.
posted by fightorflight at 10:59 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been tweaking with titles in Stylish and trying and trying to get used to them, but with no success. It's been having a very negative impact on how I read the site. So, I'll be setting font size to zero.

Just a reminder to everyone who uses a browser with a status bar, you can always mouse over the timestamp (or the "more inside" or the "xx comments") and see the title in the status bar, because the title has always been part of the post's url.

And I just want to repeat what others here have said about how much we appreciate that this is a site that listens to its users, rarely makes mistakes, and is sincere about learning from them when they do.

Thanks to Matt and to pb and to all the mods !!
posted by marsha56 at 10:59 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So who won this one, Superusers or Cabal?

As usual the real winner are the shadowy forces even now consolidating their power.

*shakes maracas*
posted by The Whelk at 10:59 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Titles were not implemented for the benefit of the users who are members of the site and familiar with its workings and who know about (or even have access to) preferences to customize the site to their taste.

Not sure if that was the intent (I don't think the mods said that), but this old-ass user sure appreciates not having to click through to see titles.
posted by anildash at 10:59 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The title still shows up when you open the post in it's own page. So I don't see the need to put in weird 1pt place-holders or generally being paranoid about what you're missing out on. The information is still there if you care enough about the post to click it open. So I don't see any problem with having titles on by default and some users turning them off. And that's as someone who will probably turn them off on my phone at least (which is about half my metafilter time), if not entirely.

At the least I don't see the problem with giving it a go for a week or two and seeing how the posting style adapts (if at all) before getting all het up about the disparity. It probably won't end up being some big schism in the userbase or whatever, it generally doesn't.
posted by shelleycat at 11:01 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


fightorflight:We're going to see more of them, not less, I wager. Now that hiding titles has been sanctioned by a pref, people will make posts and ask questions expecting the titles to be read, and people with titles hidden will moan in the threads and try to enforce the etiquette.

It has already been stated in the original thread (in the context of discussing this compromise, before it was implemented) that running with titles off is now basically an unsupported mode and that if you are having trouble understanding posts or questions because you've turned off titles, then that's your own problem.

So I don't expect that the mods will be very sympathetic to people moaning about how people are burying information in the titles, although matt has stated a tentative preference above for people to try and not make comprehension of a post/question totally dependent on the title.
posted by Scientist at 11:03 AM on January 9, 2013


Zero is lovely. I am okay with the resulting potential for mystery-meat posts made by hiding the title, because we already had mystery-meat posts anyway.
posted by pemberkins at 11:03 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


fightorflight: I agree with your premise but I don't think it would be resolved by having titles default to off. You would still have people aiming titles at those who have them turned on, and moreover the UX for new users would be awful... You like media, you get an account, and all of a sudden everything looks different and you have to go to preferences and set it up to get titles back?
posted by rmless at 11:03 AM on January 9, 2013


and people with titles hidden will moan in the threads and try to enforce the etiquette.

Well those people should look up at the top of the text before they post their moans because the title will be right there. They know they turned the titles off on the main page so it's not like they can pretend they didn't realise what's happening.
posted by shelleycat at 11:04 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


So who won this one, Superusers or Cabal?

As usual the real winner are the shadowy forces even now consolidating their power.

*shakes maracas*


Does this power make my maracas look fat?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:04 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


They don't play until the semifinals, this was Superusers vs. Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Beanplaters have always been a scrappy bunch... I like them almost as much as my favorite college team, New Orleans University. Our rallying cry is "NO U!"
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:04 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think that that is honestly part of the reason why there has been so much friction; the admin team was thinking more about casual user needs, and didn't really consider the concerns of regular users very much.

One of the big design goals of this was for members scanning the front page of Ask MetaFilter. You can set your titles to hidden and try the "before" version, but it was very time-consuming and took effort to read through 50 text blurbs trying to figure out what people are asking about. The titles make it much easier to spot a word or even the entire short question among all the questions and respond.

We did this to encourage more answers from members, and the general consensus seems to be it works pretty well on Ask MeFi though the field is new and we'll see how people choose to use it in the future, but it's mostly a very good thing there for members and non-members alike.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:05 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gladly, in the very next sentence I explain that I know how users have different preferences already but why I think this change is unlike those preferences because it affects the structure and meaning of the content itself.

I know that, but there is so much customization aside from viewing preferences--user notes scripts, kill files, RSS feeds, the "My Ask" tab--the user experience with respect to content is already fragmented.
posted by gladly at 11:05 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks. Set to zero. Solves my personal reading issue; doesn't do much for the change in site culture on MeFi proper, unfortunately.
posted by flex at 11:06 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So who won this one, Superusers or Cabal?

I'm accepting donations to the mjjj PAC because you can never be too prepared for future changes.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:06 AM on January 9, 2013


I have turned this off and I will never, ever, ever, ever turn it back on and thank you very much for making that a thing I can do.
posted by kbanas at 11:07 AM on January 9, 2013


*sets title font size to 0*

Ahhhhhh...there's the MeFi I know and love.
posted by mediated self at 11:07 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank god our long national nightmare is over.
posted by desjardins at 11:08 AM on January 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


Honey, I Shrunk The Font!

(just a little. Thanks, guys.)
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:08 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I set the size to -12 and now I've come around through the verso side of the Internet. It's weird.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:09 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


That's an international nightmare thankyouverymuch. (heh)
posted by shelleycat at 11:10 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks so much for this Matt. This is an excellent compromise. A great example of why Metafilter is one of the very best sites on this wild and woolly internetz thing.
posted by moxiequz at 11:11 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks very much for this option!
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:12 AM on January 9, 2013


What was formerly a clear problem (a post dependent on a title) that was fixed by the mods will become a never-ending etiquette battle with no clear solution, unless these things are default-off for members.

The 'fiscal cliff' veiled-threat-as-argument technique has no power here.
posted by carsonb at 11:12 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well those people should look up at the top of the text before they post their moans because the title will be right there. They know they turned the titles off on the main page so it's not like they can pretend they didn't realise what's happening.

So you're saying that people who turn titles off (which is a sanctioned thing, so claiming it's unsupported is a cop-out) could potentially have to click into every single thread if they want to understand what they're on about, and that's a situation that's OK and that they can't complain about?
posted by fightorflight at 11:12 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Muchas gracias.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:12 AM on January 9, 2013


Is anyone else wondering if they're a super user? How do you qualify? Do I get a badge? Maybe a leotard with the mefi logo on the chest?
posted by desjardins at 11:12 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


(In other words it sounds like you know it's gonna happen that way because you plan on doing it. It's only a battle if people are fighting.)
posted by carsonb at 11:13 AM on January 9, 2013


Thank you! Thank you thank you.
posted by threeants at 11:14 AM on January 9, 2013


Noticia Text 12 pt for Titles
Myriad Pro 14 pt for Body Font
Myriad Pro 10 pt for Bylines

Plain white theme. This is how it all looks.

Noticia Text is a free Google font, good for headlines.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:15 AM on January 9, 2013


I think it should be documented in the preference page itself that setting font size to 0 hides titles, because that is not obvious, especially considering that there are check boxes for the other binary options.
posted by Fruny at 11:15 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How do you qualify?

Once the mods' notes on you contain at least three obscenities either describing or directed at your actions, your account is automatically made into a Super User account. However, all that means is that you get a little note next to your username that says Super User: Requires Super Vision.
posted by griphus at 11:15 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


(In other words it sounds like you know it's gonna happen that way because you plan on doing it. It's only a battle if people are fighting.)

It's a worry, not a threat. And that "people who turn titles off can just lump the confusion because screw those guys" posts are already happening doesn't allay my fears much.
posted by fightorflight at 11:16 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is anyone else wondering if they're a super user? How do you qualify? Do I get a badge? Maybe a leotard with the mefi logo on the chest?

Well my cape says Super User on in.

Oops! that's Super Loser. Never mind.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:16 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yay, thank you!
posted by limeonaire at 11:18 AM on January 9, 2013


We're going to see more of them, not less, I wager.

I don't know about you folks, but this is how I read the front page:

I read a bit of each post...

Scenario A
1) if interesting, click a link
2) if link is interesting, click through to thread
3) read whole thread
4) read title

Scenario B
1) if not interesting, proceed to next post

Scenario C
1) if confusing, click through to thread
2) read more inside (if compelling, click link)
3) if no more inside, glance at comments (if compelling, click link)
4) click link
5) come back and read title

The title is literally the last thing I read, even if I'm confused about the subject of a post. I can't imagine that my turning titles off while others have them enabled will change my mefi experience in any way, since for mysterious posts I don't read the title anyway. So, for those of you suggesting that this is going to be some catastrophic thing, I really don't think it will. At least not for me. The title is still there, and still just as available as it ever was. But now it's outta my way.

I was one of the ones for whom the titles really bungled up my browsing experience, so I'm really, really glad I can hide them now.
posted by phunniemee at 11:19 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


um...read the second half of the sentence. or any of the answers you've gotten the last 50 times you've asked this question.

Sort of like the last 50 times you've proposed this or similar solutions, eh?

A change was made. People complained, asking for the ability to personalize the change. That has been done.

Yet it's still not enough for some people. You want everyone to view the sight as you see fit, even as you toggle the preference to suit your needs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:23 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


So you're saying that people who turn titles off (which is a sanctioned thing, so claiming it's unsupported is a cop-out) could potentially have to click into every single thread if they want to understand what they're on about, and that's a situation that's OK and that they can't complain about?

No, I'm saying if you're already in a thread about to complain something about the lack of title in that thread then the title is now right there. I actually don't know what kinds of complaints people could even post in a thread about the hidden title because this all seems very sky is falling type stuff to me. But once you're in the thread to complain then it's moot, title is there.

And surely someone who cares so much about what every title says such that they click into every thread would just turn them back on? This whole thing seems silly. Why not lets see what actually happens instead of getting all upset about the default setting?
posted by shelleycat at 11:25 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the posting page should have a note by the title field that says something like:

“Titles are not visible on the front pages for some users. Please write you post so that it is understandable without the title.”
posted by D.C. at 11:26 AM on January 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


We are so, so, so spoiled.

Thanks for catering to us, Matt & team.
posted by batmonkey at 11:27 AM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is great, thanks. Now that I've set the title and byline fonts and sizes to match, it's unobtrusive enough that I can get used to it. For the record, I'm looking at Body=cambria 12, Byline & Title=verdana 8.

I appreciate your flexibility and hard work, Matt and company.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:28 AM on January 9, 2013


I think the posting page should have a note by the title field that says something like:

“Titles are not visible on the front pages for some users. Please write you post so that it is understandable without the title.”


2nd that motion
posted by juv3nal at 11:30 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey, what are the default font preferences (for body, byline, and and title) settings supposed to be? Or rather, how would I return to the default? I have no idea what I changed them from and want to see what the site is supposed to look like.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:30 AM on January 9, 2013


No, I'm saying if you're already in a thread about to complain something about the lack of title in that thread then the title is now right there.

So if I put your TV in my house and you come over and complain can I go "I don't see what you're complaining about, you're here now, you can watch it easily"?

Why not lets see what actually happens instead of getting all upset about the default setting?

Because defaults aren't just about how a thing looks, they define the culture of the site. If Matt turned on animated gif avatars for every poster would we wait and see how it turned out or be concerned based on fairly reasonable conjectures about what would happen next?

This change will affect how posts are composed, and already has. That is not something users can fix with a preference at their end; only ameliorate.
posted by fightorflight at 11:30 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


MetaFiltr web 2.0 look. How it looks with title 32 and body 0 on iPad.

Thanks guys, I don't know how you put up with us.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:32 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Please write your post so that it is understandable without the title

To be fair, people don't do that now and we won't be enforcing it so it's unlikely that we'll be adding that note. We'll put something in the FAQ that is updated and we'll try to do good user education if it turns out that this is a problem that comes up more than rarely.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:34 AM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah - we don't even enforce Please write your post so that it is understandable.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:37 AM on January 9, 2013 [31 favorites]


One of the common complaints about titles seemed to be that they encourage skimming the front page rather than reading it. What I don't quite get is how mousing over to discern a post's title or even clicking through if its meaning is vague is such a hardship if at the same time not skimming the front page is such a high priority? I get that in terms of pure efficiency there might be some infinitesimal loss when quickly assessing what you want to expend time on investigating further, but is that it? The three seconds it might take to ascertain the title of a post? This is not a personal attack, but I am genuinely curious.

Full disclosure: I ask this as someone who has read almost every post of every sub site on Metafilter every day for the last ~3 years so I'm willing to accept that I am just utterly out of touch with how the average user interacts with the front page.
posted by Lorin at 11:39 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's Raining Florence Henderson: "Yeah - we don't even enforce Please write your post so that it is understandable."

We should totally make that a profile banner. "PROUD MAKER OF INCOMPREHENSIBLE POSTS SINCE NOVEMBER 18, 2004."
posted by zarq at 11:39 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So if I put your TV in my house and you come over and complain can I go "I don't see what you're complaining about, you're here now, you can watch it easily"?

No, it like if I put my TV in your house then sat in my house and complained about it. If a user turns off the titles they know they turned off the titles, it's up to them to deal with that however is best for them. I'm just pointing out that the titles don't vanish, they are still visible in lots of places (just as they were before), something that people seemed to be forgetting with the whole "well I guess I can cut and paste if I need to" and "people are going to post complaints" and whatever.

I assume any comments in a thread about how someone can't see the title and whatever it is that is upsetting them about that will be deleted as noise anyway. But complaining about not being able to read a title when the title is right there, just doesn't seem likely let alone reasonable.
posted by shelleycat at 11:45 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ad hominem, that layout gave me a flashback.

Lorin, we all have visual and cognitive processing differences. Some of us find it really hard to "unstick" skimming mode when titles are prominent or even visible. Having to stop and start really, genuinely bugs some of us a LOT. It's not posturing or a princess/pea situation. I thought I would like titles well enough when I first found out about them, but they really drove me mad once I tried reading the front page. (I also once thought acupuncture would be great for physiotherapy, but I found out that it totally doesn't work for me. Major bummer.)

But my titles are at 0 now, so the twitching has faded substantially.
posted by maudlin at 11:47 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq: "We should totally make that a profile banner."

We're a gibberish foundry?
posted by boo_radley at 11:49 AM on January 9, 2013


Matt,
You're the top!
You're Ovaltine!
You're a boom,
You're the dam at Boulder,
You're the moon,
Over Mae West's shoulder,
I'm the nominee of the G.O.P.

can people share their preferred body/byline/title font settings?

Body: Century Gothic 10/Byline: Baskerville 8/Title: 0
posted by octobersurprise at 11:49 AM on January 9, 2013


A note on size customizations: You can easily and quickly change the size of fonts by (On Windows) holding down the control key and using the scroll wheel on your mouse. On the mac, it's the command key.

Can't remember how to do it on a laptop, I just use the plus (+) or minus (-) keys. Check the View menu of your favorites browser to see what the key commands are.

I find it's easier to do change the size manually, on ad hoc basis, rather than saying *this* is the font size. Helps when your eyes get tired.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:50 AM on January 9, 2013


Thank you so much!
posted by HotToddy at 11:51 AM on January 9, 2013


If you're still unhappy with what's on offer, learn to write Greasemonkey scripts or Stylish scripts and roll your own. Or offer to pay someone to write what you want. (Not me, I don't know how to write them.)
posted by IndigoRain at 11:51 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


But complaining about not being able to read a title when the title is right there, just doesn't seem likely let alone reasonable.

Jesus; the complaints will be that the post isn't comprehensible on the front page. That you have to enter the thread (and see the title) to post your gentle user-educating FAQ-pointing post about making posts comprehensible without titles is totally irrelevant.

We'll put something in the FAQ that is updated and we'll try to do good user education if it turns out that this is a problem that comes up more than rarely.

This is usually the sign of an intractable culture problem that there's no real technical fix for. It seems weird to invite that need on ourselves with this change.
posted by fightorflight at 11:51 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


boo_radley: " We're a gibberish foundry?"

Just me. ;)
posted by zarq at 11:53 AM on January 9, 2013


This thing reminds me of a standoff I had with my 2 year old last night about brushing her teeth. wild.
posted by iamabot at 11:54 AM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jesus; the complaints will be that the post isn't comprehensible on the front page.

Then there's the option to turn on titles. Problem solved!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:54 AM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


10pt/Verdana seems pretty nicely unobstrusive to me.
posted by gerryblog at 11:55 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brandon, are you able to re-size the title font with those browser shortcuts? I'm using Firefox and Chrome on Windows 7, but when I set titles to 1, they don't get larger when I use Ctrl +. All the other text does re-size, though.

/sets titles back to 0, breathes deeply
posted by maudlin at 11:55 AM on January 9, 2013


Jesus; the complaints will be that the post isn't comprehensible on the front page.

In practice, that has been a historical problem as well, and the solution has been to click through to the thread to see the title and comments. It's possible it'll happen a bit more often now for folks who have specifically opted out of titles, but I honestly don't see it becoming the prevailing norm.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:55 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


AH HA HA HA HA HA!!!
posted by charred husk at 11:56 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


We'll put something in the FAQ that is updated . . .

How many people really read the FAQ? I’d guess few. The reason I suggested that it be put in the text next to the title field is that even getting people to read boilerplate text at the bottom of the posting page is bound to be a problem.
posted by D.C. at 11:57 AM on January 9, 2013


Lorin, we all have visual and cognitive processing differences. Some of us find it really hard to "unstick" skimming mode when titles are prominent or even visible. Having to stop and start really, genuinely bugs some of us a LOT.

I totally get this. I'm still undecided myself on whether to hide them or not. I do think it bears repeating that one need not even click through to divine a post's title, it's right there in the URL. I have no idea if that helps people on mobile devices though, I suppose the mouseover concept doesn't really apply?
posted by Lorin at 11:58 AM on January 9, 2013


The reason I suggested that it be put in the text next to the title field is that even getting people to read boilerplate text at the bottom of the posting page is bound to be a problem.

I would suggest once again that any text that needs to be read during posting a new thread should show up to the right of the field when it is selected. Stack Exchange does this and it works beautifully, way better than the forest of TL;DR text that comes up on the MetaFilter posting pages.
posted by grouse at 11:59 AM on January 9, 2013


Thank you. I really appreciate this. Hiding titles makes me feel better. I was not enjoying AskMe as much as I usually do because of the titles (I know, it's a bit odd, but it really made me cranky to see titles).

Thanks to the mods for handling this gracefully and well despite the stress.
posted by k8lin at 11:59 AM on January 9, 2013


Made my titles huge as a vote against moaning stupid users.

I'm sure there's a classic UX article about limiting the ability for users to change their user experience. How giving in to this kind of bikeshedding behaviour with configurability actually causes users to use the site less over the long term.

I may see if I can find it.
posted by zoo at 12:00 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brandon, are you able to re-size the title font with those browser shortcuts?

Yep, just double checked.

I've never had a problem being able to resize any fonts on any website using this method.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:00 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then there's the option to turn on titles. Problem solved!
Let me rephrase the problem: that posts won't be comprehensible on the front page without turning titles on.

Which lots of people don't want to do. As evidenced by the preference, and by the choruses of thanks in this thread from people racing to disable them.

I honestly don't see it becoming the prevailing norm.
Don't know, from the mod comments it seems like the tide was barely being held back on AskMe even with the title field buried on the posting page. With titles visible by default seems strange to think it won't become the prevailing way of composing posts to depend upon them.
posted by fightorflight at 12:01 PM on January 9, 2013


Thank you so much for listening! I've set mine back to 0 for now, but I might play with them in the future. I hadn't realized until all of this happened how customizable the fonts were.
posted by Mouse Army at 12:04 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks, Matt. You're a mensch.

As one of those who was obstinately opposing titles in the previous thread, I feel it incumbent on me to say that I seriously doubt there's going to be a massive flood of mystery-meat posts, all the talk about a change in MeFi posting culture is overblown, and I expect to be enjoying my MeFi experience pretty much as I did before.
posted by languagehat at 12:04 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Font size customised to zero. I have normality. I repeat, I have normality. Anything I still can't cope with is therefore my own problem.

Thanks so much for implementing the workaround, mods! This superlurker is hugely relieved.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 12:05 PM on January 9, 2013


Between this and the Favorites Count Debacle, I think that Matt & team have shown themselves to be more understanding and responsive to community input than any website ever in the history of the Internet.

Thanks!

/favorites OFF forever, still playing with titles.
posted by misskaz at 12:06 PM on January 9, 2013


The two most difficult yet important words in the English language: I'm sorry.

Amazing. And I'm among those who didn't even think it was necessary.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yaaaaaaay! I was coming around to hating them but feel better now. Thank you!
posted by gauche at 12:06 PM on January 9, 2013


If you all keep playing with options, can I endorse Too-Ticky's idea from the other thread? (Sorry if someone else made the same suggestion/mockup earlier and I missed it.)
I've been thinking.
What if:

- titles stay, but
- there is a toggle setting that users can change
- if it's set to on, titles are shown as titles (much) like now
- if it's set to off, titles are shown as the first sentence of the post

Would that work?
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:34 PM on January 9 [+] [!]
In short, add a "[ ] Show titles as first sentence of posts on the front page" option. Here's what that looks like.

What's awesome about this is, it makes the front page look and read almost exactly the way it did before the change for people who want that, but also allows them to see exactly the same content as people who keep the default title display. And because the titles have a different link color, it keeps the "extra click target to jump into the thread" functionality without messing up the post formatting. It's win-win.

To do this cleanly, you would want to add punctuation only if the title didn't end with punctuation already. But you can get 90% of the way there just using Stylish:
.posttitle.front:after { content: ":\0000a0"; }
.posttitle.front { font-family: inherit!important; float: left; padding-top: 3px; font-size: inherit!important; margin-right: 0; }
#posts .post > blockquote:first-child { padding-top: 1em; }
I'm not sure if this is meaningfully better than just setting the titles to normal font and size, but I like it. What do y'all think?
posted by jhc at 12:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Papyrus at 22pt seems about right.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:07 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


shelleycat writes "And surely someone who cares so much about what every title says such that they click into every thread would just turn them back on? This whole thing seems silly. Why not lets see what actually happens instead of getting all upset about the default setting?"

You won't see anything from me. I don't click through inarticulate or confusing posts. If a post only makes sense when one reads the title then that means that now that I have titles minimized those posts are confusign and therefor not wortht he click through.
posted by Mitheral at 12:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then there's the option to turn on titles. Problem solved!

Look Brandon Blatcher, I absolutely get that you don't agree with the viewpoint fightorflight (and others) have described, but with the sheer number of times the scenario has been explained to you I'm finding it really hard to believe you're not just being deliberately obtuse. It's a pretty simple and well-explained position.

You're helping absolutely no one and definitely not helping any potential discussion by completely ignoring the finer points of it.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:09 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Let me rephrase the problem: that posts won't be comprehensible on the front page without turning titles on.


As a title-turner-offer, this isn't a problem. That's the way it's always been (though I can see the argument that some posts will be a little trickier to immediately understand), and I won't be complaining.


The fact is that one has to go out of their way to hide titles, and I think the onus is on them (me) to accept the repressions.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:09 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


What do y'all think?

It's ok, I guess, but I'm just concerned that your background color has gone all funny. Might want to fix that.
posted by phunniemee at 12:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re the inline option jhc mentions: it doesn't work well for me. A post where the title is meant to be a summary will display an awkward, redundant first sentence. I'll stay with 0 title size, thanks.
posted by maudlin at 12:13 PM on January 9, 2013


Wow, thanks for the responsiveness and fast turn-around! I wasn't going all headless-chicken about titles, but I'm not crazy about them either. Dialed down to zero for now... it will be interesting to see if posting styles evolve to the point where they really need to be on for posts to be comprehensible.
posted by usonian at 12:13 PM on January 9, 2013


Actually I reskinned the whole thing using fonts from the HPLHS set (which any civilized designer must have), but I have to admit that the kerning was really throwing me off my feed and so now it's Palatino, on the professional white background.

... Christ, it feels almost like reading a neighbourhood newsletter someone run off on a LaserWriter. I expect any moment to see a faux business card insert mocked up in Chicago and Monaco.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:15 PM on January 9, 2013


Let me rephrase the problem: that posts won't be comprehensible on the front page without turning titles on

Fragmentation is a worry, and we're watching this closely. Again, we're only 48hrs into this, and since we made the change, it's a new avenue for people writing a post to communicate and we tend to figure out cultural norms of new features over some time, with bumps along the way. My hope is titles on or off doesn't affect the experience of reading the front page very much, but I will concede it'll probably change a little. If it changes a lot, that's a problem, and we have to weigh any changes versus benefits of the change itself. So, this is why I said we're in a wait-and-see period for a bit, to see how the changes shake out.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:16 PM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thank you, Matt. Thank you!
posted by likeso at 12:18 PM on January 9, 2013


Sweet Jesus! Yay! Thanks for listening to everybody's feedback and figuring a solution that would work for everybody.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 12:18 PM on January 9, 2013


Anyway not that it matters more than another bean on the scales of justice but I like the titles.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:18 PM on January 9, 2013


Thank you for this change: setting the titles to the same font and size as the body text has made them bearable.

One problem though: the preference settings do not seem to carry over between computers. Currently they're switched over on my main pc from which I posted this, but looking at my Android mobile and Android Asus Transformer I see the titles are still set to the default settings.

Is this a known issue and do I have to set preferences for each computer?
posted by MartinWisse at 12:18 PM on January 9, 2013


MartinWisse, I've read somewhere that preferences are saved as cookies, so yes, you'd have to set them for each computer you use.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:20 PM on January 9, 2013


So, not being a student of fonts, can people share their preferred body/byline/title font settings? I have all mine set to verdana, but I would like more ideas.

Lato 10 body and title/Roboto Condensed 8 byline, professional white. Boom.

Haven't yet decided whether I personally prefer the title on the top or in the byline, so I keep enabling/disabling Greasemonkey, but when brought to the same size/font as the rest of the body text I do like the titles a lot better.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:20 PM on January 9, 2013


If a post only makes sense when one reads the title then that means that now that I have titles minimized those posts are confusign and therefor not wortht he click through.

I consider this a WIN WIN. People filter posts by their personal taste all the time and that's fine.

It's a pretty simple and well-explained position.

I would agree. People have options about how they want to handle titles. If they choose not handle titles, that's their choice and it's fine. However, they don't get to dictate how others create posts and it's way too early to claim that site culture will be harmed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:20 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The settings carry over, so just log out then log back in. You won't have to edit the preferences for every device...just log out then log back in.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:21 PM on January 9, 2013


MartinWisse, I've read somewhere that preferences are saved as cookies, so yes, you'd have to set them for each computer you use.

Which preferences? Because I never had to reset my white background option when I switched computers, but I've never changed the font or size for text before now.
posted by jeather at 12:22 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The settings carry over, so just log out then log back in

Yeah, that's going to be a problem what with me actually having to remember my password then.

I'll just set them by hand...
posted by MartinWisse at 12:23 PM on January 9, 2013


:D thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.....
posted by you must supply a verb at 12:23 PM on January 9, 2013


Let me rephrase the problem: that posts won't be comprehensible on the front page without turning titles on.

This was already a problem on Ask. Now I agree that it could _also_ have been solved by just removing titles or something, but there were a lot of questions that assumed you read the title first, which was maddening when trying to read through the front page.

Ask is very different in that many many more people make posts, and they are often not frequent users and not MetaTalk readers so you get a lot more people unfamiliar with site norms.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:24 PM on January 9, 2013


MartinWisse: "One problem though: the preference settings do not seem to carry over between computers."

The answer is in the post: "As always, preferences are cookie-based so this will work per-device at the moment you save your preferences page. So if you'd like the Plain Theme and no titles on your mobile device, you can set that and save it, and still have the default theme and titles on your desktop computer."
posted by zarq at 12:24 PM on January 9, 2013


MartinWisse, I've read somewhere that preferences are saved as cookies, so yes, you'd have to set them for each computer you use.

Ah, then that might answer my question above about returning to default on all fonts -- deleting the local MF cookie?
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:26 PM on January 9, 2013


Set the titles to 10pt and the body text to 8pt and now I am really loving titles, btw. They were too big initially, a fact made all the more clear now that I have "fixed" them.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:26 PM on January 9, 2013


Is this a known issue and do I have to set preferences for each computer?

Yes, that's by design; see also a little more detail in the FAQ.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:26 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just put my titles to Monotype Corsiva, 16 pt. (Body and byline still on the site default.) Actually makes MeFi look pretty elegant.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:27 PM on January 9, 2013


Title font = 0
Space Kitty = delighted

Thank you!
posted by Space Kitty at 12:27 PM on January 9, 2013


I think the onus is on them (me) to accept the repressions.

But I don't WANT to be exposed to onus!
posted by octobersurprise at 12:27 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or more to the point, you need to get each computer to re-check those preferences, by logging out and in or nixing cookies, or manually going to the Preferences page and "saving" them again from that device.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:27 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks Matt.
posted by Big_B at 12:27 PM on January 9, 2013


yaaaay titles at 8 Verdana yaaay

My eyeballs are rejoicing, thanks!
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:28 PM on January 9, 2013


Couldn't find the specific article that discusses how engagement changes on websites with an experience that can be altered. This comes close I suppose.
posted by zoo at 12:30 PM on January 9, 2013


This was already a problem on Ask. Now I agree that it could _also_ have been solved by just removing titles or something, but there were a lot of questions that assumed you read the title first, which was maddening when trying to read through the front page.

I had always flagged those as "HTML/display error" when I saw them and mods were usually pretty quick to insert the title at the start of the question body when that happened. Is this still preferred procedure when that happens, or should it now be assumed that people read titles as part of the question?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:31 PM on January 9, 2013


You know, having my old-school beloved MeFi back, it hit me: it's a conversation again. Not a newspaper or a factsheet, it's that great old chesnut, a cocktail party over at Matt's place. You hear snippets of conversation, and if you want to know more or you have something to contribute, you join in.
posted by likeso at 12:31 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


zoo: "Couldn't find the specific article that discusses how engagement changes on websites with an experience that can be altered. This comes close I suppose."

But with things like Greasemonkey and Stylish, not to mention site-specific extensions, all websites have an experience that can be altered, at least for the power user.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:33 PM on January 9, 2013


Font size set to 0. Things look great! Thanks!
posted by .kobayashi. at 12:40 PM on January 9, 2013


I have no idea if it's all of them, but here's a list of some fonts available on an iPhone in case any one else was wondering.
posted by that's how you get ants at 12:41 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Font size 60 is surprisingly fun. Back to zero for normal viewing though.
posted by antiwiggle at 12:43 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you.

The New Post page should now make clear that some people will not see the Title, and that it should not be essential to understanding the Post.
posted by alms at 12:46 PM on January 9, 2013


Thank you thank you!

I really, really like having the titles, and setting them to the same font size and type as the body text makes it flow really nicely for me. You guys are the best.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:47 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I set the titles to 8pt lucinda and now all the posts look like sandwiches hahahaha I have won! the baby is mine somehow.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:52 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is usually the sign of an intractable culture problem that there's no real technical fix for.

With respect, having a website that you need or want to make changes to and having a sharp, detailed-oriented and sometimes irritable and/or change-resistant community is in and of itself a bit of an intractable culture problem. I am speaking to this from a position of respect and sympathy for the users who were displeased by this (I'm not a huge title fan personally, but I understand where the push for them came from and felt more in the loop so it's easier to be mellow about it) but being realistic about this means sometimes stepping on some toes and trying to be as understanding and reasonable about this as we can. We've tried to be polite and communicative and responsive.

The only other way to totally manage it is to not change anything ever which is a non-option. There are a few things we do still change with better and worse approaches and outcomes but doing user education about new features is not in an of itself an admission of failure to my mind. We hear that we can do better and that is our plan.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:52 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Thank you for making this tweak. Also, although I haven't read this whole thread I did read the megalith that came before, and I think y'all must be having a hard week. Me, too. Let's eat chocolate and drink tea together. It will help.

I think jessamyn makes a good point about being in the loop helping to mellow the dislike, and I am really grateful that mathowie has said this will be the way of the future. Even in tricky and difficult situations, I am impressed with the way you handle things. Thanks for making this a place I enjoy coming.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:02 PM on January 9, 2013


jhc, thank you for the signal boost and the mockup!
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:03 PM on January 9, 2013


Apologies if this has already been discussed in that other mega-thread, but I just noticed that I don't appear to be able to flag posts from the front page anymore. Was that intentional?
posted by jbickers at 1:04 PM on January 9, 2013


Apologies if this has already been discussed in that other mega-thread, but I just noticed that I don't appear to be able to flag posts from the front page anymore.

You never could in the first place. It's always been click-through first, flag second.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:06 PM on January 9, 2013


...I don't appear to be able to flag posts from the front page anymore.

We have never had flagging on the front page. We'd like people to see the entire post before they flag it. It's not too much hassle to click into the thread if you're set on flagging it.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for making these changes. That said, I would still prefer it if this feature were off by default.
posted by killdevil at 1:06 PM on January 9, 2013


(Fast-moving thread... sorry if this has been suggested)

The easiest compromise for those of us who set the title font to 0 would be a mouseover on these links:

[more inside]
(5 Comments) (5 New)

with the title on mouseover. So if we see a post with information obviously missing, it's just a quick mouse-hover to fill in the blank. Like an alt-text that fills in the piece of the puzzle. This would be kind of fun, actually.
posted by naju at 1:07 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Huh. I could've sworn you could flag from the front page. Sorry.
posted by jbickers at 1:08 PM on January 9, 2013


MetaFilter: an intractable culture problem.

(sorry)

But seriously, a bug report: the daily.mefi archive pages are not displaying titles (eg, http://www.metafilter.com/daily.mefi/01/09/2013). It should probably be consistent with the rest of the site, no?

And if not, well, there's another argument against titles ;)

(It did occur to me that this could have been used as a kludgy non-script-based workaround for title-haters, but it's surpassed by the new size=0 pref workaround.)
posted by Westringia F. at 1:10 PM on January 9, 2013


The New Post page should now make clear that some people will not see the Title, and that it should not be essential to understanding the Post.

Since you can also set the Body font size to zero, should we tell users that some people will not see the Body, and that it should also not be essential to understanding the Post?
posted by Rock Steady at 1:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


But seriously, a bug report...

Thanks for the heads up. We plan to add titles to that page, and to all archive pages.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:12 PM on January 9, 2013


I've set titles to zero and I'm giddy with delight and am quite surprised how relieved I am about it, really. Enough that I have lost all of my objection to 'but now crucial information might be in titles and I might not understand the bits of post that are visible'. Probably there are differences between how the Title-lovers and the Title-haters have interacted with the site forever anyway, and I personally always skimmed for something that looked interesting and just opened things in new background tabs until I had enough open to last me through breakfast or whatever (I always clicked the links from the new tab with the comment thread, rarely/never off the front page), and I occasionally hovered so I could read the title in the bottom bar thingy when I was on the fence or confused, and I can still do all that, and I honestly don't give a flying shit if I miss something that way (said with manic glee, not malice or bitterness) - because I usually miss some good stuff anyway (as evidenced when I would check popular favourites) so right now I'm pretty much wagging my tail off and hugging my computer and really happy to given back a small perfect thing in my life and also thank you Matt/mods again and again.
posted by you must supply a verb at 1:14 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Westringia F.: "But seriously, a bug report: the daily.mefi archive pages are not displaying titles (eg, http://www.metafilter.com/daily.mefi/01/09/2013). "

Um... what the... The Daily MeFi?

Is this a hidden feature?
posted by zarq at 1:14 PM on January 9, 2013


WTF zarq, you shouldn't even be able to see that URL without a gold account.

Bug report: non-gold members are seeing gold features.
posted by gilrain at 1:17 PM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


zarq: The Daily MeFi? Is this a hidden feature?

It's cheaper just to subscribe to the print version and throw it away when it shows up on your doorstep.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:17 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


So if we see a post with information obviously missing, it's just a quick mouse-hover to fill in the blank.


And thus the circle is complete.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:18 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


The New Post page should now make clear that some people will not see the Title, and that it should not be essential to understanding the Post.

Perhaps we should wait and see if this is actually becomes a significant problem before adding more guidelines for people to ignore. As much as I dislike them, Mystery Meat links have been and will always be with us. Matt hasn't taken away the ability to ignore Mystery Meat links, or click through if your interest is piqued. That said, if you choose to turn off a source of information, the amount of information you receive might be affected.

I used to make petty MML comments to clarify what oh so mysterious and unique posts were about. Now I mostly ignore them, having realised that Mefi is improved by skipping over threads, and there'll be more good stuff down the line.
posted by zamboni at 1:18 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm alone, but I think this thread was a mistake.

I dislike the titles and would prefer to see them removed, but you (mods) said it was a change you had seriously considered before implementing, so I resolved to try them for a week or so and then reconsider. I still intend to. I am not going to tweak my preferences or set any font size to zero. You asked us to give the titles a try, and I will.

But you've poisoned the experiment, in a sense. When we sit down in a week or month or whatever to ask everybody, "Okay, so now that we've lived with it for awhile, what do we think?", you're mostly going to be polling (1) people who liked the idea from the outset, and (2) people who disliked it, turned it off, and so haven't really experienced it.
posted by cribcage at 1:21 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this! I adjusted my titles to be the same font and size as the body text so people won't be able to read those NSFW headlines from two cubicles away.
posted by kimberussell at 1:28 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


P.S. Thanks a ton, Matt and mods!
posted by en forme de poire at 1:28 PM on January 9, 2013


Well done. Thanks.
posted by notyou at 1:33 PM on January 9, 2013


Interesting point, cribcage, but what that would have looked like for me would be 'I haven't been on the site for a week/month'. I'm sorry for being a raging nutcake, I am a fast and careful reader, I spend a lot of my work time proofreading my own and others' work (and I'm good at it) when I'm not writing or reading, and I made lots of efforts to use the front page with titles, and it didn't work for me. I would probably have tried again once every few days instead of my usual almost-always-open use of the site, but it was not usable for me for whatever reason, to the extent that it made me stop using a site I was addicted to. I'm glad (and grateful) it's been done this way.
posted by you must supply a verb at 1:35 PM on January 9, 2013


Flagged as fantastic!

Thank you, thank you.
posted by pointystick at 1:39 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks very much for adding the ability to change titles' appearance or, as in my case, turn them off entirely. The Blue is once more an interesting place to spend some time (for me). Thanks, too, for being open to discussion, for listening to your users, and for using this case to reevaluate how major changes are rolled out in the future. For what it's worth, this has addressed all my issues with titles and their implementation. Thank you, mods!
posted by malthusan at 1:40 PM on January 9, 2013


But you've poisoned the experiment, in a sense.

I'm not sure it was mathowie et. al poisoning any experiments.
posted by carsonb at 1:42 PM on January 9, 2013


The New Post page should now make clear that some people will not see the Title, and that it should not be essential to understanding the Post.

One does realize that one of the big reasons to do this whole shebang was to simplify the New Post page?
posted by carsonb at 1:43 PM on January 9, 2013


I hear where you're coming from, cribcage, but we're not doing hard science here. My personal preference would be for everyone to just give the titles as rolled out a proper shake for a few days, but at the same time we don't want to drive anyone nuts if we can help it, and so: an officially-implemented option so folks who really really want to get along reading the site undisrupted in the meantime don't feel like they're having their nose held down in anything to make a point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:45 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you :)))
0! <3
posted by aielen at 1:45 PM on January 9, 2013


10pt franklin gothic seems to be the sweet spot for me.

Very nice, this is perfect
posted by lakersfan1222 at 1:46 PM on January 9, 2013


Allowing 0 for the size is great, thanks. I don't like installing things like Stylish if I don't have to.
posted by tommasz at 1:46 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks for the feature, but it's only working on my work computer. I set the value to 0 and they disapparated there but are still very visible here.

The only plugin I have (under FF on Linux in both places) is AdBlock Plus.
posted by DU at 1:50 PM on January 9, 2013


DU, display preferences are cookie based. So you'll just need to click Preferences at the top of the page, and then save your preferences again to set the cookies for your current browser. We have it set up this way so you can set different preferences for different browsers.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:51 PM on January 9, 2013


My next tattoo will be "Verdana bold 10pt."

Just kidding, but thanks, Matt! This is perfect.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:51 PM on January 9, 2013


tommasz: "Allowing 0 for the size is great, thanks. "

-14 point is where it's at.
posted by boo_radley at 1:52 PM on January 9, 2013


I'm not sure it was mathowie et. al poisoning any experiments.

aw man c'mon dude seriously
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 1:52 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


flex: doesn't do much for the change in site culture on MeFi proper, unfortunately.

Repeated for emphasis. I truly appreciate, with many thanks, the work that matt and the mods do and I appreciate the matt's considerate message above. Thank you.

I still can't help but wonder how this change will alter the culture of MeFi. (As some have outlined with cogent arguments in the other thread, it's not a question of "if".) By making the default setting set to on rather than off, over time, most users will be "title" people, because that's what they'd be accustomed to prior to registering, and inertia is powerful. Those of us who are not fond of titles will eventually phase out by leaving the site to due life (NOT over the issue of titles!), conceeding to using titles, or become a greater minority as the former two happen. Time will tell, I guess.

In the meantime, I'll set titles to 0.
posted by mayurasana at 1:54 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh my gosh, I went out for a while, came back and reflexively did what I always do, check MF, only I had forgotten I'd gotten rid of the titles before I left and WHAT A DELIGHT TO MINE EYES. Holy cow, I didn't want to be a big whiner about them but what a relief it is to have them gone!
posted by HotToddy at 1:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Many thanks, Matt and mods. Titles set to zero works for me.

And this? "In the future, big changes like this will not be launched without communicating to the community first, floating ideas for feedback, showing mockups where appropriate, and getting more feedback before releasing to the site. "

Matt, you are certified Good People (TM). Very much appreciated.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:59 PM on January 9, 2013


aw man c'mon dude seriously

Well if there's any experiment-poisoning going on at all, which I'm not really willing to concede either, so.

Honestly, it's the rhetorical junk I object to. It's disingenuous and therefore either in bad faith or unintentional. Either way, that's the sort of thing that makes my eyeballs crawl out of their skull. And I'm a child who can't control their snarky reaction to that sort of thing.

Again, mea culpa.
posted by carsonb at 1:59 PM on January 9, 2013


ClassyFilter. For posts about downton Abby, tea, British people and other stuff old people like.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:00 PM on January 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


I still can't help but wonder how this change will alter the culture of MeFi.

My serious response would be another question: How did making favorites optional change the culture of MeFi? The answer may give you insight into how this change may affect MeFi.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:02 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


The titles are always accessible from the front page (and always have been) by mousing over the "xx comments" link, no? Long-clicking in iOS also reveals name of linked page. So if the information is truly needed, non-titlers can obtain it.
posted by oddovid at 2:03 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you!! This is much better.

For the obsessively curious:

title: Cambria, 10pt
body: Segoe UI, 12pt
byline: Cambria, 10pt

I made the title the same size/font as the byline because I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I've trained myself to read the whole entire sans-serif/white/12pt section before reading anything else.

Though I do like that ClassyFilter thing.
posted by SMPA at 2:04 PM on January 9, 2013


Zero crowd.
posted by MattWPBS at 2:05 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm ready for the social media sharing buttons to the right of the title posts, or inside like the flagging tabs are.
posted by buzzman at 2:05 PM on January 9, 2013


I always liked images, we should bring them back and just make the display optional.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:11 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honestly, it's the rhetorical junk I object to.

I think I've been as measured as anyone in discussing this issue in both threads. I'm sorry you dislike the term "poisoned" but I think if you read the sentence I wrote and assume good faith, rather than reading it intent upon hearing antagonism, you'll find that terms like "disingenuous" aren't really accurate or appropriate.
posted by cribcage at 2:11 PM on January 9, 2013


I have my titles, body and bylines set to some right hideous fonts. This is great. The customization options are much appreciated.

I like visible titles and hope they'll be used well.
posted by mountmccabe at 2:29 PM on January 9, 2013


> The Daily MeFi? Is this a hidden feature?

Right there on the front page! What happened was that in a fit of I miss the old MeFi nostalgia, I clicked the "10 years ago" link and immediately felt the warm familiar bliss of no titles...

Wait: no titles?!

So then I changed the 2003 in the url to 2013.

Jackpot!

At which point I had a serious dilemma befitting any true addict: I could share it in Monday's MeTa thread and hope that the mods might hold off with the fix [as in bug] while anti-titlers could use it as a fix [as in drug]; keep mum and exploit it myself until someone else noticed; or do the right thing and tell the mods, but in cowardly privacy like a goody-two-shoes fink.

What to do, what to do? And what depths have I sunk to, contemplating* a betrayal of the site I love for a mere interface! But such a sweet, sweet interface....

I was so torn about this that I nearly wrote an AskMe question, but I couldn't figure out what a good title would be. And then I realized that I would probably be advised to Dump The MetaFilter Already and/or seek therapy for my addiction, neither of which I want to do, so I spent my question on mushrooms instead.

All of which is to say that the title font option hasn't just made my reading experience better; it has delivered me from temptation and moral disgrace.

-----
* Truthfully I was not actually contemplating it, & I would have said something sooner/in the other thread had I not forgotten about it moments after finding it. I have a mind like a sieve and am easily distracted, but I am not so antisocial as to deliberately withold useful information!

posted by Westringia F. at 2:31 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


My serious response would be another question: How did making favorites optional change the culture of MeFi? The answer may give you insight into how this change may affect MeFi."

Making favourites optional didn't change much but the introduction of favourites sure as heck did. As will this change, IMO.
posted by Mitheral at 2:42 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am much less put off by the titles now that I'm able to shrink them. I can almost ignore them with the settings I'm using, and get to the meat of each post instead of having my eye drawn to the titles at the expense of the content. But, by not reducing the title size to zero, I can still read them if necessary for explanatory text.
posted by asnider at 2:50 PM on January 9, 2013


I love the customization options. You guys should consider rolling out a presets feature to let people save and share settings. Probably too much work for not a whole lot of payoff by it would be cool.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:57 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks for taking the time to make them optional.
posted by codacorolla at 2:59 PM on January 9, 2013


Changed the titles to 18pt to see how that would look like. I kind of like it.
posted by octothorpe at 3:01 PM on January 9, 2013


My serious response would be another question: How did making favorites optional change the culture of MeFi? The answer may give you insight into how this change may affect MeFi.

A better comparison might be banning images in comments; since, like this, that directly affected user contributions. And, yes, affected the culture of the site (for better, imo, but definitely changed it).
posted by fightorflight at 3:01 PM on January 9, 2013


You won't see anything from me. I don't click through inarticulate or confusing posts.

I'm sure the site will struggle on. I might add this happens all the time anyway, with mystery meat posts; I typically skip them myself, no harm no foul.
posted by smoke at 3:07 PM on January 9, 2013


For me, I'd kinda have liked to see some preference granularity -- as others have also suggested, there is some utility for front page titles on AskMe if not elsewhere, and Matt has said upthread that this was done with AskMe at the forefront of considerations (which is sadmaking to me, a little, because Ask isn't something I spend much time on, but) -- so that we could show/hide them per subsite. Things might have gone a lot smoother if they'd been rolled out turned on for AskMe and MeTa by default and turned off on the blue, with the options to toggle them, all already in place, but hey, so it goes.

Sincere thanks for providing the option to hide them globally, though. From pretty much every viewpoint I could come at them, I found them jarring and distracting on the front page, at least, so this is if not optimal at least a return to the way I strongly feel the blue should look and work.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:11 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you. 2pt works great.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:12 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks for the preferences and post, mathowie. MeFi is back to being footloose and title-free.
posted by m0nm0n at 3:27 PM on January 9, 2013


Yeah so on further reflection I am okay with them when small enough.

My work machine is at:
title: 7
body: 8
byline: 7
(all verdana because I am boring)

but I might bump all of those up a notch for my higher resolution (but not particularly larger screen size) computer at home.
posted by juv3nal at 3:32 PM on January 9, 2013


I demand you remove the option to change font sizes and faces immediately!

Because change is bad and stuff. Having options makes me physically ill and gives me headaches.

Also, grar!
posted by Argyle at 3:35 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Argyle, please tell me you are being sarcastic or joking. Or something else that doesn't make me think you like shushing people reading to their kids in the library.
posted by carsonb at 3:43 PM on January 9, 2013


carsonb: I give in. Here's what I'm happily seeing now.

It's SO MUCH BETTER now.
posted by Argyle at 3:46 PM on January 9, 2013


Argyle, please tell me you are being sarcastic or joking.

I miss pot and kettle.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:48 PM on January 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


This is a long comment. I am still skeptical that this change will be noninvasive, as well as the apologetic responses given so far. I have tried to present comments that have been previously made that have not yet been addressed, and seem to resolve the controversy at hand far better than it has hitherto. I plead that everyone considers the following even though it may be rough reading due to my quick putting together of all this.

For instance, the proposition that this change be turned off by default was rejected because:
>we believe the change is a good one, and we're offering the ability of a quick opt-out as a compromise for the folks who really can't abide the titles, not as a suggestion that not-showing-titles is what we think of as the ideal default.

This to me, invalidates the whole of complaints that have been made. This is just a concession for the minority who are opposed. Meanwhile, posting culture will still change and affect those who have tried to resist.

People still try to claim that you shouldn't be,
>paranoid about what you're missing out on. The information is still there if you care enough about the post to click it open. So I don't see any problem with having titles on by default and some users turning them off. And that's as someone who will probably turn them off on my phone at least (which is about half my metafilter time), if not entirely.

But permit to give some quotes as to why it is rational to believe that posting culture will change, and that the viewing experience will be affected negatively by this change despite what was said above.

As flex puts it in the other thread,
>Titles don't make sense in the culture of MeFi posts, which are short (it is very rare to have a long chunk of text on the front page - anything more than a paragraph - even if there's a lot more text inside) and can be full of links. The framing of the post itself is what draws you into clicking on the links, or clicking through to read the comment thread.

Some links are just showing you something quickly, which is not a large investment of time. And on MeFi, you're more likely to interact with the post as well - discussing the content; a post's thread can be not very firmly attached to the topic of a post, and yet be more interesting than the post itself.

The point has been made earlier as well that posts here sometimes draw you in through being slightly or quite mysterious, and this is not a bad thing. But it is definitely a cultural difference from most blogs, and part of the appeal of MeFi is that it is NOT like most blogs, so why make it MORE like most blogs?


And as SpiffyRob says,
>I want to give people the benefit of the doubt because this thread has gotten enormous and not everyone can be expected to read everything. So though it's been stated before, I will say it again.

A single post yesterday showcased both why turning titles off is a flawed fix, and how the new default setting of showing titles changes the site culture.

Brandon Blatcher made a post that had the title "Stop Motion Animation" and the post text/link "10 damn fine examples of it."

For people who have "fixed" their issues with titles by turning them off, this post appeared simply as:

10 damn fine examples of it.

And there was nothing else.

1. That is why it is a flawed fix. It is a fair assumption that there will be more posts like this because given the default presentation of the site, this is a legitimate way to construct a post. But these posts will be confusing for anyone who has elected to turn titles off.

2. This post never would have been made in this way prior to the change, because it wouldn't have made any sense. Hence, the culture has been changed.


Furthermore, this puts an additional restriction on post-making.

As flex says,
>in making a post I have to consider the weight of a title on drawing people's attention. But if it were optional then I'd have to consider how to draw people's attention that aren't seeing the title on the front page but without repeating what I've already said in the title that other people will be seeing.

And as Zarq says,
>I had similar problems yesterday. Literally spent nearly 30 minutes trying to figure out what title to put on the damned post. I normally spend less than 30 seconds picking a title.

Finally decided I was could not afford the time. Said, "To hell with it" and went with a relatively obscure quote that would be seem appropriate to the topic to anyone who had read the book A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge. So it may make no sense. But it wasn't redundant.

I said upthread that I wasn't going to change the way I posted. But when push came to shove, I worried extensively about it because I really do want people to read and comment on my posts.

Now that post has 8 comments. Which may or may not be indicative of the fact that I chose not to use a "descriptive and helpful" title. Who the hell knows? There are too many factors to be sure.


And as iamkimiam says,
>I just tried to make a post to the front page (turns out it was a double and so I didn't), but it was interesting to note that because of my awareness of the prominence of the title coupled with the fixed character limit of the title (which is not represented by the length of the title box, btw), I spent 15 minutes making things work to no satisfactory result. The quote that I wanted to use for the title was too long and I couldn't find another that was shorter and representative of what I wanted to say. I swapped the quote with the introductory post text. But now the post text as the title of the post sounded flat and bland without the hyperlinked words; and needed to be shortened to fit anyway. The link (now just one) that I used now with the quote in the post text read sort of wonky coming from the quote rather than the introductory text. So I ditched the quote altogether and split the introductory text across the title and the post copy, making sure that both halves had enough to stand on their own. Because I really didn't want the title to summarize the post entirely, and I didn't want it to be superfluous either, now that it's visible.

My point is, I am finding these new constraints—visible titles (and their not functioning as hyperlinkable text like the post copy), limited title length, and needing to find a happy balance between informative but leading title and interesting post copy that complements but overpowers the title (because it's more important than the title)—to be a whole different set of things to consider in my post-making than I had previously. It was a semantic and design challenge, to say the least.


The default-on doesn't solve this issue. I find it troublesome that claims are made that this isn't for us, but to non-members. I don't think there is an issue of growth, otherwise this site would not have previously grown. And besides, if we lost potential members before due to a lack of titles, then I say we are better off because of that. At any rate, the preferential treatment to non-members is disturbing.

The claim in question,
>As someone upthread said, defaulting a feature to on is usually for non-members, but also concerns uptake among members.

Besides, there are fixes for this issue at any rate.

As Marsha56 says,
>>Now if Matt wanted to make this change to the front page for non-logged in users that would make sense. But I don't see the need for logged in users.

>Seconding this idea. Rather than completely abandoning this change, implement it for non-signed in users, but leave it the way it was for logged in users, with the option to implement it if they so choose. And revert the posting page back to the way it was as well.

This retains the site culture, but still gives visitors something to click on right away if that makes them more comfortable.

posted by SollosQ at 3:50 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thanks for giving us the users the individual option as to how we would like or not like to see titles.
Howevr having set my options I now find that would like titles to be larger on the green that the other two.
This is because Ask titles define (or should define) the question.
On the Blue the title is subserviant to the Post itself and on the Grey the same size as the Blue titles will suffice.
Are there options being considered so that the settings may be changed for the major sub sites? Because that would be a very cool Pony and take the Mefi reading experience to a whole different level.
posted by adamvasco at 3:51 PM on January 9, 2013


Are there options being considered so that the settings may be changed for the major sub sites? Because that would be a very cool Pony and take the Mefi reading experience to a whole different level.

Not really, no. People who need/desire that level of customization have some other non-official avenues for it (one of which I am taking advantage of, so I am in sympathy with your concern) but I don't think there will be an option that we'll be providing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:01 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How did making favorites optional change the culture of MeFi? The answer may give you insight into how this change may affect MeFi.

That's a bit of a false equivalence -- after that tumultuous month, the no-favorites view was relegated to an option, while the old view remained as the default for everyone, logged in and logged out.

One of the big concerns here is that making the titles prominent on the front page by default will change how people structure their posts and how the page is read, something that wouldn't happen if front-page titles were optional.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:03 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I do want to also take a moment and say that we made a change and didn't communicate it well beforehand. That's my fault and I'm sorry. Second, whether you love it or hate it, we're very appreciative of the feedback and thoughtful responses to the ideas in Monday's thread. In the future, big changes like this will not be launched without communicating to the community first, floating ideas for feedback, showing mockups where appropriate, and getting more feedback before releasing to the site.

Thank you, Matt, that's a very gracious statement. It's nice to feel like the community matters. I appreciate knowing there'll be a bit of a heads-up before you decide to make the next major site change. I think a lot of the grumbling really came from people feeling like this one came out of nowhere.

I didn't weigh in on the titles in the monster Metatalk thread earlier because, hey, it's your site and so many on both sides said it all better than I could (plus I don't flatter myself that I am a Superuser! Whose opinion matters so much! *rolls eyes*). I'm making a conscious effort to be more like those longtime users who don't get too emotionally caught up in Mefi, so I've been watching this stuff go down with a more detached gaze, like witnessing an interesting case study in some psychological experiment.

That said, I was a bit surprised, coming at it from that angle, at the way this site change was implemented, considering how incredibly poorly it went when favorites were introduced in much the same way back in the day. I would have figure you'd take a different tack this time. Let's face it, it's pretty obvious you were going to get a lot of push back on this. Everyone knows how we can overthink a plate of beans around here.

Which I guess you must have anticipated, now that I think about it, because you guys set up a preemptory Metatalk post yourselves, before any grumbly users came in and did it. That was probably the smartest way to handle this. Easier to roll titles out full force and deal with the complaints and then come in and roll it back a bit in a compromise, than vet post titles ahead of time. With the latter, you'd get the same complaints, and if you put the titles in anyway more people would be all resentful about it, but this way you still get a change and yet, because of the personalization option, the complainers are happy and you get all the benefits of having the post titles. Whatever those are. Still not clear on those, honestly, even with all the patient explanations from the mods, but I figure you all see the Big Picture better than any of us can.

And, happily, this Metatalk post won a $10 bet for me with another user, anyway, so I still feel like I have a pretty good angle on things.

One little thing I didn't anticipate: you choosing to put the introduction of post titles on the Best of Metafilter blog. Really, that happened already? Seems a bit premature, after less than 3 days. But not really a big deal in the scope of Mefi, so, ehh. Chalk it up as a win/win, I guess.
posted by misha at 4:04 PM on January 9, 2013


you choosing to put the introduction of post titles on the Best of Metafilter blog. Really, that happened already? Seems a bit premature, after less than 3 days.

The interface for the BestOf blog and the sideblog are the same on our end. What was supposed to be a sideblog notification got ported there instead. Now fixed and only on the sideblog.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:18 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Has anyone come up with a Stylish or Greasemonkey script to make the title part of the byline? Something akin to en forme de poire's mockup on the other post.

I know that the byline option is a complete non-starter from an official perspective, but I'm hopeful someone with more scripting chops than I can come up with something.
posted by m@f at 4:20 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Feels like I just slipped into my favorite well-worn jeans - size 0. :)

Thanks so, so much, you guys.
posted by yoga at 4:20 PM on January 9, 2013


> So who won this one, Superusers or Cabal? (for those of us scoring at home)

Staff.
Users were given the ability to minimise their losses.
posted by de at 4:23 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has anyone come up with a Stylish or Greasemonkey script to make the title part of the byline? Something akin to en forme de poire's mockup on the other post.

Yup, in this very thread.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:31 PM on January 9, 2013


Or, sorry, not exactly. That does what I had been suggesting, which was prepending the title to the text of the post itself.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:32 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks Stav - but I found en forme de poire's script hosted at userscripts.org. Of course, now that I have something to work from I already want to make tweak to it.

Delving into self-customization is a dangerous thing, and I don't even have tattoos!
posted by m@f at 4:38 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


/starts tattoo countdown clock for m@f
posted by maudlin at 4:40 PM on January 9, 2013


I am covered with tattoos, but I set the size to zero.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:42 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am covered with tattoos, but I set the size to zero.

I wouldn't rub up against Brandon Blatcher if I were you. Just a friendly warning.
posted by maudlin at 4:46 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks Matt, pb, and gang!
posted by zennie at 5:05 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I installed Mefi Title Tamer Two. I assume you now have my credit card and bank information. Please spend my money wisely.
posted by Justinian at 5:07 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


So can I make the title font Zalgos? Because if so omg thundercats we are go.

Also, thank you to Matt and the mods for always being so gracious and sensitive to user concerns and issues. It is always remarkable to me how very good the metafilter response is to things like this, and it honestly helps me think about my behavior when I get user requests at work.
posted by winna at 5:13 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Comic Sans ftw.
posted by Justinian at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I installed Mefi Title Tamer Two. I assume you now have my credit card and bank information. Please spend my money wisely.

I know this is just a joke, but anyone can save the script and open it in Notepad or whatever if they actually are worried. It's just a text file. [There's nothing hinky in there, by the way. Fret not, anyone who might fret.]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2013


Setting font size to zero does nothing for reading MetaFilter on the iOS version of Safari, unfortunately. Also, on the OS X version of Safari, choosing an unavailable font, e.g. Gadget, overrides the "0" preference and renders the headlines in the default format. Thanks for hunting down these bugs.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2013


On the other hand, I did just spend all of Justinian's money.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:19 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks for hunting down these bugs.

I don't think those are bugs. Following the instructions in the first post should make it work (it's cookie-based, per device) on your iOS Safari.

Not sure if there's any way graceful fallback way to work around users specifying fonts that aren't actually installed on their system.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:22 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks for letting us customize the title situation, mods! For some reason I can't get any of my fonts to be Comic Sans. How disappointing.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 5:26 PM on January 9, 2013


Just because I am a pain, is there some reason this won't work with wacky fonts? I can make the boring Apple fonts work but can't make it work with Apple Braille or Wingdings which is what I really want.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:27 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is HotWingdings a thing? Cause it should be.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:29 PM on January 9, 2013


Zero font size is checking out okay for me on iOS. Maybe you didn't save your preferences on your iPhone Doktor Zed?
posted by pb (staff) at 5:29 PM on January 9, 2013


For some reason I can't get any of my fonts to be Comic Sans. How disappointing.

It's "comic sans ms" if you're nasty.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:29 PM on January 9, 2013


Do you have those fonts installed locally jessamyn? You could use Font Book on your local system to see if you have those.
posted by pb (staff) at 5:30 PM on January 9, 2013


Another font size 0 here. Thanks for the option! 48 hours of constantly trying to "read past" the titles made it pretty clear that wasn't going to happen.

I am flat-out dumbfounded that some folks just can't seem to understand what the problem is, regardless of which opinion is being held. It's the difference between night and day to my eyes (and brain).

I understand that the titles are on by default because nonsubscribers can't set their preferences. That's an acceptable reason. I will also be keeping a very interested eye on the aforementioned fragmentation issue.

On the other hand, as also mentioned above, there's never been any guarantee that a post will be self-coherent anyway, title or not. So what else is new?

One more thing: please, please re-consider allowing separate text size preferences for the blue, green, and gray! They are very different beasts, and shouldn't be forced into the same cage together.
posted by Aquaman at 5:32 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just because I am a pain, is there some reason this won't work with wacky fonts? I can make the boring Apple fonts work but can't make it work with Apple Braille or Wingdings which is what I really want.

Are you copying the exact name of the front from the Library>Fonts folder? That's what makes it work for me, though I haven't tried the specific fonts you mention
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:32 PM on January 9, 2013


But I don't use whatever the font's extension is (.tff or .otf or whatever)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:34 PM on January 9, 2013


Do you have those fonts installed locally jessamyn?

I do and I'm copying the names form Font Book but I'll see if that's the actual names for the files. Thanks. Right now I've got this one working which is sort of great.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:37 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh. When the titles got turned on, my partner said "whoa, look at Metafilter" and I said "what about it?" I seriously didn't even notice them. Do other people actually read the entire front blurb of every post? Because I figured people usually already read the first sentence or two of a post and move on if they didn't find it interesting. How is a title much different in that respect?

For a site that seems pretty liberal-leaning in a lot of other ways, I'm frankly surprised also at the amount of "omg, the traditional values of Metafilter WILL CHANGE!" going on.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:41 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, OSX seems picky. I'm playing with my iPad and iPhone and they're cooperating beautifully, but it took several tries to get Herculanum working on my MacBook. Meanwhile, other fonts aren't working at all, and others shift to a neighbour (e.g. HeadLineA shifts to Impact. Ick.)

I think I'm being punished for having too many Apple devices.
posted by maudlin at 5:43 PM on January 9, 2013


Jessamyn that oughta make your moderating duties much simpler.
posted by softlord at 5:45 PM on January 9, 2013


> I am flat-out dumbfounded that some folks just can't seem to understand what the problem is, regardless of which opinion is being held.

People just can't seem to accept the fact that other people may experience the world differently than they do. It's at the root of many pointless and vitriolic arguments that happen in the world (and MetaFilter).

> It's the difference between night and day to my eyes (and brain).

And it doesn't look different to them. See, different people, different experiences. (Not to pick on you specifically, Aquaman. Your comment just came along when I was getting irritated by this general phenomenon.)

I wish there was an internetcronym for this, sort of like YMMV. Maybe MEINNYEYEINNME — My experience is not necessarily your experience, your experience is not necessarily my experience. (That's almost pronounceable, and sounds like an Aster Aweke song title.)
posted by benito.strauss at 5:51 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is HotWingdings a thing? Cause it should be.

It was. I ate them. They were delicious.
posted by Pudhoho at 5:54 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


All y'all with the fancified fonts... any screencaps, please?
posted by zennie at 6:04 PM on January 9, 2013


Following the instructions in the first post should make it work (it's cookie-based, per device) on your iOS Safari.

Thanks, size zero is working on my iPad now. I didn't know about the preferences cookie (and reading instructions is like using cheat codes in a video game).
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:10 PM on January 9, 2013


Here's mine. I changed it back, but I sort of like that image. MetaFilter is made of people!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


Hah! That's delightful. :)
posted by zennie at 6:15 PM on January 9, 2013


Instead of typing "0" to for the font size, I added a 0 to the existing "14," which made it "140." That was interesting.
posted by Melismata at 6:28 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aquaman: "I am flat-out dumbfounded that some folks just can't seem to understand what the problem is, regardless of which opinion is being held. It's the difference between night and day to my eyes (and brain)."

I think the thing is that for some people, and I suppose I'm among them (fwiw, I'm not a big partisan on this issue), there isn't any sort of problem. It's just a slightly new formatting situation on the front page, and one that hasn't caused me much to get used to. I understand that other people don't like it, and I can empathize with their dislike, but I can't feel it myself. Just like the anti-titlers can't get into my brainspace where the titles aren't any sort of problem.

tl;dr: people is all different.
posted by barnacles at 6:34 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


But then, mind you, I like the professional white background with serif titles, so we may have to agree to disagree on quite a few things ...
posted by barnacles at 6:38 PM on January 9, 2013


All y'all with the fancified fonts... any screencaps, please?

Getting a bit loud and blocky.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:51 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the size=0 preference!
posted by equalpants at 6:58 PM on January 9, 2013


Or your basic handwritten note look.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:01 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow, I kind of love the handwritten note style.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm enjoying using Papyrus for titles more than I expected. I'm sure the novelty will wear off and it'll end up looking dumb, but it'll be fun for a couple days.

(Thanks for the suggestion, seanmpuckett)
posted by Tehhund at 7:08 PM on January 9, 2013


size=8 or 6 for the titles seems to be pretty useful for my usage pattern of almost always ignoring the titles unless the post makes no sense. Still somewhat disappointing that the metafilter I'm viewing isn't quite the same as everyone else.

I had to end my experiment with all-papyrus-everywhere though, since I think it was giving me cataracts or glaucoma or criminal insanity or something bad.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


offers the option to hide them on front pages (of www, ask, metatalk) if you set the size to zero

That really does not seem like a wise way to offer this option. It's very unintuitive. It wouldn't have occurred to me that "zero" = "off" in a situation like this, and I suspect I'm not alone.

Think about it this way: Most people's experiences with font sizes involves word processing programs. Yet in Word, your average user is *never* going to use the font size zero. In fact, Microsoft Word even forbids font sizes lower than 1.

I would strongly encourage the site to offer a simple checkbox for "turn titles off."
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 7:33 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Didn't see this thread, but again thanks for the customization - I really liked the change and being able to tweak the font/font size a little fixed the tiny issues I had with it. Good work!
posted by flatluigi at 7:33 PM on January 9, 2013


I would strongly encourage the site to offer a simple checkbox for "turn titles off."

Yeah, this has been bothering me a bit too. You've essentially engineered it so that only superusers know they can turn titles off, or that they should even ponder that as a choice. New users from here on out aren't just going to accept titles, they're not going to be aware there's any other way.
posted by naju at 7:40 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


trebuchet! trebuchet! trebuchet!
posted by deborah at 7:47 PM on January 9, 2013


"New users from here on out aren't just going to accept titles, they're not going to be aware there's any other way."

New users aren't just going to accept that there's an "Ask MetaFilter", they're not going to be aware that the site's ever been any other way! Aaand... so what?
posted by anildash at 7:51 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"New users from here on out aren't just going to accept titles, they're not going to be aware there's any other way."

New users aren't just going to accept that there's an "Ask MetaFilter", they're not going to be aware that the site's ever been any other way!


Title Font Size: 0 may be the new get off my lawn!
posted by Pudhoho at 7:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I mean, c'mon, I've gotta have some new insider tidbits to trot out with quick snark at the top of every FPMTP.
posted by carsonb at 8:04 PM on January 9, 2013


Aaand... so what?

A sweet sadness, a nebulous yearning for something almost remembered, a kind of unfocussed melancholy and a nostalgia for halcyon times that we never truly knew.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:05 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


dios: "Can someone give me an explanation why "Default On/Option Turn Off" is preferable to "Default Off/Option Turn On"? I'm honestly interested in why it is important to go with the Default On approach over the Default Off approach. What are the reasons why that is preferable?"

Here's your good faith answer: putting something in someone's face, and giving them the option to turn it off, ensures everyone knows the thing exists (even if 95% of the people turn it off), whereas hiding something and giving folks the option to turn it on makes it likely that the 5% -- or 95% -- of people who might like it will never get the chance to find out until/unless someone clues them in or they make an accidental discovery in the preferences while looking for something else.

Example: you don't like the live preview? Ignore it, or hide it forever with one click. If you wish there were a live preview, however, and it were hidden by default, what would you do? Fume quietly that you wish there was one? Send mails to the mods asking for that pony, or post to MetaTalk asking for the same? Complain in-thread every time you post a typo saying "gah I wish there was a live preview?"

At the end of the day, people hate change, but they also like new features, and so there's three ways you can deal with that:

1. Never change.

2. Change, and force users to change with you.

3. Change, and allow users who hate it to reject the change.

Obviously Matt's kindly chosen option three, but option two is much, much more typical, and option one...well, sooner or later, something has to change, or the whole Internet would look like Yahoo! circa the mid 90s.

That doesn't mean all change is good for all people, or even for any of them, but hiding new (and potentially desirable) new features just to satisfy users who don't like change is just going to lead to stagnation. Besides, people who hate change for change's sake are not likely to reject change in favor of embracing even more change by going elsewhere -- but you will lose people who hate changes because they suck, and so that's a great way to determine if people are upset "for real" or just because they prefer the old to the new.
posted by davejay at 8:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


it is worth noting that option three actually comes with a substantial cost, to you and to your users: to you, it is another thing to build and maintain and consider in testing and rolling out other features, and to your users it is another differentiator between the experience one user gets and another user gets, such as the "what if the titles contain important stuff, and mine are set to font size 0" conversation. And A/B testing? Around here? Never, it would never work, because the A users would be complaining about the change and demanding to be "B" users and the B users would be going "what the fuck are you talking about" and "why can't I be an A user". Good lord, I shiver just thinking about it.
posted by davejay at 8:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also: I hated the idea of an edit window, and figured if it ever got implemented, I simply wouldn't use it. Well, I just used it to fix a typo two comments up. It is a desirable trait to be the kind of person who gives things a chance before rejecting them, even if you hate those things at first.
posted by davejay at 8:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


aaand finally, Helvetica Neue on a professional white background. Hate me because my desktop is beautiful.
posted by davejay at 8:12 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


New users aren't just going to accept that there's an "Ask MetaFilter", they're not going to be aware that the site's ever been any other way!

Considering the various difficulties that are being predicted for people who have titles turned off when most/many other people have them turned on, and assuming you think any of those predictions are likely to come to pass, would it really be a good idea to make this setting easily accessible to new users who haven't done any digging around to figure out how they can do it and what the implications might be in the first place?

Given that the mods have stated that the ability to turn these titles off is being offered as a compromise for users who don't want this change, I have to think that going with a font size=0 option rather than a "turn titles off" checkbox was at least somewhat deliberate, not an oversight.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:13 PM on January 9, 2013


Hate me because my desktop is beautiful.

I suspect there might be a few people hating on you for your extended stretches of smalltext more than your font choices. I am not one of them, but.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I get why there's a deliberate choice to make titles the default, but I genuinely didn't consider that they wanted to make turning titles off a sort of hidden "easter egg" for those in the know. It's kind of weird and off-putting. I like the idea that new users will be intelligent enough to know what they're getting into when they click a "turn titles off" checkbox: a title-less MeFi, with all that implies. (And sorry if I'm alone on this. I don't intend to argue, and I'll stop here.)
posted by naju at 8:19 PM on January 9, 2013


Yes, this is great. I vote to keep it changeable in Preferences FOREVAH.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:29 PM on January 9, 2013


I swear if I see that Deck ad with the picture of "Arthur Wei" again, I'm gonna punch somebody in the throat. (Preferably Arthur Wei.)
posted by slogger at 8:32 PM on January 9, 2013


Are you kidding me??? I haven't even finished reading the first thread!
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:35 PM on January 9, 2013


(I actually like the titles now. I've got them the same size font but bold, so for me verdana bold size 10.)
posted by vegartanipla at 8:37 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Making the fonts customizable is a terrible idea, because I keep experimenting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:38 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Matthowie, thank you for your gracious words.
posted by infini at 8:47 PM on January 9, 2013


New users from here on out aren't just going to accept titles, they're not going to be aware there's any other way.

Well, yeah, pretty much. New users (at least those who are not currently long-time lurkers) are likely not going to want to turn ever off titles because when they sign up they will already have accepted them. Anyone who's irritated by the format will already have been selected out. The thing I've been wondering to myself is whether I would have stuck around long enough to sign up. And if I had, I'm sure if someone suggested turning titles off I might have thought they were being a little zany. Even though it does put the content first and looks prettier and more unique.

But I'm going to stop thinking about this now, because it's leaving me feeling a wee bit heartbroken.
posted by zennie at 8:53 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


huh . . . there's a preference page.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:56 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you for rolling out new preferences! I set the titles to 8pt and they are the right amount of subtle. Hearts.
posted by mochapickle at 9:10 PM on January 9, 2013




But I'm going to stop thinking about this now, because it's leaving me feeling a wee bit heartbroken


This is SO dramatic. Come on people. If you don't like titles, you can turn them off, but let's not be all "Won't someone think of the CHILDREN?!!" about new users never understanding the true, excellent pure beauty of a time without titles on the front page.
posted by sweetkid at 9:24 PM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher made a post that had the title "Stop Motion Animation" and the post text/link "10 damn fine examples of it." For people who have "fixed" their issues with titles by turning them off, this post appeared simply as:

10 damn fine examples of it.

And there was nothing else.


Not exactly true; hovering over the link shows the URL (Though browser settings/preferences may vary, of course).
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:33 PM on January 9, 2013


This is SO dramatic. Come on people. If you don't like titles, you can turn them off, but let's not be all "Won't someone think of the CHILDREN?!!" about new users never understanding the true, excellent pure beauty of a time without titles on the front page.

I agree, the presence or non-presence of titles is not a major issue worth our thought and concern and will not alter the site in any way. So let's get rid of them.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:50 PM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


The "10 damn fine examples of it." post was Brandon deliberately playing around with the title display feature. I hope that people don't make a habit of doing that, because it is annoying even if you can see the titles.

Also, people shouldn't assume that a post's body will always be displayed next to the title -- it may be quoted for instance, or perhaps it might appear in a collection of some kind later, or it might be shared on another site, or any number of things.

Best practice would still seem to be to provide enough information in the body text that people can discern the subject of a post from said body text -- unless one is deliberately making a cryptic post for aesthetic reasons, in which case one should use a cryptic title as well. Having a body that relies on the title for comprehensibility runs the risk of making a post become unintentionally cryptic at a later date.
posted by Scientist at 9:59 PM on January 9, 2013


I wondered why mefi looked weird today. I was browsing at work for the first time in several weeks and thought it was just the Professional White Background, but no.

Thanks for the heads up on the sidebar, and for the customizability. Yay things I have control over. Now can I have a setting to customize where I get a job next year?
posted by nat at 9:59 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is SO dramatic.

Seriously? I can't have a feeling? FYI I was referring to thinking about how I write off sites easily when first seeing them, and how easily I could have written off MeFi if it had irritated me at all. I hope this meets the standard of Things We Are Allowed To Have Feelings About.
posted by zennie at 10:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Okay, I'm getting rid of the titles. I tried to have them at 8pt, but even then, they were too distracting. Sorry. I tried.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:21 PM on January 9, 2013


Can we set a preference to make Metafilter more or less snarky?
posted by mazola at 10:34 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


let's not be all "Won't someone think of the CHILDREN?!!" about new users never understanding the true, excellent pure beauty of a time without titles on the front page.

Like beautiful haikus! Now they are mere cold, mechanical groupings of words. People scan them! Scan them! Like they're just looking for posts matching their own interests! Will they never understand that the front page is for reading, every last word.
posted by Artw at 10:35 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


trebuchet! trebuchet! trebuchet!

Look, I know not everybody agrees with the idea of visible titles, but it seems a bit unnecessary to loudly propose flinging us over the city walls with some sort of lever-weighted catapulting device just to ohhhh you mean the typeface
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:38 PM on January 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


I set mine for -kelvin.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:45 PM on January 9, 2013


CATAPAULT!!! CATAPAULT!!,
posted by The Deej at 10:46 PM on January 9, 2013


Ballista!
posted by Artw at 10:48 PM on January 9, 2013


Can we set a preference to make Metafilter more or less snarky?

Preferences>Jerkass Comments Font Size>0
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:52 PM on January 9, 2013


Let me just state for the record that I am not, and have not been, actively arguing against the implementation of titles. It was fairly clear from the start that the decision to implement was done with, and it's my personal policy to respect completed management decisions, especially here. But I was finding that my user experience had really degraded, so I reported that in as neutral a way as I could. I took the effort because this is pretty much my favorite community/site. I made a 'byline titles mock-up' for my own curiosity and posted it, but honestly I was ambivalent about that. Meanwhile, from my perspective, various users who had no degradation in user experience reacted to my thoughts by kicking sand in my face. So forgive me for not dancing with joy.
posted by zennie at 11:04 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I really like a combination of trebuchets, some swordsmen, a few monks and huge bunch of Chinese archers when I'm out conquering Empires...oh
posted by infini at 11:11 PM on January 9, 2013


Blunderbuss!

Wait, why are we naming some of our favorite historical weapons?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:15 PM on January 9, 2013


Iron Maiden? EXCELLENT!
posted by davidjmcgee at 11:25 PM on January 9, 2013


Technically is that a weapon? Bit battlefield impractical.
posted by Artw at 11:28 PM on January 9, 2013


Thanks a lot for the changes you've made to the preferences. I'm sure I came off a little excessive in the other thread, but I was finding it difficult to read the site as it was after the change. Now that we can alter things a bit, I'm giving it a try with the titles. I'm working on finding a font/size combination that will make it readable for me, and if I find one, I guess I'll leave them on.

Change is hard. Thanks for making it easier.

Also, Claymore. Either one.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:28 PM on January 9, 2013


I've been rocking en forme de poire's title tamer byline script since yesterday and have already trained my eye to quickly scan down there if the main body of a post confuses me. It's a perfect happy medium.
posted by mannequito at 11:43 PM on January 9, 2013


Iron Maiden?

AC/DC.
posted by infini at 11:44 PM on January 9, 2013


I fear for the children of today
who have no comfortable thoughts about the future
to make them dream at night
I fear for the children of today
when I was young, I had a mural painted on my bedroom wall
of outer space, painted by some artist my parents knew
who used my playmobil space station as a model
for her illustration
I fear for the children of today
they have no star trek
no twilight zone
no indication that a future might exist
I fear for the children of today!
We had stars and planets and captains
and visions of psychedelic future intertwined
with crazy-ass spectacles of blast-off and landing
of exploration and limitless possibility
even as the MOVE bombing and Challenger explosion negated those possibilities
I fear for the children of today
even the Russians with their 1980s nuclear missiles
standing ready to fight our 1980s nuclear missiles
gave us some hope that someday two forces could be reconciled
never imagining that once those forces were reconciled
they'd be as empty-handed as we are
I fear for the children of today

I fear for the children of today!
their sad, malthusian wilderness
nothing to look forward to but empty, downward decline
no hope for anything other
than the faint possibility
of cleaning up our mistakes
I fear for the children of today.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:27 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just tried changing my font size from 14pt to 12pt and suddenly getting a 400 error on Ask.metafilter.com URLs -

Bad Request

Your browser sent a request that this server could not understand.
Size of a request header field exceeds server limit.
Cookie
/n
Apache Server at www.metafilter.com Port 80


Related?
posted by Happy Dave at 1:40 AM on January 10, 2013


You probably need to clear your cookies.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:43 AM on January 10, 2013


Thanks!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:30 AM on January 10, 2013


I tried setting the title font at 10, then 8, then 6.. none of those settings worked.. still found the titles were getting in the way. Set it at 0 and hurrah!, metafilter is back!

I could have lived with it on Askme, but I think I have been reading Metafilter for so long now, I had trained myself to interact with the site in such a way that having the title on top of a post interfered with my reading flow.

We'll just have to see what happens as a consequence of the change to post composition etiquette and the fact a major part of the sites readers (and perhaps the more frequent readers) are not seeing the titles so easily.

It might be good if we can have some later feedback on the number of users that have set the preference to 0.

I wonder what would happen if somebody was to make an otherwise worthy post to the front page but then decided to give it a title of something like "Title left intentionally blank" or "I don't do titles"?
posted by foleypt at 3:06 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


They would be thought of as a particularly rude sort of person.
posted by h00py at 3:10 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stunt posts made out of pique at some change or moderation decision are usually deleted, but I don't think we have many people who would actively try to make the site a worse place just to prove a point.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:19 AM on January 10, 2013


I agree, the presence or non-presence of titles is not a major issue worth our thought and concern and will not alter the site in any way. So let's get rid of them.

If you set the Title Font Size to '0' you can!

Seriously, give it a rest. You now have the ability to customize the titles to whatever you like, yet even that doesn't seem to be enough for some folks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:28 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seriously, give it a rest. You now have the ability to customize the titles to whatever you like, yet even that doesn't seem to be enough for some folks.

Why should it be? This was not a cosmetic change; it was a policy change that will alter how people compose their posts and how mods edit them. Letting users hide/customize the titles is going to help people, but it's not going to alter the fundamentals, which are that this is a change.

If you're saying the new preference should be enough for people during this wait-and-see period, I agree. Things need testing. If you're saying the new preference should address all concerns and complaints and everyone needs to stfu up now, you're wrong.
posted by fightorflight at 3:43 AM on January 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Foci for Analysis: "You probably need to clear your cookies."

Yeah, that worked, cheers.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:08 AM on January 10, 2013


Your cookies were so clear
and tasty
I burped.
posted by infini at 4:10 AM on January 10, 2013


Why should it be?

Because your life, livelihood, health or those of your loved ones do not depend on whether the titles of posts on Metafilter are visible.

it was a policy change that will alter how people compose their posts and how mods edit them

Haven't noticed a sudden change in how posts are created and mods don't edit posts without a user's permission.

If you're saying the new preference should be enough for people during this wait-and-see period, I agree. Things need testing. If you're saying the new preference should address all concerns and complaints and everyone needs to stfu up now, you're wrong.

I'm saying give it a rest. Everyone's personal taste can be addressed. Definitively saying how or if changes site culture is premature, because it hasn't been live for long.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:19 AM on January 10, 2013


Haven't noticed a sudden change in how posts are created and mods don't edit posts without a user's permission.
Now you're being disingenuous. You yourself made the canonical example of a post that's shit without the title being visible. And mods have always edited AskMe's to fix questions that depend on titles.

I'm saying give it a rest. Everyone's personal taste can be addressed. Definitively saying how or if changes site culture is premature, because it hasn't been live for long.
And I'm saying you're wrong. This isn't a question of personal taste, it's a question of the rules that govern what kinds of posts are acceptable. Those rules have changed; it's not premature to consider what the ramifications will be.
posted by fightorflight at 4:31 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Give it a rest is the new 'sup.
posted by fleacircus at 4:39 AM on January 10, 2013


Seriously, give it a rest.

I'm saying give it a rest.


If you do not wish to see further discussion of this matter, may I suggest that you give this thread a rest? Churlish participation seems unproductive. You have made a combined 50 comments in the two Metas about titles, I think it is safe to say that all are now aware of your opinion.
posted by likeso at 4:46 AM on January 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


This isn't a question of personal taste, it's a question of the rules that govern what kinds of posts are acceptable. Those rules have changed; it's not premature to consider what the ramifications will be.

True, but the framing contributes to what kind of discussion we will have about this. Your framing, that "the rules that govern what kinds of posts are acceptable," is technically correct but rhetorically overstated. What I think we know is that one field, and not the primary content field, that contributes to how posts are made has had it's prominence changed. Content rules have not been put into place, as your rhetoric implies. I suspect that you see no distinction in these semantics, but the distinction is actually pretty huge, and it prevents us from actually considering where on the spectrum from small change to large change this actually falls. We just don't know what will happen to site culture, and smart people who are very successful at running a website that provides their livelihood, not just their entertainment have said that they have no desire for this to significantly affect the culture of the site. I think we can talk about this as a real change without implying that new rules for acceptable content have been made.
posted by OmieWise at 5:04 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying, by the way, that this won't affect site culture, or that it won't do so to the detriment of what Metafilter currently is. I tend to think it won't, but I don't know for sure. What I am saying is that this is not equivalent to an edict that only certain people can post, that only posts that are pro-GOP will be allowed, that front page posts will be moderated before being posted. All of those things fall under the rhetoric of "the rules that govern what kinds of posts are acceptable" being changed. I think it's pretty important to keep this change in perspective, even if you think that it's pretty fundamental. As someone agnostic about the titles but supportive of the Matt's desire to add them and give them a reasonable trial (that will probably result in their adoption), I think the language that equates this with much larger site changes that would, on their face, destroy MetaFilter is not only not helpful, it's profoundly disrespectful to Matt and the mods.
posted by OmieWise at 5:10 AM on January 10, 2013


make an otherwise worthy post to the front page but then decided to give it a title of something like "Title left intentionally blank"

That would be a good title for a post about recursive, nonsensical instructions like "This page intentionally blank." I'd recommend Hofstadter's work as a jumping-off point.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:10 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree, the presence or non-presence of titles is not a major issue worth our thought and concern and will not alter the site in any way. So let's get rid of them. (Drinky Die)

If you set the Title Font Size to '0' you can! (Brandon Blatcher)


Brandon, you are seriously adding nothing new to the conversation with these things. I don't know if you've considered this, but if you stop saying things like this, people will stop having to respond to them, and then maybe you would see less responses clarifying the position, which is what you keep saying you want.

It takes two to tango, dude. I myself wrote two responses to you in the other thread because I genuinely thought you couldn't understand before I just fucking gave up. That's two posts in that thread that weren't necessary because of simplistic comments like this.

If what you actually want is for the conversation regarding this aspect of the change to die, one PROACTIVE STEP would be to stop antagonizing that group with statements meant to trivialize the position that you FULLY WELL KNOW (or should at this point) is deeper than displaying or not displaying titles. It's fine if you don't AGREE with that position but stop trying to make it just about whether or not you can see titles. IT ISN'T.

Other people are still bringing new things to the table with their responses (thank you OmieWise). Your comments like the one I've quoted aren't helping. If you just want to be in here arguing over the same damn thing the whole time, fine, but if not, stop making comments like this for the love of god.

I'm sorry to single out, but when I went to bed I saw a comment about this, and the first thing I see waking up is a comment like this.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:14 AM on January 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


My titles are now Cambria, 11px in the light gray color. Perfect! Thanks for adding this functionality in my preferences.
posted by NoMich at 5:16 AM on January 10, 2013


I'm saying give it a rest.

You should stop saying that. It's an open conversation. We are talking about titles, the mods are talking with us, these past two threads have been opened by a mod, and the mods have said the discussion will continue while the new preferences are tried. Some people have had difficulty discussing politely and it seems fair to suggest they step away to compose themselves, but insisting that the rest of us cease our civil conversation seems rude.
posted by cribcage at 5:19 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Content rules have not been put into place, as your rhetoric implies. I suspect that you see no distinction in these semantics, but the distinction is actually pretty huge

I do see the distinction you're making, but on balance I still believe this change falls on the "content" side of line. Previously, it was unacceptable to make a post (at least on Ask) that depended upon its title to make sense. The mods would enforce that, by editing them. They're no longer going to do that -- as said upthread, they won't be enforcing that posts make sense without a title any longer. That's a real change in content policy.

What's more, the change (and the new question form) make the title much more of a "primary content field". It would be astonishing if this did not change how posts are composed; if so it's going to make giving users who dislike titles a true "classic" view effectively impossible.

I agree that it's of a different impact to "an edict that only certain people can post, that only posts that are pro-GOP will be allowed, that front page posts will be moderated before being posted", but nonetheless it's still a change in rules regarding post content. To my mind, it's on the same level of content change as was the blocking of images in posts.

I also can't get from there to "profoundly disrespectful to Matt". Disagreeing with them on the suspected impact or qualitative nature of the change is not disrespecting them; accepting that they make a living from the site and agreeing that they have made decisions in the past that produced good outcomes does not prevent one having concerns about new decisions.
posted by fightorflight at 5:25 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jesus fuck. I forgot that I'd been fucking around with this feature late last night (it was late and I'd had a whiskey or four), and just about had a fucking heart attack when I opened MetaTalk this morning.

Maybe 96-point comic sans wasn't the best idea...
posted by dersins at 5:38 AM on January 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


Comic sans with the professional white background? How gauche.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:48 AM on January 10, 2013


Now you're being disingenuous. You yourself made the canonical example of a post that's shit without the title being visible.

Disingenuousness isn't coming from my end. I say that not to imply it's coming from you or anyone else, just I know it's not coming from me.

As to the post, whether you consider it shit or not is up to you, but looking at the number of awesome links and comments in it, we'll have to agree to disagree.

And mods have always edited AskMe's to fix questions that depend on titles.

Sure, but my understanding was that they don't edit posts without a user's permission. Is that an incorrect understanding?

Churlish participation seems unproductive

I agree, the amount of negative things attributed to me personally or that stop animation post aren't helpful.

...but if you stop saying things like this, people will stop having to respond to them...

No one can force you to respond to a comment.

I totally get people are bugged by those particular comments of mine. Hey, I'm bugged by repeated comments that insist titles must be turned completely off or they're going to destroy site culture.

But there's seems to be vocal group that either doesn't care or put much stock in the fact that whether titles are displayed are completely up to them. There's been a lot of worry and conjecture about how posts will be complete mystery meat now.

Well that's nothing new, mystery posts have around probably since the site began. The individual has the power to solve that mystery by clicking on the post. It's a simple action, costs you nothing and no one is forcing you to do it.

Instead, a huge amount of energy is being spent arguing, discussing or complaining about having to do that one little thing, where as if you simply did it, then you could be enjoying yourself with an interesting post. That's why you're here, right? You come to MetaFitler to read the posts and/or comments.

So when I point out for the nth time that people can turn titles off or on, after someone has commented for the nth time that titles are X terrible thing, the point is that you're here to have fun, so why are you fighting that after you've been given the ability to customize the experience to your liking i.e. have the most fun?

On that note, I do recommend playing around with crazy font combinations though, it's helluva lot of fun.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:54 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


To my mind, it's on the same level of content change as was the blocking of images in posts.

Ok, I kind of agree, I guess. I didn't see that as much of a big deal, as much as I lamented it. I'm not saying that I didn't care, and you shouldn't either, I'm saying I didn't see much of a change to site culture (on the whole), and that much of the rhetoric I've seen about titles and the changes they will bring is much graver than that comparison implies. I say this, by the way, as someone who participated fairly heavily in the threads where images made the fun.

I also can't get from there to "profoundly disrespectful to Matt". Disagreeing with them on the suspected impact or qualitative nature of the change is not disrespecting them; accepting that they make a living from the site and agreeing that they have made decisions in the past that produced good outcomes does not prevent one having concerns about new decisions.

I completely agree with all of your comments about what's appropriate. I disagree that the rhetoric about this has stopped at the level of disagreement and considered desire to see things change. Much of the rhetoric I've seen, even from the folks who are sticking around, is of a "Well, there goes the neighborhood, it was nice while it lasted," variety. We disagree about this, but I am asking you to consider whether you're framing the discussion in the way you want to have it. Because if you just want to voice your concern, if you just want to raise your legitimate suspicions that this will have an impact on how the site runs, I don't think that calling this an decision about "what kinds of posts are acceptable" really does that. Not because it isn't technically correct, but because it implies a different kind of change from the one that has been made here.
posted by OmieWise at 5:56 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two thoughts on the settings:

1) I couldn't figure out how to disable them until I looked in this thread. After I couldn't find the checkbox to disable it, I set the font-face and font-size to blank and that didn't do it.

2) Using font-size settings instead of a simple checkbox is a pretty good way to make almost everyone has titles enabled.
posted by smackfu at 6:03 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one can force you to respond to a comment.

I am trying to help you. If you are denial of the basic human nature to respond to criticisms, fine.

But if you're going to keep posting comments like the one I highlighted you should expect (and not be surprised by or lament) people to responding to them.

You keep saying you want redundant comments rehashing the position to stop. I no longer believe that this is true. If you did, you would stop making your own reductive comments on the matter which will inevitably prompt people to clarify and re-explain or defend their position. You are wiping their position of any and all subtleties. It seems in many cases that you are deliberately antagonizing them. Please stop doing this. I'm not even suggesting for the benefit of those people with that argument; I'm suggesting it for YOUR OWN benefit, IF moving on from those points is what you really hope to achieve.

That's all that I was saying. That you ignored the over-all content of my post in favor of one small phrase you disagreed with does not do anything more to convince me that your posts are in good faith and hoping to contribute to the discussion.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:09 AM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I agree, the amount of negative things attributed to me personally or that stop animation post aren't helpful.

Ha ha! The Reverse Victim Card! Not very well played, but nice to see it in the game again. Been a while.
posted by likeso at 6:10 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Brandon, I want to say that I sympathise with your position of fun-having being the basic purpose of why we are here, and am personally 99% happy with the customization options available to me. I expect I will reach 100% very soon as I adjust. But your interactions with the people whose position you oppose has been one of the most frustrating things I have seen on this site in a long time.

If you disagree with the huge amount of energy spent arguing something, then stop arguing. The kinds of comments I highlighted, which you have made over and over, are not 'discussing' anymore. If you stop antagonizing you will have at least removed one more person from the 'arguing' portion of the arguing/discussing/complaining list. That will be progress, by your own definition of what you want from this scenario.

Anyway. I won't post anymore, but I'll be reading.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:23 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'll be seeing you
in all the old familiar places...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 AM on January 10, 2013


Just to say love and sympathies to Matt and the mods for dealing with this palaver with patience and good grace. I've been a Mefite in a previous guise/incarnation for several years prior and honestly feel this has been a real low-point for the community, some of the reactions from members over all this title roll-out stuff were just plain embarrassing if not downright rude, particularly in relation to the guy who has made all this Mefi goodness possible. Worse still when he specifically asked us to give it a few days before passing judgement. For a group of supposedly intelligent, adaptive, good lovin' human beings we sure can have our tantrums. Anyway, spend some of those $5 sign ups on a good bottle of whisky Matt and enjoy a well earned stiff drink when all this blows over.
posted by Callicvol at 7:05 AM on January 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


2) Using font-size settings instead of a simple checkbox is a pretty good way to make almost everyone has titles enabled.

That's in fact the goal, as I understand it. That's part of why the default is "on." The mods have been pretty clear about wanting titles on the site, and it seems perfectly reasonable to provide a way to turn them off, as a result, that makes it more likely that they will stay on. Your comment almost makes it seem like you think they're pulling a fast one, which is puzzling given how quickly they responded to the request to provide a way to turn them off.
posted by OmieWise at 7:18 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that an incorrect understanding?

There have been questions in the past where the OP clearly mixed up the fields and put the question in the title field and the "more inside" in the question field and then even more inside in the more inside field. We tried a number of changes to the AskMe posting form and explanatory text over several years to try to get that to stop happening but we'd tend to see a handful of them a week.

Since those AskMe questions were nonsensical as posted to the front page of AskMe, we'd usually duplicate the title from the title field and add it to the beginning of the question field (I'm not sure if I'm explaining this correctly) and sometimes drop the OP a note and let them know that we did that. So yes, we don't edit for content, but when someone has clearly misunderstood the posting instructions, we'll straighten that out for them. Similar to how if they put the tags in the title box and the title in the tags box.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:19 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've stayed out of this whole mess, but I just want to say thanks for the title=0 option. I tried using the titles for a while but found they activated the "skim this" part of my brain, and I was missing lots of good posts.
posted by echo target at 7:20 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your comment almost makes it seem like you think they're pulling a fast one, which is puzzling given how quickly they responded to the request to provide a way to turn them off.

Definitely not... just that setting font size to zero feels like a hack. Maybe that's just because it was a quick fix, and there will be better options later.
posted by smackfu at 7:38 AM on January 10, 2013


The "10 damn fine examples of it." post was Brandon deliberately playing around with the title display feature. I hope that people don't make a habit of doing that, because it is annoying even if you can see the titles.

This idea has come up a few times and I genuinely don't understand it; with titles enabled it seems like the ideal way to compose a post? Concise, informative description in the title, with non-redundant information and a link in the body.
posted by lalex at 7:43 AM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Seriously, give it a rest. You now have the ability to customize the titles to whatever you like, yet even that doesn't seem to be enough for some folks.

Here, just choose how you wish to see my opinion displayed if I post any further:

(A) Brandon is awesome and always right and titles are fantastic.

(B) Titles are a problematic culture change from a classic design that many loved. A cosmetic solution to pretend the classic way posts were constructed is still in effect will not, in the view of some, be an effective solution.

There, now you don't need to reply to me anymore. If you find yourself disagreeing, just remember option A. If someone can create a script to automate this it would be welcome.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:53 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Drinky Die, not sure why you're copping an attitude about this. Everyone is allowed to have their own preference about how the page is displayed (with or without titles).

After living with the titles for a few days, I'm already liking them. However, if I didn't like them, I could turn them off. Yes, we are seeing that people are now going to be using them differently than before, but frankly this ranks below the favourites issue as a point of concern for me.

Matt and the team have all been very open about making changes and adjusting things based on member response. This is well above and beyond the responsiveness you'd see from other sites.

If this bugs you so much, I suggest you back away from the keyboard for a while and take a walk.
posted by arcticseal at 8:00 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you!
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:08 AM on January 10, 2013


I would think that the main thing to look at would be do the titles actually change how people participate in threads? If you have something to say about a post, the title isn't really going to affect your comment, is it? Once in a thread, the same usual dynamics are in play.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:08 AM on January 10, 2013


I am trying to help you. If you are denial of the basic human nature to respond to criticisms, fine.

Running out to pick up lunch from the deli on the corner is helpful. Telling people they don't understand basic human nature, not so much.

You are wiping their position of any and all subtleties.

I don't think there's a whole lot of subtlety. A change has been made on Metafilter. A user has three basic options to make the change fit their sensibilities. Pick one. Then go forth and enjoy MetaFilter.

I get that the rollout was problematic (totally agreement there), that people don't like change being brought about by someone else, even if the intentions are good and people resent even the vague hint of the bumbling dictator style of site management that so many social sites are turning to.

People have deep emotional attachments to Metafilter, attachments that defy, as love pften does, any sort of rational sense and that's totally fine. Hell, some people just might have been having a bad/week/month/decade and this one change was enough to spark genuine anger, because their perception of the site and its management indicated this situation would not happen.

Totally understandable feelings, but major concerns have been addressed.

(B) Titles are a problematic culture change from a classic design that many loved. A cosmetic solution to pretend the classic way posts were constructed is still in effect will not, in the view of some, be an effective solution.

(C) Hey, you don't like the titles? No problem, you can now remove them or style them as you sit fit. Try out it please, give it a few weeks, see what happens. Whatever you decide is fine, take it easy!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:09 AM on January 10, 2013


I would prefer not to have a full line for the title, but it's not a Big Deal. Thanks for being so responsive.
posted by theora55 at 8:16 AM on January 10, 2013


Dinky there was some talk on the mod side about maybe putting an FYI on the new posts page about titles and how they may affect FPP presentation. So your concerns are being listened to. Mods correct anything I may have misquoted you on.
posted by wheelieman at 8:20 AM on January 10, 2013


Dinky there was some talk on the mod side about maybe putting an FYI on the new posts page about titles and how they may affect FPP presentation.

Ugh. Please no.

Either show titles or don't show titles, but don't put posters under an obligation to half ass it on titles.
posted by Artw at 8:36 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Everyone is allowed to have their own preference about how the page is displayed (with or without titles).

I know, my complaint notes that there are still issues with that change in place. That is not "attitude", it is my opinion. If it is bothering you, option A!
posted by Drinky Die at 8:37 AM on January 10, 2013


After test driving the New Old for um a couple of hours cumulative, a) I still feel like someone who's just getting over a bad cold and is happily aware they can breathe through their nose again, and b) I've noticed absolutely no difference in my comprehension or consumption or interaction with the sites with titles at 0 compared to the pre-title-rollout. I know it's early and people haven't started to take advantage of the new format yet, but I've been paying more attention to how I'm using the site/s, and if I had come across Brandon's stop motion animation post sans FP title, it wouldn't have slowed me down or bothered me - I'd have hovered for a title, because '10 damn fine examples of it' would have piqued my curiosity enough to want more information. I'm pretty sure I've always done that sort of thing to some extent, and as others have pointed out, there have always been mystery meat posts.

Watching how I skim the front pages, I'm all over the map as to how many words I read in each post. Sometimes the first few are enough, sometimes I read all the words, and I do a lot more Yes, Yes, No, Yes, No than I'd been aware of, a lot more quickly than I'd thought when the titles were rolled out - but I do it much more efficiently without the titles, and I can control how much I read and at what pace when there are no titles, whereas with titles the flow was interrupted, I wasn't in as much control over how I was taking in information, it was harder to skim for key words... it's hard to articulate, but if we weren't allowed to set title size to 0/eliminate the titles, I think I'd wish I could set post text size on the front page to zero, because that was effectively how I was reading the front page/s with titles - it turned into titles-only, comprehension-wise, and I was effectively skipping the post copy because titles were impossible to not-read, and when I tried to read the post text my eyes kept being drawn up or down to a title. On both the main site and Ask, I find I really like having the whole above-the-fold text available to skim easily. It seems like the Juuuust Right amount of information to have available on the front pages - in its entirety it acts as a title for me (in the sense of the purpose of the title being to answer the question 'what is this post about?') and is exactly perfect. And if I'd been left with effectively only having the proper-titles to read and evaluate the posts by, I wouldn't have enough information much/some of the time, most things would look boring, and I would end up reading far less than I do currently.

This whole thing has been really fascinating to me for what it's revealed about how different people interact with the site and process information. Someone in the other title thread mentioned something about ADD and that made me wonder if there's any correlation between ADD (or dyslexia or other issues) and people who found the sites unusable with titles (not merely 'Oh MY, that's ferociously ugly/redundant/unnecessary', but actually unusable or too challenging to be worthwhile).

Either way, it's obvious that for some people the presence of titles was a great new feature that enhanced site usability for them, and I think it's right for titles-on to be the default. If it alters site culture I think it will be a slow process and not necessarily for the worse. I came in through Ask by way of google, landing on comments/thread pages long before ever seeing the front pages, so I was pulled in by the site's usefulness, interestingness, and culture to an extent that its great personality would have offset any issues I had with FP formatting to begin with, probably - I'd have been a slow consumer initially, and then I'd have read the faq and/or wiki (where I bet there will be information about being able to set titles to 0), and I'd have played with font sizes and found something that works for me. This whole thing has really made me more impressed with metafilter as a whole as being someplace that makes a shit ton of effort to do its best for ALL THE USERS, with our myriad and mutually exclusive needs, preferences, tastes, personalities - nothing can be all things to all people, and blahblah other issues with inclusivity/things we Don't Do Well and all, but this seems like we've just had a (traumatic) change that has on the whole improved site usability for some users while making accommodations for users for whom that change more or less broke the site.

Cool.
posted by you must supply a verb at 8:38 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Try out it please, give it a few weeks, see what happens. Whatever you decide is fine, take it easy!

I think this is the crux you're missing, Brandon. Whatever users decide after the few weeks is not "fine", because if they decide "actually, I hate the way posts are being written now that people are seeing titles, and I don't like how the front page reads now either with them on or off", they're not going to be able to "take it easy", they're going to be upset.

Your continual insistence that they shouldn't anticipate this upset and should instead a) relax and b) pipe down will do nothing except encourage the exact opposite on both fronts.
posted by fightorflight at 8:47 AM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


setting font size to zero feels like a hack.

I agree. It also wouldn't have occurred to me that this is possible. Looking at my preferences page I see options to custom-set font sizes for the whole site; if I set them all to zero, will every page load as a blank, colored background? (Would the fields reappear to reset this, or would I need to know HTML to find them at zero-font?) I never would have thought to do that.
posted by cribcage at 8:47 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whatever users decide after the few weeks is not "fine", because if they decide "actually, I hate the way posts are being written now that people are seeing titles, and I don't like how the front page reads now either with them on or off", they're not going to be able to "take it easy", they're going to be upset.

I doubt the writing of posts take such a drastic turn style wise, because titles are now visible on the front page. We're probably gonna have to agree to disagree.

Your continual insistence that they shouldn't anticipate this upset and should instead a) relax and b) pipe down will do nothing except encourage the exact opposite on both fronts.

If people choose to get and remain upset about something that hasn't happened, but they think will, that's their right.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:03 AM on January 10, 2013


Where's the greasemonkey script that lets you ignore users?
posted by desjardins at 9:03 AM on January 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


if I set them all to zero, will every page load as a blank, colored background? (Would the fields reappear to reset this, or would I need to know HTML to find them at zero-font?)

It ends up being mostly blank and weird-looking, but the top banner is still visible as normal, so you can still find "preferences" to set them back.
posted by nangar at 9:05 AM on January 10, 2013


The killfiles have limited value, because even if you have a fast machine/browser you'll still see the script do its thing while the page loads. Better to learn to selectively engage. It's difficult!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:06 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I doubt the writing of posts take such a drastic turn style wise, because titles are now visible on the front page.

I think they probably will become much more frequent, not least because mods won't be fixing AskMe any longer and, oh, because you made such a post and what's more because people made the best of it you are now defending it as awesome (which is the next thing I expect to happen when people start complaining about such post composition).

If people choose to get and remain upset about something that hasn't happened, but they think will, that's their right.

Phew, thanks. That's probably all we needed here.
posted by fightorflight at 9:07 AM on January 10, 2013


Thank you so much. I've set mine to 11 and am absolutely in love with the sub-title feel now.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:18 AM on January 10, 2013


Yeah, I actually liked the titles, but setting the title font size to the same as the byline font size is objectively the best option.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:23 AM on January 10, 2013


Wow, killfiles, that takes me back to the days of Usenet. Who will be playing Joel Furr?
posted by Chrysostom at 9:35 AM on January 10, 2013


Probably mentioned upthread, but just a suggestion for the preferences panel: include a note that setting the font size at zero makes titles disappear. After this thread goes off the radar, there is no way for anyone to know that.
posted by beagle at 9:38 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brandon, the thing I've found so puzzling about your engagement on this topic is that you were the poster of the hallmark example of the type of post people have worried would emerge from this change (using "worry" only in the sense that it would cause confusion for people who had turned titles off.)

I believe you when you say it wasn't a stunt post*. If it had been from someone who'd made a stink about the titles, it would have been clearer it was a stunt. But for you to have made that post and then insist that there's no potential for confusion with this change is a striking bit of dissonance.

*And in a world where everyone would have the titles on, I think it's a 100% acceptable way of posting. But while not "stuny", per se, it did read to me as a bit of a tweak for the people you we discussing the topic with at the time.
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:39 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, killfiles, that takes me back to the days of Usenet. Who will be playing Joel Furr?

Forget that; who will be playing James 'Kibo' Parry?
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 10:04 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


New rule: your title size value is now also your Kibo number.
posted by maudlin at 10:06 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I settled on not using a greasemonkey script to move the titles, setting them to the same font as the body text, and making them slightly smaller than the body text. I think it works well. It isn't jarring like the large different-font titles and I can still read the FP the way I used to read it.

So crisis averted.
posted by Justinian at 10:08 AM on January 10, 2013


We added a note to the FAQ about the ability to add a zero value in the font size fields. That FAQ is linked from the preferences page next to the Display Settings headline.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:08 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Noooooo! Killfiles are a serious mistake. They are a defection in the Prisoner's Dilemma of life!
posted by Justinian at 10:09 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think they probably will become much more frequent, not least because mods won't be fixing AskMe any longer and, oh, because you made such a post...

By that rationale, there should be many more of such posts, but I haven't noticed any. Feel free to correct that impression if it's incorrect.

and what's more because people made the best of it you are now defending it as awesome

Making the best of it is actively encourage by the mods, that's a good thing.

While you may disagree about the quality of that Stop Motion Animation post, judging by the number and quality of positive comments it received, such as:
"Cool."
"Some good things there.."
"I ♥ Street of Crocodiles"
"I loved the 10th one."
"Creature Comforts.. always a great time."
"I totally dug,... Fetiche on Honeymoon"
and the only vaguely negative comment saying the linked site would have been better as an ordered list, we're gonna agree to disagree on the said quality.

Brandon, the thing I've found so puzzling about your engagement on this topic is that you were the poster of the hallmark example of the type of post people have worried would emerge from this change (using "worry" only in the sense that it would cause confusion for people who had turned titles off.)

I am a firm believer in "enough talk, let's do something", along with "Hmm, new feature, what does it do". So yeah, make a post, see what happens.

The sky didn't fall. A lot of people clicked and saw cool animation. Others got fidgety about it. That sort of thing can happen with any post and I'm often on the fidgety side myself. Seriously, Lindsay Lohan, who cares?! No offense meant Horace. Yet clearly some people do, judging by number of comments in there, so whatever ya'll, have fun.

I believe you when you say it wasn't a stunt post*. If it had been from someone who'd made a stink about the titles, it would have been clearer it was a stunt. But for you to have made that post and then insist that there's no potential for confusion with this change is a striking bit of dissonance.

There's no potential for sustained confusion. Clarification is a click away.

Frankly, I thought desjardins' comment about the post in the previous MeTa thread summed things up perfectly: If you choose to hide titles, you might be confused for a second, but there's a clear and easy way to clear up that confusion. The choice is up the user on whether they want to go that route.

If people choose to hide titles and not click on post links, that's a perfectly valid choice on their part. But it does have potential for irritation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:16 AM on January 10, 2013


I am a firm believer in "enough talk...
tell us more
posted by fightorflight at 10:30 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh come off it it was obviously a stunt post. I mean it wasn't particularly malicious or anything (although I would venture that it might've crossed Brandon's mind that he might be winding up the anti-title crowd a bit) but it was clearly a case of "hmm, some people are concerned that post subject comprehension might become dependent on reading the title, let me make a post that's exactly like that to see what happens". That's a stunt post -- he was playing with the community, making a meta-post that was not only about its putative subject but also about playing with community expectations and making an unstated social experiment by transgressing community norms. We all know Brandon is sometimes a prankster and has a tendency to be a bit contrary and that he gets up the noses of some people who may or may not need to lighten up a bit.

Come on man, you were playing with us. You know you were, we know you were. It's OK. No harm was done. But still, that's definitely what you were doing.
posted by Scientist at 10:37 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not transgressing community norms if it's not a community norm anymore, and it no longer is.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Again, I really don't get how Brandon's post was stunty. If I were to enable post titles, that's exactly how I would make my posts. One of the reasons I've turned off titles is because the vast majority of them are redundant, nonsensical, or outright misleading as to the content of the post.
posted by lalex at 10:48 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seems like making assumptions about people's intents/feelings is not really helping, from either side of the argument.

Like the titles, mods. Liked the old format too. Thanks, as ever, for being even-keeled and providing options for everyone.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2013


tell us more

Sure, pull a chair!

The question at this point is what would you (meaning the general you) like to accomplish? Someone people feel compelled to continue mentioning that the feature, as currently implement, is a problem. I'm unaware of any proof of that, but it's been a repeated comment, so taking it at face value, what's next? We've gone around and around and around, but nothing that has been done has yet satisfied a certain core group.

So what do you want to happen next, other than me shutting up? A complete rollback of the title feature? Probably not gonna happen. Further changes to the title feature? I think the mods have said they're rather leave things as they are now and see what happens, but seek clarification if you want.

That doesn't make anyone's desire for further change wrong, but is it realistic? Anything's possible, but I don't see it at this point. That said, there are definitely ways one can still agitate for more change, are you aware of them and if so, which method would you like to use? If you aren't aware of them, it's ok to post a question in this thread. I'd avoid starting a new thread myself, as it makes thing a bit unwieldy, with three active threads about the subject.

So. What action would you like to take at this point?

Come on man, you were playing with us.

Nope.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:24 AM on January 10, 2013


Well I guess the point was that community norms are no longer stable on that point and Brandon was playing around with one idea of what might happen if they change in a certain way. It seems inevitable that posting norms will shift at least a little bit -- making titles so much more prominent virtually ensures that they will be given a more important role in post composition than they used to be. There isn't a consensus yet about what the new best practices are though -- I personally maintain for instance that above-the-fold body copy is still the best place for a post summary, and in time the community may come to agree with me or it may not, or there may turn out to be no consensus on the matter and posting conventions will become a bit more chaotic.

Brandon's post was a deliberate example of what an extreme deviation from the pre-titles status quo might look like: a post in which all of the context was in the title, and in which the body text was completely cryptic when taken on its own. It was a stunt in that it was deliberately playing with the community's expectations of how a post should be structured by using an experimental format. In time such a format may become the norm, though I personally hope not.

What takes it from an experimental post and into the realm of stuntiness is the fact that there was a highly contentious debate happening at the time about what posts should look like and how they should be presented, with many people arguing that the old status quo should be preserved. Brandon is not stupid and he understands this community as well as anybody, and so he obviously knew that making a post like that was bound to push some people's buttons at least a little bit. This is something he has a history of doing, so it's perfectly in character. It's also not particularly harmful (his neverending cry of "why do you care?" is much more annoying right now) and I'm not saying he should be pilloried or anything for it, but it seems like a pretty textbook stunt post to me.

Maybe in a few years a post like that will seem completely unremarkable, but given the context at the time the post was made, it looks like a clear stunt post from here.
posted by Scientist at 11:27 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: Nope.

Come on Brandon, we also know that you have a longstanding history of avoiding criticism for your prankish ways by playing dumb when people call you on it. This has been your M.O. for years. I bear you no ill will and I think you're a fine contributor and an upstanding member of this community, and I firmly believe that any healthy community needs its tricksters, but you're not fooling anybody.
posted by Scientist at 11:29 AM on January 10, 2013


Scientist, what are you trying to accomplish through your insistence that the animation post is some sort of stunt or prank by Brandon Blatcher?
posted by grouse at 11:34 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why are we all obsessed with Brandon anyway, aren't there more important things to talk about. Like me feeling all resigned and crying big manly tears into my beer and pouring out a 40 for one of the last vestiges of flawless front page design [/sodramatic]
posted by naju at 11:36 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Come on Brandon, we also know that you have a longstanding history of avoiding criticism for your prankish ways by playing dumb when people call you on it.

I totally get why think what you think, you just happen to be wrong.

I'm comfortable with you thinking whatever want about moi and don't see this conversation going anywhere productive, so...GOOD DAY SIR.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:36 AM on January 10, 2013


How do all these delicate, special snowflakes deal with the real world?
posted by Argyle at 11:37 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Scientist, what are you trying to accomplish

Look, clearly nothing is going to be accomplished, but there certainly seems to me to be a bit of impish pot-stirring on BB's part--if not in that post, then at least in his comments here.

When that's frustrating, as it seems to be to Scientist, and would be to me if I were actually invested in this thread (instead of just sitting idly by and reading it), it feels better when you can at least put words to what you think is going on.
posted by phunniemee at 11:40 AM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


It did not seem like a stunt post to me. Also, it's the sort of experiment I might have tried myself if I had thought of it.
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm chilling now. I was, as phunniemee correctly deduced, a bit frustrated by what I was seeing as Brandon's tendency to sort of play "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!" with the community. I mean yeah he generally can claim plausible deniability for any one instance, but it's a lomgstanding pattern of behavior at this point and I find it irksome (as I imagine is sort of the point, so good job there) and I just wanted to say "I see what you did there". I am not going to continue to kick up a fuss about it, people can think what they think and that is OK By Me. All I hoped to accomplish was to publicly voice my view that Brandon's more impish tendencies are possibly not quite so innocent as he is wont to claim. My purpose achieved, I will drop the matter. I love you all.
posted by Scientist at 12:10 PM on January 10, 2013


Hey neat, thanks Matt.
posted by jamaro at 12:15 PM on January 10, 2013


All I hoped to accomplish was to publicly voice my view that Brandon's more impish tendencies are possibly not quite so innocent as he is wont to claim.

My feeling is that people's words and their actions are what most people assess when they make these sorts of decisions. If a lot of people think your post is stunty, it only partially matters if you say it's not. Once you've been informed that people think you make stunty posts, you can do with that information what you want. As an unrelated example, one of MeFi's general rules when dealing with people who other people think are trolling is that once you've been pointed out as someone who others think is trolling [by more than just one or two people who may have a vendetta] we'll talk to you about it and it's sort of on you to make it clear that you're not being a troll. Otherwise, we start treating you like a troll because what you do is indistinguishable from trolling.

My personal viewpoint is that Brandon was experimenting with the form and not intentionally trying to bother people. At the same time, the fact that his post wound up receiving the laser-beam attention that it did for sitting where it did on the "How do we make posts here?" line that it did is not, I don't think, accidental.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:37 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm comfortable with you thinking whatever want about moi and don't see this conversation going anywhere productive, so...GOOD DAY SIR.

Why can't I get Miss Piggy's voice out of my head when I read that?
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:59 PM on January 10, 2013


Brandon was discussing/debating making a post in that format prior to posting it. Being aware of the controversy does not imply it was disengenuous. He thought it was a format at least worth trying for the reasons he explained. I personally do agree that is the best format when working with the new titles. His newer posts have not used that style so I assume he is still working out the best way moving forward.

We really don't need to question motives or missions here. People are discussing their points of view because they are interested in the issue. We don't need to analyze past that.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stunt or no, it's a bad way to compose a post. "10 fine examples of it" is a sentence fragment and not appropriate as the entire body text of a post no matter what is or is not in the title. Speculating on motive seems irrelevant to me.
posted by Justinian at 1:05 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or what Drinky Die said. In my opinion the format didn't work and there is no need to read beyond that.
posted by Justinian at 1:06 PM on January 10, 2013


I'm noticing an interesting interaction between the titles and the deleted posts greasemonkey script. It looks like when a post gets deleted, the script tucks that deleted post under the title of the previous undeleted post. So, for example, I have this happening on my view of the front page (post title done in all caps):

"NAME WITHHELD" NEEDS TO FIND ANOTHER LETTER COLUMN
{text of deleted post "Can you play like this woman" along with deletion reason}
line break

{text of Comic buyers guide post}


I'm not complaining; I don't expect that changes to Metafilter will be able to take into account what scripts a user has running on their machine. Just an interesting interaction, and I wanted to share it here in case anyone else was a little confused by the somewhat strange appearance it produces.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:09 PM on January 10, 2013


It's broken and I think there's already been an updated version posted.
posted by flatluigi at 1:11 PM on January 10, 2013


Thanks flatluigi. I tried a search in the thread, but must have missed that.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:13 PM on January 10, 2013


If anyone has a link to the updated deleted posts script, please let us know. A lot of people are bothered by this problem and we can't really do anything about from this end.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:29 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've noticed that the Older and Newer links at the bottom of each post (right there above where I'm typing) are the first line of the other posts. Maybe with this new importancing of the titles it should now be the title of each of those posts? I'm not totally sure if this should be changed and I am sure it's not terribly important, but I keep noticing it so figured I'd mention it.
posted by shelleycat at 1:31 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it should stay the same: the first line of the post is the consistent information that everyone will see on the front page.
posted by maudlin at 1:44 PM on January 10, 2013


"I like titles that are a little difficult, because it's kind of counterintuitive."
– Charlie Kaufman
posted by Kabanos at 2:13 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I survived TitleGate 2013

Thanks mods!
posted by panaceanot at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2013


Trying to gauge the market for a bumper sticker: Don't Blame Me, I Voted Byline!
posted by gilrain at 3:01 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like I felt when I discovered MAD magazine started including ads. Sure, it's still MAD, I can just look past the ads... but, man, the world lost a little holdout of elegance that day.
posted by scrowdid at 3:15 PM on January 10, 2013


I don't think MeFi Deleted Posts script has been updated yet. Flunkie mentioned in the other thread that users who installed his Subdue MetaFilter Titles script weren't affected by the issue.

If I'm wrong, which I hope I am (or become soon), I'd appreciate a link to the fix as well. TIA.
posted by carsonb at 4:01 PM on January 10, 2013


Turned titles back off after a while trying to live with them (thanks!) — and it's just a breath of fresh air going back from a front page that invites lazy skimming to one that demands to be read with attention and interest. I understand the desire to delimit posts better and to provide an obvious click target, but trading that for the charm and engagement of the skimming-resistant front page, a website made for real reading, made it a bad tradeoff for me. I really hope the whole site can switch back at some point.
posted by RogerB at 4:12 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hi.

I adjusted my preferences.

Dear God what have I done!?!?! My eyes! I have made things WAY WORSE. I can't remember the names of enough fonts to make things better! I can only remember the hilarious ones like Baby Kruffy and Rosewood and Boopee and Jokerman.

This is far more difficult than I thought. Design is hard.

Now I see why you have added the preferences, so we can all individually try and makes things better and botch it ourselves several times and end up with Rosewood titles and Baby Kruffy bodies. Then we can all collectively join around the fire later and share stories about how we each thought we had the perfect solution before realizing that there is no solution.

I do hope there is a way you can track people's choices -- it would be really interesting to see later on down the road after people have played around with this what sort of choices are most common.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Titlegate2013 has now made it into a report on design of [redacted but its agriculture] as an example of a "good thing". What's interesting is that its the "able" users who are able to push and tweak and provide feedback of value on the systems (bugs) than the "n00bs" or vast majority of "casual" users. So its not quite consensus per se nor wisdom of the crowds, so much as "those of you who know the ins and outs of using this site" have information to provide which you are able to quickly identify and articulate. That is, here, the system is not moving at the speed of the slowest walker (or chain only as strong as weakest link, pick a metaphor) but instead relying on the frontlines to send data back to the mothership.

MetaFilter was also extremely and rapidly responsive to the "bugs" but that's also a part of the embedded system design that there's not only a place for voices to be seen and heard but that they are listened to. In the other situation, it not only takes months or years for "bugs" to be identified but there's no mechanism in place to gather such feedback from farmers nor a means to respond to critical issues, until its too late. Furthermore, the initial system design is also rigid and thus unable to respond appropriately to an operating environment of uncertainty and rapid change.

The issue of titles themselves remaining as a permanent design element is also interesting. Even while they, as an element of the site, are non negotiable, due to necessity for smoother operational management by staff, a solution offering users the flexibility to control their own experience seems to be a viable and workable compromise between the needs of the site and the needs of the users. How this will play out and what its impact will be on site usage still remains to be seen but one suspects that Pareto's Law will still be valid. Those who are able to see the implications of teh change wrt content and style are more likely than most to also then be aware of how to make accommodations for it in their own creations.

tl;dr, we've got a pretty good bazaar here.

I need a better vocabulary
posted by infini at 4:41 PM on January 10, 2013


I survived TitleGate 2013

Hold your horses!

MetaFilter "Titles" are from humble HTML beginnings: the <title> tag. In the beginning titles appeared only in the title bar of thread pages giving documents a name and some joy to anyone with an eye for <title> gems.

The de rigueur of (Forum) titles elsewhere in the world come with a whole lot of user-expectations (and uses) that MetaFilter has not addresses (yet). So far Titles™ are only servicing the needs of staff. Wait for the pony requests they bring from the user-base, any hard-core Titles contingent, and the Rules MetaFilter conventions they bring.

Titles come with conventions, abbreviations, acronyms and symbol-signatures, little packs of community and personal information. Imagine.
    "'%-|' ... what is that?"
     "Oh, that's Brandon; he always does that."
    "NWM!!1!"
(Over time staff will probably feel they're endlessly editing that sort of thing from Titles™, or maybe a strip-script on Titles™ will manage it.)

With Titles no longer for document naming and less and less given to cleverness, will early title adopters be wanting the front page wall of text out of their line of vision? There's a pony for that: the collapsible Description-text pony. That'll streamline things on the front page and lead to another Preference setting. Or can we do that now by setting the Body Font Size to 0? (I'm not game to check.)

Then comes the Search on Title pony. Why scan a listing with the human eye for the title you want when you're sitting at a computer that will find the title better and faster?

... I predict endless (quite reasonable) ponies to enter the arena while the requests chip away at titles refining what was once a simple <title> into a fully functional Title, for users ... bit like reinventing the wheel (and as torturous to watch as Titles™ slowly approaches Titles).

Disclosure: verdana (8, 6, 6)
posted by de at 4:43 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


There should be a case study on this.
posted by infini at 4:43 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can imagine it. IN ALL CAPS.
posted by carsonb at 4:46 PM on January 10, 2013


Ponies are technically animal husbandry. This is now about cocoa bean yields.
posted by infini at 4:46 PM on January 10, 2013


What's interesting is that its the "able" users who are able to push and tweak and provide feedback of value on the systems (bugs) than the "n00bs" or vast majority of "casual" users. So its not quite consensus per se nor wisdom of the crowds, so much as "those of you who know the ins and outs of using this site" have information to provide which you are able to quickly identify and articulate. That is, here, the system is not moving at the speed of the slowest walker (or chain only as strong as weakest link, pick a metaphor) but instead relying on the frontlines to send data back to the mothership.

I'm honestly not sure if you're joking here or not, but this seems like not really an unmitigated good to me. Another way to frame this is that the people who are most entrenched in the old ways are those that raised a huge fuss and set back the pace of progress on the site. I don't completely believe that that's what happened, but the narrative you wrote is a narrative that assumes that titles are a bad thing. It's a pretty self-serving narrative for those that oppose titles. Perhaps you should consider that most users like or would like titles and those who hate them because they are steeped in the old ways are at odds with what most people would like and find most useful.

I don't actually think of it that way, but it's as plausible as the "able users saved the website from something awful."
posted by OmieWise at 5:16 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can imagine it: `’•.¸*(✿◠‿◠)*¸.•’´all eBayish+++¸.•’´*(✿◠‿◠)*`’•.¸
With an eventual loss of all pony entitlement.
posted by de at 5:17 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I trust I am permitted to have an opinion.
posted by infini at 5:26 PM on January 10, 2013


Is that directed to me, because I don't understand it.
posted by OmieWise at 5:27 PM on January 10, 2013


Get a ticket and get in line.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:27 PM on January 10, 2013


Pick up that can
posted by Big_B at 5:33 PM on January 10, 2013


For those of you of a mind to tinker with this on iOS, here is a list of natively supported fonts.

Here's an all-Helvetica Neue example, with big but Ultra Light titles:

iPhone
Body: HelveticaNeue-Light 24
Byline: HelveticaNeue-Light 11
Title: HelveticaNeue-UltraLight 32

iPad
Body: HelveticaNeue-Light 22
Byline: HelveticaNeue-Light 15
Title: HelveticaNeue-UltraLight 32
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:41 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


"For those of you of a mind to tinker with this on iOS, here is a list of natively supported fonts."

Oh cool. Let me try Zapfino. Oh no. What have I done.
posted by panaceanot at 6:21 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Forgive me, it was so cool I put it in my milkshake.
posted by infini at 6:46 PM on January 10, 2013


What's interesting is that its the "able" users who are able to push and tweak and provide feedback of value on the systems (bugs) than the "n00bs" or vast majority of "casual" users.

The thing is, though, is that it seems to me that this change was at least partially aimed at casual users and non-members. This was a tweak of the system intended to make the journey easier for the slowest walkers. See Matt's comments here and here. To quote,

"The titles being an easier way to scan and click into threads is something I've heard lots of feedback about from non-members, who ask what the deal is with the front page just being paragraph after paragraph of text with tiny link indicators of more information." (first link)

"That was a major stumbling block to participation for many (lots of people also tell me "I just read the front page of your sites, I never dive in") and this wasn't a direct way to solve that, but I felt like apart from an improvement of getting a little extra info on the front page and making it clearer where posts started and stopped, this could help solve the "how do I even dive in" problem." (second link)


So "able" users can certainly provide feedback of value on whether titles are a feature or a bug for them, but it's very possible that their status as "able" users means they have lost the "noob" perspective. And if a change is intended to make interaction with the site more welcoming to "casual" users, and "able" users have lost that perspective, then I question the value of their feedback regarding usability for non-members.

IOW, the narrative you've constructed reads to me like, "Expert users made the site better for everyone, members & non-members alike." But we haven't actually heard from the non-members as to whether titles improve their interaction with the site or not.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:00 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


And if a change is intended to make interaction with the site more welcoming to "casual" users, and "able" users have lost that perspective, then I question the value of their feedback regarding usability for non-members.

Yes, very good point. That bit about "able" users was a borrowed phrase and I had not thought it through in the terms that you have now laid out so clearly. Large scale systems design which are not back end processes without human interaction are neater and cleaner than where you have a vast and varied community of human beings in all their diverse glory.

IOW, the narrative you've constructed reads to me like, "Expert users made the site better for everyone, members & non-members alike."

This was not the intent of what that narrative was trying to convey, rather that the compromise solution emerged due to the inherent conflict between the needs of the X and the Y (not getting into the word choices of able etc because that is a distraction and not really relevant, I don't know bla bla bla ponder) and how it seemed to serve the needs of the many even while able to offer the customization for the few.

That is, what I'm looking at is the flexibility in the system design rather than the "quality" of the user base demographic per se.

*goes back to counting beans*
posted by infini at 7:09 PM on January 10, 2013


The main impetus for this design change, as explained here, was that a lot of new users of AskMe seemed to want to put the gist of their question in the title field and use the above the fold text for more details and [more inside] if the details run into multiple paragraphs. This a perfectly logical way to organize AskMe posts, so why not just let them do that?

Even though it's been only a few days since this was implemented, people posting questions on the Green seem to have taken to having titles visible on the front page, and to be using them exactly as anticipated. So on AskMe there seems to be a clear benefit.

There's an analogous situation that comes up in architecture and landscape design. Let's say you have a complex of buildings and people who live or work in those buildings constantly cut across the grass to get from building A to building B, creating a track. You can put up fences and "Do Not Walk On Grass" signs, or you can build a walkway connecting the two buildings. Matt and the moderators have clearly opted for 'let's stop fighting the pedestrians and put in sidewalk'.

Whether the benefits of doing this on the Green carry over to the Blue is different question, but I think this has clearly been a good thing on AskMe.
posted by nangar at 7:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think the titles on AskMe were always more utilitarian, even before they showed on the front page, because AskMe has been honed to a very specific set of purposes.
posted by Miko at 7:17 PM on January 10, 2013


Yes, the Green and Blue aspect was obvious from the very first, but lessons drawn from a case in responsive, flexible human engagement systems need not always emerge from ditto situations and can still offer value. Your example of desire lines is a great one here.
posted by infini at 7:28 PM on January 10, 2013


There was no analogue to user-created desire paths on the blue. The titles were always a jumble, and people treated them differently, as they probably will continue to do now that they are unreliably visible.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


This was not the intent of what that narrative was trying to convey [redacted for space]
That is, what I'm looking at is the flexibility in the system design rather than the "quality" of the user base demographic per se.


Gotcha. No argument re: flexibility of the system design.

Are you really, literally, counting beans?
posted by soundguy99 at 7:37 PM on January 10, 2013


Ultra-light fonts, as suggested by goodnewsforheinsane, have worked best for me (though smaller, just 1pt above Body size). This helps,push the title into the background so that the main body paragraphs are still what jumps out at the eye.

I think I still prefer the byline option described somewhere up above though. Bad titles on the front page ruin well written fpps.
posted by Kabanos at 8:24 PM on January 10, 2013


ᘉᗢﬡᙓ ᗢℱ ♈ᖺᓰᔕ ᙡᓰᒪᒪ ᙢᗩḰᙓ ᔕᗴﬡᔕᙓ ᘎﬡ♈ᓮᒪ ᙢᗢᖇᗴ ☂ᙓჯ♈ ᓮᔕ ᖇᙓﬡᖙᙓᖇᙓᕍ ᓮﬡ Ḱᒪᓮﬡᘐᗝﬡ
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:42 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


twoleftfeet, that showed as a blank comment via the phone (Symbian, so there)

Are you really, literally, counting beans?

This is now about cocoa bean yields.


Welp...one way to see if yield has increased....
posted by infini at 12:31 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So... just to complete the thought, the rationale behind the change (improved functionality for new users of a particular feature eg Green) is also a lens by which to filter the feedback.
posted by infini at 1:00 AM on January 11, 2013


Well, I've learned that I'm not very good at writing titles. Here's to improvement.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:15 AM on January 11, 2013


Just mulling things over.

There were two perceived problems which were to be addressed by the change:
1. Supposed barrier to new and casual users
2. Difficulty of site administration re delineation of posts

Two actual problems emerged from change implementation:
1. Lack of change management protocol
2. Negative impact on user experience on the part of a vocal/substantial portion of users (re change management AND the change itself)

The two perceived problems were owner-side, the users had not been aware of nor reported either. The two actual problems were immediately reported by the user side.

A site which is user-content driven and has a "community culture" is a very delicate thing; several examples have been cited in the announcement Meta of seemingly robust but now-defunct sites where the balance between owner desires and user desires was irreparably disturbed by implemented changes not ultimately supported by the user base. In this case, both the surprise implementation and the main supposed goal were interpreted as a kind of betrayal of site culture and the user base ("we were not consulted", "you sprang this on us", "you are preferencing potential users over the actual, loyal users the site is in fact composed of" - not quotes, but distilled examples). It is very, very good to see that within a day of the first shock of the negative user response, Matt and mods began to address the two actual problems. In corporate parlance, their response time is "impossible". ;)

The absolute best thing of all is that they have apologized for the negative user experience arising from the lack of change management protocol, and have proposed and committed to general future guidelines by means of this very thread. The second best thing is that an interim server-side fix re display preferences is now available to ameliorate the negative user experience the change itself caused, while an eye will be kept on the potential impacts of site fragmentation due to differing user interfaces. The third best thing is that they may be able to keep the solution to their perceived owner-side problems without further negative user experience.

Some metrics questions:
1. Is the perceived problem of a supposed barrier to new and casual users actual? Can we please track and compare hits and visits pre and post?
2. How substantial is the portion of users reporting a negative impact? Can we have stats on user preferences?

An interesting note has been, to me, the increasing and increasingly explicit user emphasis on the different functionalities of the different subsites. Site-wide rollouts of even seemingly trivial changes cannot then be the unconsidered standard.


In conclusion, MetaFilter rocks.
posted by likeso at 3:31 AM on January 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think what makes this not a big deal for me is that I've always thought of a title as being a major component in a post, not that I've made all that many. I just presumed that the title was being read so I've always made them relevant to the post. Has the title field always been there when making a post?

When you click on the title now it takes you to the entire post, including the 'more inside', instead of having to click the comments. I like this, it makes sense.
posted by h00py at 3:38 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. Is the perceived problem of a supposed barrier to new and casual users actual?

Matt's already said as much:
The titles being an easier way to scan and click into threads is something I've heard lots of feedback about from non-members, who ask what the deal is with the front page just being paragraph after paragraph of text with tiny link indicators of more information. Seriously, I've gotten the chance to interact with the site with hundreds of people over the years that have never seen it, and every time I show them the front page of MetaFilter, the first response is usually "What the hell is this? How do I even use this?" But I understand that outside non-members of the site have very different needs than existing longtime members.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:40 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe I listed that as a metrics question:

1. Is the perceived problem of a supposed barrier to new and casual users actual? Can we please track and compare hits and visits pre and post?
posted by likeso at 3:43 AM on January 11, 2013


I don't know how hundreds of users over the years isn't a metric, but ok then.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:06 AM on January 11, 2013


I set the font to dingbats and it doesn't work. How disappointing.
posted by Decani at 4:08 AM on January 11, 2013


I don't know how hundreds of users over the years isn't a metric, but ok then.

The difference is that I am referencing a measurement of site data pre and post implementation.
posted by likeso at 4:12 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I set the font to dingbats and it doesn't work. How disappointing.

Getting the font name correct is critical and quirky. I'm assuming you're on Windows. Open up the Control Panel, click on Fonts and find specific name you're looking for. Then copy and paste that name directly into the MeFi preferences panel and it should work.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:14 AM on January 11, 2013


To expand, however reliable the authority that is being appealed to, I would like to compare anecdata to data.
posted by likeso at 4:15 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


To expand, however reliable the authority that is being appealed to, I would like to compare anecdata to data.

Why? It's not your website and your livelihood isn't dependent on the data, so what's your purpose in wanting to view the data?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:20 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


On my part, as an invested user/customer, who would like to remain one. For Matt and the mods, whose livelihood does in fact depend on the site, it is important practical information on which future business decisions might be based.
posted by likeso at 4:25 AM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why? It's not your website and your livelihood isn't dependent on the data, so what's your purpose in wanting to view the data?

Metadata can often be a useful source of information.
posted by infini at 4:38 AM on January 11, 2013


soundguy99 made my point much better than I did, infini. I wasn't trying to be dismissive of your post, just pointing out that it's telling the story from only one perspective, which is not necessarily the perspective of what's best for MetaFilter as a whole. For some reason I couldn't articulate that well last night.
posted by OmieWise at 4:59 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there a thing where people were adding titles to old posts a few years ago? When did titles become compulsory for posts on all the sites?

Just out of interest.
posted by h00py at 5:05 AM on January 11, 2013


Metadata can often be a useful source of information.

Totally agree and it would be interesting to see. But likeso's request sounded less like "hey neat" or more like an attempted rules of features lawyering through stats.

For Matt and the mods, whose livelihood does in fact depend on the site, it is important practical information on which future business decisions might be based.

Metafilter has done a pretty good job of growing from a single guy to 6 or 7 paid staff members, despite obvious cases of an angered user base (that favorites experiment). Making suggestions is fine and welcomed on their end, but I don't see much point in attempting to micromanage.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:06 AM on January 11, 2013


'The Blue' is was not only intimidating to newcomers (without titles), it is was positively bewildering.

I vaguely remember bouncing off the front page a couple of times, having ended up there from the broader internet and wondering what the heck / being overwhelmed by this wall of seemingly random text interspersed with links.

I eventually found hooks into metafilter proper, understood what the site was and subsequently paid the pittance for admission at the door.

AskMeFi has fairly serious google-juice (Organic SEO)... in that I'm sure lots of people (as have I) end up there, confused and bewildered about the colour scheme, but finding really good internet content that's valuable for them, coming off a search.

All of that is to say, I think Mathowie has navigated these waters semi-flawlessly.

Metafilter, presumably cannot be sustained by a $5 donation cost made by regulars years ago. Titles make a lot of sense for AskMeFi from search engine hits and visitors.

Gnashing of teeth and stomping of feet is understandable, but should stop now. With these preference settings, you would be being petulant and pretty much out of line to ask for anything more.

We need more open internet, rather than closed gardens. I would prefer that MetaFilter be perused via Metafilter, or at least the WayBackMachine, than I would attempting and failing to peer into the walled garden that is FaceBook.

Viva la MeFi.
posted by panaceanot at 5:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Totally agree and it would be interesting to see. But likeso's request sounded less like "hey neat" or more like an attempted rules of features lawyering through stats.

Nope. Just a request from an interested, invested user/customer, based on curiosity as well as Matt's established, demonstrated habit/tradition of transparency and user participation. Totally his call, of course, whether he reports any findings.


Metafilter has done a pretty good job of growing from a single guy to 6 or 7 paid staff members, despite obvious cases of an angered user base (that favorites experiment). Making suggestions is fine and welcomed on their end, but I don't see much point in attempting to micromanage.

Brandon, you cannot seriously believe that the gathering of site statistics to validate perceived problems/solutions is "micromanaging"?!
posted by likeso at 5:16 AM on January 11, 2013


Hello?
posted by h00py at 5:49 AM on January 11, 2013


(And Decani, I see what you did there. Heh and touché, as appropriate.)
posted by likeso at 5:52 AM on January 11, 2013


h00py, I don't know. I'm a $5 noob/high user number/2-year non-veteran. :)
posted by likeso at 5:54 AM on January 11, 2013


the man of twists and turns: "Well, I've learned that I'm not very good at writing titles. Here's to improvement."

I still think 72 characters is too restrictive. I like to use quotes as the title, and it's hard to find a good one that fits in that limit.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:58 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that 72 characters is not many characters. The default titles are a little smaller size now than they were when that limit was first set, are they not? Could the character limit be relaxed a little bit in light of that, perhaps? I realize that there are formatting reasons why the limit has to be fairly small (as long as we are having front-page titles at all, anyway -- just another reason to ditch them if you ask me) but now that the default font size is a bit smaller perhaps the maximum character count could be a bit larger.
posted by Scientist at 6:37 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there a thing where people were adding titles to old posts a few years ago? When did titles become compulsory for posts on all the sites?

The back-titling project was in 2008. Posts have had titles since 2002.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:56 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brandon, you cannot seriously believe that the gathering of site statistics to validate perceived problems/solutions is "micromanaging"?!

In general no, but my impression of your comment was that it tried to be stats and objective driven, while ignoring and downplaying data, i.e. feedback from potential users over the years. You refer to that as "supposed" or 'perceived owner side' problems, which doesn't sound objective all, i.e. attempting to micromanage the perception of the data.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:07 AM on January 11, 2013


What Horace Rumpole said. The timeline has a few more stepping stones: Ask (which didn't exist in 2002) got titles in 2005 during the major revamp that made it no longer a weird broken siamese twin of Metatalk; titles ended up displayed on the thread page in 2006, for Ask and Mefi both; Metatalk got titles in 2007.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


perceive

data

statistics
posted by likeso at 7:18 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


After playing around with my preferences, I'm sort of coming around to the titles. Through my fiddling I have discovered that (1) I actually like the professional white background (HORRORS), and (2) CORBEL EVERYWHERE.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:21 AM on January 11, 2013


What Horace Rumpole said. The timeline has a few more stepping stones: Ask (which didn't exist in 2002) got titles in 2005 during the major revamp that made it no longer a weird broken siamese twin of Metatalk; titles ended up displayed on the thread page in 2006, for Ask and Mefi both; Metatalk got titles in 2007.

I want a pony. I want to abstract the essence of this wonderful organic multi headed hydra of a website and find a way to offer it to those without the necessary language or literacy skills.

tl;dr yes, Metafilter rocks in so many ways its not funny. Even lolcatz has jumped the shark.
posted by infini at 7:27 AM on January 11, 2013


Heh, cutnpaste fail: suppose

Vocabulary used was not intended to subjectively influence. Was apparently too clinical.
posted by likeso at 7:37 AM on January 11, 2013


Vocabulary used was not intended to subjectively influence. Was apparently too clinical.

Perhaps, but the comment still has plenty of holes in it, which display a bias that just happens to coincide with your viewpoint on the titles issue.

For instance, you state "Two actual problems emerged from change implementation:" yet fail to include new or potential users found the front page hard to use or uninviting. That's still a problem, yet you write it's a "perceived" problem, not an "actual" problem. I'm not sure why you're ignoring what actual people have said.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:07 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


actual

*sigh*
posted by likeso at 8:15 AM on January 11, 2013


Oh, and emerge
posted by likeso at 8:19 AM on January 11, 2013


go home, likeso, you're not drunk enough yet
posted by infini at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


If this thread is going to continue centering on one person then I'll probably just wait for the "So what did folks think?" thread in a few days or a week and continue the conversation there.
posted by cribcage at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Agreed, infini and cribcage. Could someone else with change management experience please take over? Got food to eat and whiskey to drink.
posted by likeso at 8:22 AM on January 11, 2013


The best change management experience is being able to make end-runs around the change management committees.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:24 AM on January 11, 2013


Could someone else with change management experience please take over?

PAGING MATHOWIE. PAGING MATHOWIE TO HIS OWN THREAD. HELLO MATHOWIE? YOUR WEBSITE BECKONS, PLEASE REPORT TO YOUR OWN THREAD ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE. THANK YOU. NOW.
posted by carsonb at 8:29 AM on January 11, 2013


carsonb, what do you want?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:38 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


He means that Matt has change management experience and is already in control.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:39 AM on January 11, 2013


Ha! Indeedy. Meant could someone who gets that CM vocab is not intended to be emotionally loaded take on word explainings. Lol.

Laphroaig already poured, off to go make hutspot.
posted by likeso at 8:47 AM on January 11, 2013


likeso, your analysis is a good one.

"People have said to me over the years" isn't data - as I said somewhere above, it's an indicator that could form the basis for a research question. But it wasn't consistently collected from a target audience of likely potential users in settings that are comparable to one another. And whether the people in these interactions were representative of the current or potential userbase is totally unknown (and I think maybe not a given at all).
So it's some sort of indication, but it's not data.

And no, it's not emotionally loaded and not a personal critique. This is just one of those things where evidence-based approaches that work do exist, and when they are used they provide great benefit.
posted by Miko at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


If this was the green, I'd start wondering what the problem with these title threads has been.
posted by infini at 8:57 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still think 72 characters is too restrictive. I like to use quotes as the title, and it's hard to find a good one that fits in that limit.

Yeah, the FPP paragraph was usually already a summary of the links. Now you are writing a summary of a summary in less text than you get in a Tweet to be the most prominent part of your post on the front page of Metafilter. That's part of why I liked Brandon's solution.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:19 AM on January 11, 2013


What is Tweeted when a new post goes up?
Just the title?
posted by de at 9:29 AM on January 11, 2013


What is Tweeted when a new post goes up?

We don't tweet anything when a new post goes up. There are several 3rd party bots that probably use our RSS feeds, but I'm not sure what they choose.

If you use the MetaFilter Twitter share feature it automatically includes the title for you in a new Tweet form.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:32 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now you are writing a summary of a summary

That's not typically how titles are used in the world at large, and it's not predominantly how they are being used on MetaFilter. Nor has it been.
posted by OmieWise at 9:37 AM on January 11, 2013


"People have said to me over the years" isn't data

1. "People have said to me over the years" That's not what Matt wrote. He's interacted with people as they're viewing the site.

2. It's data, it just isn't 'lab' tested data, which doesn't make it good or bad, simply different.

But it wasn't consistently collected from a target audience of likely potential users in settings that are comparable to one another.

Does it need to be that tightly controlled/tested? If so, what's "likely potential user" and the setting that's comparable to one another?

I get the sense that there's tension between MetaFilter's ad hoc way of management and a a corporate structure as it grows. There's good and bad examples of both, it's just a matter and Matt and the team handle matters.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:41 AM on January 11, 2013


"zombie titles"
posted by infini at 9:42 AM on January 11, 2013


> Well, I've learned that I'm not very good at writing titles. Here's to improvement.

Actually, the man of twists and turns, it seems that it's the banks that aren't very good at writing titles, not you.

But if this in reference to my remark in the other thread about your Mote in Sauron's Eye post... I don't think it's necessarily a bad title! Having read your whole post, I really enjoyed it as a tag-line -- it's a witty pun/reference. It just didn't work as a "hook" for me, and my experience of that was an example of why I anticipate being a neurotic basket-case about my own title choices in the future.

Anyway, I've since turned off/minimized the titles because I know that I have a habit of making snap judgements based on soundbites -- a habit that does not serve me well on MetaFilter. I hate this tendency with a passion, but it's so necessary in other contexts of my life that I can't really undo it. However, one of the reasons MeFi has my undying love is that this habit is not necessary here; MeFi is my long-form respite, and I don't want my conditioning by other media to deprive me of that.

So far I'm none the worse for minimizing them, although embarrassingly when I read this comment in the Zombie Title thread I immediately looked up at the post title wondering "oh no, what did I miss??" before realizing that it was referring to the house title ninjew had mentioned two comments before. Mind like a sieve.
posted by Westringia F. at 9:50 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, I've noticed that it takes me significantly longer to write titles now that I have space constraints and know they're going to be visible. A lot more thought goes into it now, and I am much less satisfied with my titling ability than my post-writing skills. Like a muscle, it just needs to be exercised.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:54 AM on January 11, 2013


He's interacted with people as they're viewing the site.

Matt wrote this:

"I've gotten the chance to interact with the site with hundreds of people over the years that have never seen it, and every time I show them the front page of MetaFilter, the first response is usually "What the hell is this? How do I even use this?"

So we don't know.

1. How many people it actually was, other than "hundreds" - 200? 999?
2. What "interacting" means
3. Whether these people would be in the likely pool of potential MetaFilter users if Matt weren't there showing them the site
4. Are representative of actual or potential MetaFilter users
5. What the introductory frame was
6. What response prompts were given to people

2. It's data, it just isn't 'lab' tested data, which doesn't make it good or bad, simply different.

No...it's really not data. It's a bunch of interactions in which people are casually reported to have had a kind of response.

I understand you don't do evaluation for a living, probably, based on your questions and objections. But this is the kind of thing that happens when you don't have any rigor at all in your investigative process. This isn't "research," and its findings aren't at all reliable, reported as they are. It's not that I don't like what the people Matt "interacted with" said. It's that the observations Matt reports may not be a great picture of the full reality of the user response to MetaFilter, being anecdotal, erratic, and necessarily biased, and that if someone did want to know more about that as the basis for exploring the possible results of changes to the site, they would have to go about learning about it in a much more structured way.
posted by Miko at 9:54 AM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


The two perceived problems were owner-side, the users had not been aware of nor reported either.

See, I remembered a few times in the time I've been here reading Metas that mention how the Title isn't displayed on the Front page, and how that causes problems. Here is a meta that has a recent discussion about how counter-intuitive the old system was for some people. Here's one about how it seemed to be confusing to the new user, which was also the subject of a meta a year previous. I mean, I can understand not liking having the title displayed, but to claim that nobody had a problem with the old system is to ignore the Metas people started to complain about it.

Anyway, I like having the titles visible (if using a smaller font then the default) on the the front page and had thought the old system was one of the less endearing quirks about Meta-filter, so that's probably why I remembered those Metas.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:05 AM on January 11, 2013


Does it need to be that tightly controlled/tested? If so, what's "likely potential user" and the setting that's comparable to one another?

We've been trying to do okay as far as setting expectations with this and other rollouts and understand and appreciate that we should have done a better job here. At the same time, I've been feeling that we may also need to lift the veil a little and set future expectations based on what this site is and even our goals of what it should be (mods' and the community's).

It's a community website where people share links to stuff, interact with each other, share content and projects and ask and answer questions. It mostly works. It's run by a very small team. It has a very simple revenue model. It's built and maintained nearly entirely by hand, by basically two people doing dev stuff and what amounts to 5 FTEs doing moderator stuff. Our "corporate" goals, such as they are, are to basically keep on keeping on which includes maintaining the site as it is, trying to make sure revenue stays stable and making sure the community is happy. We could certainly do better in all of those areas a little, but we have no real desire to try to do a LOT better in those areas. We feel that things mostly work, though we need to get better at rolling out and communicating changes, both internally and to the community at large.

Accordingly, while we care about things like change management and making sure we're communicating clearly and effectively, we're unlikely to start doing things in a much more scientific way than we do now. We're unlikely to be hiring a lot of outside experts. We're not going to write up research questions and go about trying to prove or disprove hypotheses. We may do a little A/B testing (we've done some in the past, mostly for ad-related stuff) but probably not much.

I understand that this is not in line with how some people feel that we should do things. I understand that people who work in different industries feel that the lessons from the way they do things should apply to the way we do things. And I'm certainly not crossing my arms and saying "We're just NOT doing that." We're open to suggestions. However, they need to realistically fit into MetaFilter's corporate culture, such as it is We are a teeny shop, with one person who ultimately makes the decisions and tricky judgment calls with input from the rest of the team. We're not growth-oriented, we're not built-to-flip, we're mostly happy with things the way they are.

on preview: this is the kind of thing that happens when you don't have any rigor at all in your investigative process.

Basically, yes. We have no, or nearly no, investigative process and we're mostly okay with that including taking lumps for that when warranted. Next time we will float ideas out earlier, get more community feedback, and communicate better and more effectively with the community. But, along the setting expectations line, that's about it. People are welcome to tell us we're doing it wrong, but we're a lot more like a family business here and we do a lot of stuff based on what feels right (or wrong) and there's a good chance that we're going to continue to do that. People who choose to interact here should understand that about how this place works. You don't have to agree, we'd just like you to understand it from our perspective.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:07 AM on January 11, 2013 [24 favorites]


Now you are writing a summary of a summary

That's not typically how titles are used in the world at large, and it's not predominantly how they are being used on MetaFilter. Nor has it been.


Are you just disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing? What is this?
posted by Drinky Die at 10:08 AM on January 11, 2013


This isn't "research," and its findings aren't at all reliable, reported as they are. It's not that I don't like what the people Matt "interacted with" said. It's that the observations Matt reports may not be a great picture of the full reality of the user response to MetaFilter, being anecdotal, erratic, and necessarily biased, and that if someone did want to know more about that as the basis for exploring the possible results of changes to the site, they would have to go about learning about it in a much more structured way.

Which is what a lot of us have been saying is wrong with how vociferously anti-title folks have insisted that they represented the majority of Metafilter users, and that they won a victory for usability (defined as usability in general, not just for that group).

But, you know, I do work in evaluation, and while there is certainly a place for A/B testing and data collection, I also think there's a place for doing things and seeing how they work out. I think a place like MetaFilter is actually that place. Matt has been not only responsive, but also a pretty good thinker about what works well in websites. I don't think he needs to commission a study if he and the mods have a sense that something needs to change.
posted by OmieWise at 10:09 AM on January 11, 2013


Are you just disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing? What is this?

No. Why would you think that? That isn't how titles work in most of the world. Titles are a way to name and to generally describe, That is not the same thing as summarizing. How, for instance, could one call Ulysses a summary of Joyce's novel? Titles are hooks, they are lures, they are descriptions. They are also, sometimes, summaries. We all use titles in life everywhere, and we all know how they work. MetaFilter does not have a unique relationship to the word title that would obviate our learned experience of how title's function.

Calling a title a summary presupposes one of the main criticisms (as voiced here) to titles, which is that they will be duplicative. That's why I am disagreeing with you, because it is inaccurate, and because it is specifically inaccurate in a way that supports the arguments of those who do not want titles on the front page.
posted by OmieWise at 10:16 AM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's the title styling I've wound up being most happy with. I think the titles being the same color as links helps with the goal of users knowing they are navigable. They don't change color on hover, however, and they don't show a visited color, which keeps them consistent. Their slight de-indentation separates them from the post text, which was a niggle of mine previously.

I think the result fits in well with the general style of Metafilter.
posted by gilrain at 10:18 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


A paragraph long FPP that is usually summarizing links is, in general, not a Joyce novel. The best can be close to short poems, but a good title for a poem should at least distill the essence of the thing. You could name your poem about trees Rover cause you are just naming artistically, but I doubt that will be the general use case we are talking about. Summary is going to be the major form. That is my opinion, it is in disagreement with your opinion. Please try and be fully aware that your opinion is not presupposing fact and nor is mine!
posted by Drinky Die at 10:22 AM on January 11, 2013


How, for instance, could one call Ulysses a summary of Joyce's novel?

You can't. But in the previous thread, Matt noted that one of his primary motivations for implementing titles this way was to bring MetaFilter in line with other blogs and the way they use titles. Generally speaking, other websites I have seen use titles differently from how novels use titles. I think "summary" is a reasonably accurate description of how titles are used in the former context. (I might add an adjective, "pithy summary.")
posted by cribcage at 10:32 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not that I don't like what the people Matt "interacted with" said. It's that the observations Matt reports may not be a great picture of the full reality of the user response to MetaFilter, being anecdotal, erratic, and necessarily biased, and that if someone did want to know more about that as the basis for exploring the possible results of changes to the site, they would have to go about learning about it in a much more structured way.

Oh yeah, that data wasn't collected in any sort of structured way and it has lots of potential for pitfalls, blind spots and just being plain wrong. We agree on that, just not on whether it's data.

From my own, obvious not evaluation trained, side, Matt's way is fine (not the my opinion matters on what Matt does), though certainly not any guarantee of perfection or being the only way to do things. I work for a small weekly newspaper and rather than doing the structured sort of data testing being championed, we do a lot of mingling with people in the community, asking various questions on what we're doing wrong and right, etc. Again, it's not perfect, but it can work, there's just more of art to it.

So we have our weekly staff meetings readers and potential readers reaction to covers, stories and the general editorial stance, along with how to grow in readership. It can work, despite all it's imperfections. That's why I was arguing that the information Matt was getting is data, but I suspect we'll have to agree to disagree on that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:44 AM on January 11, 2013


I have no opinion on or opposition to the titles. But, I do think it would be a mistake to ask in advance about a change if Matt and the Mods think the change is a good idea and are going to proceed regardless of the site user consensus. I learned early in my career to never ask a question you don't want to hear the answer to. I volunteer with a large organization that wanted to do some polling. The problem was they already knew what they thought was best and wanted to get community buy-in and thought it would be a no-brainer by setting up a poll. Well the poll showed they were right on on account. It was overwhelming in the percentage of people agreed. Only they agreed to the complete opposite of what the management wanted to do.

I think this was handled correctly on Metafilter in that there seems to be a pretty clear and determined belief by the powers that be that this is a change that is beneficial to the site overall. Better to take lumps from the folks who disagree than to poll them first and then ignore them anyway.

This is not a democracy. It is Matt's site and he can and will do with it as he sees fit. He is a smart man with good intentions. That is good enough for me. I know how to set the titles to 0 if I want.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:48 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Our "corporate" goals, such as they are, are to basically keep on keeping on which includes maintaining the site as it is

Good luck with that.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:16 AM on January 11, 2013


I'm not actually proposing that MetaFilter run with that serious a program of research and evaluation. I understand why it's not that kind of a program/company. I am mainly chiming in to note that just as people saying "This is a terrible idea and all users are against it!" is wrong, people saying "this process resulted from an analysis of data indicating this is obviously the right choice!" is also wrong.

It will be great to see more attention to preparing the community for updates and changes and presenting a rationale. I don't want to see MeFi run like a federal agency or a Fortune 500 company, though there are bits and bobs of strategic management that can make life a lot easier for everyone and they're worth checking out.

That and I'm a little bit of a geek about organizations.
posted by Miko at 11:49 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Summary is going to be the major form. That is my opinion, it is in disagreement with your opinion.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:22 PM on January 11 [+] [!]

I think "summary" is a reasonably accurate description of how titles are used in the former context. (I might add an adjective, "pithy summary.")
posted by cribcage at 1:32 PM on January 11 [1 favorite +] [!]


But we aren't talking about just opinion here, we have data to look at. I'm not just being pedantic, I think the front page shows that titles are not mainly summaries. If Matt wants titles to become summaries, there is a lot of work to do to make that happen, and I'm not sure putting title on the front page is enough.

Here are the titles January 11 as of 2:45 EST. There are 23 of them. By my classification seven of them act predominantly as a summary or description. Most of the rest are taglines or hooks to increase interest (which is a well-recognized way of using titles.) Some of the others have a descriptive function, but would not stand alone to tell you what the post was about (which, again, is a well-recognized way that titles are used.) One of the few purely descriptive titles is the one for my post. I don't think that this is a bad way to use a title, I just don't think it's the main way they are used on the Blue. (I recognize that others may not agree with all of my classifications, but surely a "summary" or descriptive title can only be called such if you can say what the post is about from only reading the title.)

Titles below:
Roma in Hungary: A Hard Life--summary
They're waiting for you Gordon... in the tech demo.—tagline/hook
"But don't ask me, I just wrote the song"—tagline/hook
"There is Not Much Demand for One Twin"—tagline/hook
Morgan Freeman--descriptive
An Adaptable Accoutrement—tagline/hook
The Avengers script in detail--summary
Animation Pals--summary
The many songs of Bertrand Goldberg, architect, artist, visionary.--summary
appa!—tagline/hook
Where have all the cowboys gone?--tagline
Enfant Terrible--tagline
If Mini-Me took up knitting....summary/hook
Are you big in Japan?--tagline
White/Black: Photographic Landscapes from Michael Zimmerer--summary
"...it's always good for a scientist to be proven wrong..."—tagline/hook
I am the gravestone and the photograph - part 2—tagline/hook
Ecstatic surface design—enigmatic summary
Houses from beyond the grave.—tagline/hook
Don't try this at home—tagline/hook
Strike One for Comet Apophis—tagline/summary
How the Future Changed—tagline/summary
Not THAT kind of virus.—tagline/hook
posted by OmieWise at 11:53 AM on January 11, 2013


I realize that I made the assumption that we are talking about titles on Metafilter here, and not AskMe, where they seem less contentious overall, and where I agree that summary will be the dominant mode.
posted by OmieWise at 12:10 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I say "A" major form rather than "THE" will you drop it already? Because it makes absolutely zero difference to me. I do not want to debate tooth and nail what is and is not a summary with you, but a lot of what you describe as not a summary there I would disagree with.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2013


Yuck, never noticed that 72-character limit until now. It bars a surprising number of my past titles, more than 10% (and another half-dozen or so come really close to the limit).
"I wish cake had velocity to it. That way I could travel at the speed of cake."

"They are almost certain not to understand what the plane is -- perhaps a spirit or a large bird."

"Monsters Inc. meets The Nightmare Before Christmas inside a retro Japanese video game"

"So you go home at night, like me, smarter than you were when you woke up in the morning."

"It is of such stiff stuff that the upper lip of the British phonetician should be fashioned, giving short shrift to chauvinism."

"With television you just sit, watch, listen. The thinking is done for you."

"I felt like I'd been catapulted from one end of the universe to the other"

Journalism is just a gun. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world.

Tie game. Bottom of the 9th. Bases loaded. Two outs. Three balls. Two strikes. And the pitch...

"First freedom and then Glory - when that fails, Wealth, vice, corruption - barbarism at last"

"Used to be that the idea was 'once every two years voters elected their representatives.' And now instead it's 'every ten years the representatives choose their constituents.'"
Coming up with good titles was already challenging enough, much more so with so little room to work in. With the reduction in standard headline size, I'd love it if the character limit were raised to tweet length, or at least 100 characters.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


> ... but now that the default font size is a bit smaller perhaps the maximum character count could be a bit larger.

>> I still think 72 characters is too restrictive. I like to use quotes as the title, and it's hard to find a good one that fits in that limit.

> Yeah, [...] Now you are writing a summary of a summary in less text than you get in a Tweet to be the most prominent part of your post on the front page of Metafilter.



This's already shaping into a pony request.
As t → ∞, Titles → Twitter specifications.

(Tweet length requires a short URL? If so, then Title length will always be less than 140 characters.)
posted by de at 12:46 PM on January 11, 2013


If I say "A" major form rather than "THE" will you drop it already? Because it makes absolutely zero difference to me. I do not want to debate tooth and nail what is and is not a summary with you, but a lot of what you describe as not a summary there I would disagree with.

Your comment makes it seem like I'm being unreasonable here, but this is precisely what the gnashing of teeth over titles has turned on. I'm happy to drop it, but I will continue to challenge the characterizations with which this debate is carried out when they seem slanted to me.
posted by OmieWise at 12:46 PM on January 11, 2013


A

The
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:50 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Tweet length requires a short URL? If so, then Title length will always be less than 140 characters.)

Twitter doesn't count URLs against the limit past 20 characters, so the max could be up to 120 (or 119 and a space) if you want to include a link back.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:56 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, it is so nice to hear someone explicitly say "we could have handled this better, and next time we will solicit input before making this kind of change". Just hearing jessamyn (who I assume is speaking for all of Team Mod right now) say that makes me feel so much better. I still don't like the change, but that plus the ability to turn off/customize the titles makes me feel much, much more relaxed about the whole thing.
posted by Scientist at 1:00 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well that, and mathhowie already said it when he opened this thread. But I'm feeling much better now. Maybe it's just that everything sounds more calming when said by a librarian.
posted by Scientist at 1:02 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your comment makes it seem like I'm being unreasonable here, but this is precisely what the gnashing of teeth over titles has turned on. I'm happy to drop it, but I will continue to challenge the characterizations with which this debate is carried out when they seem slanted to me.

It was unreasonable to call me rude for just stating my opinion earlier. It's unreasonable to accuse me of "gnashing teeth" or posting slanted opinions now. It is okay if we have different opinions, you don't need to negatively characterize me or challenge every little thing you disagree with.

"A" major form. We are in agreement! No need to say more. Here is my updated comment:

Yeah, the FPP paragraph was very often already a summary of the links. Now you are very often writing a summary of a summary in less text than you get in a Tweet to be the most prominent part of your post on the front page of Metafilter. That's part of why I liked Brandon's solution.

posted by Drinky Die at 1:03 PM on January 11, 2013


God DAM, I wish I had the energy to argue like you guys.
posted by Trochanter at 1:10 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was unreasonable to call me rude for just stating my opinion earlier.

That's not what you did, that's not what I did. But I don't object to anything in your reformulated comment. I have nothing against you.
posted by OmieWise at 1:11 PM on January 11, 2013


It's precisely what I did and what you did and just doubled down on, if you have nothing against me you should be able to admit it and apologize or at worst stick to discussing the topic instead of discussing the people you are speaking with.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2013


I have nothing against you, but I don't think your first comment or two in this thread displayed good manners. If you think they do, even after a couple of days of reflection, we will just have to disagree. My comments re titles down here had nothing to do with that, however. Have a nice evening.
posted by OmieWise at 1:31 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everybody go get laid!
posted by Burhanistan at 1:37 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, I know that you think that stating my opinion was rude, you have already said it twice before. Your accusations of "gnashing teeth" down here were similarly judgmental of statement of opinion which is why I mentioned this again.

You seem to be confusing disagreement with something else. I hope you take a few days to reflect on that so you can stick to discussing the topic at hand in the future. Good night!
posted by Drinky Die at 1:37 PM on January 11, 2013


Everybody go get laid!

I'm on it!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:45 PM on January 11, 2013


*lights cigarette
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:48 PM on January 11, 2013


3 mins Brandon, a new record.
posted by arcticseal at 1:51 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know that you think that stating my opinion was rude

Oh, Drinky Die, you know that wasn't what I was objecting to. Insisting that it is is not likely to advance the situation. We all have bad days, which is why I have nothing against you, but we can also decide that bad days are all we'll have and we'll just become some jerk on the internet that no one takes very seriously because they aren't honest about their motivations and their past actions. I'm trying not to be condescending here, because I truly understand how upset people got about titles being added to the front pages, which is why I said we will just have to disagree. But I can assure you that I don't regret my comment at all, or my reiteration of it here, although I do regret that it has upset you quite this much. As I said, I hope you have a nice evening.
posted by OmieWise at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2013


*lights cigarette

There'll be 15 seconds of kissin',
And then you holler "Oh please don't stop!"
There'll be 15 seconds of teasin'
And 15 seconds of pleasin'
And 15 seconds of blowin' my top!
'Cause I'm the 60 second man!
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:53 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


more fuckin' less shuckin'
posted by Burhanistan at 1:53 PM on January 11, 2013


Although, holy fuck, that sounded condescending as hell. Sorry about that. The sentiment still stands.
posted by OmieWise at 1:56 PM on January 11, 2013


3 mins Brandon, a new record.
posted by arcticseal 11 minutes ago [+]


Collecting data eh?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:04 PM on January 11, 2013


They do call it datawankery.
posted by arcticseal at 2:05 PM on January 11, 2013


you know that wasn't what I was objecting to.

There was nothing else there but my opinion on the quality of the change and a polite request for a different direction. Unless someone posted something else under my name that was since deleted, there was nothing else for you to have objected to.

I am not gnashing my teeth or upset or any other emotional response you are assigning to me over the internet. I simply would prefer conversation be about the topic rather than each other.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:05 PM on January 11, 2013


It is now time for the two of you, Drinky Die and OmieWise, to maybe take this to email.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:14 PM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Don't make me call Richard Marx into this thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:35 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The first real pop song I ever learned to play properly on the piano was Right Here Waiting.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:41 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been to life-busy to get into the weeds of the title-change, but that 72 character limit for post titles is terrible. I've been struggling for twenty minutes to write a good title for a post, and I keep hitting that damn limit. MetaFilter has always had a "go nuts" quality to things, with the proviso that if you go too nuts, someone's gonna delete you. A 72 character limit to titles is really weirdly different to everything else about post-construction.

I know this isn't a new complaint, but it's the one that's driving me to distraction right now.
posted by Kattullus at 4:43 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


When this option was introduced, I wrote a little essay about how opt-out is a good way to use collective-action phenomena to palliate the complainers: we could opt out, I thought, but soon titles would become essential pieces of info used by the majority who didn't opt out, and eventually us opt-outers would have to turn it back on to fully understand what was going on on the front page.

I didn't post it in the end, deciding to wait a bit to see how it turned out. What's interesting is that it seems to be going the opposite way: Titles now seem to be neither useful summaries nor witty addenda (as they once were), but most often vaguely-related phrases that are entirely dispensable without loss, and indeed don't seem to add much of either function or amusement. (No offense to the people who labor over them, btw; some are quite good, and mainly it's an effect of the medium, I think.) Certainly I can't imagine scanning a list of titles in an RSS or something and having any idea what's going on, or being terribly tempted to learn more.

But it might still be too early to judge, and I'm sure others have different impressions. For me, the optimal font size is steadily decreasing as my worry that I might miss something good steadily diminishes. But in addition to the baffled RSS users, it's amusing to imagine those tentative new users this seems partly intended for, first being unsure whether the title is a link, and then clicking to see what's inside -- and then in most cases, discovering that what's inside is exactly what was on the front, plus some comments.
posted by chortly at 5:35 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree, chortly, the whole thing has the odd side-effect of turning the titles into a sort of randomized chaff. Which I suppose is fine - they weren't especially useful before, either.
posted by Miko at 5:47 PM on January 11, 2013


baffled RSS users

FWIW, I'm an RSS user and have not experienced any increased bafflement since the change was introduced. I haven't really noticed any tonal shift in titles either. To be honest, they always were a bit of a mixed bag of staid vs witty, informational vs whimsical, summary vs addendum.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:24 PM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


No, Miko, I think they're useful as succinct semantic chunks to attract new readers (not necessarily members) to threads. They're not anymore useful to search engines, search engines have thoroughly trawled the (inconspicuous) titles up hill and down dale; but titles are semantically useful as offerings to the social media market.

People now arrive at MetaFilter via the heavily trafficked Twitter and FaceBook and titles are being shaped as semantic enticement. (New readers may even stick around.)

People being attracted to Question and Answer content in print media is older than the Internet and Question Titles are an old art form: "So my sister is a bubble bath dancer. Now what?" Question Titles lend themselves to succinct expression, and pique curiosity.

It's the MetaFilter grabs (from and) to the front page that are the more difficult to achieve in 72 characters or fewer. I'm thinking Twitter must have applied some science in choosing 140 characters as adequate (for) semantic capacity, and not all Tweets will use up the whole allocation, obviously.

I am wondering what made MetaFilter decide on 72 characters, apart from the mention of a design fit. Why not 100?

The MetaFilter Tweet share for this MetaTalk thread is:
     "MetaTalk: Title customization options added http://mefi.us/t/22329", and there are 76 characters left unused (using this thread's title alone, with no further elaboration).

Titles are for site marketing and site administration; and contributing members are being asked to apply a skill already practised in Twitter: succinct communication. But is 140 characters some semantic unit of communication or can succinct communication be consistently achieved in fewer characters. 72 characters? That's the challenge. (I think.)
posted by de at 6:38 PM on January 11, 2013


No, Miko, I think they're useful as succinct semantic chunks to attract new readers (not necessarily members) to threads.

Eh, I don't see them as any more useful than they used to be. I see them as kind of unchanged in and of themselves, regardless of how they function on 3rd-party sites. Requiring that everyone see them would probably have forced them into some sort of standard relationship to the content, but since now that we know not everyone will see them, many users will be careful not to load them too heavily with essential content, meaning they sort of stay in that "nice to see maybe but not important, so go nuts" zone.

Titles are for site marketing and site administration;

That's a super simple and clear way to characterize their intended purpose that would have been great to hear at the outset. Still, the former (hidden until thread opening) title system worked just about as well as this one does to signal content, with the sole exception that they didn't appear on the front page.
posted by Miko at 6:41 PM on January 11, 2013


Over time not. The userbase progresses along, and MetaFilter is not free to not keep pace with things like semantic usefulness and more first natured navigation habits present in younger people.
posted by de at 6:44 PM on January 11, 2013


I don't understand your last sentence. At any rate - the thing is that the relationship of the title to the content will likely remain unchanged, because in neither case (now or before) is the title content essential - regardless of what "first natured navigation habits" may mean.
posted by Miko at 6:45 PM on January 11, 2013


Yeah, I'm only speculating.
posted by de at 6:49 PM on January 11, 2013


MetaFilter is not free to not keep pace

But why do you think its not free to keep pace?

Also, in answer to your previous question

Why text messages are limited to 160 characters

Basically, a heuristic assessment of pithy communications and then Twitter kept 20 chars for user specific info.

72 is indeed too short based on what the story seems to imply.
posted by infini at 6:53 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


72 is a broadly-accepted length judged best for SEO - not likely to get truncated in search results display etc
posted by fightorflight at 7:13 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting. My first impulse is to ask "Of what use SEO if longer length helps craft a more compelling attention grab"?

When I've guest blogged, I've been told to keep titles down to ten words - now I realize that must be that SEO number, but what I've also discovered over time is that the decision for the deciders must boil down to "interesting, engaging, meaningful" doing its work organically or choosing to apply a metric or rule that may or may not be relevant to the personality of the (site/blog/company/entity)

That is, Metafilter is more human, more organic and taking in Jessamyn's recent comment above, less driven by external success metrics and more a "family business" ... content is an integral part of this, and its presentation externally a part of its personality.

As has been oft mentioned - not my site, not my whatevers - but just something to consider internally would be a) what the original basis for the 72 chrs = good SEO setting was (in the SEO world I mean) and b) how much of that may be relevant to the MeFi persona/personality/family biz/culture/core values vis a vis a percieved benefit.

For eg, it may well be that the engaging aspect of being able to bung in titles with more wriggle room (140 chrs say) might actually draw more traffic (I don't know much about SEO but am assuming that's the function) - human traffic, that is.

Its a personality decision that is made internally, metrics be goddamned, unless its imposed by the advertisers externally as a precondition.

just blathering out loud
posted by infini at 7:26 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


> 72 is a broadly-accepted length judged best for SEO

Interesting. But that's a computing parameter, no? Can humans express themselves sufficiently in only 72 characters?


> But why do you think its not free to keep pace?

I think MF has no option but to keep pace.
posted by de at 7:30 PM on January 11, 2013


I went off to find a wikipedia entry on SEO to understand further and a thought just brought me back,

is it possible to set different lengths for titles on the Green vs titles on the Blue, given the different personalities and pathways to user entry?
posted by infini at 7:33 PM on January 11, 2013


pb can do anything.
(I don't think "tweets" or in metafilter's case "titles" have anything to do with SEOs. They meaningful grabs human to human.)
posted by de at 7:40 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I'm an RSS user and have not experienced any increased bafflement since the change was introduced. I haven't really noticed any tonal shift in titles either. To be honest, they always were a bit of a mixed bag of staid vs witty, informational vs whimsical, summary vs addendum.

Yeah, I certainly can't say with any certainty that anything has changed about the titles themselves -- which would be a bit surprising in and of itself to me, especially since writers seem to be talking about paying more attention to crafting them now. In any case, I had been imagining an RSS feed with only titles, which now that I look it clearly isn't. So I guess the front page now looks like the RSS feed has always looked, so naturally existing RSS users should be the least baffled of all.
posted by chortly at 7:42 PM on January 11, 2013


is it possible to set different lengths for titles on the Green

Technically possible yes. We are not planning to do it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:07 PM on January 11, 2013


*grins*
posted by infini at 9:42 PM on January 11, 2013


As someone who reads metafilter about half the time on my phone I don't want the titles made longer. They already take up a lot of space and I have them the same size as the (fairly small) text and I have a fairly huge screen on my phone (Galaxy S3). 120 characters is way too long, at that point you might as well do away with the post and just have the title, particularly on ask.me where people so often already hide too much of the relevant information behind the 'more inside'. Given the longer titles make up less than 4% of all titles and at least a couple of the the people here wanting them longer are finding longer titles make up a much higher percent of the ones they personally wrote, I'm guessing that the people complaining are the outliers when it comes to title writing.

I do like the idea of getting more community input before making these kinds of changes in the future. Not so that we get a vote on *what* changes get implemented, but so that we get some kinds of input into *how* it is implemented. For example, with the titles I think it would have gone a lot smoother if we'd been able to style them as we please right from the start. Being able to make it not-ugly really makes the whole thing more tolerable for a lot of users. I personally would have been indifferent to the change if I'd been able to do that immediately, whereas I'm still feeling pretty negative about the titles just because they were so jarring and difficult for the first few days. I expect it will wear off so am not bothered, but not having to go through those days of ug! and blarg! would have been nice.
posted by shelleycat at 2:17 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, size zero thank you thank you happy 1801 now
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:35 AM on January 12, 2013


I think MF has no option but to keep pace.

Not necessarily, and certainly not blindly. All businesses have to be selective about which innovations they make - no one can do them all. If there's a need for X new users annually or per quarter or whatever, it might not follow that you need Y innovation to keep them flowing in. There may be options. And it's quite possible to run a healthy niche business (of any kind) with a slow-growth or no-growth model, if you want to, though "no-growth" entails either a planned end phase, a plan to replace natural attritions, or an obvious default plan to dwindle away.
posted by Miko at 7:27 AM on January 12, 2013


Again, I'm arguing in the general, not about MeFi specifically. Just talking about assumptions.
posted by Miko at 7:33 AM on January 12, 2013


Are font-preference selections visible on the back end? Is there any way to know how many users have set a particular font to zero?
posted by cribcage at 7:52 AM on January 12, 2013


I think MF has no option but to keep pace

MetaFilter turned off the display of images and looks like it's from the '90s, yet continues to grow. It's a funny ol'bird when it comes to keeping pace.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:07 AM on January 12, 2013


Interesting. But that's a computing parameter, no? Can humans express themselves sufficiently in only 72 characters?

For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.
posted by fightorflight at 8:29 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I'm an RSS user and have not experienced any increased bafflement since the change was introduced. I haven't really noticed any tonal shift in titles either. To be honest, they always were a bit of a mixed bag of staid vs witty, informational vs whimsical, summary vs addendum.

Are you noticing them getting any clearer, at all? That for me would be the big argument for visible titles and TBH it doesn't seem to be happening.
posted by Artw at 8:34 AM on January 12, 2013


All businesses have to be selective about which innovations they make

I'd see MetaFilter's innovations (beyond dedicated link-sharing) as the podcasts, the BestOf, music and the IRL facilities, those sorts of things.

When I talk of MetaFilter having no option but to keep pace: I don't see implementing "titles" as both 1) navigation/link tools (not dependent on aged UI intuitions), and 2) semantic units (not dependent on aged search principles), as an innovation. MetaFilter's late to that party.

As an innovation "titles" was a winner years back. Now "titles" -- or tweets or text-grabs, whatever -- are verging on a (text based) standard.

Boutique businesses don't exist in vacuums and MetaFilter in an e-business first and foremost which is compelled by users and changing user-expectations to maintain e-facilities at a standard.

I never imagine MetaFilter competing with the likes of FaceBook or Twitter (say), and MF would be of zero interest (to me) if it started to evolve their way, but I do see movement in MetaFilter that keeps it viable. In my view, that movement is not an option.


For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.

Very succinct. I started to read 140 character blurbs this afternoon out of curiosity, and ended up concluding they could be like theses ... too long. Sad when 140 characters verges on "tl;dr" and that's just the link. (I'm none the wiser.)
posted by de at 9:00 AM on January 12, 2013


Artw: Are you noticing them getting any clearer, at all? That for me would be the big argument for visible titles and TBH it doesn't seem to be happening.

I had such a frustrating time writing my last post. I didn't have enough room to go with any of the striking quotes I thought would serve that purpose well, nor sum up the post in a way that wasn't just a rehashing of something I said better in the post. In the end I went with a quote of dubious provenance that's a pale reflection of a much more interesting quote I didn't have space to include.

I don't ever remember having such a great deal of difficulty getting a post done. I've always found making posts to be a fun and smooth experience, but the new title-length restriction was a pain. I don't know about anyone else, but I have no intuitive sense for how long 72 characters are, so when it comes to choosing a title I have no sense when I'm hitting up against the limit.
posted by Kattullus at 9:06 AM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have no intuitive sense for how long 72 characters are

Maybe there could be a notice next to the title field that tells you how many more characters you have room for?
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:16 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


That would be helpful, Too-Ticky, but I've always written the titles in my head, or chosen quotes that stuck with me from the article. It's a very different way to work, and maybe I'll get used to it, but I enjoyed the freedom affored by the old way of doing things.

Criminy, I sound like an old fart... I'm only 31, for chrissakes.
posted by Kattullus at 9:48 AM on January 12, 2013


I'd be interested in asking the mods if the 4% was across all site titles, or specific to the Blue? Because I could see Ask titles tending to me shorter-they really are generally a specific summing up of the post, as a number of people have mentioned ("Looking for help with Photoshop blurring"). Whereas MeFi titles are more often pullquotes from an article or the like, tending to be longer.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:44 PM on January 12, 2013


I believe the 4% figure was for titles on the blue specifically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:51 PM on January 12, 2013


...enters left....

*places back of hand on forehead, dramatically*

*sighs deeply*

*Exhales and exclaims tragically*

"Oh the problems of being in a minuscule minority*

*Exits right, with drooping shoulders*
posted by infini at 7:22 PM on January 12, 2013


So now we have titles, it has introduced something of a typographical clash in the way the date on the front page renders, (i.e. the one at the top) if your fonts aren't set to something close to the defaults.

The html has them as a plain h2, as in this snippet

<div id="posts">
<a name="content"></a>
<h2>January 12</h2>

which looks like it got hit with the ugly stick , in my set up at least. Shouldn't it follow the title or body style?
posted by tallus at 10:57 PM on January 12, 2013


I would love, now that I've been messing around with Stylish again, for the HTML that's rendered on the front pages to have a nice rewrite/reorg to make it more remixable. HTML5, even... now that would be groovy.

Not holding my breath, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:55 AM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is 4% technically 6 sigma?
posted by infini at 2:13 AM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it's a normal distribution, I think that's a bit under three sigma.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:14 AM on January 13, 2013


Then the cost is feasible but the effort might not be viable enough. Tradeoffs in decision making are an aspect of the flexibility and thus, responsiveness.
posted by infini at 8:14 AM on January 13, 2013


LOVE making the titles size zero, but now I'm faced with another problem:
Due to all the reviews, my wife and I gave Season 1 a shot and found it pretty boring... how long do you have to put up for it before it gets good?
posted by cgs to grab bag at 1:43 PM - 0 answers +

It's a great machine, but the blade is stuck to the pan. [more inside]
posted by el io to home & garden at 1:27 PM - 0 answers +
Without the titles, these AskMe Qs are indecipherable.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:47 PM on January 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ideally, it would be nice to turn on AskMe titles only, but for now, roll over the [x answers] text to see the URL, which includes the title. Tap and hold on an iPhone to see the text in the options box.

Personally, I can deal with a little more ambiguity in AskMe to avoid the obtrusive titles on the Blue.
posted by maudlin at 8:53 PM on January 13, 2013


If you're having issues with titles turned off, I'd recommend turning them back on.
posted by flatluigi at 9:11 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Except that I hate them. So thanks kindly for your recommendation, but it's precisely the kind of suggestion I won't be following.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:16 PM on January 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


(the more likely option is that I won't go to AskMe as often, which is fine, of course)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:16 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's all a bit suboptimal, but I am not going to turn them on again, despite the fact that there are a noticeable number of posts that are more mystery meat than they used to be, because of this mess.

This is still what I would like to see in terms of preferences. Default being on, I guess.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:25 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Without the titles, these AskMe Qs are indecipherable.

Have you considered clicking on the link?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:01 AM on January 14, 2013


I would also appreciate the ability to turn on the AskMe titles separately from the main site titles. I have the titles off and am managing fine on the blue but am finding the green more confusing and I would not object to having titles on when reading the green
posted by foleypt at 1:09 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you considered clicking on the link?

I read the question to make that consideration, but since it didn't tell me what it was about, I didn't click.

Life's too short to click all the links on the Internet, amigo, so we have to rule some out; I'm pretty comfortable starting with some of the ones whose destinations are unknown.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:13 AM on January 14, 2013


Joseph Gurl, I hated the titles as well, so I've compromised with the script that puts them in the byline. Have you checked that out?
posted by mannequito at 1:19 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, but I might, I guess...never used a script before, though.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:34 AM on January 14, 2013


Neither had I before titles were introduced, but, desperate measures etc. Pretty simple though, one-click install, and now I'm also enjoying the mefiquote script.

If you want to try it, it's here.
posted by mannequito at 1:41 AM on January 14, 2013


Without the titles, these AskMe Qs are indecipherable.

I like them because they remind me of Carson's Carnac the Magnificent schtick from the 1970's, which I found enormously entertaining.

That and the phenomenon adds even more of the grab bag aesthetic which makes AskMe so much fun.

The perpetrators of the title compromise improvement each deserve a case of beer for their efforts.

Many thanks!
posted by Pudhoho at 2:33 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


*takes screenshot*

*scribbles notes*


joke help it was a joke
posted by infini at 3:04 AM on January 14, 2013


Without the titles, these AskMe Qs are indecipherable.

Yep, the mods have definitely quit fixing those. Good for them I guess.
posted by smackfu at 7:15 AM on January 14, 2013


Without the titles, these AskMe Qs are indecipherable.

I said this already for the Blue, but the title shows up if you hover your cursor over the "posted by cgs to grab bag at 10:43 PM - 15 answers (15 new)".
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:52 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep, the mods have definitely quit fixing those. Good for them I guess.

I have titles off and I'll fix them if I see them but I don't always see them. You are welcome to flag them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:51 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Any other staff rolling sans titles?
posted by Big_B at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2013


Alvy Ampersand: "I said this already for the Blue, but the title shows up if you hover your cursor"

Can't do that on a phone.
posted by Big_B at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2013


Press-and-hold works just fine for that on iPhone; I don't know what Android browser paradigms are for that sort of thing, though.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:56 AM on January 14, 2013


Brandon Blatcher: "Have you considered clicking on the link?"

You shouldn't have to click on the link to figure out what an askme post (or a mefi post for that matter) is about. This is a problem that was a result of the solution.
posted by Big_B at 9:57 AM on January 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


cortex: "Press-and-hold works just fine for that on iPhone; I don't know what Android browser paradigms are for that sort of thing, though."

Chrome on android brings up the link and asks you what you want to do. So in essence, yes, you can press and hold to sort of see the title, at the end of a link.

Again. Another problem that is a result of the "solution" that was implemented. Making titles a part of the post and not just a helper summary for RSS users has created quite a few issues unanticipated or not.
posted by Big_B at 10:01 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hell, I have titles showing and still can't figure out what some Mefi or AskMe posts are about.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:08 AM on January 14, 2013


You shouldn't have to click on the link to figure out what an askme post (or a mefi post for that matter) is about.

This is not a problem that is solved by removing titles though. The whole issue of clarity in posts isn't new to any front page of this site, though it's been especially noticeable in AskMe over the years. That the titles feature being implemented brought the larger issue of clarity in writing into your focus is incidental. I've always been frustrated by lack of clarity in individual questions on the front page of AskMe, and I take every opportunity to help people to be clear and concise with their queries.

In fact, now that I think about it, one might even say you benefited from the titles feature being implemented because it brought to light the clarity issue for you, giving you the opportunity to rectify that larger, more complex beast. Mistaking the titles as the cause of the clarity issue is easy enough, but I trust that once you've realized clarity in writing is an issue much larger than any one display feature of MetaFilter you'll give it a rest, eh? Continuing to rail against the titles feature as some sort of actively debilitating part of your user experience as a result of not being able to understand the front page of AskMe is ridiculous.

Not that I don't advocate for ridiculousness.

But reverting to the previous state of affairs won't improve the clarity issue so in this case... please.
posted by carsonb at 10:54 AM on January 14, 2013


Of course, Brandon has the concise part of the equation down pat. Mine needs work.
posted by carsonb at 10:55 AM on January 14, 2013


I've flagged several of those indecipherable questions as HTML/Display Error, as I always have in the past. Right or wrong, mods?
posted by chiababe at 11:24 AM on January 14, 2013


Can't do that on a phone.

True, but I find that browsing on a phone is a shitty, non-optimal experience in general; even if the post has a title that provides me with an idea of what the post is about, I won't know where or what the FPP's link(s) are pointing to, or links in comments, without press-and-holding anyway. That doesn't have much to do with titles, I think.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:30 AM on January 14, 2013


Right or wrong, mods?

Keep flagging them, yes. We haven't really worked out what our standard practice will be with them post-titles but it will help us keep an eye on them and we'll chitchat among ourselves about it too.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:35 AM on January 14, 2013


Making titles a part of the post and not just a helper summary for RSS users

Already noted in the other thread, but "titles are just for RSS" isn't particularly true: they're also used as window and page titles on the comments pages.

(Although on AskMe the window title also has the tags appended. ISTR this was for better SEO on AskMe answers. In retrospect it seems also an acknowledgement that AskMe titles aren't always particularly descriptive.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2013


I can't get verdana bold to work. It works elsewhere on my system; in fact I use verdana everywhere for mefi and bold shows up properly elsewhere. Win7, FF 19.0. Should it work by just putting in "font bold" ? Arial bold doesn't work either. Do I have to use stylish for this?
posted by SpookyFish at 4:01 PM on January 14, 2013


SpookyFish, usually the font weight is set separately from the font face. We don't have a preference for weight, so yeah, Stylish will probably do the trick. You'd want to use something like:

.postitle {font-weight:bold;}
posted by pb (staff) at 4:12 PM on January 14, 2013


Thanks pb. Had to tweak a bit, this works for me:
.posttitle a  {font-weight:bold!important;}
posted by SpookyFish at 4:56 PM on January 14, 2013


I stopped regularly visiting over the holidays and have yet to get into old internet habits upon returning home.

Apparently I just absorb the site without noticing pretty major changes, so long as the colors are all they way they should be. *facepalm*
posted by nile_red at 9:15 AM on January 15, 2013


For what it's worth, I didn't initially dislike this very much, but it got more annoying over time. I've tinkered with the titles now a number of times, trying different fonts and sizes, and I just can't get them so that they aren't distracting. They bother me, and I keep ending up back at 0 size, because that's most comfortable.

I don't see anything I can really point at in an objective sense to say "this is what's wrong", but it messes with my flow. I guess that's one of the thing I've always liked about Metafilter, that we didn't really have titles, and that it was always body text that mattered. (Yeah, I know they were there, but I almost never read them.) This new approach feels way too newspapery to me, unnecessary. Honestly, I'm not sure there was ever much need for titles in the first place. If you had deleted them entirely from the site, instead of moving them to the front page, I wouldn't have noticed for weeks, probably.

I'm thinking maybe the 'title in byline' idea might work better, so I'm going to try that script.
posted by Malor at 12:13 AM on January 16, 2013


Since the titles=0 thing was implemented, I've seen maybe three posts across all sites that made me go 'wait, what?' - at which point I remembered the titles thing and hovered/press-holded. I've done the same for other posts that were less mystery-meat-ish but I wanted a bit more info on. I am still deeply in love with the titles=0 thing and also every sort of mefite but especially mods. (also, i love the titles generally - I think they add a lot and I usually look for them and get a kick out of them and sometimes find them useful as an indicator of what the poster thinks about the subject or thinks is important about the subject - but I really appreciate being able to control their visibility on the front pages.)
posted by you must supply a verb at 4:46 PM on January 16, 2013


I have to tinker with this, as some of the titles have profanity, and it's not NSFW exactly but I don't want my boss getting the wrong over-the-shoulder idea.
posted by nile_red at 2:17 AM on January 18, 2013


We made a couple of titles-related updates today. We're now using the new Title Font preference in more places. As darksasami mentioned upthread, we were only using the Title Font preference on the front pages of the site. If you have a preference set, you'll now see it in more places. We also added titles to the daily archive, which Westringia F. mentioned. And we're in the process of adding titles to archive pages. Those pages are static and need to be re-generated, but titles should appear in the archives by the end of the day.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:59 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like seeing it on the actual post, but it's so small I can't read it. I know I'm using a silly font, but I like how it looks on the front page, so... yeah.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:48 AM on January 18, 2013


Sorry about the trouble, but we're not going to expand the use of the Title Size preference at this time. It's something we're discussing. In the meantime, if you can use Stylish or a browser add-in to bump up the size that might be an option.
posted by pb (staff) at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2013


It's okay. I'll find a way to deal. It's not a big deal anyway.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:33 PM on January 18, 2013


We made a couple of titles-related updates today. We're now using the new Title Font preference in more places. As darksasami mentioned upthread, we were only using the Title Font preference on the front pages of the site. If you have a preference set, you'll now see it in more places.

Hah. Forgot I'd set font to Zapfino before I'd set size down to zero, so I got a little surprise today when I clicked a [more inside].
posted by zennie at 11:24 AM on January 19, 2013


1) I am not going to read through this thread
2) I appreciate the option and have already made use of it...
3) .. even though I found the volume of antipathy expressed towards the introduction of the titles and their sizes very bizarre.

posted by Anything at 2:09 AM on January 20, 2013


I...I got a pony?

I got a pony!

Though it took a few days to realize I was riding it.
posted by darksasami at 2:12 PM on January 23, 2013


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