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The title-display question
January 28, 2013 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Is the title-display question closed? If so, is there any alternative other than the 0%-size solution?

The 0%-size solution is producing some frustrating results (as expected). It will get less usable as more people start making AskMe posts that are confusing or meaningless without the title (such as the one today for which the the full text of the question displayed on the main AskMe page is "And if so, please tell me how you did it? What the situation was? And what kind of resources did you use?").

People who post in that way will miss potential help from users who don't want to view titles (which I'm guessing are disproportionately also the users who try to eyeball every question in case they can help, making that even more of a potential issue). I find it really anti-usability to have to read AskMe titles, because many are redundant and many are cutesy-punny or otherwise not informative. It's much harder to eyeball all questions if I have to decode puns and strip out redundancy just to grasp whether each post is something I have anything useful to contribute to.

(Is one possible solution making it clear in the posting form that some people reading questions will have titles turned off, so the poster should keep that in mind and not include the real question ONLY in the title?)
posted by kalapierson to Feature Requests at 10:53 AM (117 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

The way I am dealing with it is by caring less about other people's problems in AskMe. This is working out fine for me so far. There are enough users who can see the titles and can provide useful assistance. It's also not really a huge deal for me to hover over the [more inside] and see the title of the question for more information.
posted by elizardbits at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


(Admittedly, I haven't tried titles-on for long enough that I can be sure I wouldn't get used to it - I have tried it several times.) I really want to keep engaged in finding questions - what I'm saying is that I hope a usability issue isn't encouraging people to look less.
posted by kalapierson at 11:03 AM on January 28, 2013


We've been discussing this in the existing titles-related threads and you might have missed it. We made a change to the site that some people are not happy with. However, the view of the site for the majority of readers includes titles, and if you choose to exclude them you might have to do some extra work by clicking through, hovering over a link, or moving on. I can sympathize with that because it means more work for you and others, but overall I think it's a small price to pay if you really, really hate titles and need them out of your view.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:05 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


That makes sense - I did miss some of that discussion, thanks.
posted by kalapierson at 11:10 AM on January 28, 2013


I find it really anti-usability to have to read AskMe titles, because many are redundant and many are cutesy-punny or otherwise not informative.

If there wasn't a contingent of people who threw a fit and turned off titles at the first possible second, I think the learning curve for writing questions+titles that made sense would have been less steep. People will come around to composing to account for those who see titles on the front page and those who have their head in the sand choose not to see them, but it's going to take a long time, longer for some.
posted by carsonb at 11:38 AM on January 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


(Is one possible solution making it clear in the posting form that some people reading questions will have titles turned off, so the poster should keep that in mind and not include the real question ONLY in the title?)

As stated in the introductory post, one of the big goals of changing the way titles are displayed was simplifying the posting page. Any suggestion that involves adding more explanatory text on that page goes directly against that goal.
posted by carsonb at 11:42 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love feeling the titles.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:42 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Burhanistan, you know that when it comes to the titles-display question the answer is always 'yes!'
posted by carsonb at 11:44 AM on January 28, 2013


People who post in that way will miss potential help from users who don't want to view titles (which I'm guessing are disproportionately also the users who try to eyeball every question in case they can help, making that even more of a potential issue).

I disagree. I feel that people who have titles on are more likely to eyeball every question in case they can help.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:47 AM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


People who post in that way will miss potential help from users who don't want to view titles

We know this is a potential downside and we're okay with it. There are a small percentage of people who have set their titles to 0px relative to the number of people we have answering questions in AskMe generally, like single-digit percentages. Which is not to say that we're not concerned about usability but that for the vast majority of users, visible titles increase usability and do not diminish it. I know this isn't true for everyone and I know that this is jarring for some people. We are sympathetic that this change isn't great for everyone, but we're unlikely to be further tweaking it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:49 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


(which I'm guessing are disproportionately also the users who try to eyeball every question in case they can help, making that even more of a potential issue).

As a title-viewer and also inveterate manswerer I beg to differ.
posted by carsonb at 11:50 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


IOW, tough titles.
posted by fleacircus at 11:50 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ooh, you've been saving that one for just the right moment havencha
posted by ook at 11:57 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am powerfully tempted to leave a fake mod note saying that I deleted a comment and that havencha needs to cut it out because he's on thin ice.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:00 PM on January 28, 2013 [29 favorites]


Do the mods know what percentage of the user base has titles hidden? It would be interesting to know what that number is. My guess is that it's vanishingly small and getting smaller all the time. The option to turn off titles is essentially hidden inside a font size option, so really the only people who will ever know about it are the ones who read that original thread. It won't ever come up for new users.

That's a long way of saying, "get over it. titles are hear to stay."
posted by alms at 12:01 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


havencha is female I believe.
posted by carsonb at 12:04 PM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


(now)
posted by carsonb at 12:05 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did you know you can set your body and byline font sizes to 0 as well? I didn't, until just now—it's kind of soothing.
posted by enn at 12:08 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Title-hider here!


As I've mentioned before, while I'm not wild about the titles, I grok that this is the direction Matt and the staff have decided to go. This means that even though I'm hiding the titles, I'm going to accept that it's on me to deal with it, and hover-over or click-though when something doesn't make sense.

(This may or may not be sustainable if more people start using titles as non-redundant content. At that point, I might need to match the title size with the body size.)


Come, join me in my hovering ways.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:14 PM on January 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Did you know you can set your body and byline font sizes to 0 as well? I didn't, until just now—it's kind of soothing.,

It's true! And weird. There was a brief moment of panic when I went to change everything back, but the "edit profile" link was gone. Luckily there was a icon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:18 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are a small percentage of people who have set their titles to 0px

I'm an outlaw, I was born that way...
posted by doctor_negative at 12:21 PM on January 28, 2013


Hovering doesn't work when there is in fact no more inside. (Like today's intervention question.) I'd love to be able to hover somewhere else in order to get the information that way.
posted by Melismata at 12:22 PM on January 28, 2013


Hovering doesn't work when there is in fact no more inside.

What happens when you hover over the n Comments link?
posted by zamboni at 12:26 PM on January 28, 2013


You can hover (or on phone tap-and-hold) over the "n comments" link as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:27 PM on January 28, 2013


Honestly, I have titles turned off from second 1 that I could, and it's fine. Maybe a few posts don't make as much sense as they used to, and that's a loss, but it's not like this is life or death or really important in any way, so who cares?
posted by smackfu at 12:30 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hovering over the comments shows the link information (which leaves out punctuation and such), but not a new pop-up box.
posted by Melismata at 12:34 PM on January 28, 2013


I here that carsonb is going to go insane.

Sorry about that carsonb.
posted by alms at 12:35 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, wait, neither does hovering over the more inside. Never mind.
posted by Melismata at 12:37 PM on January 28, 2013


I'm a title-hider and I put people who obfuscate their posts/questions on a list. Once a month I recite ancient incantations over that list. Their Pandora playlists will be infected with Justin Bieber and Nickelback.
posted by desjardins at 12:41 PM on January 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I hide titles but if I can't tell what the context is, I look at the category & if it's really mysterious, I hover or click.
posted by pointystick at 1:01 PM on January 28, 2013


kalapierson: “It will get less usable as more people start making AskMe posts that are confusing or meaningless without the title... I find it really anti-usability to have to read AskMe titles, because many are redundant and many are cutesy-punny or otherwise not informative. It's much harder to eyeball all questions if I have to decode puns and strip out redundancy just to grasp whether each post is something I have anything useful to contribute to.”

Your question already suggests at least a partial answer to itself. Up to now, some folks have reserved the post title for in-jokey little puns. That will clearly start changing as they start (as you've said) using the title for more integral parts of their questions. It seems to me that the prospect of having one's cutesy little in-joke plastered across the front of ask.metafilter in big font will strongly discourage people from using the titles for silly things anymore; there are people who may not have caught on to this yet, people who are used to a particular way of posting and might not have noticed, but I think over time they will.
posted by koeselitz at 1:02 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


enn: “Did you know you can set your body and byline font sizes to 0 as well? I didn't, until just now—it's kind of soothing.”

It's worth being careful with those options, however. If you set your body size to zero, you cease to exist as a material manifestation of yourself and your essence defaults back to the astral plane. Although I guess that's probably not so bad, since Meatbomb is the mod there, and I'm told it's his birthday so I imagine he's in a good mood.
posted by koeselitz at 1:07 PM on January 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


The way I am dealing with it is by caring less about other people's problems in AskMe.

I made this decision too three or four years ago and it is awesome. If someone writes a question in a way I don't understand or don't like or find offputting in some way, tough shit to them. Which is probably a win for everyone, because those people don't need my answers (particularly if I'm feeling aggravated for some reason) and I don't need to be answering every single question I can possibly answer and the mods don't need to be dealing with my dislike for the question and we're all good. I highly recommend it.

Questions I regularly skip over include ones with the actual question hidden behind the more inside when I don't feel like clicking through, ones that are clearly country dependant but the person didn't post their country because they think we're all in the USA, questions where too much detail is in the title and I'm not looking at the titles on that day, questions that I am very well qualified to answer but I know that there will be a lot of bad dangerous advice in the other answers and I can't face it that day, and questions with links to bloody anthropologie.com because they break their links for people outside the USA.

I do also spend quite a lot of time reading and thinking about and answering questions, and always put in effort to give a good, relevant, useful answer when I post one. So I'm not talking about being totally heartless or anything. But if a question doesn't get every answer it possibly could then that's not really a big deal either.
posted by shelleycat at 1:11 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "It seems to me that the prospect of having one's cutesy little in-joke plastered across the front of ask.metafilter in big font will strongly discourage people from using the titles for silly things anymore"

The only thing that has-or, I believe, will-change about my titling is the new 72 character limitation.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:19 PM on January 28, 2013


If you're on a device/browser where scripting is an option, check out the Subdue Metafilter Titles script. This moves the title down between the post content and the byline. If you're comfortable with a little tweaking, you can use this as the basis to put it anywhere else.

I hate the titles above the post at any size, but like being able to see the titles when I want (or ignore them when I want.) This strikes a nice balance for me.

Doesn't help if you read on mobile/tablet often, but it's great for desktop/laptop.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:29 PM on January 28, 2013


I don't appreciate the name-calling, carsonb. There are reasons not to use titles beyond fear of change and having one's head in the sand.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 1:56 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yo homes what is the title safe word?
posted by Mister_A at 2:03 PM on January 28, 2013


There are reasons not to use titles beyond fear of change and having one's head in the sand.

Which are...?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:04 PM on January 28, 2013


I asked cortex and he said the safe word is 'hit me with a pig slapper," but that just gets you hit with a pig slapper.
posted by Mister_A at 2:04 PM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't that just a reason to resize your titles a bit to make more sense of the way the mobile stylesheet looks on your Kindle?
posted by koeselitz at 2:04 PM on January 28, 2013


People who like titles are not going to understand why a screenshot of how metafilter looks with titles is a bad thing.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:06 PM on January 28, 2013


Mister_A: "I asked cortex and he said the safe word is 'hit me with a pig slapper," but that just gets you hit with a pig slapper."

Safe for him.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:07 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Like elizardbits, I have titles at 0 in AskMe and have mostly dealt with this issue by not bothering with the questions that don't make sense with the display settings I have turned on. Obviously in theory I would like to be able to understand everyone's Asks, but given that the other option seems to be forced titles for everyone, I am very pleased.
posted by threeants at 2:08 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Title-hider here. My experience has been that it's totally unproblematic on MeFi, where all the titles are redundant information or cutesy jokes. On AskMe it's fairly annoying as people have been putting important content in their titles.

I really think allowing users to choose which subsites they'd like titles on would be a nice compromise.
posted by lalex at 2:13 PM on January 28, 2013


> I really think allowing users to choose which subsites they'd like titles on would be a nice compromise.

I agree with this, especially since users interact with the two sites in very different ways.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:18 PM on January 28, 2013


Another title-hider here who skips the questions that are incomprehensible without the titles. Although I'll occasionally click on a mystery-meat question because I just have to know what the question is about, but then I subconsciously resent the extra effort I have to put into it and don't respond to the question anyhow. Apparently I'm a little bit petty about this.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:20 PM on January 28, 2013


(As a data point, I personally don't care about variable titling for different subsites. The titles are just as distracting and obtrusive for me in AskMe as elsewhere and I'm just really glad to be able to have them off.)
posted by threeants at 2:24 PM on January 28, 2013


Burhanistan: " I agree with this...

Me too.

...especially since users interact with the two sites in very different ways."

Yes, exactly. I mentioned something similar to this in one of the previous threads. On Ask and Meta, people post to ask questions or make requests. On MeFi, they post to show something to the community. Each subsite has different standards, and are treated differently by posters, commenters and the mods.
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just leaving this here, again, this time with a specific query as to why it doesn't seem like a good compromise.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:27 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm hoping that someone writes a script for me that replaces the titles with random quotes from Reservoir Dogs.
posted by found missing at 2:29 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


...especially since users interact with the two sites in very different ways

User aren't monolithic and I can't think of reason why titles or lack there of should severely impact the reading of either sub-site. Titles are the majority if not all blogs, so the lack of them here was odd.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:38 PM on January 28, 2013


User aren't monolithic and I can't think of reason why titles or lack there of should severely impact the reading of either subset.

This is fairly unbelievable to me, considering that you've been a frequent, to put it politely, participant in several threads where many people have gone into explicit detail about how visible titles impacts their reading of the site.
posted by lalex at 2:41 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "Titles are the majority if not all blogs, so the lack of them here was odd."

Strictly speaking, AskMe isn't a "traditional" blog, where one person or a group of people broadcast their thoughts and people comment on them.

Ask's a community question and answer site with relatively strict moderation standards, that strongly discourage (or more frequently delete) comments that fall outside scope of answering the question being asked.
posted by zarq at 2:47 PM on January 28, 2013


It boils down to personal quirks and just not liking them, which ok, I understand that. People are people and have their personal preferences.

But seriously, if ya'll know titles are there and being used to convey important information and still choosing to turn them off, that's on ya'll. I'm not sure why the site should repeatedly bend over backwards because some people don't want to display titles and don't want to click to figure what the important information is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


It boils down to personal quirks and just not liking them

Seriously, if that's what you've gleaned from reading the objections in the three previous threads you've participated in, then I don't know what to tell you. I have no idea why you're being so willfully obtuse about this particular subject.
posted by lalex at 2:54 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


...why it doesn't seem like a good compromise.

We understand that a certain number of people have strong feelings about titles and whether or not they should be on the site. And within that group there are people who would like to see them in some places and not others. But every profile preference we add to the sites adds complexity. It adds more for new users to learn, more for mods to explain, more to test and develop down the road as more features are added. Sometimes that complexity is worth the effort and we'll tackle it. Sometimes it isn't, and users need to make changes on their end to rearrange things for themselves. In this case, we haven't felt like per-subsite title-hiding has met the threshold. People who absolutely hate titles have an option available, and the smaller group of folks who hate them in some places and not others will need to find a way to work with that. There are Stylish and Greasemonkey options available that can be enabled/disabled on a per domain basis.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:55 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, fair enough, pb, and I don't want to get into a user-arguing-with-admin-design-decisions thing, because lord knows I hate that when I'm on the other end of the stick.

I would suggest that, as others have mentioned, titles serve different purposes on different 'front pages' of the site, because threads are posted on the blue, green, and grey for different purposes and with different aims. To me, at least, it makes perfect sense that titles should be approached and perceived differently per functional area/subdomain, and it surprises me a bit that you guys don't agree (or agree enough to push it over the complexification hurdle of adding an extra profile setting). But, like I said, fair enough.

Just adding my thoughts in case there might be wiggle room remaining -- I do understand that having reversed yourselves on the font size adjustment thing, the door is now open (in userbase perception) to pushing for more changes, which is an annoying place to find yourselves in.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:04 PM on January 28, 2013


I have no idea why you're being so willfully obtuse about this particular subject.

I am not repeatedly imploring, demanding and/or requesting that the administrators change this or that or add this new feature, so we're gonna have to agree to disagree on who is being willfully obtuse.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:06 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


But you are.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:08 PM on January 28, 2013


No need to keep rewarding trollish behavior, people.
posted by desjardins at 3:12 PM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I refuse to put anything in the title that you can't get from the above-the-fold part of the post.

I figure that trying to get other people to do that is going to work exactly as well as trying to get people to, say, rigorously use tags that will be useful to future searchers will.

And actually, I'm really proud of the question-posters from today. I thought they did a great job making titles that look like titles but still communicate something useful.
posted by SMPA at 3:43 PM on January 28, 2013


We made a change to the site that some people are not happy with ...

"We made a change to the site that some people are not happy with, and now they might have to do some extra work by clicking through, hovering over a link, or moving on. Overall I think it's a small price for them to pay"

Beautiful.
posted by fightorflight at 3:47 PM on January 28, 2013


I do understand that having reversed yourselves on the font size adjustment thing, the door is now open (in userbase perception) to pushing for more changes, which is an annoying place to find yourselves in.

I don't have the same read on it. I view it more as making adjustments—which we do all the time. It might feel like we've dug trenches and we're now arguing about where the lines are, but I don't have that sense. I personally feel bad that this change has been so upsetting to people, and I think we're learning from that and we're going to improve. I'm frustrated at the tone the conversation about titles has at times, but I'm not annoyed at the prospect of changing things further if it makes sense to. We're still in a transition period with titles on the front page, and part of making further decisions is getting some space from the initial shock of change. I think we're still getting some distance and taking some time to weigh things.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:50 PM on January 28, 2013


This is going to sound insane, but I can't hover over links to see urls on Firefox anymore. The status bar has completely disappeared. It's not in the View->Toolbars menu.

Is anyone else having this problem?
posted by zarq at 3:56 PM on January 28, 2013


We're still in a transition period with title

Transition to where? There are no more changes to titles coming, per Jess, so it's basically transitioning from a world where a chunk of people hate titles to a world where they've shut up about it, right?
posted by fightorflight at 3:56 PM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Errrr. nevermind. I found a way to add the function to an existing toolbar. View->Toolbars->Customize-> Add Status Text.

Very odd.
posted by zarq at 3:57 PM on January 28, 2013


Due to lack of titles I just misread a post as being about a fifty-thousand dollar cat bike. You can just imagine the anticipation as I clicked through on that one! That would have never happened if I had titles on, and my existence forever that much the poorer, for now I know that even if there is not yet a fifty-thousand dollar cat bike, I have imagined one and perhaps one day I can share this dream with the rest of the world.

Never going back now. #50Kcatbike
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 3:58 PM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Transition to where?

Transition to where people expect titles on the font pages of site and use them in ways that aren't redundant or jokey asides. They still look new, and people are getting used to them. I expect we'll be hearing complaints about titles for some time, just like we hear about lack of images, favorites, or other decisions we've made in the past.
posted by pb (staff) at 3:59 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good that you're not annoyed, then, pb. My intention was to show empathy; perhaps it was misplaced.

You must be considerably more patient than I.

I'll also add, I think, that the repeated use of the word 'hate' with regard to the titles thing reduces the opinions of those of us who don't think they are an improvement to a knee-jerk emotional response.

I think that's a poor way to frame it, and works to deligitimize those objections that come from a more reasoned perspective.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:19 PM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm hoping that someone writes a script for me that replaces the titles with random quotes from Reservoir Dogs.

I was bored.
posted by Memo at 4:20 PM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think that's a poor way to frame it, and works to deligitimize those objections that come from a more reasoned perspective.

Absolutely, point taken.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:21 PM on January 28, 2013


We made a change to the site that some people are not happy with ...

If the motivation for making this change had been clearly stated, I might be less unhappy.
posted by Rash at 4:34 PM on January 28, 2013


No need to keep rewarding trollish behavior, people.

For reals, it would be wonderful if people quite adding nothing to the conversation except how much they hate titles.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:36 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It sounds like there's no current solution to the problem of hiding titles on www but leaving them up elsewhere (aside from css hacks). I think stavros' mockup is a little bit overkill (no one has argued for title control on MetaTalk as far as I can tell), but an option to hide titles on www would let people have them elsewhere, and if you want them gone everywhere you could continue setting them to zero.

That's something I'd consider adding to the prefs page, but the feature has been live for only three weeks, and I tend to think that these things go better when we let a month or so pass after a change to give enough time to gather data and ideas before we make any more changes.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:49 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still hate and fear them outside AskMe.
posted by The Whelk at 4:52 PM on January 28, 2013


Oh dahlink, you're hilarious.
posted by carsonb at 4:54 PM on January 28, 2013


I think stavros' mockup is a little bit overkill (no one has argued for title control on MetaTalk as far as I can tell), but an option to hide titles on www would let people have them elsewhere, and if you want them gone everywhere you could continue setting them to zero.

That would be great, Matt. I included MeTa in the mockup for no good reason other than completeness (in terms of subsites I visit regularly), so not having a toggle there wouldn't bother me a bit. It's basically the blue that I personally find them detrimental -- everywhere else (for me, again, at least) would be fine.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:01 PM on January 28, 2013


Yeah, that would be awesome. For me at least, the blue is the reason I'm hiding the titles and not just adjusting the font size down.
posted by lalex at 5:05 PM on January 28, 2013


Brandon Blatcher writes " Titles are the majority if not all blogs, so the lack of them here was odd."

Can't wait till Metafilter rolls out avatars and sig lines.
posted by Mitheral at 5:08 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Threaded comments will be here ANY DAY NOW.
posted by lalex at 5:10 PM on January 28, 2013


I hate titles, I am happy with the 0 solution, and if I am curious enough I will click on a link and if not, keep right on going.



I hate the experience with titles THAT much.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:21 PM on January 28, 2013


I totally ignored the last titles thread because I didn't really want to sit through bickering about whether titles are the best thing ever or going to ruin Metafilter completely. I guess I'm going to have to remove this thread from recent activity, too.
posted by koeselitz at 5:24 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ooh I really like this. Much better!
posted by furiousthought at 5:25 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks, stavros, for saying things more clearly than I could articulate.

I am seeing three different versions of titles depending on where I am viewing and whether I'm logged in -- default, zeroed, or smaller/different font. I wish I could say I am getting used to them in more than the "resigned" way.
posted by zennie at 5:37 PM on January 28, 2013


If there wasn't a contingent of people who threw a fit and turned off titles at the first possible second,

Nah, people who left them on were having emotional breakdown hissy fits with not being able to conform with how the site has always been displayed in the past.

Man, it's weird how people who have different opinions than me me are always illogical and emotionally out of control.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:50 PM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ooh I really like this. Much better!

Mefi comments are covered by the DMCA, displaying them is an act of decryption and will risk a $5 fine and 1000 year banishment to the moon.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:52 PM on January 28, 2013


I hope I'm not escalating things to say this is exactly like my personal Vietnam in every way.
posted by found missing at 6:07 PM on January 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is not Nam, there are rules.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:11 PM on January 28, 2013


I too am curious about the number of MeFites who prefer Itty Bitty Titles. Personally, I like 'em that way, myself.
posted by Westringia F. at 6:19 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is not Nam, there are rules.

Man, you're fucking Polish Catholic--
posted by iamabot at 6:34 PM on January 28, 2013


I too am curious about the number of MeFites who prefer Itty Bitty Titles. Personally, I like 'em that way, myself.

Yeah, I have mine set to the same size as the "posted by" line, and I find they blend in to the background and don't distract me from the meat of the post. But that's just a reflection of the way my brain and browser interact, which I know is far from universal. For what it's worth, I had initially turned the large titles off, until we were given the option to reduce them to a size that doesn't interfere with my thought process.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:54 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Damn you, Burhanistan. I can't get past the word titles enough to take this debate seriously anymore. Grrrrr.
posted by heyho at 7:47 PM on January 28, 2013


Hey, you know what I just realized? This is totally random, but

Up until the early 1990s, comic strips in syndication had to deal with the fact that, while their Sunday versions were in color, half the time the top panels were cut off by papers that had a premium on space and didn't really care about preserving them as the art they often were. So, when drawing these strips, the artists had to do so knowing that the top panels might not even be seen by some readers – they had to make those panels related (so they were thematically relevant) but not essential for understanding the strip.

This covered the first chunk of Calvin and Hobbes, so you can see good examples of this principle in action on strips like this and this and this. Notice how, if you cut off the top row of panels, the strip still holds together. (Bill Watterson was obviously really good at it, so you don't really notice unless you're looking for this specific thing.)

It just occurred to me that that's kind of what this new title thing is like. A few people won't see your title, so you can't make it essential to the understanding of your post; but some will, so it has to at least relate. It seems kind of like a little art form, the crafting of an introductory-but-not-essential little blurb.
posted by koeselitz at 8:21 PM on January 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


It just occurred to me that that's kind of what this new title thing is like. A few people won't see your title, so you can't make it essential to the understanding of your post; but some will, so it has to at least relate. It seems kind of like a little art form, the crafting of an introductory-but-not-essential little blurb.

It's not enough that I've compiled 100 links into a coherent post. Now I have to create art?
posted by zarq at 8:48 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem with that framing is that titles aren't throwaway jokes, and I'm pretty sure having to account for that is a huge reason Bill Watterson is such a damned curmudgeon.
posted by carsonb at 8:48 PM on January 28, 2013


Banishment to the moon?! What do I have to do again?

Here I come, moon!
posted by Scientist at 11:11 PM on January 28, 2013


Are you an evil night-time alicorn jealous of your daytime sister?
posted by Drinky Die at 11:45 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nah, people who left them on were having emotional breakdown hissy fits with not being able to conform with how the site has always been displayed in the past.

Can you show me the posts or comments where the people you are referring to were complaining that the site was unusable for them without titles, or that a lack of titles was diminishing their metafilter experience?
posted by 23skidoo at 6:37 AM on January 29, 2013


Pretty sure Drinky Die is just riffing on carsonb's comment that they quoted.

No, such comments didn't exist (to my knowledge) but Drinky Die's statement is no less accurate/charitable/productive than carsonb's.
posted by SpiffyRob at 11:20 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


an option to hide titles on www would let people have them elsewhere, and if you want them gone everywhere you could continue setting them to zero.

That's something I'd consider adding to the prefs page, but the feature has been live for only three weeks, and I tend to think that these things go better when we let a month or so pass after a change to give enough time to gather data and ideas before we make any more changes.


Another vote for this solution getting implemented soon, thanks. I really do read AskMe differently from the rest of the site, and this option would be a great help.
posted by maudlin at 1:43 PM on January 29, 2013


I never understand the comments about titles working differently on different sites, I just don't see it. If anything, I find them more interesting and useful on metafilter than on ask.me. I comment more on the green but I do read both sites every day, so I don't think I'm missing anything. Put in more options if you like, but meh whatever.
posted by shelleycat at 2:07 PM on January 29, 2013


That may be, shelleycat, that may be. But here's why it's still important, I think.

I think there are roughly 3 groups of people who are involved in discussing the pros and cons of the Title Issue, here.
  1. People who are design-conscious, in terms of aesthetics and user interaction and interface design. These people may or may not build websites or other software themselves, for fun or work. Depending on how sensitive they are, they may stop using a site or tool because of poor design decisions, and are able to articulate exactly what they feel is suboptimal (or excellent) and why.
  2. People who 'know what they like' but don't actually make things for people to use. Call them design-aware, maybe. They might have a feeling about a design, but it's a bit difficult or slippery for them to pin down exactly what it is, beyond just expressing their satisfaction or dissatisfaction in 'feeling words'.
  3. People who don't know and don't care or are relatively blind to issues of design (in terms of user interaction, interfaces, aesthetics, or all of the above). They're cool with comic sans, say. They don't care as much about what something looks like as the result they get from it.
Metafilter has its roots in group 1, and in the early days, a fairly heavy proportion of its users were design-conscious people, developers and designers and so on. Over the years, many more have joined, but the site's growth has meant that the proportion has been diluted by lots more people from groups 2 and 3, ordinary non-web-builder folks.

There's nothing wrong with being in group 2 or 3, I hasten to add.

But to some extent, when discussions about design decisions happen between people from the different groups, they are speaking different languages, and coming from different perspectives.

I don't know which group you belong to, and I'm not picking on you, but saying 'I just don't see it' -- which others have said in the same or other words -- says to me (as someone who is not by any means a good designer, but has spent many many thousands of hours doing it) that having a productive dialogue on the deeper issues of this particular design decision would not be impossible, but would be a pretty hard, time-consuming thing to do.

I know it's a bit like a mechanic saying 'trust me, there's a problem' when people say there is more than just an emotional response to design decisions here, but there are parallels.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:48 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just leaving this here, again, this time with a specific query as to why it doesn't seem like a good compromise.

Some of the colons have spaces before them and some don't. That kind of inconsistency would ruin my experience of MetaFilter.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 5:29 PM on January 29, 2013


Well, my smartassed friend, if you look at your preferences page, you'll see that's the way it actually looks right now, so I guess EXPERIENCE RUINED.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:33 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not your job to be as confused as Nigel is.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 6:23 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am happy to make plans for Nigel, though. I only want what's best for him.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:32 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I got a lot more work done once I set all my fonts to 0%.
posted by davejay at 8:49 PM on January 29, 2013


Yeah, I wasn't asking to be convinced. I don't see any difference and I don't really care. I also think the people came up with all kinds of ideas of what they should see as soon as titles were turned on and now it's just confirmation bias, whereas if the titles are left to settle in and evolve then it will probably shake out some other way (either no differences, maaaybe the expected differences, possibly other differences entirely). Messing around with settings now is premature at best, and catering to a tiny vocal majority for no real reason at worst.
posted by shelleycat at 12:37 AM on January 30, 2013


Also, FWIW, I'm married to an software developer with an advanced degree in designing usable interfaces and who's whole career is about making data accessible and whatever. We talk about this stuff all the time. I read his textbooks and industry literature. I've critiqued some of his work. I used to design and run my own webpages, implementing things I learnt from him just for fun. I'm also a scientist who interacts with and synthesises and presents information on a regular basis. I am absolutely one of those people who is clued up about good design (particularly in a web environment) and why and how it should all work and blah blah, so my opinion is every bit as informed and educated as everyone else's here. You don't get to disregard my opinion based on some assumption of what I do or don't know.

The actual titles that are there in ask.me aren't working any differently than the the actual titles that are there in metafilter, no matter how much people think they should.
posted by shelleycat at 12:46 AM on January 30, 2013


I wonder if people realized they read Askme differently before the title change.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:04 AM on January 30, 2013


Yeah, I wasn't asking to be convinced

Such was not even in the slightest my intention.

I'm married to an software developer with an advanced degree in designing usable interfaces and who's whole career is about making data accessible and whatever. We talk about this stuff all the time. I read his textbooks and industry literature. I've critiqued some of his work. I used to design and run my own webpages, implementing things I learnt from him just for fun. I'm also a scientist who interacts with and synthesises and presents information on a regular basis. I am absolutely one of those people who is clued up about good design (particularly in a web environment) and why and how it should all work and blah blah, so my opinion is every bit as informed and educated as everyone else's here.

All of which is excellent and fine and good. So in my impromptu wee taxonomy, you'd land in group 1. But see, here's the thing: when you said stuff like
I never understand the comments about titles working differently on different sites, I just don't see it. If anything, I find them more interesting and useful on metafilter than on ask.me. I comment more on the green but I do read both sites every day, so I don't think I'm missing anything. Put in more options if you like, but meh whatever.
there was literally absolutely no way to intuit such a high level of engagement in the topic from your initial comment.

Regardless of the amount you actually do think and know about this stuff, which I had no way of knowing either way, I suggested that as commentary, it wasn't terribly helpful, because you didn't offer anything that implied a level of engagement beyond feels.

I went on to talk generalities that I've been thinking about since this whole debate started, which apparently rubbed you the wrong way. For that, I apologize.

You don't get to disregard my opinion based on some assumption of what I do or don't know.

No disregard, no disregard at all. Relative valuation, perhaps, but we all do that based on what people say and how they say it when the medium is text.

My suggestion was, and remains, that in this texty medium where we know each other almost entirely through the way we communicate with each other with our writing, in a low-context environment, that we can only guess about someone's level of knowledge about a given subject from what they say and how they say it.

I did make an effort to say explicitly that there's nothing wrong with being a low-design-awareness person. I did not mean to imply that the opinions of those folks are any less strongly felt or germane to the conversation, but I did mean to imply that their opinions tend to be based more in feeling than in analysis. Nothing wrong, I repeat, with that, but long threads full of thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs are often of limited utility.

Personally, I admit I prefer someone who offers a nuanced deep-diggery view of things like this, and might pay a little more attention than -- not to put too fine a point on it -- I might to someone who says 'meh, whatever,' but that's my failing.

The fact that you are someone who understands and pays attention to design doesn't change my reaction to your initial comment -- it actually makes me expect more from you, which I might not have done earlier, not knowing anything about you.

So I guess in future discussions of design-related issues, if I remember (which at my advanced age gets harder and harder), I'll make an effort to mentally weigh your commentary, even if it is emotive rather than substantive, a little heavier. I guess we could, it turns out, have a productive and substantive discussion of this, if we wanted to.

But having to type this all up in an effort to assuage your annoyance has taken the wind out of my sails, so, you know, meh, whatever.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:45 AM on January 30, 2013


Brandon Blatcher: "I wonder if people realized they read Askme differently before the title change."

I had a pretty good inkling that I read AskMe differently because:

1. I know that I read product manuals differently from poetry. While the MetaFilter front page does not exactly map to poetry, and AskMe does not exactly map to a product manual, each one is a different type of reading for me.

My posting history shows that I have an antipathy to distracting text in an artistic context that pre-dates the addition of MeFi FPP titles.

- 2006: I want to avoid opera surtitles entirely. Given a choice between subtitles or dubbing in foreign language movies, I'll take subtitles, but only because I want to hear the real voice coming out of the human I'm watching. The unmatched, out of synch voices from dubbing are even more distracting than subtitles.
- September 2012: Still hate opera surtitles, even more than spoilers. Boy, are they a visual nuisance. I can go back and read an opera libretto after a performance, but don't want to be distracted during the performance.

No, reading the MetaFilter front page is not exactly like watching a movie or opera, but it is still an experience closer to that kind of flow for me. No, FPP titles are not continuous subtitles, but they are extra text that distract me from dipping into FPPs and flowing into each one or on to the next one as I like. These are related phenomena, not exact duplicates.

2. When I read any part of MeFi with the front page titles turned on, I tend to "snag and skip" from title to title instead of going from each title to the body text of an FPP. Titles make it hard for me to switch from skimming to focusing. I don't know if this has anything to do with my ADHD, or if its just some personal perceptual idiosyncrasy, but it happens.

I'm a tech writer/eLearning developer and I know that good, clear page and section titles can be very useful. In fact, on first finding out about the front page titles, I found them rather jarring, but expected to like them and find them useful. It didn't turn out that way on the blue.

3. "Snag and skip" is a bug on the blue and a potential feature on the green because I know I NEED to filter AskMe. I sometimes browse by MyAsk, or by category, but when I want to be more open to possibilities, I can skim the AskMe front page. Adding the title option to AskMe gives me a level of filtering in between no-titles and MyAsk. In contrast, I find that front page titles in MetaFilter are distracting at best and, where a title is redundant or badly written, disappointing or off-putting.
posted by maudlin at 10:08 AM on January 30, 2013


Aw, hell, left a bit out of point #3 when I edited. One more time:

3. "Snag and skip" is a bug on the blue and a potential feature on the green because I know that I NEED to filter AskMe. I approach MetaFilter with the expectation that anything on the front page could be worth reading. I approach AskMe with the expectation that only a subset of questions could interest me. For example, just looking at the current FPP selection, I am unlikely to go into questions about cars, most coding questions, and most legal questions.

I sometimes browse by MyAsk, or by category, but when I want to be more open to possibilities, I can skim the AskMe front page. Adding the title option to AskMe gives me a level of filtering in between no-titles and MyAsk. In contrast, I find that front page titles in MetaFilter are distracting at best and, where a title is redundant or badly written, disappointing or off-putting.
posted by maudlin at 10:51 AM on January 30, 2013


When I read any part of MeFi with the front page titles turned on, I tend to "snag and skip" from title to title instead of going from each title to the body text of an FPP.

Thanks the detailed explanation and nifty phrase, it helps explain what you're seeing.

Since you were able to articulate the problem so well, can you think of any solution that prevent the "snag and skip" that contains titles?

Baring that, here are two quick mockups up of possible solutions, one with a colored background for the post text, the other with a rule between posts. Do either of those quiet or dispel the snagging and skipping?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:48 AM on January 30, 2013


Back on 1/7, I suggested that the front page could be formatted to look a little more like the Recent Posts by User page with a minimum of effort. Understandably, the thread was moving quickly and I don't think anyone responded to my comment.

I still think that would be preferable to what we have now, and help prevent the "snagging and slipping." All it would require: A slight shifting of space between title and posts, and between posts themselves. Headlines underlined. A slight font adjustment might also be necessary.

It gives a subtle, cleaner visual delineation between posts without adding additional elements, like color changes or rule lines. Plus, that template already exists and has been in use for some time, so pb wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.
posted by zarq at 1:09 PM on January 30, 2013


I don't know if this has anything to do with my ADHD, or if its just some personal perceptual idiosyncrasy, but it happens.

You're not alone. Many people said essentially the same thing in the original title thread.
posted by fleacircus at 2:39 PM on January 30, 2013


Thanks for the mockups, Brandon and zarq, but I think I'd still snag on those designs. You can fade, space out, re-size or re-colour textual information to make it less visually obvious, but because I'd know that there was textual information there, RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE POST -- HEY LOOKATMELOOKATMELOOKATME! -- it would still draw my attention in a way a purely decorative page element wouldn't.

Zeroing out the titles is working very well for me on the blue right now and I appreciate having that option. It is pretty rare for me to be puzzled by a post, and this almost always happens on the green so far. I can mouse over when needed to get some context in any area of the site.

If posts that need the title for comprehension become more common, then I can use one of the scripts to tuck the title into the byline. Re-sizing, re-colouring and moving that information into a block of text that I already treat a certain way works in a way that pulling it out to the beginning of the FPP -- in any colour, size or spacing -- doesn't.
posted by maudlin at 3:22 PM on January 30, 2013


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