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February 18, 2013 2:30 PM   Subscribe

This maybe just me with a particular writing hangup, but does anyone else find it difficult, sometimes have a "mental block", to come up with a title for the FPP they have constructed? End up sometimes spending more time on the title than constructing the rest of the FPP? Have abandoned FPPs as cannot come up with a decent title? Or have a fear that, no matter how good the FPP, a rubbish title will mean everyone will pass over it? Highly related; any tips for coming up with "good" (subjective, yes) titles.

Related insecurity; that horrible, empty time, between when the post goes live, and the first comment appears. "No-one is reading it; I knew the title was pathetic. Time to quietly leave MetaFilter."

For specific types of post e.g. a cat video, a political event, the story of some epic adventure or trip, are there any paths of thinking for a good, or appropriate title? With each day bringing many posts, is there a need to come up with a catchy title to grab the attention of MetaFilter readers (tho' disliking any competitive implications as it's not that kind of environment)? How best to make someone interested enough to read above the fold, and click on the [more inside] link?
posted by Wordshore to MetaFilter-Related at 2:30 PM (39 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

In general, more so in the past than now, no one read the titles, so they were best served by Easter egg puns.

In general, headlines should be descriptive, short and witty; if you can only do two, do the first two.
posted by klangklangston at 2:41 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Just find a good quote from the article, or a clever reference to something in it. When all else fails, go with song titles. I liked 'Abattoir Blues' as the title for an FPP about horse meat in ground beef - nothing to do with the article, but it was clever.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:42 PM on February 18, 2013


Highly related; any tips for coming up with "good" (subjective, yes) titles.

My process is to kick off a race between a pair of brainstorming turtles tasked respectively with coming up with (a) a short, neutrally descriptive title-in-a-traditional-sense for the core content of the post vs. (b) some shit I would probably write in a tweet joking about the post if someone else had made it. Whichever turtle wins gets to sit on top of the post, and that's all there is to it and I move on with my day.

that horrible, empty time, between when the post goes live, and the first comment appears.

I try to make a post and then go do something away from the computer for a bit. I try to do this with pretty much everything I write/make/post though; I can get to being a really obsessive watch-and-see kind of person if I don't force myself to set my own shit down and go get purposefully distracted afterward by something else. I wrote a short thing on my blog a few weeks ago about that whole doing a thing vs. worrying about whether people are noticing I did a thing dilemma; it'll eat your brain if you don't just quash it. Work on quashing it instead of obsessing over the details.

With each day bringing many posts, is there a need to come up with a catchy title to grab the attention of MetaFilter readers (tho' disliking any competitive implications as it's not that kind of environment)?

Nope. Stop worrying so much about it. People will read a post if they think the basic subject looks interesting or because they have no idea what it's about but are curious; they'll skip it if they're not in the mood or because they were sneezing when they scrolled past; there's no guarantees and no magic formula. A ton of people read the site every day, a smaller but still huge number read it while logged in, and in aggregate a bunch of people will see any given post even if most people don't. So it goes.

Make it reasonably clear, with title and/or post text, what your post is about if you want to make sure people know what your post is about. It's not rocket science, just use some words that are about what it's about. That's 99% of the job; the other 1% is not worth an ulcer.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:45 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Related insecurity; that horrible, empty time, between when the post goes live, and the first comment appears. "No-one is reading it; I knew the title was pathetic. Time to quietly leave MetaFilter."

The only time I ever have the time to put together posts is like on sunday mornings when it's just stone dead here already, and this eats me alive.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:53 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I no longer read the titles, and I didn't pay much attention to them in the past. The important part of the post, IMHO, is that first line above the fold. That's going to hook me or not. The title, too often is a stupid pun or joke that doesn't tell me anything.
posted by HuronBob at 2:59 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only time I ever have the time to put together posts is like on sunday mornings when it's just stone dead here already,

Not yesterday! I wonder what happened?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:19 PM on February 18, 2013


I usually embed porn gifs in my titles as a reward for the smart cookies who pay attention.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:20 PM on February 18, 2013


Choose a short pithy quotation from something you're linking to and toss it in the title field. People will read my post because it is fascinating and not at all because of the title. If it's an obit, putting "RIP deceased person" in the title or born-died dates, is helpful for folks. I am remarkably consistent with this. People seem to like my posts just fine.

If there's no competitive implications, then there's no competition. We're not HuffPo or Gawker, we don't have to suck people in with catchy provocative titles just to pay the bills. And you're not competing with other MeFites. We have no real indication that people's attention is in short supply. My rule of thumb personally is that I get 30 minutes and then I have to either click post or hit the back button and forget about it. And I'd rather spend that time assembling links than agonizing over a title.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:20 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's always a safe bet to just say what your post is about.

I find most things interesting, so you don't have to dance around to convince me it's interesting. I'm also sort of impatient, so don't obfuscate or you may lose me.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:20 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hate being tricked into clicking through--I'd rather know what the post is about. Witty is fine, but it's not the point. If you really can't bear to abandon your pun (but "kill your darlings" is the artist's word to live by), then throw it in at the end as Alternative Title: Cutey McCuteness
posted by Ideefixe at 3:35 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's tagging I can't do. I'd tag everything with "I don't know... stuff, I guess", but apparantly it's frowned upon.
posted by Grangousier at 3:48 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I try to make a post and then go do something away from the computer for a bit.

Yeah I quite often get a new post ready to go but refrain from hitting post until just before it's time to take the dog for a walk. (Then I play a game with myself during the walk guessing how many comments in the first threadturd will land.)
posted by mannequito at 4:08 PM on February 18, 2013


In answer to your questions: Nuh uh, Nuh uh, Nuh uh and Nuh uh.
posted by y2karl at 4:14 PM on February 18, 2013


This is but one of the many reasons I hid the titles on the first opportunity we had to do so. I wish we'd roll back to a no-titles front page sitewide, but I think that ship has sailed.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:19 PM on February 18, 2013


"If there's no competitive implications, then there's no competition."

I always go in thinking, "This is pretty good. If people don't like it, fuck 'em." The only times it's frustrating when no one seems to be reading it or replying to it is when you want to talk about something you found, but even then, it's not like waiting a couple days is any big deal.
posted by klangklangston at 4:20 PM on February 18, 2013


People don't read the posts anyway. I used a song as a lead-in to a post about the Whaleship Essex, its crew, Moby Dick, Melville, New Bedford, Nathanial Philbrick & The Heart of the Sea, and all the comments were "Awesome song!" and "I also like this other song!"
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:29 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here are some good titles; feel free to use them:

a cat video,

BALLS TO THE WALL CAT

a political event,

THE POWER HUMANS AND THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE

the story of some epic adventure or trip

WHAT A NICE TIME
posted by Greg Nog at 4:40 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


You should sell your posts like eBay items:

~~~~~**!!L@@K!!**~~~~~
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:45 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read metafilter via an RSS reader. The more descriptive the title is and less witty/clever/catchy, the more likely I am to read your post. I realize I'm probably in the minority on this.
posted by achmorrison at 5:26 PM on February 18, 2013


"This is pretty good. If people don't like it, fuck 'em."

That's all the title any post needs.
posted by zarq at 5:29 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Just find a good quote from the article

a quick perusal of my FPPs reveal that this is my most common trick. I'm also amused to discover I've used the same title twice:

LIKE PORNOGRAPHY YOU KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT

First time was a pull-quote from BAD WRITING - THE MOVIE. More recently (my most recent FPP), it was another pull-quote, from an article about the User's Guide To Artspeak. So it's not me that's getting predictable and repetitive, it's the culture.
posted by philip-random at 5:59 PM on February 18, 2013


A title can be a powerful tool to steer the direction of comments, because after clicking through and regardless of a users' settings (from what I can see), the title is in large type at the top of the page. The wording need not be opinionated to accomplish this, but simply a focus on the one aspect of the broad topic that the poster desires to discuss. A recent example of how a title dictated the direction, whether intended or not, was the post on female directors.
posted by Ardiril at 6:05 PM on February 18, 2013


From a MeFite that always filled the title in last ( The Pressure!) thank you for all of the tips! Now that the titles appear on the main site, the game has changed a bit.
posted by TangerineGurl at 6:12 PM on February 18, 2013


...does anyone else find it difficult, sometimes have a "mental block", to come up with a title for the FPP they have constructed?

Having constructed no FPPs, I can say with confidence that I have never had that problem.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:49 PM on February 18, 2013


Here is the easiest way to make a metafilter post:

Title: The title of the article and/or linked video
Body: Pull quote from the same, with the most interesting clause linked.

for example (random article from the atlantic):

Title: Should You Buy A Facebook Girlfriend?
Body: "Truth is, life is complicated. Sometimes having a fake internet girlfriend helps make it a lot less complicated."

Then supplemented with further links as needed.

Click post, sip coffee and wait.
posted by empath at 8:07 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


My eyes skip over the titles.

But, if your post/question has a lousy first sentence, I'm probably going to skip it.
posted by themanwho at 8:16 PM on February 18, 2013


I don't spend much time on titles. If nothing specific comes to mind, I just go with an appropriate quote from the article. The body of the FPP is also usually a quote from the article itself. It keeps me from editorializing, and it ensures that I usually stick to the idea of sharing an article that I found interesting.

Related insecurity; that horrible, empty time, between when the post goes live, and the first comment appears. "No-one is reading it; I knew the title was pathetic. Time to quietly leave MetaFilter."

Not on MeFi. After I make an FPP, I keep an eye on the post for some time, just to make sure that I haven't messed up in some way (double, link not working for someone etc.). And I try to stay away from commenting in my own FPPs as far as possible. That's just me though, you don't have to.
posted by vidur at 8:19 PM on February 18, 2013


I love writing good titles. There's an art to finding something short and attention-grabbing and pithy that resonates or references multiple things at once, and more than a little serendipity. I can't do it every time -- usually just a pull-quote or an existing tagline will do -- but I love the cherry-on-top feeling of finding something that just fits.

Looking back, the best titles I've written IMHO all make sidelong references to something from the post topic:
It's a great day for America, everybody - Craig Ferguson post; it's his signature opening line.

Previously on Lost - Lost series finale recap! Anybody who watched the show has this line burned into their brain.

User-driven discontent - Digg ruins itself. Because "user-driven content," geddit?

Pencils down. - 2010 US midterm elections post. Inspired by a taunt from WERNSTROM in Futurama; I love how his line works as a "time's up, bucko" and as a metaphor for filling in a ballot.

The Post That Cannot Possibly Go Wrong - Starship Titanic megapost; from the doomed ship's nickname, "The Ship That Cannot Possibly Go Wrong." Thanks to yoz, it totally didn't.

Shmowzow! - Adventure Time post. Because really: SHMOWZOW ლ(ಥ▽ಥლ)

In the beginning was the Word - Pontypool movie post. I've got a soft spot for scripture quotes (e.g.), and if you've seen the movie you get this one.

And nothing of value was lost - EncyclopediaDramatica shutting down. It was one of the standard dismissive catchphrases out of ED/4chan/anonymous, so turning it back on them was amusing.

You shall Hear things, Wonderful to tell - For O Brother Where Art Thou? music post. From the "oracle" character who says almost the same thing ("you shall see things") at the start of the movie, a perfect way to introduce a musical post.

The Last Thing You'll Ever Desire - For an article on Derek Smart's gaming fiascos. I just love that he actually chose this as a tagline for one of his terrible/overhyped games.

¿Sí Se Puede? - For Puerto Rico voting for statehood in the 2012 elections. Spanish for "Yes, they can?" and a famous motto of the Obama campaign.

Cities and the Soul - Italo Calvino's writings. Inspired by the categorizations of the cities in Invisible Cities -- Thin Cities, Hidden Cities, Continuous Cities, Cities and Eyes, Cities and the Dead, etc.
So basically, think of quotes or phrases or sayings related to the post topic and try to find something that obliquely ties into the spirit of the post. It's definitely harder than it sounds, which is why even most of mine are more run-of-the-mill.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:30 AM on February 19, 2013


Nowadays I simply outsource it to Manila! Done and done.

Confession time: The couple of times I had to work overtime and my four-hour work week ran to five, I got the *entire* FPP done and none of you noticed!
posted by The Illiterate Pundit at 2:52 AM on February 19, 2013


Rhaomi: those are great, really good. Especially the "Pencils down" one - just two words, but multiple associations. I don't have that lateral freewheeling talent you have there; only one out of my fifty FPPs has a satisfactory title. Kudos.

(Adds to self-indulgent still-incomplete blog post "Writing a post for MetaFilter: is this art, or science?")
posted by Wordshore at 2:58 AM on February 19, 2013


The Illiterate Pundit: Nowadays I simply outsource it to Manila! Done and done.

On the serious, MeMail me and I will title your posts for you. I suspect it is much easier for someone who is not so close to the post to do it, and then if you don't get any comments/favorites, you can blame me instead of yourself.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:20 AM on February 19, 2013


Rhaomi: " So basically, think of quotes or phrases or sayings related to the post topic and try to find something that obliquely ties into the spirit of the post. It's definitely harder than it sounds, which is why even most of mine are more run-of-the-mill."

In all seriousness, this is exactly what I do for posts on the Blue, but I especially like finding a quote in a linked article that seems particularly appropriate and use it. Even though I don't manage to do so as much as I'd like. So for example, for an Ed Koch obit I used "Mr. Koch is survived by New York itself." With luck, the quote will give the reader a taste of what they will find inside without being too obvious about it. But that synchronicity rarely happens.
posted by zarq at 8:04 AM on February 19, 2013


I love this site, but one thing I’ve learned here is that people obsess and over think things to an extent I had not imagined. That is not meant to be an insult, just an observation. I was thinking about doing a post, but between this and the other discussion about which HTML editor to use for posts I have to wonder if I am just not taking it seriously enough, or underestimating the difficulty.
posted by bongo_x at 10:26 AM on February 19, 2013


Nah. Some of us who post on a regular basis obsess over this stuff. But please don't be put off by that. Making a great post isn't difficult, and it shouldn't be as complicated as we all seem to make it.

Cloud-sourced HTML editors are great for those of us who make posts with a lot of links. For example, this one I made had over 100 linked videos. By the time you get into that territory, it can be a complete pain in the ass to try and code them all in the "edit post" box on the site, especially since there's no save function. Close the window by accident (something that has happened to me more frequently than I'd like to admit -- I use a lot of keyboard commands, and Ctrl-W to close another open tab is verrrry close to Ctrl-Q to quit the whole browser) and you can lose an hour or more of work. HTML editors are also great for spotting coding errors on posts. It's nice to not have to worry about whether you closed an italics tag.

Posting can be a lot of fun. Don't let us killjoys spoil it for you! :)
posted by zarq at 10:56 AM on February 19, 2013


Also, that sort of massive multi-link post is pretty rare and infrequent. Most posts are probably only made up of 1-3 links.
posted by zarq at 10:59 AM on February 19, 2013


I love doing titles for posts. A good trick (assuming you're linking to an longform article or something) is to go about three quarters of the way through and find a quote that's directly relevant to the article but a bit oblique. So it'll be intriguing before reading the link, and satisfying afterwards.

Viz 'Where will you deposit your knuckle babies', which I love unreasonably.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:09 PM on February 19, 2013


"Kinquering Kongs Their Titles Take"

In other words, as the OP (I always get a flash of red hair and freckles in my mind's eye when I write this), you are a sovereign entity accountable to no one but your Gods (aka the Mods). Please yourself.
posted by jamjam at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2013


Starting in Oct. 2011, all my AskMe post titles have contained clues that, when put together, give the location of a golden hare buried somewhere in the English countryside.
posted by bondcliff at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


All my titles spell out Rolf Lassgård is the best Wallander...
posted by y2karl at 6:30 AM on February 22, 2013


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