Metafilter titles should be more succinct for RSS readers July 9, 2006 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Reading the blue through RSS is still something of a guessing game. A while ago there was a useful discussion about this but nothing's really changed. Please could the blue be more like the green? (in so many ways.)
posted by grahamwell to Feature Requests at 3:19 PM (25 comments total)

So you want everyone to collectively write better titles? Ask MetaFilter's titles are better because people want to get their question answered, there's no similar motivation on MetaFilter to make titles as descriptive as possible because it's a different site with different aims and goals. Half the titles are jokey and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I don't think there is much I can do on the interface side to ensure good titles and I doubt people will ever stop wanting to make joke titles.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:47 PM on July 9, 2006

You mean changing the "Headline/Title:" line of the posting page to say something like AskMe's "Headline/Title: Give a short, descriptive title. Please boil your question down to a single sentence (example: "How to get an iPod to work in my car?")"...something along the lines of "Headline/Title: Give a short, descriptive title. Please boil your post down to a single sentence or phrase (example: "Photos of mosques made from mud")"?
posted by Bugbread at 3:49 PM on July 9, 2006

Ah, supplementary side question: is there a reason that MeTa posts don't have titles? I assume there is, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
posted by Bugbread at 3:50 PM on July 9, 2006

Uh, what? The feed contains the full text of each post, so if you're using a reader that only shows you the title you need to get a better reader.

/reads all of metafilter through RSS exclusively and likes it that way
posted by Rhomboid at 4:48 PM on July 9, 2006

Rhomboid: Depends how you're using your feeder. If your feeder is a full-screen affair that basically reproduces the post, then the full text will be shown. However, if you don't want to use a full-screen feeder, but a pane off to the side of your browser (like Sage), and then click individual entries to open them in their native format in different tabs, then they aren't quite so useful.

It's not a problem of "good reader vs. bad reader", as much as "AskMe works well in full page readers and pane readers, but MeFi doesn't so much, and MeTa not at all".
posted by Bugbread at 4:59 PM on July 9, 2006

as much as "AskMe works well in full page readers and pane readers, but MeFi doesn't so much, and MeTa not at all".

Three different sites, three different goals, three different results. You say it like all three sites would have equally useful titles if I would just change one tiny item on the posting page when I'm saying that perfectly obvious descriptive titles are utilitarian and go best with Ask MeFi's stated goals of utility through questions and answers. MetaFilter (and especially MetaTalk) are much less utilitarian and so the titles are much less obvious and often used for joke punchlines.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:48 PM on July 9, 2006

dear god this is a terrible idea. i can just see the MeTa posts now: "[Post X] has a terrible title. It should be deleted."

please no.
posted by shmegegge at 6:41 PM on July 9, 2006

mathowie, I think you misinterpreted me.

I wasn't complaining about the difference between AskMe, MeTa, and MeFi feeds, just explaining to Rhomboid how different parts of MeFi work with pane based, as opposed to full screen, readers.

And I certainly don't think that changing one tiny item on the posting page would result in useful titles, I'm asking grahamwell if that's what he means. I think most of the explanatory notes on different Mefi pages are largely ignored, so I don't think it would change the situation appreciably.

And my question about why MetaTalk has no titles was only that: a question. Sure, I'd like titles, but I'm assuming you had a good reason for not coding titling in, so my question was just curiousity about what that reason was. Not a challenge, and not a leading question based on an assumption that there is no reason or no good reason, but just curiosity.
posted by Bugbread at 8:35 PM on July 9, 2006

I didn't do titles for the longest time because it was another bit of work to ask posters that I didn't think was worth it, until RSS reading became really big.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:47 PM on July 9, 2006

Ah, gotcha. Thanks.
posted by Bugbread at 8:51 PM on July 9, 2006

Uh, whatever, you're the boss. It's just that in the last post (referenced in my link) you (matt) pointed out that the Mefi posting page doesn't mention RSS, which is still true, and that you would fix it.

On the Mefi posting page the example box is out-of-date. It doesn't reference the link/title at all, so it's really not clear (unless you just know) what it does or where it appears.

There are lots of reasons why the RSS title feed is pretty useless in the blue, but the lack of clarity on the posting page has got to be one of them - and that one's fixable surely.

Rhomboid - I wrote an RSS reader for metafilter, but because the titles are so uninformative, I used a complex approach to parsing the full text for title display. It works, but it's always struck me as a silly thing for me to have done. I use Google now (as I'm sure others do) and no, you don't get the full text, just the title. Take it up with Google.
posted by grahamwell at 1:29 AM on July 10, 2006

Should the posting page be modernized? Yes.

Would it be nice if every poster could pick a descriptive title? Yes.

Should we expect this to happen? Hell no.

Will some posters always use it to make a joke or pun that has nothing directly to do with the post? Yes.

Is it Matt's fault that some feed readers are too crappy to do anything but display a title? Heck no. The feed provides the full text, which is more than what some other feeds can even say for themselves. As far as I'm concerned the mefi feed is top notch compared to most, and I would not change a thing.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:29 AM on July 10, 2006

Well nothing will happen unless we ask.

All I'm asking is that the instructions on the posting page make some reference to the link/title - to what it's for, where it appears and to the fact that it features prominently in the RSS feed.

I'm not asking for the feeds to be changed. If people continue to use the link/title for the punchline to their jokes, then fair enough, as long as they realise that the punchline may be the first, and indeed the only thing that people see.

I believe, perhaps wrongly, that many metafilter posters do not realise this. That's all.
posted by grahamwell at 5:00 AM on July 10, 2006

Rhomboid : "Is it Matt's fault that some feed readers are too crappy to do anything but display a title?"

So you're saying that in this screenshot:

The reason that only the titles of the most recent twenty feed entries can be displayed in the left pane, as opposed to the whole text, is because the reader is crappy? And that if it were a proper reader, it would magically gain the ability to show the titles and full texts of twenty posts in the left pane, perhaps by physically changing the number of pixels on my laptop to boost the screen resolution twentyfold?

Or could it just be that I have a good reader for viewing stuff in a pane, and you have a good reader for viewing stuff full-screen, and MeFi is oriented towards full-screen readers more than pane readers.

Or does that break the cardinal rule of the internet: "Anyone who does things differently than I is wrong"?
posted by Bugbread at 5:06 AM on July 10, 2006

There's no perfect solution, but would it be possible combine both the title and the link title of a messageto form the TITLE tag in the rss feeds? It'll still be a little screwy, but at least the rss readers will have a little more to go on.

Adam Carolla hangs up on Ann Coulter - "Listen bitch, don't call in an hour & a half late or OMFUG - Richard Hell & the Voidoids play CBGB's, 1977
posted by crunchland at 6:13 AM on July 10, 2006

Many of us don't use the Link Title field, though.
posted by Gator at 6:20 AM on July 10, 2006

well then in that case, we're no worse off than we are now.
posted by crunchland at 6:21 AM on July 10, 2006

Yeah, true. But even when the Link Title is used, people are often less-than-explicit about what's under the link. For every "How to make your own wireless camera remote," there'll be a "We all have to go sometime" or "The one that got away," which is the same kind of coyness that (some) people are complaining about.
posted by Gator at 6:32 AM on July 10, 2006

I don't think it would hurt to mention the RSS implcations of the title on the posting page (I at least try to read all the instructions of the page) but I doubt much change will happen.

People don't even see the need to have a usefully descriptive post text, the title is a lost cause. The only way to keep your sanity is to not dwell on it and just skip over the gibberish.
posted by Mitheral at 6:48 AM on July 10, 2006

If people want to be obscure, then fine. It should just be clear what all the components of a post actually do, where they appear and how they might be seen.

Mobile phone users are in the same position, RSS feeds have a new lease of life on these devices, but again, only the titles.
posted by grahamwell at 6:55 AM on July 10, 2006

(wow. what made you even think to dredge up that old chestnut?)
posted by crunchland at 6:56 AM on July 10, 2006

Kudos to thee, Mitheral.
posted by Gator at 7:01 AM on July 10, 2006

The peeve, it burns.

I wasn't trying to single you out crunchland. In fact, I didn't even notice the name of the commentor. I just went down that thread and grabbed the first comment that intelligently articulated the "Surprise" side of the debate.
posted by Mitheral at 7:06 AM on July 10, 2006

I so won that thread.
posted by crunchland at 7:21 AM on July 10, 2006

If you are using Sage and require more detail than the post's title, turn on tool tips and hover over the title to get the text of the fpp. Or, center-click on the feed to get a css formatted display of the entire feed contents (including the text of posts).
posted by Manjusri at 12:10 PM on July 10, 2006

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