If only you'd read the title March 20, 2013 10:34 AM   Subscribe

the question would have made sense.

An increasing number of Ask Me questions put critical information into the title. For example:
References both great and small are welcome.
It doesn't show up in pictures. I don't want to make a big deal out of it, but don't want it to seem like I'm trying to hide something. What should I do?
She's only a toddler, is this a problem and, if so, how do we handle it?
When you tell me the answer, I will likely nut-punch myself for forgetting it. I can play this damned song on the fiddle, yet can't remember it's name. From like :30-1:38 here. And I know the name of the third reel as well. Little help?
He remembers it involved a modern day guy getting off of a school bus and suddenly being in Arthurian times. This of course rules out "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", and several others I've found on google. Does anyone remember a book with this specific scenario? Thanks.
I'm looking for something sleek and simple, that will allow people to check themselves in when they arrive (2 contexts, gym members, and youth in an after school program).
Has anybody planted em? Ate em? I'm eyeing the well-established Scarlet Sentinel/Golden Sentinel vs new Urban Columnar Series. I will pay more up front if that gets me tastier apples. Thanks.
It took a while for us to notice the pattern so when we reported fraudulent use of our Visa/debit card the credit union told us it is too late to dispute the charges. We asked if we should file a police report and they said we can do whatever we want. They were reluctant to give us the forms to file a dispute since it is past the allowed time but my husband wants it on record. Should we just do what they recommend and get over it?
Background: When my father learned I was gay, he disowned me. Think radical old-world "you are dead to me." This was many years ago -- well over a decade. He was very serious and cut off all contact with me. Made it clear I was out of the will and all of that -- very dramatic. I did try to initiate contact a few times many years ago, but was rebuffed. This is not what my question is about though -- I am at peace with this. I know I am a worthwhile and lovable person and I have many people in my life who care about me/love me. I had therapy when all this happened and I really feel I dealt with the emotions then. I know I am lovable and valuable person. Also, my relatives on my late Mother's side -- who are also quite old-world -- surprised me with their acceptance...
I'm not making a request about this, just pointing it out for all those people who have titles turned on, so you don't miss out on the fun.
posted by alms to MetaFilter-Related at 10:34 AM (98 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks?
Didn't feel like I was missing any fun though.
posted by carsonb at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2013


I'm not making a request about this

Okay, but that people might put key info in the title is a known issue for anyone who has followed this subject, so this isn't really news. If there's something you want to talk about, that's fine, but maybe clear up what that is so it's clear why we're having a metatalk thread about it?
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:40 AM on March 20, 2013


I have an easy solution to this. If you don't know the title, just assume that it says "In bed..."
posted by found missing at 10:42 AM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This title issue is pretty unique to AskMetafilter. I think pb was testing an option to allow users to turn on titles only in Ask?
posted by lalex at 10:44 AM on March 20, 2013


I think pb was testing an option to allow users to turn on titles only in Ask?

Kind of, it was to turn them off only on www.metafilter.com, but show them everywhere else. It's a confusing middle-ground plus we never got a good short bit of text describing it when we brought it up in MetaTalk previously. In the current form we were testing out, it was likely to cause more confusion than solve problems.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:52 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we're going to keep talking about titles, we need to decide to call them something else, because all my 12 year old boy brain can ever parse is titties.
posted by phunniemee at 10:55 AM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


This has turned out to be not as big a deal for me, because you see all the titles up front anyway in Google Rea--

oh.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:55 AM on March 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


an't really tell what's going on because of cut-off te
posted by griphus at 10:56 AM on March 20, 2013


I know some people got grumpy about the titles and turned them off, but I'm grumpy about those who insist on turning them off, then complain about not seeing the site as almost everyone else does.
posted by zsazsa at 11:00 AM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


If there's something you want to talk about, that's fine, but maybe clear up what that is so it's clear why we're having a metatalk thread about it?

I thought these were funny. Apparently, though, the humor is buried beneath a raw nerve.
posted by alms at 11:09 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can embrace funny and commence with the exchange of hugs, just, yeah, it's been a fraught topic and it was not super clear that this wasn't some kind of sideways complaint. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2013


I have titles turned off and have no plans to ever turn them on, and when I see something like that I go "oh, they're probably using the title as part of the post" and click through. Not that big of a deal, in my opinion.
posted by codacorolla at 11:16 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's also really fun to read all nine of those "more insides" at the top of this post as one enormous, surreal question.
posted by jbickers at 11:16 AM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I still wish titles would just go away and am disappointed that "we'll come back to this in a few weeks and see if the feature is working out" has just quietly morphed into "titles are here to stay, so deal with it." (I appreciate that we have been given some configuration options, but they bring their own problems.) I am still not sure how putting titles on the outside of posts was expected to solve any problems or reduce the complexity of interacting with the site. (Yes, we sometimes got accidental mystery meat in AskMe, but hey we still do!) I think that MetaFilter is slightly more complicated, fractured, incoherent, and ugly now than it was before the change was made, and am confused at when exactly the possibility of going back to the old days taken off the table.
posted by Scientist at 11:17 AM on March 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


phunniemee: "If we're going to keep talking about titles, we need to decide to call them something else, because all my 12 year old boy brain can ever parse is titties."

I vote for "bazongas."
posted by zarq at 11:20 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I still wish titles would just go away and am disappointed that "we'll come back to this in a few weeks and see if the feature is working out" has just quietly morphed into "titles are here to stay, so deal with it."

I do not think we ever said that. I think we said that we would consider options for people who couldn't bear them and that we wanted people to wait a bit while we figured out who really couldn't stand them and who would be okay with something in-between. I hear that you are frustrated, but I really think it's causing you to think we said something different from what we said.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:20 AM on March 20, 2013


I doubt you guys are looking for more suggestions, but I've found myself wishing that if I have titles off and hover over "more inside" it might produce alt text or a tool tip that contains the title of the post.
posted by codacorolla at 11:23 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought these were funny. Apparently, though, the humor is buried beneath a raw nerve.

You have participated in every titles-related discussion we've had. I find it very difficult to believe that this surprises you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:24 AM on March 20, 2013


I don't like titles either, but I've found that a good compromise is to make the title size smaller than the actual text size (I use 8pt on titles and 10pt elsewhere). Now I read the biggest text first, and if I need clarification from the title, I can still see it. Plus, the occasional squinting at the title has the added bonus of maintaining my irrational GRAR at MeFi for the change.
posted by antonymous at 11:26 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


codacorolla, I think it already does that, no?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:27 AM on March 20, 2013


Nevermind, I am a dope; I was looking at the URL which contains the title and shows at the bottom of my browser window.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:29 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know some people got grumpy about the titles and turned them off, but I'm grumpy about those who insist on turning them off, then complain about not seeing the site as almost everyone else does.

For me it is a rock and a hard place - I found with titles on the front page, I got overloaded with information - unlike a blog, it was a title, followed by a small blurb, and there were a number of them on the page at once. It became significantly less usable - this is very qualitative, and I suspect it's a function of my ADD, but I felt like if the title was not sharp, I'd visually skip the blurb. I was going from title to title.

So I turned them off. Now there are some things that the title provides a context for that leaves me a little confused. If I am left to choose, I'll just be confused from time to time, but ultimately if polled I would suggest that I liked the way things were before because every post was clear and the design helped me get from post to post.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 11:39 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


i love titles. i love that we were given the option to pick our size. my titles are smaller than text size, but ever so slightly bigger than the username/date line. it's exactly the right solution for me.
posted by nadawi at 11:48 AM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


On my end at least, I fixed this whole kerfuffle by changing the title font to wingdings.
posted by item at 11:57 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know it's a big change, but give it a few days for the initial shock to wear off and I bet you'll find this a long overdue change too.

Nope, still think it was a terrible decision for the reasons Scientist pointed out. Was a definite case of fixing something that wasn't broken.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:00 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


i love titles. i love that we were given the option to pick our size. my titles are smaller than text size, but ever so slightly bigger than the username/date line. it's exactly the right solution for me.

O.K., this comment was written purely in an attempt to get phunniemie to snort something out of her nose, right?
posted by yoink at 12:23 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


These are almost like Jeopardy questions!

References both great and small are welcome.

What is "Vet"?, Alex.
posted by Kabanos at 12:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this a 'how do we feel about titles NOW?' thread? Because I can sort of understand the frustration at seeing something change in a way that you don't anticipate or want. Titles (in their default view) looked funny to me for a few days. Now, though? Invisibly functional. If you can let go of the "NO NO NO NO NO" you may find that it is not as bad as you thought. You have to really let go of the "NO NO NO NO NO" though - you can't just SAY you are letting go of it while secretly nurturing it, so that you can come back later and say "SEEEEEEEE I TOLD YOU I'D HATE THIS FOREVER AND I DO!"

I'm not saying 'you' to anyone specific, other than possibly myself. I am prone to this behavior, and am trying to get rid of it.

The same thing happened (perhaps to a lesser degree) with the edit window (although in that case I was a strong proponent, even before it existed). There was a fair amount of teeth gnashing and about it, but in practice it really isn't that big of a deal. Maybe a mod could pipe up with an invisible cost, but I don't think so. Sometimes change is good.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am a cranky old man who still doesn't like titles and has them set to 0. I ignore Ask posts that have the question in the title only. Not being passive-aggressive, I just can't be bothered to click through on every mystery-meat Ask to see if it's something I might know something about. No skin off my ass, I guess.
posted by echo target at 12:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this a 'how do we feel about titles NOW?' thread?

Do we really need another thread about this? (Not to imply that you're saying that we do, dirtdirt.) I vote close it up.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:32 PM on March 20, 2013


Maybe a mod could pipe up with an invisible cost, but I don't think so.

As far as I can tell the edit window has been almost entirely frictionless. We had to have maybe one or two conversations with users who were having trouble with the "typos only" thing and every once in a while we see an "on edit..." change that isn't super kosher (but isn't functionally a huge crisis either) but otherwise it's been totally fine for us.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do we really need another thread about this?

I will welcome additional anti-title threads until titles are gone. But, then, I hate titles.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 12:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Even before there were any options for mefites to show or hide titles I'd forget to read them most of the time, unless the post was confusing, or someone commented on how good/appropriate/funny the title was. I have ensmallened them so I can still see them on the less outside, but I still sometimes forget to pay attention.
posted by rtha at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2013


The edit box rules are my other site pet peeve. The window should be longer at least. I spotted an its/it's error at 4 minutes the other day and my internet connection suddenly went down. Now it's stuck there, taunting me.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:04 PM on March 20, 2013


dirtdirt: You have to really let go of the "NO NO NO NO NO" though - you can't just SAY you are letting go of it while secretly nurturing it, so that you can come back later and say "SEEEEEEEE I TOLD YOU I'D HATE THIS FOREVER AND I DO!"

For what it's worth, in case you were partially responding to my comment above, I have titles left on (though much smallened) and you're right that they're not like ending my world or anything. I'm not nurturing any resentment over them, most days I don't even think about the issue once, even in passing. I've pretty much made my peace with them, since they're obviously here to stay. However, I do think that they have made the site worse.
posted by Scientist at 1:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Drinky Die, you can always email the mods to fix a typo.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2013


jessamyn: "I do not think we ever said that. I think we said that we would consider options for people who couldn't bear them and that we wanted people to wait a bit while we figured out who really couldn't stand them and who would be okay with something in-between. I hear that you are frustrated, but I really think it's causing you to think we said something different from what we said."

On a re-scan of the original threads, I think you are right jessamyn. There were several points at which mathowie urged the userbase to wait a little while and see how the feature felt after we'd had a chance to get used to it, which I took to imply that there was a chance that the feature would be removed if there was continued unhappiness with it after people had hadthe opportunity to acclimate. I see now that that was my own reading of the situation, not something that was explicitly said. I suppose we were supposed to just wait and see if we still hated it after a few weeks, and then if we did then tough nuts?
posted by Scientist at 1:10 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Is this a 'how do we feel about titles NOW?' thread?"

Pretty sure this is a 'how do we feel about titties NOW?' thread.
posted by klangklangston at 1:15 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know BB, but I try not to bother them with the little stuff. Used up my lifetime supply of bothering them on other stuff. :P
posted by Drinky Die at 1:16 PM on March 20, 2013


Well, I think it was a question of whether there would (however unlikely) be a collective large-scale OH GOD THIS IS TERRIBLE AND UNUSABLE reaction to it versus most people being pretty much okay with the change. We don't want people to feel like they're in a position where we're like "do you like this, because if not then tough nuts ha ha" about stuff but that some people ended up not liking the change long term is a bummer but not the basis for undoing it. I sympathize with the annoyance but the plan wasn't to annoy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:20 PM on March 20, 2013


Well klang, I'm not comfortable with you walking around, shirt off, muttering "the boys need to breath."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:22 PM on March 20, 2013


The Proposal

So when do we get titles for comments?
posted by ODiV at 1:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Astounding Reply

We already have them.
posted by yoink at 1:38 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Revelation

Have... Have they been in me this whole time?
posted by ODiV at 1:45 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, No.

4, 5, and 8 don't actually need the title to understand the question.

And if you want to see the title all you have to do is mouse over the more inside or comments link since the title is in the url.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:48 PM on March 20, 2013


How to let them down easy? [more inside]

I'm sorry, but I just think these are really funny.
posted by alms at 1:55 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not making a request about this, just pointing it out for all those people who have titles turned on, so you don't miss out on the fun.

We knew the job was dangerous when we took it, Fred.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lalex: This title issue is pretty unique to AskMetafilter.

Not really, there have been threads on the blue that are confusing without titles and this has heen commented on in those threads. For example:

I'd been searching for this for some time and recently discovered that someone had unearthed it.

I personally hate titles on the FP. I can accept that I'm in the minority here and that's fine, and I can live with the 0-point workaround, but whenever critical information is buried in the title it irks me in exactly the same small way as "of course there's [more inside]" used to, and for exactly the same reason: it breaks the way some people use the site.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 2:01 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I suppose we were supposed to just wait and see if we still hated it after a few weeks, and then if we did then tough nuts?

No. I think the presumption was if there was a huge backlash we would figure out some stuff. Stuff like making it easier for people to change the way they saw the site, or the way they had to interact with it. Stuff we actually did. Again, I get that you are frustrated, but I personally am frustrated that you and others continue to interpret the things we did in these "You guys said jerky things!" ways. We did not. We have listened to and been responsive to feedback. We have been polite and understanding to a fault.

I get that you don't like them. I, personally, don't care for them that much. However I have decided that is my problem to solve and I have a variety of tools, some site-provided and some not, to address it with. Sometimes things change in ways that are not optimal for everyone. It sucks to be one of the people things aren't optimal for, trust me I am a nitpicky internet person and I understand that. But this isn't an open question anymore. The site uses titles. We understand if some people can't abide by that and we're sorry it makes you unhappy. If your interpretation of that boils down to "Tough nuts" I think that's an oversimplification.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I view AskMe with no titles and I just skip any question that doesn't make any sense. This makes it less pleasant to view AskMe, so I spend more time doing other things, so that's a win. That probably wasn't the intent of introducing the titles, though.
posted by Kwine at 2:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


When the titles first appears I hated them. Hated with a fiery passion. Lying in bed at night awake and sulking because those damn people broke my website hated them. Haaate.

Then I was allowed to change how they looked and got rid of the ugly, then it all just ... evaporated. Now the titles are just another part of the site, not good or bad, just there, doing their thing. Which is obviously a good thing because I really like this website. Turns out I just hated the way they looked. And so I'm happy.
posted by shelleycat at 2:57 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have titles set to 0 on the web. I find it interesting that I don't find them as intrusive on mobile, and even prefer to see them on mobile. When I'm on my lappy I'm more prone to browse through things, whereas with mobile I'm tend to be bored and read whatever has the most comments and least links.
posted by frecklefaerie at 2:58 PM on March 20, 2013


with mobile I'm tend to be bored and read whatever has the most comments and least links.

Wow, I guess I never thought people wouldn't like multi-linked posts. I love them and have done a couple. I can see not being interested in the topic of a multi-link post, but I never considered folks might prefer brevity, whatever the subject. Probably related to it being on mobile. Food for thought.

One last time, but as Leeloo: Multi-link.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:10 PM on March 20, 2013


I don't hate them because of how they look from a visual design point of view, I hate them from an editorial point of view. As a community Metafilter is extremely good not just at finding links, but at composing posts with a certain distinctive voice and tone and rhythm that has emerged over many years. Titles worked really well with this when they were a sort of meta-first-comment. Having them on the front page ruins the flow of the site for me.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 3:14 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I downsized my titles a little, because I also had that problem where I was just reading the titles and skipping everything else, but shrinking them fixed that and now I like them.

With the reduced title size I still get the same "what the heck?" reaction that this metatalk post is about - but I merely have to read small text before I can graduate to "oh, they're talking about their dog".

This kind of thing happened from time to time before titles were ever displayed on the front page, but then I'd have to mouse over, or, if browsing on a mobile device, follow the link. So displaying them improves my MetaFilter experience.
posted by aubilenon at 3:23 PM on March 20, 2013


I'll go on record as being anti-title. I have them set to 1 just to remind me that they are there. I really don't feel like i've missed anything cause hey, the title appears on the inside where i'm used to it.
Enigmatic posts usually warrant a click, so again, I just don't think I'm missing anything at all.
Just my 2 centimes.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


On small mobile devices, I kinda like big titles because they're nice to handle; I don't have to grope around, accidentally poking other parts, when I find that I'm interested in the body of a post. The thing is, I also find myself staring uncontrollably at titles when they're too prominent, and I stop paying any attention to what the post has to say. So as much as I enjoy touching people's titles, I find I just prefer not to see titles until I've made a little commitment to get to know what's on the inside, rather than having a bunch of titles thrust in my face competing for attention.
posted by Westringia F. at 3:38 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't view the the AskMe question form right now, but don't the directions tell you to put your question into the title box?
posted by ghost dance beat at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2013


The AskMe question form is worded pretty clearly, I think:
Question Title
Give a short, descriptive title. Please boil your question down to a single sentence. (72 char max) (Example: "How to get an iPod to work in my car?")

Your Question
This will show up on the front page along with the title, so try to ask your entire question while keeping it to a paragraph. (If you must go on longer, use the optional extended area.)
So Askers who have their question only in the title field aren't paying close attention to the instructions. They lose points off the test, and waive all rights to receive any gold star stickers. Thus do they reap the whirlwind.
posted by Drastic at 3:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm only adding a voice here to help balance out the selection bias that threads like these can suffer from: I don't mind the titles. It's rare that I saw them before, now I don't really pay attention. They were mostly a place for snappy one-liners, and the idea of them as "meta-comments" is kinda a stretch. But they're OK.

And anything here immediately gets the We Fear Change response, so don't take the kvetchers too seriously. They'll buck up.
posted by klangklangston at 3:57 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am one of those people, apparently. Personally, I think it's a little confusing and in fact made this mistake on my most recent question because it seemed odd to repeat the question. At least I know for next time...
posted by ghost dance beat at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm probably an outlier, but:

I keep the titles turned off and personally enjoy the occasional disconnect in AskMe. Sometimes I do a similar thing in my writing: write up three or four paragraphs, then delete the first sentence, or even the first paragraph. I find it very often improves the whole text.
posted by Doleful Creature at 4:10 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, I guess I never thought people wouldn't like multi-linked posts. I love them and have done a couple. I can see not being interested in the topic of a multi-link post, but I never considered folks might prefer brevity, whatever the subject. Probably related to it being on mobile. Food for thought.

I don't usually bother with posts with more than two or three links because I don't have time to read more than a couple articles at a time and I don't like commenting if I haven't read the links. Nothing to do with mobile for me. Brevity is always a virtue.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:28 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Titles on AskMe are like the best thing ever. People who put a concise statement of their question/problem in the AskMe title should get prizes. It makes reading the site sooo much better, seriously. AskMe is much busier than MeFi and exactly the sort of thing where I'm interested in a subset of content that is pretty easy to identify from a short description (unlike "heres new interesting thing youve never heard of" on MeFi).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why Is This a Thing?

Ugh. I am still full of fail I guess because I still can't even imagine how this is a thing.

Haters, honest questions:

1) Do you hate books that have titles? (That's a lot of books!)

2) Articles?

3) Anything that has a title?

3a) Anything that has some information that indicates what is to follow? Chapter headings (for those that have read books)? Subheadings?

4) Signs that say "Dry Standpipe"?

I guess I will never get this. Carry on.
posted by trip and a half at 4:52 PM on March 20, 2013


What continues to disappoint me about titles is my the way it seems that, since the change, the titles have often subtly (and occasionally not so subtly) framed the discussion that has followed on the Blue. I concede that it's not an open issue at this point. But I reserve and own my little speck of sadness about it.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm anti-title but setting it to 0 has been mostly unobtrusive. I'm more concerned about how it looks to non-users et al. This is probably private info, but I'd be curious if sign-ups or visits have dropped since the change. I know personally speaking, as a newcomer I probably wouldn't have gotten to exploring the site as thoroughly as I did if I immediately had titles breaking up the flow of things in a weird and unpleasant way. Might not have signed up in the first place (not hating, just being honest! It took me a full year of lurking and increasing fascination with the site to even sign up, I'm ashamed to say, so.)
posted by naju at 5:02 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And anything here immediately gets the We Fear Change response, so don't take the kvetchers too seriously. They'll buck up.

No, I love change and think the progress of it is too slow for my taste at Metafilter. I dislike bad change.

Every change will have some portion of the audience upset, but usually not the same portion. Not the same people over and over. Calling it a fear of change is lazy and dismissive and you don't have to look too far to find reverted design decisions on websites where it turned out that actually the change was just a bad idea. Opinions vary on if titles were a bad idea, but there is actually such a thing as critisizing a change for legitimate reasons.

Why Is This a Thing?


There are some huge threads full of explanations and discussions of why this might be a bad move for MeFi specifically if you want details.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Titles for me completely changes my reading experience of both Metafilter and Ask, and it's definitely a negative impact.

As I see it, there are three ways that titles and posts relate:

- Either people use throwaway fluff for the title (which has been something of a convention given that titles weren't displayed) which just contributes noise to the page.

- Or they duplicate some item of key content, which adds redundancy, yet more noise, and is reductive to the point of undermining the depth content that Metafilter is so unique for.

- Or they leave key content out of the body text, as is happening on Ask now and becoming mystery meat for people with titles turned off. And while this avoids the duplication, it is still reductive and oversimplifying as above.

I'm sure that for casual users (by which I don't even mean unregistered lurkers, more googlers coming here every so often) then it does something to enhance the initial legibility of the page, and if it's a priority to service those users then I guess it makes a kind of sense. But overall, I think it's a solution looking for a problem.

I've turned titles off, and I guess I'll just put up with the occasional mystery post on Ask or Metafilter, but for me I've had to pick the lesser of the two evils and that kinda sucks.
posted by iivix at 5:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have a theory for why people hate titles. It's the font. The titles are in Arial, a font that isn't used anywhere else on MetaFilter except the tiny text in the page footer. Thus the titles clash with all the other text on the page. I found titles much, much nicer once I switched them to Georgia, which matches the text of the dates. Verdana, which matches the post test, is also OK, but not as nice to my eye as Georgia.
posted by zsazsa at 5:51 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


These conversations are what I imagine The WELL to be like, except with everyone talking about some change that was implemented in 1989.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hate all fonts and I hate titles.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:54 PM on March 20, 2013


Yeah, I don't hate change. I was pro-edit-window all along, and I think that it was a great change for the site that has significantly improved communication overall. I thought that adding the IRL subsite was a good move, and I think it was smart of the mods to drop the posting barrier to one comment instead of three. I also really like the auto-refresh feature for threads that we got a while back.

Titles though, I just don't like. I do think they make the site worse. I browse with them on, in 7-point Verdana (so it's not that they're Arial that bothers me either, since for me they're not Arial) because that lets me avoid the mystery meat without being too distracted by the titles, and I appreciate that the mods have given me that option, but I don't like 'em and doubt if I ever will. I think that they're a solution to a problem that never really existed, and that to the extent that the problem did exist, the cure is worse than the disease ever was.
posted by Scientist at 6:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am an anti-titleist; however, it seems to me (and has since back in the days when they did not appear on the front page, but only when you clicked) that it is odd to have the title as the first thing you write, when it is not the first thing you see when reading. Obviously, for some of us now, it now is the first thing you see, but some users have them reduced in size and some have them turned off entirely. I think much of the angst could be avoided by having those composing a post write the title after having written the body of the post.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:12 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can take or leave titles. I am still unhappy about what I feel is a too restrictive maximum length.

I recognize that I am an outlier here.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:24 PM on March 20, 2013


Apparently, though, the humor is buried beneath a raw nerve.

So much of life can be explained by this.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or they leave key content out of the body text, as is happening on Ask now and becoming mystery meat for people with titles turned off.

Titles are the way the site works now. If you have turned titles off, you are intentionally breaking the site experience for yourself.

I just shrunk them down to a reasonable size and they don't bother me at all now.
posted by empath at 7:19 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am extremely anti-title for myself-- I was eternally grateful when the mods granted us the ability to turn them them gloriously off-- but I'm perfectly fine with missing out on some information, when it's clear how close we came to having mandatory titles for all. I either hover over the link or just skip on it, and in return I hope proponents aren't bothered by my own dull, workaday titles!
posted by threeants at 7:20 PM on March 20, 2013


(Like, it didn't even occur to me until after I posted an FPP to the blue today that the be-titled might not be drawn in by the simple name of a recording artist alone.)
posted by threeants at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2013


I think much of the angst could be avoided by having those composing a post write the title after having written the body of the post.

I think that's dead-on, and as long as we're still figuring out stuff, it's probably worth a few weeks' experimental time with the "Question/Post Title" field moved to just before or after the "Tags" field on the posting pages, with something like the same text: Give a short, descriptive title. Please boil your question down to a single sentence. (72 char max), or Keep it short and descriptive. It will be displayed on both the front page and comment page.

Seems an easy experiment that's worth a try, anyway, if it might help integrate titled and non-titled members.
posted by mediareport at 8:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a pro-title convert after initially wanting to burn them with fire. Now it's like they've always been there.
posted by arcticseal at 9:32 PM on March 20, 2013


I don't like the default visible titles and their 72 character limit. But I understand the reasons for having them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:37 PM on March 20, 2013


The title of this callout makes no sense. How am I to know what this is all about? I am so confused.
posted by Splunge at 9:41 PM on March 20, 2013


One reason people who are against titles are so vehement is that the addition of titles has been openly acknowledged to be for the benefit of non-Mefites (or by extension new Mefites).

As an old Mefite, it's hard for me not to think "ain't broke don't fixorz" and then "whose side are you on anywaaaah?"

But now I just have them at fontsize 0 and cool.

Except yeah, Ask is now often cryptic.

But I just don't click on those ones.

No big loss to anyone, esp. me, since I don't like most Ask questions anyway.

This cantankerous dinosaur has nothing to complain about with the titles anymore.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:33 PM on March 20, 2013


1) Do you hate books that have titles? (That's a lot of books!)

I hate many books that have titles.

2) Articles?

I'm okay with "the" but "a" and "an" are a bit wishy-washy for my taste. And let's not get started on "some".

3) Anything that has a title?

I'm not too fond of Prince Edward, actually.

3a) Anything that has some information that indicates what is to follow?

I think I can say definitively that I don't like death threats or foreclosure notices.

4) Signs that say "Dry Standpipe"?

This question has about as much to do with putting titles on metafilter posts as the rest of your questions do.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:51 PM on March 20, 2013


For the record, I am very much in favor of titles, especially on AskMe. I find it much easier to decide which questions to read or answer.
posted by salvia at 12:06 AM on March 21, 2013


I think I'm on record as being against both the edit window and the title change. Unfortunately, I have lost my kvetching card because I actually find both of them quite useful, and I try not to make my hypocrisy totally blatant.
posted by Think_Long at 5:56 AM on March 21, 2013


4) Signs that say "Dry Standpipe"?

I hate them with the heat of a thousand suns.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:59 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if, on the New Question page, the title field came after the question text/more inside fields? That way it would encourage people to use it to summarize the question rather than just typing the first sentence in there.
posted by Mr. Pokeylope at 2:15 PM on March 21, 2013


Or they duplicate some item of key content, which adds redundancy, yet more noise,

Small point, but redundancy /= noise. Redundancy is, in fact, an essential feature of all human communication.

I didn't really care a damn about the titles one way or the other (except insofar as it always seemed an odd trap for the unwary that they were asked to enter a title which would not, in fact, be displayed on the FP), but I do think the titles display a little awkwardly on the blue. On Ask and Metatalk the posts tend to be solid chunks of text, and the title sits happily above that chunk. On the blue, the post often begins with an indented quotation or it has a bunch of yellow highlighted links in the first line or whatever. The effect is busy enough that adding a title into the mix often makes for a bit of a typographical muddle. I guess I should play around with some of the suggested font changes to see if I can tidy that up a little. I suspect a thin white line under each title would work well (or a thin white box around each FPP with the title sitting outside the box on top). But at this point there's probably no value in playing around with the layout anymore; there's been enough angst already.
posted by yoink at 3:00 PM on March 21, 2013


Has anyone ever suggested an option in preferences which could be enabled which show the title as the first sentence of a post? The font and size would be the same. That way, the visual flow of the page would not be broken up as much, and no information would be lost. I suppose you would still have to ignore the title when it matches the first sentence of the post, which is not uncommon.

Personally, I'm using the Mefi Title Tamer Two extension, which moves the title to the byline. Decoding mystery meat due to a missing title is as easy as glancing at who posted it.
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:43 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Has anyone ever suggested an option in preferences which could be enabled which show the title as the first sentence of a post?

Ooh, that would work nicely. It could be bolded and followed by a colon. Thus:
TITLE
You guys need to check out this cool thing I'm linking here.
would become
TITLE: You guys need to check out this cool thing I'm linking here.
I think that would work well as a variant display option.
posted by yoink at 4:55 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


That title tomfoolery could pretty easily be greasemonkeyed.
posted by Jpfed at 6:59 PM on March 21, 2013


But this isn't an open question anymore.

In my perception, it was never an open question. The mods foisted this change upon us, never giving a clear reason why (something about mobiles devices?) Increasingly anguished comments from the user base, punctuated by the occasional now-happy clam, were (again, in my perception) ignored or put down in a condescending way.

Sure, I can adapt -- when the question makes no sense, I mouse-over the comments link to see what's going on. But I'll always wish AskMe hadn't been busted this way.
posted by Rash at 11:21 AM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I'll always wish AskMe hadn't been busted this way.

"Busted" suggests "there was some functionality available in the past that no longer is." I think you have to try really hard to make that claim wrt titles on AskMe (I mean, you have to scroll a teensy bit further per question, I guess? But that's no doubt offset by the fact that posts are somewhat shorter because the information contained in the title is assumed to be available to users). It's reasonable, in fact, to say that prior to the change the title system was in some sense "broken." That is, there were a lot of threads where commentors would have to point out "hey people, if you read the title you'll see..." because the title didn't appear on the FP and the question was ambiguous or otherwise unclear without it. The site is a little broken now for the die-hards who set title display to 0; but that's a case of them choosing to break the site out of loyalty to the way the site used to work. Put the titles back on and, hey presto, everything's working again.

What we have here is simply people objecting to a "look"--not to a significant change in the way that the site functions. And basically every time a website changes its look a significant portion of the userbase FREAKS OUT. In most instances, though, it's very, very hard to substantiate the stronger claims that the website has been "broken" or "ruined" or whatever. And the proof of that is that new users of the site, by and large, don't find any problem using the site with its new look. Pretty soon there'll be a significant body of Metafilter members would who FREAK OUT if titles were removed from posts--because they've never known it any other way. And they would go on and on about how the site had been "broken" etc. etc. All of which suggests that there's really not all that much there there.
posted by yoink at 11:51 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think I even noticed that the titles were new until I happened across this thread and took a closer look: sure enough, there are titles now, in addition to the link text. Well, that's cool. How long has it been that way?
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:45 PM on March 22, 2013


yoink: "What we have here is simply people objecting to a "look"--not to a significant change in the way that the site functions."

That's simply not true. Titles are not just a "look", they are a fundamental piece of the interface and condition how we read and interact with the page. Changing the page background from blue to white is a style feature that has a negligible impact on the user experience, whereas titles have an editorial and interaction impact far greater than that.

What has been especially frustrating about this whole transition is the number of pro-title champions essentially ignoring valid user experience critique in favour of this kind of narrative around anti-title users inability to adapt. It's not bad because its change, it's bad because it's a bad change.
posted by iivix at 10:12 AM on March 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


"WHAT WE HAVE
HERE IS
SIMPLY
PEOPLE OBJECTING
TO A "LOOK"--
NOT
TO A
SIGNIFICANT
CHANGE IN
THE
WAY
THAT
THE
SITE
FUNCTIONS."


Right on. As long as the same information is being presented squabbling over the
appearance is juvenile.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:10 PM on March 23, 2013


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