Character limit for titles on fpps July 7, 2015 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Can we talk about extending the character limit for fpp titles beyond 72 characters?

This issue has been discussed before, but I wanted to revisit it again to see if the wind has changed on this issue, with all the other recent site improvements and changed in play.

Sometimes I have a great line, quote, or joke for the title of a post and it takes up, say, 82 characters or 80 characters, and I can't use it for an fpp title.

I'm sure there are a number of solutions; let's discuss.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome to Feature Requests at 2:36 PM (69 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Sorry, this isn't really something that's changed by any recent design changes, no.

The title length limit came about as part of an effort to make the site more usable on smaller-screen devices, and that's still something we want to accommodate. We originally chose 72 characters based on giving a reasonable length (it runs two full lines on many devices) that would capture 96% of the titles people had ever posted before there was a limit.

The above-the-fold portion of the text is a good space for a longer quote, and the below-the-fold portion is basically unlimited for all practical purposes if you've got a real humdinger.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:38 PM on July 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I empathize because I have run into this issue when making my own posts.

However, I already really dislike what seems to be a rise in blockquoting long excerpts and using multiple hard returns above the fold - it takes up so much space and it's not unusual for posts these days to take up 1-2 screens on one of my mobile devices.

I hide titles so this in particular wouldn't be an issue for me, but I do think 3-4 line titles would be a bit much.
posted by lalex at 2:44 PM on July 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think this is a good and well-reasoned limit - you'd have to draw the line somewhere, and two lines of text on a mobile device is a sensible place for it.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:47 PM on July 7, 2015


I think 72 is fine; brevity is the so
posted by Greg Nog at 2:49 PM on July 7, 2015 [32 favorites]


If anything, the titles should be a little shorter (max 68 characters) if you want the titles to not be cut off in Google Search results. This of course is more relevant for AskMe, but is highly relevant all the same.

One reason why MetaFilter traffic dove off a cliff is because of poor site optimization.
posted by Nevin at 2:52 PM on July 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


it takes up so much space and it's not unusual for posts these days to take up 1-2 screens on one of my mobile devices.

Yeah, I don't have that experience so that doesn't factor into my request; thanks for reminding me.

("...if you've got a real humdinger." ooo. nice use of humdinger.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 2:52 PM on July 7, 2015


I think 72 is fine; brevity is the so

what are you talking about 72 characters is plenty to say whatever you w
posted by Sebmojo at 2:52 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


What? You can't just use emojis for everything? I hear they're the language of The Future.
posted by briank at 3:09 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am actually being completely serious and not joking at all when I say that the 72 character limit restricted my creative vision for this FPP title of mine. I understand the need to keep things uniform for mobile screens, and I'm sympathetic, but I do feel the 72 character max limits me both as a writer and an artist.
posted by phunniemee at 3:32 PM on July 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


*sigh*

I miss the unlimited title field.
posted by zarq at 3:37 PM on July 7, 2015


What? It was unlimited at one time!??! When was this magical time and can I take the time machine back there.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:38 PM on July 7, 2015


Oh. I see.

I see now.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:39 PM on July 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure if it was a 255 character limit or simply unlimited.

All I know is I used to post titles like this and this and can't anymore.

Cue debbie downer sad horn
posted by zarq at 3:50 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


0_o
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:56 PM on July 7, 2015


Ligatures.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:10 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I'm bummed that that haggis post is closed now; I feel like this year's version turned out pretty great, and woulda been delighted to post my recipe.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:56 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Make a new post! :D
posted by zarq at 5:04 PM on July 7, 2015


$ echo "If you cannot say it in 72 characters maybe you shouldn't say it at all." | wc -c
73

posted by double block and bleed at 6:34 PM on July 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's like twitter, but with half the allowable characters. That's how efficient we aspire to be.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:38 PM on July 7, 2015




It was unlimited. This was a golden age when giants walked the Earth.

Seriously, I hate the 72 character limit unreasonably. I'm glad *someone* agrees with me.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:56 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


$ echo -n "If you cannot say it in 72 characters maybe you shouldn't say it at all." | wc -c
72

posted by ryanrs at 7:19 PM on July 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


I knew somebody would get it
posted by double block and bleed at 7:21 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hope this isn't the wrong place to ask, but I have a different pony request. Could we please please please reinstate the option of hiding titles altogether?

I've been using the MeFi redesign since it was launched and I still absolutely abhor titles--they still feel disruptive when I scan the front page. I don't find titles useful in any way; I try to make a conscious choice not to look at them but just to read the descriptions of the links. But it's very hard to do.

Are there any other old-timers out there who still hate titles, or is this just a ship that's sailed? I don't want to go back to original-style MeFi (the redesign is good), but this one thing drives me crazy.
posted by torticat at 7:57 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


i bump into this limit a lot as well and nth the request to make it longer
posted by Jacqueline at 8:24 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been using the MeFi redesign since it was launched and I still absolutely abhor titles--they still feel disruptive when I scan the front page. I don't find titles useful in any way; I try to make a conscious choice not to look at them but just to read the descriptions of the links. But it's very hard to do.

I had the exact opposite experience on the titleless site -- it was really hard to tell where one post ended and the next began. That visual blending made them quite difficult to scan.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:30 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


And now I wish I had planned that rhyme and continued it -- perhaps another time.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:31 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Could we please please please reinstate the option of hiding titles altogether?

I think this is a no.
posted by lalex at 8:32 PM on July 7, 2015


Ron Paul 2012!
posted by Wordshore at 9:49 PM on July 7, 2015


NO MORE RHYMING!
I MEAN IT!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:59 PM on July 7, 2015


ANYBODY WANT A PEANUT lengthy rehash of the whole titleists vs. non-titleists argument
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:01 PM on July 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm agtitleist myself. I'd rather not take a stand on it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:11 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Personally I'd like someone to come and sing thread titles to me as I go to sleep, this is not too much to ask
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 11:11 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can't you go into Preferences and set the title font height or something to 0 and that gets rid of the titles for you?

I seem to remember that being the suggested method at one point.
posted by hippybear at 2:03 AM on July 8, 2015


That doesn't work in the Modern Theme.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:12 AM on July 8, 2015


The titles horse is dead, dead, dead. But we should probably beat it a few more times just to make damn good and sure.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:55 AM on July 8, 2015


eponysterical
posted by exogenous at 5:19 AM on July 8, 2015


I think 72 is fine; brevity is the so
what are you talking about 72 characters is plenty to say whatever you w


Don't even get me started.
posted by When choosing your username make sure you plan ahe at 6:49 AM on July 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


That doesn't work in the Modern Theme.

It works awesome in the simple style though!
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:53 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


72 characters, or 72 bytes?

(I ♥ UTF-8 ...)
posted by scruss at 8:14 AM on July 8, 2015


Pfwaaaa, who needs more than a cat head for a title?
posted by sammyo at 9:29 AM on July 8, 2015


Are there any other old-timers out there who still hate titles

I still hate titles and making them even longer would only make me hate them more. I like to set them to a small but still visible size so they are less intrusive but still useful. yes i admit they are useful, okay, there i said it I STILL HATE THEM
posted by poffin boffin at 10:10 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Are there any other old-timers out there who still hate titles

I like titles.

I still don't like seeing them on the front page. I think they're superfluous and distract from the element(s) of the post that matters: the content and links.

or is this just a ship that's sailed?

It was never a ship. There was never an ocean. The change was made without community consultation or input. Member complaints afterward resulted in us being thrown a bone: the ability to minimize title sizes in site preferences.

Then the new default theme came along and did not have that feature. So now, people who want titles minimized still have an option: they can view the site through a secondary theme that only members can access, and most probably don't bother with.
posted by zarq at 10:37 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


The change was made without community consultation or input.

Good; and I wish that Matt & co. hadn't bowed to the shouty "BUT I DON'T LIKE IT" contingent by giving the "customize the font size to zero" option. Management here should be leading the community, not being driven by it.

The MeFi community can often be incredibly resistant to any kind of change. And that can have a real chilling effect on any further evolution of the Metafilter design. I'm amazed that the Modern theme ever saw production, given the utter shitfit that some people threw over the titles change.

(It's interesting to me that there's been a fairly consistent "no, we're not going to provide your-favorite-pony customizations of the Modern theme" stance since that rollout. Maybe a result of the titles kerfuffle?)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:17 AM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Maybe a result of the titles kerfuffle?

I suspect some of that had to do with staffing changes as well. There's an option to use all the old stuff so people who are change resistant (me!) can still use those things. I felt that was a totally reasonable way to do things. Mathowie is a mensch with many fine qualities but he was conflict avoidant and would often spring fully-formed features and then let himself get hassled into compromise positions in a way that I feel that current mod team just won't. The current mod team is significantly better at involving the community in decisions at every step in the process and setting expectations about what sort of feedback will and will not be implemented. I think the Modern Theme was a wonderful thing that mathowie (and pb, and everyone) were able to accomplish with a whole raft of testers helping them make it nice and I think it sets the standard going forward.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:22 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


So now, people who want titles minimized still have an option: they can view the site through a secondary theme that only members can access, and most probably don't bother with.

We made the pointed decision at the time, though, to not do anything to force existing users over to Modern. Classic was treated as default, so that the people who were specifically accustomed to that theme could sit tight if that's what they wanted. And that's the set of users by far most likely to have a strong investment in the titles issue.

As an effort to be accommodating to folks with very strong feelings about that one design element, I think we've gone fairly far on that front. I know it won't be enough for some people, but that's pretty much always the case with any change here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2015


The MeFi community can often be incredibly resistant to any kind of change.

That's garbage. And if you want to argue about it, see you over on reliable Usenet, rather than this newfangled flash-in-the-pan Web thing which is probably not going to be around tomorrow anyway.
posted by Wordshore at 11:40 AM on July 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Management here should be leading the community, not being driven by it.

This is a simplistic assessment that, respectfully, doesn't match MeFi's site ethos. This community and the functionality of its sites were quite literally built on years of user input, advice, suggestions, bug reports and requests.

Heck, some of Mefi's subsites came about only because we asked for them.

In the case of titles, Matt as site owner apparently consulted with some non-member friends and colleagues who gave him some advice. Not the people who use the site every day as members. (Other than the mod team?) We were also told by Matt in that thread that the change was not made for financial reasons. With the benefit of hindsight, I don't know think that's necessarily true. But it's what we were told at the time.

It's his site. (Or well, it was.) He's totally entitled to do that. But I bet a lot of the resistance he initially received could have been avoided if he had rolled it out as an option at first, rather than forced it on everyone without warning. And perhaps if he had listened to the concerns being raised, that might have been helpful as well.

At the time, I appreciated that Team Mod was willing to add "hide titles" as an option. I still do!

The MeFi community can often be incredibly resistant to any kind of change.

Yep. And yet, hundreds of changes (big and small) have been made anyway. And most of them were asked for. Some were literally requested for years, and met with resistance by management, like the edit window.
posted by zarq at 11:53 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Management here should be leading the community, not being driven by it.

*SINGS THE INTERNATIONALE AT TOP OF LUNGS*
posted by Sys Rq at 11:54 AM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


zarq: "It's his site. (Or well, it was.) "

Well, he still owns it. And the initial plan was for him to periodically provide strategic direction and such (more like the board of directors than the CEO).
posted by Chrysostom at 11:58 AM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


LOL Check out a mefi search for the phrase "my kingdom for an edit window". :)
posted by zarq at 11:58 AM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


We made the pointed decision at the time, though, to not do anything to force existing users over to Modern.

I truly appreciated that and still do. You also did beta testing with members, which (imho) made a huge difference. The mefi community was more involved. We were part of the input process.

Classic was treated as default, so that the people who were specifically accustomed to that theme could sit tight if that's what they wanted. And that's the set of users by far most likely to have a strong investment in the titles issue.

FWIW, I'd really prefer not to use the modern theme. The only reason I do is because when i create a post i want to see how it appears to non-members and the member majority I'm too damned lazy to remember to switch back and forth between "Browse Mode" and "Make a Post" mode. Also, i don't know if my greasemonkey scripts will work across the board.

As an effort to be accommodating to folks with very strong feelings about that one design element, I think we've gone fairly far on that front. I know it won't be enough for some people, but that's pretty much always the case with any change here.

Oh, I agree. I think the titles were an outlier. The November Favorites thread from a few years ago was as well. Not the way Things Are Usually Done Around Here. And if Jessamyn's right, not the way things will be done going forward, which is also great.
posted by zarq at 1:26 PM on July 8, 2015


given the utter shitfit that some people threw over the titles change.

Plenty of people, myself included, tactfully articulated the issues we saw with showing titles as a default. Not trying to reopen this argument, because hiding them with the classic theme is a workable compromise for me (though the default of showing definitely has caused a major shift in how scannable AskMe is without them.) But characterizing the response of the anti-side as an "utter shitfit" is crass and inaccurate.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:30 PM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


/would happily accept 3 or even 4 lines on mobile.
posted by Artw at 4:12 PM on July 8, 2015


As usual, catering to mobile users messes things up for everybody else.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:21 PM on July 8, 2015


Quit being so... reactive. :-)
posted by Artw at 7:29 PM on July 8, 2015


Hey, it's not MY fault touchscreens are the death of functionality and aesthetics.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:33 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


they can view the site through a secondary theme that only members can access, and most probably don't bother with

I use the Plain (classic with Professional White Background) theme _and_ love titles. I use classic/plain because its much more compact --- I can see 4 AskMe questions in Modern but 8 in Classic/Plain at the same font/window/etc size.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:44 PM on July 8, 2015


MetaFilter is about the size of a small town. How about we switch to an Open Town Meeting format for site decisionmaking? I am only half-joking; MeFi as a community has always been best at its most messily democratic. Formalizing and systematizing that might actually be a step forward in terms of getting things done with a minimum of hoppitamoppita. (A certain amount of hoppitamoppita is probably desirable and anyway unavoidable.)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:34 PM on July 8, 2015


I was very against the titles, but since the compromise was made to allow editing their size, I admit that they aren't the end of the world. Then again, I use the classic professional white, which, again, I'm pretty grateful is still around. It's pretty rare that a sight does a full makeover, but doesn't prevent users from sticking with the old format. Crazy long titles, though, that would get in the way. Short, sweet titles, above the fold for the hook, meat after more inside, I can only imagine Wilford Brimley would gruffly approve behind his giant walrus mustache.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:08 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Idle curiosity; what has the uptake been for modern? Percentage of members using each theme type thing.

I used it for a month during roll out but ultimately went back to classic and am very thankful the option was maintained.
posted by phoque at 3:40 AM on July 9, 2015


pb could grab more up-to-date numbers, but as I recall from the last time he did a query against active-in-the-last-30-days users, it's somewhere around even, with on the order of six thousand users on Modern, about the same for Classic Default, and another thousand or so on Classic Plain. (We don't have any data at the moment on the split between Modern Light and Modern Dark, though we'll be able to track that better with the rollout of Modern Dark as an actual preference option instead of the realtime toggle we started with.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:06 AM on July 9, 2015


I'm holding out for a true Custom Skins option.
posted by zarq at 6:21 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


The MeFi community can often be incredibly resistant to any kind of change.

I love MetaFilter way more than any other Internet community I've belonged to and the people here have expanded my worldview in invaluable ways, but I still cackle with unrepentant voyeuristic glee at the UTTER SHITFIT that greeted the attempt to experiment with temporarily hiding favorites by default (and especially the negative reaction to the use of the word "experiment" in an uncontrolled setting).

Shine on you crazy diamonds.
posted by psoas at 9:29 AM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


IT WASN'T A REAL EXPERIMENT ITS METHODOLOGY WAS FLAWED AND SCIENTIFICALLY INACCURATE
posted by poffin boffin at 10:07 AM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sure got results, tho.
posted by zarq at 10:38 AM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


$ echo "If you can't say it in 72 characters maybe you shouldn't say it at all." | wc -c
      72
posted by mrbill at 4:01 PM on July 10, 2015


The MeFi community can often be incredibly resistant to any kind of change. And that can have a real chilling effect on any further evolution of the Metafilter design.

You say that like you think it's a bad thing.

MeFi is one of the few places on the Web that isn't making deliberate changes just for the sake of change, and I for one say huzzah for that. The present design is the result of a long, slow, considered approach to UI change, and it works extremely well.
posted by flabdablet at 6:04 AM on July 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


$ echo -n "If you cаn't sаy it in 72 bytes mаybe you shouldn't sаy it аt аll." | wc -c
72
posted by flabdablet at 6:11 AM on July 12, 2015


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