The title attribute should probably not be used as footnotes or for excerpts. February 12, 2003 10:41 PM   Subscribe

The title attribute should probably not be used as footnotes or for excerpts. Discuss.
posted by Su to Etiquette/Policy at 10:41 PM (20 comments total)

It could be argued that the title attribute isn't actually content, for that matter. Y2Karl's first title on this post, great. But then they just kept getting longer and longer, for no obvious reason. The titles on his last few are some sort of weird explanation for why LuckyMojo exists, and practically a sitemap of the entire place.
Now we have this post in which the titles regale us with near-mission statements for the groups linked, both of which could/should have ended at the first sentence.
Worst case: Matt removes NiceTitle and the information requires you to view source to get at it.
More real-world: It produces "false" search results. Let's say someone checks to see if MeFi has any references to Moravia, for some reason. The local search returns a match that on the surface seems wrong, especially if the user has a crap browser or JavaScript turned off, not to mention I've no idea how this would appear to someone using any of various alternate browsing methods. Google, on the other hand, thinks it was never mentioned.
There are other conceivable problems, I'm sure, besides the dumb bug I found with the script in the process of writing this out.
posted by Su at 10:43 PM on February 12, 2003

agreed, though I do like when people use titles effectively and efficiently. Anil does a great job on his site with them, but when they're a paragraph long, it's a bit much.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:04 PM on February 12, 2003

I submit that most of us are too damn lazy to bother.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:18 PM on February 12, 2003

Titles are great as a (very short) precis of what to expect when you click the link. They are not intended for and should not be used as, a repository for your latest novel. Yes, y2karl, I am looking at you :-)
posted by dg at 11:38 PM on February 12, 2003

Personally, I think it adds pertinent information without taking any permanent blue estate.

And besides, wouldn't you only have to move your mouse to the left or right a few centimeters to get rid of the text on your screen?
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 12:26 AM on February 13, 2003

wouldn't you only have to move your mouse...
Since this is analagous to the "if you don't want to read it, skip it" argument, the cabal will frown upon it and deny its legitimacy. ;-P
posted by mischief at 2:12 AM on February 13, 2003

There Is No Cabal™.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:16 AM on February 13, 2003

There are accessibility issues, too. Screen-reader software reads out the title attribute of a link tag in place of the text that the tag wraps around, which can create weird effects. For example,

Go and have a look at this site for some hot meta.

is read aloud by Jaws as

Go and have a look at yo mama is jonesin' for some hot meta.
posted by rory at 3:55 AM on February 13, 2003

i have seen the Cabal™, the Cabal™ is us.
posted by quonsar at 5:42 AM on February 13, 2003

Personally, I think it adds pertinent information without taking any permanent blue estate.

But that's the thing. Titles are supposed to be something extra, not "pertinent" (or metadata, for that matter). They're information about the object in question, not information in and of themselves. If the title is pertinent, then why shouldn't it take up space? It should be someplace it can be reliably found, ref: search examples above.

As for the mouse argument, "real estate" isn't the issue. Nobody complains about long posts, as long as they are well-written and have a reason for being long. If Y2Karl had included that listing of the sections of the LuckyMojo site in the post body, though, someone probably would've said something.

Rory: Thanks for the screen reader example. I had been considering that, but thought they'd handle the information the same way as a visual browser(as an addition to the regular content) and just figured the sheer length of some of these would be an annoyance.
posted by Su at 8:17 AM on February 13, 2003


Screw you, I'm eating lunch instead.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:07 AM on February 13, 2003

call it a title, but it's really functioning as a footnote. i dig that since 1) the lifted-from-print form of footnoting makes neither visual nor interactive sense, and 2) it adds a bit of the poster's reasoning for his/her link.

regardless: some people need to get an editor, stat.
posted by patricking at 10:27 AM on February 13, 2003

Will we see this use of "title" abused and eventually become another method of advertising? Mouseover any link on a website and get the same ad. Couldn't dynamically generated content have the title ad changed randomly? Then there will be browser plug-ins to disable titles.
posted by munger at 10:56 AM on February 13, 2003

I think titles are pretentious and fascist. I hate them and I refuse to read them. All relevant text should be included in the post or in an addendum within the thread. Feel free to agree with me.
posted by Hildago at 12:09 PM on February 13, 2003

On the latest IE on Windows 2000 (I'm stuck with the damned thing at the office), the boxes sometimes don't disappear. This means that they're stuck over other text that I'd like to read, or the link to comment on the story. I got fed up with the bloody things earlier and just closed my browser. Thankfully, this story wasn't infected with the things, and so I was able to comment here. I guess I'll just have to not use Metafilter during the day or something.
posted by waldo at 1:08 PM on February 13, 2003

Some people have suggested warnings about sound and Flash links, and I certainly appreciate being told about huge clunky .pdfs on my ancient wheezer of a computer. Is there any chance this could come to be seen as a reasonable use for titles?
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 1:18 PM on February 13, 2003

the boxes sometimes don't disappear

I just found that out today too Waldo, I hope it is a bug that will go away soon.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:24 PM on February 13, 2003

What Hath God Wrought?
posted by y2karl at 2:55 PM on February 13, 2003

I dunno karl, but you should have thought twice about it!
posted by Hildago at 3:33 PM on February 13, 2003

Me, I like the titles, even the long ones, and I don't see why people can't ignore them (I defy the Cabal™!). If the screen-reader thing is a serious problem, then OK, there's a problem. Otherwise not.
posted by languagehat at 4:07 PM on February 13, 2003

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