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https://scifi.stackexchange.com/posts/161595/revisions

This is getting kind of ridiculous. On one hand, it's best to have questions that are conducive to knowing what they're about. On the other hand, the number of people who drive-by add what the querent feels are spoilers to the title... can we find a middle ground?

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    I've now locked the post to prevent further rollback wars. Once there's a clear consensus on this meta thread, I or another mod can unlock it and edit as necessary. (By the way, thank you for bringing this issue to meta.) – Rand al'Thor Jun 15 '17 at 22:05
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    The problem I had is that at least one of the editors admitted to not having any knowledge of the material in question. I feel like if you don't know the material, you can't decide what is and isn't spoilers. I am content with the title and the question as it is now. Another major concern is that we need a definitive policy(or mod approved) on how to handle spoilers when the title itself could be a spoiler, as that was the point of a lot of contention. In this case, Raistlin gaining control over a Dragon Orb is a spoiler to Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Thus the original title. – PiousVenom Jun 15 '17 at 22:12
  • I say that keeping plot-specific text out of the question title is a good idea. Keeping it as vague as possible (as it is now), while also being specific, is the way to go. – DCOPTimDowd Jun 15 '17 at 22:37
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    for the record: I've read those books a dozen times; I did a school paper on War of the Twins in 8th grade. The thing you're trying to keep out of the title isn't even remotely important enough to justify being called a spoiler. – KutuluMike Jun 15 '17 at 23:28
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    I agree with you, @KutuluMike A question you can't search for isn't a question either anyone will know or one that someone else will ask for directly because they don't consider it a spoiler. – Thaddeus Howze Jun 16 '17 at 0:28
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    The only thing that even comes close IMO is the name of the guy he gets it from. The name of the item probably shouldn't be in the title (or just simply use "[round thing]"), but there's no cause for spoiler blocks in the body. - Saying the names of the books and what characters are still alive to be asked about is worse IMO. – Mazura Jun 16 '17 at 3:38
  • @KutuluMike: I believe that it is a spoiler for Autumn Twilight. Knowing that Raistlin gains control of the orb shows how Lorac's dreamscape plays out. That whole dream sequence is vital to the rest of that book. – PiousVenom Jun 16 '17 at 14:00
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    @ThaddeusHowze "A question you can't search for" - Searches look in the body text as well – Izkata Jun 18 '17 at 21:04
  • So how do we move forward? Do we use KutuluMike's excellent title suggestion? "Where did Raistlin get the Dragon Orb he uses to talk to Dalamar?" (cc mods through @Randal'Thor) – SQB Jun 19 '17 at 8:16
  • @SQB Done. (Also, FuzzyBoots, may I suggest you switch the acceptance of answers on this meta thread? Mike's answer is more detailed and constructive as well as higher-voted.) – Rand al'Thor Jun 19 '17 at 18:50
  • @Randal'Thor: That seems reasonable. – FuzzyBoots Jun 19 '17 at 19:10
  • @Randal'Thor: Although I will agree with Valorum that Thaddeus muddied the waters by stepping in as an Admin and just changing it again instead of engaging in dialogue about why this edit war was happening. – FuzzyBoots Jun 20 '17 at 16:28
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First of all, lets get this out of the way, so we can focus on the real question:

Edit Wars Are Bad, Stop Having Them

If you make an edit to a question, and the OP rolls it back, stop there. If you want to make an edit to a question and you see that it's been edited before and then reverted, stop there. Don't keep making edits that the OP is just going to undo. Instead,

  1. If an edit war is already in progress, flag the question for moderator attention (so it can be locked), and
  2. Come here and seek clarification.

At that point, once there's consensus, a moderator can step in, edit the question appropriately, and lock it that way. Hopefully that also satisfies the OP that the edits are justified, instead of just pissing them off that we keep messing up his post.

The OPs Decisions Are NOT Final

On SE sites, there is a custom of giving a lot of weight to the decision of the person what made the post, especially when that post is a question. But it's also very clear in the site's Terms of Service: Once you hit that post button, the question belongs to the site. It is explicitly allowed and encouraged for everyone else to edit questions to make them better, and to adhere to the standards of the site.

What the OP personally believes regarding spoilers is helpful, since they presumably know the spoilers and can judge them. But it's ultimately not what matters. If we (the community) know better, then we edit the question to fix it -- if needed, after talking it over in comments, or chat, or meta. That's how it works.

Spoilers -- What Are They Good For?

Having said that... our spoiler policy. We have a long-established policy on SF/F on spoilers, which you can read about here, and here, and here.

As far as question titles go, that policy is, and has been for a very long time:

  • Your title must be meaningful, and
  • Try really hard to avoid spoilers.

First and foremost, above all else, question titles must be meaningful. Any question title that takes the form "Why did pronoun do pronoun?" is terrible. No one reading that title is going to know what your question is about, so they aren't going to know:

  1. Can they answer it?
  2. Do they also want to know the answer to it?
  3. Is it a duplicate of the question they're writing up right now?

etc. Meaningful titles are of paramount importance. Meaningful titles trump spoilers. If you legitimately cannot think of a single way to write your question title that does not include the spoiler, then too bad. I can tell you, in many years of fixing terrible question titles, I've yet to come across one where that was true, but I suppose it could happen.

Of course, it also helps if you genuinely know what a spoiler is. For starters not every new piece of information you learn in a book is a spoiler. Just because you didn't know Raistlin's shoe size, or childhood bully's name, or whatever until Chapter 86, doesn't make it a spoiler. A spoiler is something that would literally spoil the enjoyment of the book if you put it in your question.

Unfortunately, we only have a somewhat vaguely defined policy for what a spoiler actually is, but the definition that seems to have worked best over the years includes all of the following:

  • Only major, unknowable plot points can be spoilers. It has to be something that would literally ruin your enjoyment of the work if you knew it ahead of time (e.g. it should have some degree of surprise, shock, twist, unexpectedness, or at least major plot significance to it.) The fact that the good guy beats the bad guy in the end is not a spoiler; the fact that the good guy kills the bad guy could be.
  • Spoilers are spoilers regardless of the age of the work. We don't assume people have read/watched old works here, so don't spoiler for them.
  • Spoilers stop being spoilers when they become common knowledge. Everyone knows Darth Vader is Luke's father because literally everyone on the planet misquotes that line in the movie these days.
  • Spoilers stop being spoilers when you can see it in the trailers/commercials/back of the book/etc. If the publisher didn't think something was secret enough to keep hidden, we don't care either.

If the question title were something like:

Where did Raistlin get the Dragon Orb he uses to talk to Dalamar?

That gives away none of the plot of any of the previous novels, because knowing he has an Orb in War of the Twins cannot spoil Dragons of Winter Night, and it says nothing about the plot of War of the Twins that you shouldn't already know before you start reading it. Plus, it's such an insignificant plot point -- the Orb is just an excuse to let Raistlin talk to someone across time, it could have literally been anything.

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    Vader is Luke's father!!?? – Valorum Jun 16 '17 at 10:42
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    Excellent suggestion for the title! – SQB Jun 16 '17 at 10:56
  • War, what is good for? – user31178 Jun 16 '17 at 12:21
  • don't explain the joke. – KutuluMike Jun 16 '17 at 12:36
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    "A work can't "spoil" something that came out before the work in question, only those that came after it." I wholeheartedly disagree with this fact. In a series of books, if you find out in book 2 that a character has done something, or has in their possession something, it can potentially be a spoiler for book 1, depending on the plot. Like in the Twins books, they talk about Sturm's death. THAT is a major spoiler for the Chronicles. – PiousVenom Jun 16 '17 at 14:25
  • @KutuluMike: Point is, though rare, it can happen. In this set of books, if someone picks up Dragons of Summer Flame, doesn't know there's about 7-8 books before this one, that book is FULL of spoilers. Also, Dragons of Spring Dawning, book 2 of the chronicles. It's full of spoilers for Dragons of Dwarven Depths, which is chronologically before Spring. Authors have been known to go back and create "prequel" works(such as this series). Though they were published first, Book 2 and 3 of Chronicles or spoilers for Lost Chronicles. Also, my first book from Dragonlance ever was War. – PiousVenom Jun 16 '17 at 15:41
  • It was the only one my library had, so I read it out of order. – PiousVenom Jun 16 '17 at 15:42
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    Your post is excellent. I take responsibility for my part in this fiasco. Thank you for your efforts in cleaning it up. – Thaddeus Howze Jun 19 '17 at 15:59
  • Since this answer is now on +12/-0, I've removed the lock and edited the post as you suggest. – Rand al'Thor Jun 19 '17 at 18:51
  • I take responsibility for obstinance in this as well. I do, however, still think the last bullet point needs to be, reconsidered. The wording is weird. To me, it reads that if I publish something today, then it spoils what I'm publishing tomorrow, when in reality, the item I publish tomorrow would be spoiling what I published today. You can't spoil future works, as they haven't happened yet. You can only spoil things that have already happened. As stated in the comment, books 3-6 are spoilers for book 2. Book 2 can't be spoilers for 3-6. – PiousVenom Jun 19 '17 at 19:56
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    @MyCodeSucks I'm having trouble figuring out how to really explain my point, so I can see why it's not clear to anyone else. It's mostly irrelevant to this answer, anyway, so I'll just take it out. The main point I needed to make is just that, in the context of SE, we kind of assume people consume works in order when considering what is or isn't a spoiler. – KutuluMike Jun 19 '17 at 20:57
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There's a few different things going on here. I'll take them in order of importance.

1) Stop editing this question.

Once the OP has explicitly rejected your edit, stop being a jerk by continuing to try to edit it against their wishes. Seek meta consensus.

Three rollbacks is ridiculous. Nine title edits is doubly ridiculous.


2) Why didn't a moderator sort this earlier?

There appeared to be a short edit war going on between Josh Caswell and MyCodeSucks. A moderator then stepped in and made things worse by overriding the OP and editing a spoiler back into the title, something that the OP and others clearly felt should be hidden, necessitating a further rollback. This is the point that the question should have been frozen, if not earlier.


3) Don't edit spoilers into titles.

We've already have an agreed policy on spoilers.

"Don't consider the age of the material."

"Avoid spoilers completely in the title."

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    Care to comment on this? – Edlothiad Jun 15 '17 at 23:25
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    @Edlothiad - Policy decisions for SFF:SE aren't made on Meta:SE, they're made on Meta.SFF:SE. I doubt if more than a fraction of our local members have even seen that. A bunch of non-local members don't get to decide how we run our site. – Valorum Jun 15 '17 at 23:29
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    Our actual policy is "avoid spoilers in the title but don't use that an an excuse to write silly meaningless titles." – KutuluMike Jun 15 '17 at 23:30
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    @Valorum Gilles, at the time, was an sf/f mod: " I'm a Science Fiction & Fantasy mod, and I was getting around to posting much the same points. -- Gilles" – KutuluMike Jun 15 '17 at 23:30
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    @KutuluMike - Which is fine. By all means edit the title if you think it's crap. If the OP reverts it, don't keep editing it. – Valorum Jun 15 '17 at 23:30
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    I'm just saying that seems pretty logical advice, Your question must make sense without spoiler protected paragraphs. If the spoiler is the whole point of your question, don't spoiler protect it. I wasn't asking if you thought that should be our policy, more what you thought of the points made – Edlothiad Jun 15 '17 at 23:30
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    @Edlothiad - That's a terrible policy. We've banned users for intentionally posting spoilerish question titles. – Valorum Jun 15 '17 at 23:31
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    We're talking about bodies here, not titles – Edlothiad Jun 15 '17 at 23:31
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    @Edlothiad - Meh. I'm sure a common ground could have been reached that would have allowed the main points of the question to have been seen without there being an obvious spoiler. This became adversarial way too quickly. – Valorum Jun 15 '17 at 23:32
  • @Edlothiad also note that this was almost 6 years ago; the comment is as old and was made by a mod who is no longer even a user on Science Fiction & Fantasy. – SQB Jun 16 '17 at 7:26
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    @SQB, that was a joke right? Because the other "policy" was almost 6 years ago too, by a User who hasn't contributed to the site in over a year. – Edlothiad Jun 16 '17 at 7:43
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    @Edlothiad curiously, around the exact same time. I agree, it is as old. But it is the policy we have always gone by, which you can tell by most discussions that came after it. – SQB Jun 16 '17 at 7:58
  • @Edlothiad - We have an established policy. The age of the policy isn't important. – Valorum Jun 16 '17 at 8:01
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    I'm not sure what the point of the first two sections of this answer is. I've already dealt with 1) by locking the post, and 2) just reads like picking a fight with Thaddeus. Leaving aside for a moment the question of which version of the post is "right", editing to a version which seemed sensible and leaving an explanatory comment isn't necessarily an unreasonable action for a mod to take. Once the edit war continued after that, it was time to lock the post (which I did), but frankly half of your answer seems both impolite and irrelevant to the main issue at hand. – Rand al'Thor Jun 16 '17 at 9:48
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    @Randal'Thor - The first two parts are dealing with the tantrum and failure to act that led to this problem – Valorum Jun 16 '17 at 10:38

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