Story identification is a big tag here. There are a lot of questions on it. There are a lot of bad questions, and a lot of good questions. One thing that could be improved on many are their titles.

These titles are really inconsistent. When new ones are asked, a lot of the time they have long, unnecessary titles like "I'm looking for an old book or story about alien stones and alien invasion" when first asked. Users here edit those.

However, I think we need some guidance when askers are creating the title. There are a lot of bad titles (search from Jenayah):

There are also a lot of “question about...” titles.

When you are selecting the title (on desktop) in a new question, there is a yellow box with help. I think we should improve this; it should tell users to be specific with their titles and make sure all information is also in the body of the question, as Mithrandir has said it should be. For now, please edit bad titles out of questions.

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    Highly related: scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7508/…. This feature is referred to as "tag warnings" or "tag tips".
    – Null Mod
    Feb 14, 2019 at 17:54
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    ”Story identification titles” ironic
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Feb 14, 2019 at 20:01
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    Are we all on the same page for what a good title is here? For me, any title that could only refer to a couple of stories is good (e.g. good: "I'm looking for a short story where the main food society eats is unicorn"; bad: "Short story published in 1993"). While some people may feel that including certain expressions in the title is unnecessary, I don't care.
    – Laurel
    Feb 14, 2019 at 20:13
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    May I ask why this has been downvoted a bunch? Feb 14, 2019 at 23:56
  • @Stormblessed I didn't down vote this, but I can understand why somebody might do so. Personally, I cannot see how what you are raising is a significant issue. I read every story identification question that appears on this site, and I don't have any difficulty locating or evaluating any but the absolutely worst-phrased such questions.
    – Buzz
    Feb 15, 2019 at 1:11
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    @buzz I can't agree, in fact, I find your comment incomprehensible. I have lots of difficulty locating old story-id questions. I use the best search terms I can think of, and I get pages of results, and it does not fill me with joy with a bunch of them have titles like "Looking for a story" so I have to click into every damn one of them. Either you have an awesome memory, or you are much better at searching than I am. Personally, I think a lot of the energy spent on getting rid of useful tags would be better spent giving those questions descriptive titles.
    – user14111
    Feb 15, 2019 at 2:41
  • @Stormblessed I didn't vote, but I think your question is a bit unclear. The beginning of the last paragraph sounds like a Feature Request, but you didn't use the Feature Request tag. You used the Discussion tag, but your last sentence doesn't seem to seek a discussion; it just tells people how they should act.
    – Alex
    Feb 15, 2019 at 3:19
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    I’ve downvoted because 1. The FR part is a poor idea, it needs to be general not specific to a tag. 2. The last sentence contradicts with “users here edit them out” if you already know people fix them why are you telling people to fix them? 3. Writing titles is an art, a difficult one at that. We’ve had a few general discussions on titles before and even one for story I’d Qd alone. They’ve all been good enough and I don’t think we need to bring it up to say the same things again. 4. If a user isn’t going to read anything adding more text won’t change that.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Feb 15, 2019 at 6:44
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    @TheLethalCarrot What do you mean by FR?
    – Clockwork
    Feb 15, 2019 at 7:00
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    @Clockwork Feature request.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Feb 15, 2019 at 7:02

1 Answer 1


First off let me say it again that I find it completely ironic that you are complaining about poor titles yet have titled this meta post ”Story identification titles”.

Now whilst I think this post is more about the than the part it isn’t incredibly clear so I’ll address both.

: Change the text in the yellow box

I really don’t think we need this as other users said the first time around. The main reason being users with questions come here for a quick answer to find their work. A lot don’t, or don’t want to, read any rules or guidelines they just want an answer. Adding in more text that someone won’t read isn’t really worth it.

Instead I agree that a comment asking the OP to ‘[edit]’ in more detail with a link to the general and/or specific guide is a decent enough solution. It requires little time and effort and is a decent compromise that has been proven to be at least somewhat effective. After all most of these come from First Posts so it’s easy enough to address right there in the review. And we already know people don’t read the guides we link because of a lack of sharing badges from them so adding more text will again not be read.

TL;DR: whilst there may be a “problem” here it isn’t something we need to address with a feature change. The current solutions of commenting and editing work just fine.

: Users should edit these titles

It isn’t clear if here you are referring to new or old posts with poor titles so again I’ll address both.

New posts

New posts sit on the homepage and at the top of the tags newest questions and we have enough active editors that titles are generally fixed quickly. You yourself seem to know this when you say ”Users here edit those” so I’m not really sure why you want to change when you say ”For now please edit bad titles out of questions”.

Old posts

The searches you’ve linked will generally bring up older questions as is evidenced by the fact that your example questions are older. Now if the evidence for the feature request comes from this then I think you need to rethink some things. The problem is then shown to be historical not current. I know of course that is more likely to be the case as I mentioned earlier but it isn’t an urgent one to be fixed right away. So if you’re asking people to go through old posts and update them well it isn’t that necessary. I’m a prolific editor but I try and stick to what is on the homepage at the time of editing, bumping old posts, especially ones with accepted answers on story I’d Qs isn’t exactly the best use of time.

I think whilst the edits are good you don’t need an army of users trying to fix them. People can spend the time on more useful things.

Now I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again:

Writing good titles is an art

I spoke about it at length here and provided some links so have a look there if you want some more information. I will include a link to the generic story id title meta though for some general guidance for them: Consensus on Story Identification titles?

So on this note you have to realise that people are not masters in writing and won’t always be able to craft the perfect title. In fact a lot think of us as a discussion forum where generic “poor” titles are more likely “accepted”.

I also think CE’s comment on my answer there is incredibly relevant and worth including here:

Yes for editing. The "bad" titles might actually be better for editors, because it's clear that they need to be edited! Not-so-great titles that aren't bad stick around awhile because it's not readily obvious they need improvement.

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