We've had previous discussions about spoilers. We have the rudiments of a policy, and we're trying to stamp down on spoiler tags. Saying “spoiler” in a question title is meaningless because there's no context to say what it's spoiling. In fact, the very use of spoilers in a question is dubious: someone who doesn't want to risk spoilers isn't going to browse the question at all, so why hide anything?

I do think spoiler markup is useful in answers, because the audience is clear: someone who has read/seen about as much as the asker. So, in an answer:

  • If the asker knows, say it openly.
  • If that's what the asker is asking about, say it openly.
  • If it's secondary to the answer, so that the answer is improved by the presence of some extra information but makes sense without it, then use spoiler markup.

Should we ask for a ban of spoiler markup in questions? Or only strongly discourage it?

6 Answers 6


No, people asking questions should be able to use spoiler markdown to let people who are currently enjoying a work to participate on the site prior to completing their consumption of said work. Questions about the last half of the new Battlestar Galactica (BSG) will be pretty spoilerific to anyone watching S2, but people working through BSG shouldn't have to avoid the site while watching it. In fact, we should actively work to make the site welcoming to such visitors, as we are all consuming some sci-fi and fantasy works that we haven't seen before.

The recent development of shows and movies continuing or otherwise having side-stories in comic books provides another reason for the use of spoilers. If I've seen all of the TV show Dollhouse, I might think that it's okay to read anything in all Dollhouse questions. But, if someone asks a question from the comic book, then that will simultaneously spoil me and inform me of its existence, were I not already aware of it.

Personally, I'm bummed that I can't participate in Game of Thrones questions on this site due to everyone asking or answering with unspoilered information from the books. I'm only watching the show, and don't want to be spoiled on what will happen in future seasons.

  • +1 for the multiple media issue. I also share your GoT pain!
    – Tony Meyer
    Jan 25, 2012 at 22:39
  • @HNL I see four questions where the title alone tells you that. I've edited those - too late for you, but maybe not for someone else!
    – Tony Meyer
    Jan 26, 2012 at 9:27
  • Indeed. If you have the privilege, please edit out that meta-spoiler of mine two comments ago :)
    – HNL
    Jan 26, 2012 at 13:34
  • @HNL Can't you delete your comment?
    – user1027
    Jan 26, 2012 at 14:59
  • Done. The comment Because someone recently asked "Did Harry know <spoiler>?" and there went the <episode> for me! :-( If spoiler guidelines had existed for questions, that wouldn't have happened. has been deleted.
    – HNL
    Jan 26, 2012 at 16:14

No, if only for the practical consideration for people who do not want to spoil details in questions.

The judicious use of spoiler markdown is a reasonable compromise between keeping SciFi.SE in line with the goals of Stack Exchange and the rampant use of forumisms1 that'll keep coming back to address the very prevalent desire to not spoil things.

The operative word would be judicious, however. This should not be acceptable:

Question about Star Wars

Spoiler below:

My question is so spoilery I can't even be bothered to highlight anything about the nature of the question outside a spoiler box. It's for your own good. What color is Darth Vader's suit in the first scene of A New Hope?

This, however, should be fine:

How does Luke cope after the twist in Empire?

As most everyone knows,

Vader is Luke's father.

How does he handle this pre-Jedi? Does the Expanded Universe cover Luke's grappling with this realization?

Note 1: like adding [SPOILER] to the title and adding "spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler OMG SPOILER INCOMING WATCH OUT" disclaimers.


I've had many things spoiled for me because of improper use of spoilers. If they were banned, then I wouldn't want to read half the questions on the site for fear of being spoiled.

  • 1
    Which half would you not read?
    – Xantec
    Jan 25, 2012 at 21:35
  • Presumably the half that were about books/shows/films that s/he already completed.
    – Tony Meyer
    Jan 26, 2012 at 6:49


There's nothing wrong with judicious use of the spoiler markup in a question.

For example (I quickly glanced over questions I've asked/answered; I'm sure there are many more):

  • I might look at this question (especially if I'm coming from a search engine) wanting more information about the "4 knocks" that were featured throughout the arc, but not knowing the end result.
  • If I was a fan of one Knight Rider series and considering watching the other, I might read this question, but I wouldn't want to know the part that's hidden behind spoiler text.

In addition, and this is extremely important, the question text appears in places where someone may see it without wanting to read that question. Many people found this a problem, although StackExchange didn't care, but it was recently fixed (for gaming.se, and therefore us as well) - we don't want to go backwards. For example:

  • Subscribing to an RSS feed (of a tag or all questions).
  • Auto-posted questions in chat.
  • The main page of the site includes a chunk of the question.
  • 1
    The problem is that few people are sticking with "judicious" use.
    – Kevin
    Jan 25, 2012 at 20:59
  • 2
    @Kevin anyone can edit.
    – Tony Meyer
    Jan 25, 2012 at 21:04

I'm becoming more and more concerned about questions here about, "How do we stop this?" and, "Should we ban this?"

While I know there is a need for community standards on behavior and the goal is to increase the value of this site in terms of the information on it and how useable it is, but it feels like herding cats.

It's important to pay attention to how users are behaving by default. This tells us what they consider important and expresses their concerns and needs. If they're using spoiler warnings in titles, it's because they feel they'd want a warning if a question will give away something important so they do it for others. If they use spoiler markup (and there are technical issues with spoiler markup), it's for the same reason.

This isn't to say everything users do should be treated as perfect, but the more I read questions like this, the more I question whether the issue is a minority of people are acting on a desire to impose their idea of what is appropriate on all users.

That people want to warn of spoilers should be enough to make it clear that the community wants to provide some kind of warning of spoilers to others, as well as wanting to have that kind of warning for themselves when they need it.

It feels like some are getting concerned about minor aesthetics that concern a smaller number of users instead of focusing on other issues that may concern many users.



What's the moratorium on how long we should wait for something to be up for grabs? The same as it takes for people to not sit around launching questions that will be answered by next week's episode or by watching the film they're asking the question about.

If you need to slather the question with spoiler markup, you're making the site inaccessible to those who can't use a mouse. Highlight all the things to read? What are you, hipster grey on grey savages?

If the question doesn't work with the spoiler sections removed, you're not trying hard enough to be accessible or considerate of complete sentences and paragraphs.

If you're still in the middle of reading or watching something but don't want to have it spoiled, why are you even checking out a question asking about it?

The key here is judicious use. Something wildly loose of its restraints on this vertical.

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