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There seems to be a growing trend lately of question titles being edited to replace any object, person or plot point for a recent movie or TV episode with a vague "this X", resulting in titles like "Why did this person do this thing?"

An example from today (before):

Why wasn't the codex enough for Zod, in Man Of Steel?

And after: Why wasn't this thing enough for Zod, in Man Of Steel?

Another recent example (before):

Why did McCoy need Khan to revive Kirk?

And after: Why did McCoy need this person in particular to make his serum?

The first one, as far as I'm concerned, was perfectly fine prior to the edit. All it tells somebody is that there's something called a "codex" and that General Zod wants it; I recall that becoming pretty obvious within about five minutes of the movie starting, and doesn't seem like a spoiler to me at all.

The second needed editing, but the spoiler was that (just in case somebody still hasn't seen it)

Kirk dies and is revived

not that Khan was involved in making the serum; knowing that fact doesn't spoil the movie in any way.

Ideally looking for discussion on:

  • Whether this is something we want to see continue
  • Do we want/need any guidelines for determining what actually constitutes a spoiler (or are there any in place already)?
  • How do we go about communicating all of this to users?
  • The codex existing is not a spoiler as such, it gives nothing away, and is mentioned very early on. The fact it's Zod wishes to extract it from Supes is though. As such I've rolled back that edit. – AncientSwordRage Jul 1 '13 at 11:58
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    I've read several questions on the meta and thought we didn't even come to an agreement concerning what is a spoiler. So I guess "spoilers in title" will be hard to agree on. – Kalissar Jul 1 '13 at 13:29
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    The fact that Khan was involved in making the serum might not be a spoiler, but the fact than Khan is in the movie is a spoiler. – DavRob60 Jul 1 '13 at 13:49
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    One consideration is that taking spoilers out of the title potentially makes a question harder to find in the future. I think this tips the needle away from making lots of spoiler edits in the short term. – alexwlchan Jul 1 '13 at 21:29
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    Perhaps it’s worth promoting the ignored tags feature? I use this to avoid spoilers on the main page when I know I’m behind, but I get the impression that it’s not very well-known. – alexwlchan Jul 1 '13 at 21:30
  • @alexwlchan These are both about recently released (and popular) movies. For that to work you'd have to update your ignored tag list every week or so with every upcoming movie you're even slightly interested in - assuming the appropriate tag has even been created yet! – Izkata Jul 2 '13 at 1:13
  • Completely agree with @DavRob60 . The issue isn't Khan's involvement with the serum, but rather his involvement in the movie, which is a huge spoiler. – NominSim Jul 2 '13 at 2:02
  • @Izkata: true. I tend to use it for movies I’m interested in, which isn’t many. It’s a tricky problem to manage. :/ – alexwlchan Jul 2 '13 at 7:05
  • @NominSim Really? I didn't watch trailers for the latest Star Trek, didn't read much about it, but it seemed like everybody went in to the movie knowing that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan in it. – Anthony Grist Jul 2 '13 at 13:34
  • @AnthonyGrist - I haven't seen the latest ST movie yet and had no idea until I read your comment that Benedict Cumberbatch is in the movie at all, much less as Khan! Personally I don't usually mind spoilers, but others really do. – Slytherincess Jul 2 '13 at 14:34
  • I regularly follow a couple of movie news sites. I know there were rumors prior to the release regarding Cumberbatch playing Khan, but they seemed to try to keep it pretty vague for as long as they could. It wasn't until the movie had come out that I heard of any explicit confirmation. To be fair, I did not keep up with ST news as much as some other movies. – phantom42 Jul 2 '13 at 14:36
  • @Izkata That's what I did with both Iron Man 3 and STID, since they were released in non-USA regions first and questions with spoilers started showing up. Thanks to people tagging correctly, it's not time consuming to manage. – user1027 Jul 2 '13 at 14:45
  • Well, even that Khan fact (which I'm glad I didn't already get spoiled before watching it) could be easily mitigated by just calling him Harrison in the title (his pre-reveal name). – TARS Feb 5 '15 at 9:12
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I feel that this can be solved by better editing, easily. Rough approximations:

  • Why wasn't capturing Superman sufficient for Zod's goal?

  • What were the necessary requirements (ingredients?) for McCoy to make his serum?

This doesn't make the title sound like a Jeopardy wannabe, while maintaining lack of spoilers.

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In my opinion, the edited question titles you mention are harmful and should be reverted to their more descriptive titles (or better titles should be written for them). Using common sense, of course: actively trying to spoil plot points in a title is bad. The goal should be to write descriptive, non-generic question titles.

The purpose of a question title is to be descriptive and searchable. It should convey information about the full text of the question, and should help you decide whether

  • You want to read the question.
  • You may have knowledge to answer the question.

A vague title such as "why does this character do this to this other character in this TV show?" is meaningless and doesn't make me want to click on the question. It's not descriptive. If we decide we do not want to make descriptive titles a priority, taken to an extreme this would mean replacing every title with "Question about ${TV SHOW}", which I think everyone agrees wouldn't be an improvement.

Bad question title:

"Why does this character help this other character in Flash Gordon".

Better question title:

"Why does Princess Aura help Flash Gordon?"

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Avoiding spoiler is just a question of politeness. It's not everybody that is annoyed by spoiler, but we must respect those who do. The thing we should ask is how much damage a title containing a spoiler could do VS how much damage a more vague, but spoiler-free title could do.

I think a spoiler in the title of a question is insidious. You could get hit by a spoiler title while browsing pages, or just by reading the weekly newsletter. In the worse case scenario, we could lose users that where hit by those spoilers. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

On the other hand, There is almost no harm from a more vague, but spoiler-free title. Making a question harder to find in the future? I don't believe it. A quick google search using keyword "why need khan serum" returned our question in first position. Worse case scenario, someone ask it again and the question get closed as a duplicate.

Therefore, I don't think spoiler edits becoming excessive.

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