On one hand[1], I appreciate the intent behind trying to de-spoiler TFA questions.

However, we don't have THIS deep and wide a level of hiding data for any of the older works, like the other 3 Star Wars films (Episodes 4-6) or Harry Potter.

Does it mean that at some point we will have an officially sanctioned effort to edit such questions (organized or not), so that they actually have a meaningful title? Doing so would benefit all future site users (as opposed to a very narrow - time wise - demographic who haven't seen TFA yet)?

Or will these titles languish forever with absolutely meaningless titles like:

"Why did this character do that vague thingy?"`

...on every single of hundreds of TFA questions?

If the answer is "Yes, we will sanction a cleanup", how will we know when that time comes? Some pre-determined time that elapses after the movie's release? A new Meta question with conclusive voting? Moderators making a decision and announcement? Users fed up with the useless titles organizing an independent tag clean-up, and starting the insurgent work at a volume which makes it clear there is a critical mass of intent?

[1] - Tangentially, personally, I think this level of de-spoilering is beyond ridiculous. If I don't want to have a work spoiled, I either technologically filter it out (like, SE's tag ignore feature), or simply mentally ignore anything pertaining to it. I don't demand that people butcher their GoT, or WoT, or DW questions on account of me not having bothered to consume that universe yet - it's my problem, not theirs </rant>. But that's not really germane to what I'm asking.

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    Based on the discussions here, here, and here, I'd rather just see better crafted titles in general - regardless of when it is.
    – phantom42
    Dec 24, 2015 at 14:34
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    It's important to point out that there is no comprehensive technological method to block TFA content, even in the narrow context of the SE network. For example, ignoring tags does nothing about HNQs with spoiler titles.
    – Ixrec
    Dec 24, 2015 at 15:34
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    @Ixrec - Easy. When I know spoilers are possible, I just ignore NHQ Dec 24, 2015 at 15:44
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    @Ixrec A bit of user CSS will hide the HNQ. I think there's a meta question here where I outlined how to do that.
    – user1027
    Dec 24, 2015 at 17:33
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    Apropos nothing, ignoring HNQ is the second best way to avoid wasting tons of time, behind blacklisting TVTropes on your PC Dec 24, 2015 at 17:51
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    Yes, those types of titles are terrible, and I've edited a couple of them as soon as I saw them. No reason to wait, but also no reason to make them spoiler-y, just better-crafted.
    – user31178
    Dec 25, 2015 at 21:10
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    @CreationEdge - I specifically meant titles that MAY be spoilery. Like mentioning that Ray is a Force User in a title. Or that she fought Kylo Ren (spoiler!) Dec 25, 2015 at 21:38
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    Spoiler alerts go at the beginning!
    – user31178
    Dec 25, 2015 at 21:41
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    This question is too spoilery. Now I know the site is full of vague unhelpful titles before I’ve had a chance to be annoyed at them myself. It should be retitled to Will we ever do this thing?.
    – alexwlchan
    Dec 27, 2015 at 17:05
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    +6.02 x 10^23 to this question. The despoilering level in some questions is absolutely ridiculous. I sometimes wonder if people re-read the titles to see if they make sense. The best way to avoid being spoiled about recently released movies you deeply care about is to avoid scifi.se until you've seen them!
    – Andres F.
    Dec 28, 2015 at 22:53
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    the other 3 Star Wars films bahahaha Dec 30, 2015 at 5:40
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    @AndresF. Where the problem comes in is that several of them made the "hot network questions" list. For those of us who are software developers, ignoring all SE sites for a few weeks because we haven't seen a movie yet isn't really feasible.
    – reirab
    Jan 6, 2016 at 16:41
  • Now that The Last Jedi is out, I'm seeing this exact same problem with questions under that tag. Example: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/177930/16272
    – Ajedi32
    Jan 3, 2018 at 20:09

2 Answers 2


We've been having this discussion (unfortunately, mostly in chat) since the movie came out, and I think the regulars (and a few CMs) are in agreement with you that the spoiler markup and generic titles are out of hand. You'll know pretty well by now that this isn't uncommon when a new movie comes out, we get a flood of badly-despoiled questions, and after a while they have to get fixed.

I (only half jokingly) claimed that we would go back and clean them up as a Christmas Present for Shog9, who was particularly annoyed by them. Now that it's been two weekends since the movie came out, at least IMO we can start working on these.

In the past, from what I've seen, it's been a mostly organic process: when Ant-Man came out, I think it was Gilles who just came along one day and started fixing them all, and other people sort-of fell in behind him. I don't know that it needs coordination -- though obviously if we wanted to put it to a vote and put a drop-dead date on it, I'd fall in line with that effort.

But really, I think if you see a terrible title, go ahead and fix is; we can make those edits now, as long as we try to stick to the general spoiler principles, as we would any other work:

  • Try to keep the titles as spoiler free as you can without making them meaningless, so people can choose not to read them.
  • Make sure everything is tagged properly, so people can choose to hide/ignore them
  • Try to keep the really big reveals/twists/swerves/surprises behind spoiler markup, if possible, without making the answer terrible.
  • Overall make the question and answers make sense first, and avoid spoiling second.
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    Two weeks is a very short time period to leave before allowing spoilers, IMO. There must still be some fans who are really into SW but haven't seen TFA yet. (But then I don't care about SW anyway, so maybe I should leave this issue to those who do.)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Dec 24, 2015 at 15:17
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    @randal'thor my point was that we really should have been fixing the titles all along because our default spoiler policy is still to keep them out of titles as much as possible, so we shouldn't really need to wait...
    – KutuluMike
    Dec 24, 2015 at 18:16
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    ROFL, someone flagged and deleted my spoiler comment!
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Dec 24, 2015 at 18:20
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    +1 for encouraging people to tag them with the-force-awakens tag; as long as people do that I don't see much need for ridiculously vague titles - if you haven't seen the movie yet then simply hide the tagged posts! Dec 26, 2015 at 3:01
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    And stay out of the moderation queues, unfortunately.
    – Kyle Jones
    Dec 27, 2015 at 5:59
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    @KyleJones Whenever there's a movie people desperately care about not being spoiled about, such as The Force Awakens, the best course of action is to avoid using scifi.se altogether. It worked for me.
    – Andres F.
    Dec 28, 2015 at 22:42
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    Also, +1000 to this answer. I'm relieved other people feel about this like I do. I was starting to believe I was a lone crusader, de-despoilering terrible titles like there was no tomorrow :D
    – Andres F.
    Dec 28, 2015 at 22:49

Warning: if you haven't seen The Force Awakens, don't read any of the spoilers in this post!

Technological solutions (read: hiding certain tags) have a limited usefulness. For one thing, they depend on other people using those tags.1 The other, bigger problem is that tag filtering doesn't work at all in many places, like the review queues, individual user profiles, and the "hot network questions" sidebar.

1 Of course, if you can't count on someone to add the correct tags to a question, you certainly can't count on them to write spoiler-free titles...

This means that, for the foreseeable future, question titles need to remain as spoiler-free as possible. Here, I'm thinking about the big plot points, the ones that Abrams and Disney have gone out of their way to keep hidden: the parentage of certain characters, and which characters are killed and by whom. Quite simply, I never ever, not even 30 years from now, want to see a question titled

Why did Kylo Ren think it important to kill Han (his dad) but not Leia (his mom)?

[Warning: the above is an enormous spoiler for The Force Awakens.]

You might think it sufficient to de-spoilerize the above hypothetical question as

Why did Kylo Ren think it important to kill his dad, but not his mom?

But then what happens when the person who read your title is sitting watching the movie and the initial reveal is made about that spoiler?

They know (from your question title) that Kylo kills his dad, and now they know (from Snoke IIRC) that his dad is Han, so all of a sudden, the whole movie is ruined for them: they'll be sitting there, waiting for the scene where Kylo kills Han, unable to appreciate any of the rest of the movie because they know what's coming, just not when or how.

(I had something like this happen to me once, not with a movie, but same idea: a supposedly spoiler-free review of a book mentioned, in very vague terms, that a sad thing happens, so I spent the whole book dreading who would be killed off and when, and it turns out the sad event was mentioned only in a postscript-like scene on literally the second-to-last page of the book.)

The bottom line is, there are certain things that happen in certain books and movies where knowing about them in even the vaguest terms ahead of time can ruin your enjoyment of the book/movie. In such cases, I think overly-vague question titles are definitely the lesser of two evils.

What's with the Oedipal complex of this TFA character?

I'm sure this can be taken to extremes, with people hiding even the most obscure details behind question titles that are utterly meaningless ("Why did the [spoiler] [spoiler] to [spoiler]?"). If you want to edit the worst of those titles, go ahead, but keep in mind that your irrelevant detail might be someone else's delicious tidbit that they wish they hadn't have known beforehand.

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    Re "I never ever, not even 30 years from now" - I do agree with the sentiment, but it's inconsistent with the treatment of spoilers from older works on this site, and probably impractical. If I ever watched the older Star Wars films, for instance, I'd be going in there knowing DV = AS = LS's father, purely thanks to this site. 30 years from now, almost nobody is going to bother with spoilerfree titles about [that thing you mentioned in this answer]; and if they do, people would probably actively change those titles to include spoilers rather than "why did this character do this?"
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Dec 28, 2015 at 20:49
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    Strongly disagree. Assuming no malicious intent (that is, people are not trying to ruin movies purposefully), always favor writing descriptive titles. Overly-vague question titles should never be preferred. And titles of the form "why did THIS character do THIS thing to THIS artifact?" must always be nuked from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
    – Andres F.
    Dec 28, 2015 at 22:45
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    Also, this site should NOT protect people who are simultaneously watching the movie / TV episode and reading this site. There is simply no reasonable way to protect them, and they should be watching the movie anyway! What are they doing reading their smartphones? Don't most cinemas have a "smartphones must be turned off" policy anyway?
    – Andres F.
    Dec 28, 2015 at 22:47
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    @AndresF.: I'm not sure where you're getting the simultaneous thing. I was describing the sort of situation where someone sees a partially-spoilerific title which connects A to B (but hides the connection of B to C), and then two weeks later they're sitting in the theater and watching the scene that says B is C, and then their movie is ruined because they're dreading the moment where A happens to C.
    – Martha
    Dec 28, 2015 at 23:13
  • Oh, I see. I misread it as being simultaneous. It makes more sense your way :) But I still stand firmly in the camp of "more descriptive is better".
    – Andres F.
    Dec 28, 2015 at 23:32
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    That question in your spoiler tags is a really interesting question, has anyone asked it? If they have, I can't find it through search, probably because of the spoilerisation. p.s. why not title it like "Why was Kylo Ren so much more obsessed with his father than his mother?" Dec 28, 2015 at 23:59
  • @user568458: I don't know if that question has been asked; I just came up with it in an effort to include as many major spoilers in one title as I could. I might go ahead and post it later tonight.
    – Martha
    Dec 29, 2015 at 0:21
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    I'd be going in there knowing DV = AS = LS's father, purely thanks to this site. Honestly, I find it impressive that you somehow managed to not find that out from the ~35 years of people talking about Star Wars before this site existed.
    – reirab
    Jan 6, 2016 at 16:50
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    DV = AS = LS' father was spoiled by a Simpsons episode in 1991. By now, we just have to accept that some plot points have been definitively spoiled. Jan 15, 2016 at 12:07
  • Back in the mid-2000s, I was sure for some reason that (DV = AS =) LS's brother. I'm not sure where I got that one from. (I proceeded to mention that in a comment for a cracky fanfic which involved DV's father - whom I thus thought identical to LS's father.) Feb 13, 2016 at 12:14

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