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I've seen a lot of questions since the new Star Wars movie premiered where most people title their questions in a roundabout manner in order to avoid revealing spoilers, since spoiler markup (afaik) don't work in the title field when you ask a question. For example, over a decade ago it would make sense to title your question as "Why did this happen to Anakin?" when today you would have simply typed "Why did Anakin lose his right hand?" Two more recent examples:

As we can see, such titles don't serve well in the long term. Every new release (movie, book etc.) brings new hype, new content and a flurry of new questions with good answers. If these questions aren't titled well, their answers aren't useful in the long term to the community since future askers with the same question may not be able to find it in the search results, leading only to more duplicates. People won't go back years later to rename old questions, and I doubt mods will conduct "renaming exercises" either.

While I don't think we have a good long-term solution to this anytime soon, the next best thing may be to have a guideline for how long new content should be considered spoilers - in other words, how long question titles that may normally be considered poorly worded would be tolerated to prevent spoilers. As such, generalized, my question is: When a new release comes out, for how long should we consider protecting spoilers while it matters most more important than the long term usefulness of the question to the community (as elaborated in my previous paragraph)?

marked as duplicate by user31178, phantom42, Martha, KutuluMike, user1027 Dec 30 '15 at 6:01

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    Are you talking about spoiler markup in general, or just titles? I don't see any compelling reason to ever stop using spoiler markup in post bodies, but the titles could certainly stand to be toned down after a while – Jason Baker Dec 30 '15 at 3:35
  • @JasonBaker my focus is on titles, though I think it may be reasonable to extend my question to a more generalized context, as I've done at the end of my question. – thegreatjedi Dec 30 '15 at 3:36
  • @CreationEdge I think that other question only deals with part of the issue. It focuses on the "renaming exercise" aspect I mentioned in passing, while I focus on "how long should we tolerate ridiculous spoiler-free titles everytime they happen before we start taking action on new questions?" – thegreatjedi Dec 30 '15 at 3:39
  • From the other question: "If the answer is "Yes, we will sanction a cleanup", how will we know when that time comes?" – user31178 Dec 30 '15 at 3:41
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    We have had a spoiler policy that has gone largely unchallenged for quite a while. What is the policy for spoilers?, Is it okay to have spoilers in question titles?, and Character Death Spoilers In Title. The consensus seems to have already been to fix the titles so they are good without being overly spoiler-filled, so I'm not sure what else there is to discuss at this point. – phantom42 Dec 30 '15 at 3:45
  • @MikeEdenfield - that is an ideal solution (and one i'd love to see). The problem being raised is that we are inundated with titles which are not even remotely meaningful, no matter what the desired ideal is. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 30 '15 at 5:23
  • @MikeEdenfield -nice. GL with that, I'd help if i wasn't on strike :). However it's even worse- I have seen such titles from people who are on Meta, so it's even worse. It's not a question of not knowing the rules, but of incorrect interpretation/judgement. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 30 '15 at 15:26
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The policy we have typically adhered to, which has been the consensus opinion for years, is that there is no "expiration date" on spoilers. You should try to be frugal in what you put behind spoiler markup, because odds are, it will be there forever. At the same time, if something really is a spoiler, you should continue to mask it no matter how "old" is it. But, first and foremost, you should make things make sense, with the spoiler as a secondary consideration.

We make a distinction on this site between title spoilers and post spoilers. Titles can't use markdown syntax, so there's no way to "hide" spoilers in them. Titles are also visible in a lot more places, and with a lot less conscious effort, than the bodies of questions/answers. So we're a bit stricter with keeping spoilers out of them. But never at the expense of making the title meaningless.

The quick-and-dirty rules of thumb are:

  • Try to make your title as free of key plot developments as possible, but always make it meaningful.
  • Try to avoid giving away key plot details in your questions and answers if they are not relevant to your post.
  • If you need to include key plot details, put as little as possible behind spoiler markup.

The tricky part is deciding what is a "key" plot detail. Not everything we learn in a movie is a spoiler. A spoiler is, by definition, something that will spoil the movie for you if you knew it ahead of time. To use The Force Awakens as an example, knowing that Han Solo confronts Kylo Ren isn't a spoiler, because the good guy confronting the bad guy is something you're probably expecting to happen. But, knowing that

Han Solo is Kylo Ren's dad, and Kylo kills Han

is a huge spoiler, and will continue to be a spoiler forever for anyone who hasn't seen the movie.


Note that you have to use a bit of common sense here, as well. Some spoilers seep so deeply into the public awareness that they just don't matter anymore. No one's spoiling the fact that Luke is Darth Vader's son, or that he blows up the Death Star with the Force, because "everyone" knows that (within a reasonable margin of error).

  • I never knew Luke blew up a Death Star with the Force until just now when reading this (though I did know he was DV's son). – Rand al'Thor Feb 27 '16 at 20:57

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