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Is there any official policy for mandatory use of the spoilers features? Or is just a courtesy/fully voluntary?

I didn't see anything on the FAQ.

Is there any particular action that should be taken on posts that do not contain spoiler blocks?

If there should be such a policy, should it have a statute of limitations? I'm pretty sure we all know who Luke's father is...

Also, for examples like this, I understand that there might not be much left if you blotted out all the spoilers. Should posts like that be handled any differently?

I have looked at this question but I feel it was not fully answered by the question it supposedly duped. The original question mentions how the spoiler block and spoiler tag work, but does not mention how posts should be handled that contain unmasked spoilers.

Also see this network-wide question I posted on MSO before coming here.

  • Alas, there's no official policy on spoilers. But it's been a while since it was last discussed. I hope there's some good discussion here on the specifics of what should and shouldn't be spoilered. – user1027 Dec 5 '11 at 17:38
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As others have said, I think it's up to users to find their own guidelines. I would guess I'm on the conservative side in general.

Personally, for answers:

  • Take the question into consideration. If the asker says that they are only part-way through a story, or specifically asks for answers to avoid spoilers, then attempt to do that (it's not always possible). On the other hand, if they have clearly consumed the entire story, then it's unlikely that the spoiler tag is warranted.
  • Consider how "spoiled" I would feel if I knew the information in advance. This is extremely subjective, but it's important, because otherwise everything is a spoiler.
  • Don't consider the age of the material. There are still people new to Star Wars, the Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings, even though these could all be considered so established that the main points are common knowledge.
  • Consider how relevant the spoiler is to the answer. If it's a bit of extra information that makes the answer more interesting or detailed, but not critical to the answer, then I'm more likely to conceal it.
  • Put as little text as possible into the spoiler tag, and try and surround it with context that doesn't give anything away, but makes it obvious whether you want to reveal the text.
  • If unsure, don't use the tag. Answers show up on the question page - before you get there, you most likely have an idea what the question is about, so if you're worried about spoilers for it, then you probably should stay away. Also, StackExchange don't want the spoiler text to be visible on an iPad, so you're annoying those users by having it.

Questions are a little different - these do show up without the user navigating specifically to the page - they're in the main questions page, they get auto-posted to chat, they may appear in the network-wide list of questions (where there may be someone with no sci-fi/fantasy knowledge at all, not expecting a spoiler to the latest movie), they get tweeted, and so on.

Personally, for questions:

  • Avoid spoilers completely in the title. This doesn't mean using [REDACTED] or silly things like that, it means coming up with another way to summarise the question.
  • Avoid spoilers in the first chunk of the question, because this text is often included (even if it is in spoiler tags) in links to the question.
  • Don't use "SPOILER" in the title. Exactly what a spoiler is is subjective, and IMO it's just ugly.
  • As with answers, put as little text into the spoiler markup as possible, consider how "spoiled" I would feel, and don't consider the age of the material.
  • Don't include anything superfluous if it's remotely spoiler-y. Rework the question text so that you get the question across without including spoilers that don't need to be there.
  • If unsure, use the tag or avoid the spoiler altogether (there are places, e.g. RSS, where the spoiler markup is ignored). I want users to be able to follow tags or even the whole questions list without having to worry about users in another country getting access to their favourite TV show first and spoiling episodes for them.

(c.f. my comments from when this was last discussed, which I still agree with).

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There isn't a specific policy.

My personal policy is as follows:

With movies, I tend to spoiler things that will give away the entire plot if known, like

Bruce Willis was dead the whole time.

but not things that aren't central to the plot like

Vader = Luke's dad.

I also take the age of the work into account. Afterall, everyone knows that

Rosebud was his sled.

With TV shows, I try to spoiler big plot points from the current season, if practical.

Both movies and television are relatively easy, as they're very big on the mass market - TV Shows and Movies are consumed quickly. TV shows are intended for consumption within a few weeks of airing, movies within a year. After that, they're consigned to reruns and store shelves, their initial rush of attention having faltered.

Books are a different story, in my opinion. Books don't generate nearly as much buzz upon release, so I tend to spoiler important plot points such as

The Yuzzam Vong regain access to the Force

From the New Jedi Order series for quite a while afterwards.

This is just a personal guideline, of course, and I'm certain there are exceptions.

  • Just realized something: Let's not turn this into a discussion of the ESB revelation being central to the plot of SW or not. My point was that it wasn't central to the plot of ESB. – Jeff Dec 5 '11 at 18:18
  • So that is your personal policy for your own posts. Do you have a personal policy for other people's posts? Editing, commenting, or something else? Do you find it okay to spoiler block most of a post, or the whole thing, or should the OP have a spoiler tag to solve a problem like that? – Merlyn Morgan-Graham Dec 5 '11 at 18:30
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    @MerlynMorgan-Graham: In general, I don't edit other posts to add spoilers, though I suggest them when I think they'd be useful. I don't, as a rule, like to put large blocks of text in spoilers - I prefer small sections so that people can get a context for the spoiler without revealing it. Usually, it's possible. – Jeff Dec 5 '11 at 19:10
  • +1 for the small blocks - less than a sentence if possible. – Tony Meyer Dec 8 '11 at 7:30
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    Knowing that Vader is Luke's dead is totally spoiling the whole experience. At least for me. – n611x007 Jun 20 '12 at 21:43
  • “TV shows are intended for consumption within a few weeks of airing, movies within a year. After that, they're consigned to reruns and store shelves, their initial rush of attention having faltered.” — I’m not sure I agree with that, especially with the rise of Netflix and other on-demand TV services. It’s easy to imagine a 10-year-old kid getting into Doctor Who today; they wouldn’t even remember series 1 (2005), but might appreciate not getting spoilered on some aspects of it. – Paul D. Waite Dec 2 '13 at 16:43
  • Rosebud was his sled. O great. Thanks for spoiling that for me. – SQB Apr 10 '14 at 12:00
  • -1. If there was ever in the history of the universe, one thing that should not be spoiled, it is that. – Mazura Jun 30 '16 at 6:12
  • @Mazura: Can I get some context? There are 4 potential spoilers referenced in my post, 2 of which are hidden, 2 are not. Please clarify your comment. – Jeff Jun 30 '16 at 16:02
  • "the best movie ever made" – Mazura Jun 30 '16 at 20:21
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    @Mazura: My point was that this isn't really a spoiler, because virtually everyone knows it already. I haven't even seen the movie, didn't know which movie it was referencing, and even I knew it. So...not really much of a spoiler. That was sorta the whole point of my answer. – Jeff Jul 1 '16 at 19:02
  • NB: To hide text until hover, prefix a line with >!. scifi.stackexchange.com/editing-help#spoilers – jtheletter Feb 12 '17 at 18:51
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We don't have a formal policy, and I don't think it makes sense to have a precise policy, this is very much on a case-by-case basis. There are however ground rules to follow. I was about to formulate them, when I saw badp's answer on the main meta which I fully endorse:

  • Your question must make sense without spoiler protected paragraphs.
    If the spoiler is the whole point of your question, don't spoiler protect it.
  • Your answer must make sense without spoiler protected paragraphs.
    If the spoiler is the whole point of your answer, don't spoiler protect it.
  • Your title must be easy to Google for. If that means spoilery, so be it.
    If there's a spoiler in the title, don't mask it.

To give a couple of examples of questions I edited in the past few months:

  • Question about Inception Limbo” is not an acceptable title. (“Question about X” is not an acceptable title anywhere on Stack Exchange for that matter.) The question is how Cobb and Saito escape Limbo, so the title must mention Cobb and Saito and Limbo and how these three relate.
  • Why did You-Know-Who have only 7 You-Know-Whats?” is completely ridiculous. Ok, it's ridiculous in a funny way, but it's also completely uninformative. There's nothing particularly spoilery about “Why did Voldemort have only 7 Horcruxes?” anyway.
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    The "You-Know-Whats" is bad, but You-Know-Who is probably used more as a name for Voldemort in the books than "Voldemort" or "Tom Riddle". – Tony Meyer Dec 8 '11 at 7:32
  • Regarding information relevant to the question that is not available to the public at large -- I'm personally talking about Pottermore, of course. JKR is releasing specific information that many consider to be "new canon." I've been putting any info I get from Pottermore under the spoiler tags because Pottermore is in beta and not everyone has an account. Someone called me out on this, when I thought it was an obvious courtesy to those who want to explore Pottermore on their own when it's open to everyone. Thoughts? – Slytherincess Dec 11 '11 at 16:30
  • @Slytherincess This seems like a reasonable use of spoilers, as long as it doesn't cause your whole post to be in spoiler markup. – user56 Dec 11 '11 at 18:00
  • @Gilles -- Thanks for your thoughts. Actually, one answer I gave had quite a lot of text under the spoiler tags, but I'll remember that's not a good idea in the future. I'm new to SE, so am trying to learn how to not be an annoying new poster! Thanks again :) – Slytherincess Dec 11 '11 at 18:52
  • I have to disagree with these guidelines, because of cases like scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/6192/…. Yes the OP asked for the info but it is only fair that he have a chance to understand that the answer is a spoiler before seeing it and because the question text can appear in places where the reader didn't ask to see it. – dmckee Jan 25 '12 at 21:32
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    @dmckee In this case, I think your answer should say, outside the spoiler markup, where in the book the answer is. Then, in spoiler markup, say what the reason is. This does comply with my proposed policy. – user56 Jan 25 '12 at 21:37
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    -1 for "Your title must be easy to Google for. If that means spoilery, so be it." That would indicate that I can't so much as browse this board until I've read and seen everything. That's ridiculous. As the most visible parts of the site, titles should not contain spoilers. If I can see that a question is about The Dark Knight Rises, and I open the question anyway, that's my fault. But if the spoiler is in the question title, then how am I to avoid it other than by avoiding the whole site? I can't ignore the tag until it exists in the first place. – Kyralessa Jul 26 '12 at 3:06
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    @Kyralessa Having questions that can be searched for is one of the core tenets of Stack Exchange. This is a questions and answers site, not a discussion forum. Questions are supposed to be useful to future visitors, so they have to be able to find them in the first place. Spoilers should be avoided in titles, but titles devoid of information like “what did this character do after this event?” are not acceptable. – user56 Jul 26 '12 at 7:30
  • @Gilles I think some re-wording is required. You make no mention that Spoilers should be avoided in titles in your post. I agree they should be avoided as much as possible, but concede that in some rare instances (although I can't think of one) they are unavoidable. Also, Google reads the whole text of a page, so it is pointless to put things in the title just for SEO purposes. – Django Reinhardt Oct 20 '12 at 16:18

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