Bland or misleading thread titles; 'clickbait' in posts

Bland or misleading thread titles & clickbait in posts These two gripes used to bother me on the Old Ship but IME they have both got much worse on the new one.

Thread Titles: Surely, a thread title should plainly tell us what the thread is about; it shouldn't obscure the topic for discussion or mislead the reader, or appeal only to those who recognise a phrase and hence what it's about ('dog whistle' title?) A book title or news headline should help the reader decide whether the contents are something which interests them, not say something misleading or meaningless, hoping to catch the curious, only to disappont most people with the actual content.

A selection from today's Purg top threads:
  • "That's not entertainment"
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • I may have been too hasty...
  • Simon says, "Bill's in like a shot"
  • The 116th
  • A New American Civil War . . .

Can you guess what they're about from the title? I couldn't.
(The last one is about a new documentary, not a new civil war!)

Clickbait in posts: I think the old Ship guidelines (or perhaps only by convention) required people to quote sources in their posts, and supply a link for those who want to check the source and context but many posts now put a link instead of the text, which requires you to follow to get what they're saying. I rarely follow unless it's really compelling as I think they should quote the bit they mean. Also links are often to sites which want permission for cookies and other crap. I saw a post the other day where someone put a link to a bible verse without quoting the actual text which made their point. This seems lazy on their part and demands that we go to some extra step to get their point. It's a small extra effort and cost for every reader to just save writer that minor effort, just the once. It's discourteous and it's something we shouldn't have to do.

Can we have Hosts crack down so casual readers don't have to follow links and at least know what a thread is about?

Thanks for reading.


Comments

  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    The general policy on links is that posting them on their own without either summary context or quote is frowned upon. Sometimes, however, links explain themselves, or are both too long to be quoted but short enough for relevance. But thanks for the alert and the opinion.

    So far as thread titles are concerned, we normally leave them to the OPer. Allusive titles have been in use for a long time. But I take your point re obscurity. Unnecessarily obscure posting is something Hosts can act upon under Purg Guideline 5 (about courtesy) so I think it could be applied to thread titles. In many ways, because Hosts are expected to read everything, allusive or obscure titles are not a problem we're likely to notice too much.

    I'll be interested in other responses.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    I think, by the time people get to Hell, they're so pissed off, titles are largely boringly descriptive.

    I think FG does have a point about Purg threads, though. It's possible that we're being 'trained' by clickbait titles elsewhere in the media to subconsciously come up with our own to use here.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    As someone who started one of these - "That's not Entertainment" - it was in quotes, and it was a quote that I wanted discussion on.

    The initial disussion was about whether certain ideas were suitable in an entertainment programme. I think it was clear enough - it ranged around what was suitable entertainment.

    Sometimes I get irritated at thread titles where it is not clear, but it only takes a click to check. In truth, I get more irritated when I miss a thread that I would find interesting.

    FWIW, I don't think it has got worse. We have always had obscurity of titles, and it is part of hte fun of the site.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    I tend to think this is what Hell is for. If someone is doing this ALL THE FREAKING TIME... But I rather enjoy some of the cleverer titles. And in any case, some are going to be obscure to half of us just on account of cultural/geographical differences.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I always thought thread titles were obscure on purpose - often a play on a double meaning, and once you read the initial thread, the link to the meaning usually becomes clear. But I quite enjoy clicking to see how the thread relates to the title.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    As always, it may depend where the post is. In Heaven, I expect jokey thread titles. "Recovery," for example, made me chuckle when I read the OP. It's Heaven, that's okay.

    Keryg titles would quickly become tedious if every one was just "chapter and verse"--accurate, but tedious. Again, a little imagination or humorous-quip title is welcome there (at least by me).

    Arguably Purg should be a little more serious, befitting the forum. But even there, some apparently obscure titles are actually reasonably clear. "Extinction Rebellion" for example, meant absolutely nothing to me because I had never heard of the organization. But as the thread was about an organization called Extinction Rebellion, the title is fine. The poster should not have to assume my ignorance (even though such an assumption is usually a good bet!). "The 116th" was perfectly clear to me, but only because there has been a history of Ship threads about the current US Congress, and usually those threads reference the Congress number...in this case the 116th. I suppose that might be considered an "in-reference" because one needs to be aware of prior Ship practice to get it...but, again, it is a perfectly accurate title. I was mislead about the New American Civil War--because I assumed it was Yet Another Trump Thread--and admittedly putting quotes around "American Civil War" would have clarified things, but that starts to feel a little bit nitpicky to me. the OP made it clear what it was about.

    My memory is notoriously faulty, but I seem to recall that, several years back, some Hosts were actively complaining about boring thread titles and expressing the wish that posters put a little imagination into it!

    I guess I come down on the side of leniency on titles. What is more important is the OP. When the OP itself remains obscure as to what the poster wants to discuss, I get annoyed. Titles don't bother me. Like @fineline, I rather enjoy clicking to see how the title links to the OP.

    "Recovery," heh!
  • The main reason that I think thread titles have become more important on the New Ship is that we have lost the 'today's active threads' view which quoted the first couple of lines of the most recent post in each thread, which had the advantage of letting people know what was actually being discussed in the thread. I do miss that to be honest...I don't have the time to click on every thread, so there are probably threads that would interest me that I am unaware of because of the obscure titles.
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    It's important to bear in mind that hosts are hosts, not sub-editors, and that our policy is to leave all user-generated content alone as much as we possibly can.

    This thread should serve as a warning that bland and/or misleading thread titles are likely to put people who might have something worth saying off reading and therefore off posting, but the onus should be on the OPer to do better, not on the hosts.

    (I once missed almost all of a fascinating discussion from the Old Ship about the bodily resurrection of Christ because it was called "What happened to all the fish?", and I assumed it was about cod stocks in the North Sea or some such. Plus the thread never survived).
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    But:

    Simon says, "Bill's in like a shot"

    is very clear. It is a thread started by Simon Toad and is a take on the children's game of "Simon says". The Bill is the current leader of the Federal Opposition and at the time the thread was started, the clear leader in the run up to the Federal election.
  • LothlorienLothlorien All Saints Host
    edited May 1
    This is a pond difference allusion. Pretty well most of us from down here would have understood that title straightaway. His OP was what I was expecting from the title and I think the post appeared before the date of election was public.

    A bit of give and take here would be good.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    Also the bit about links reminded me that making links can be a bit more difficult here on the New Ship for some of us who aren't very intuitive about coding. Just saying.
  • edited May 1
    Gee D wrote: »
    But:

    Simon says, "Bill's in like a shot"

    is very clear. It is a thread started by Simon Toad and is a take on the children's game of "Simon says". The Bill is the current leader of the Federal Opposition and at the time the thread was started, the clear leader in the run up to the Federal election.
    Lothlorien wrote: »
    This is a pond difference allusion. Pretty well most of us from down here would have understood that title straightaway. His OP was what I was expecting from the title and I think the post appeared before the date of election was public.

    A bit of give and take here would be good.

    I periodically click on that one. Because I haven't a clue what is about and forget I previously did the same thing. A dilligaf thread.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    But:

    Simon says, "Bill's in like a shot"

    is very clear. It is a thread started by Simon Toad and is a take on the children's game of "Simon says". The Bill is the current leader of the Federal Opposition and at the time the thread was started, the clear leader in the run up to the Federal election.
    It’s very clear if one is up on Australian politics.

    As for the fact that the thread was started by Simon Toad, that’s not something you can tell from the front page; all you can’t tell is who posted the most recent post.
    I’ve been on forums where the thread title, original poster and most recent poster is listed, but that doesn’t happen here.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    I truly, deeply miss that thread. I went googling "What happened to the fish?" just to see what popped up, and you never saw so much po-faced piety dancing around the question of Jesus pooping.
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    I recall that while I was still a Purgatory host we changed a thread title from "Oops" to "Oops - your Trump presidency discussion thread".

    That time, we did have an editorial reason: we wanted to have just one Trump thread, not myriad ones.

    I think it's a fairly safe bet that with the original title, the thread would otherwise have sunk pretty quickly.

    I personally favour equal doses of whimsical and explanatory in the title, provided it doesn't get too long.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    It’s very clear if one is up on Australian politics.

    As for the fact that the thread was started by Simon Toad, that’s not something you can tell from the front page; all you can’t tell is who posted the most recent post.
    I’ve been on forums where the thread title, original poster and most recent poster is listed, but that doesn’t happen here.

    Many threads depend on some local knowledge - and some on a knowledge of a local dialect.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    Reading these mixed comments suggests to me that annoyance with thread titles might be more if a personal thing. In which case the best remedy is either to start a rant in Hell or call to Hell a Shipmate who has been in your opinion annoyingly obscure.

    Links are another matter. I'll be keeping a weather eye open now
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    It’s very clear if one is up on Australian politics.

    As for the fact that the thread was started by Simon Toad, that’s not something you can tell from the front page; all you can’t tell is who posted the most recent post.
    I’ve been on forums where the thread title, original poster and most recent poster is listed, but that doesn’t happen here.

    Many threads depend on some local knowledge - and some on a knowledge of a local dialect.
    Of course, and I don’t have a problem with that. My point was that in such instances, a title that is clear to some will not be clear to others. E.g., “Simon says, ‘Bill’s in like a shot’” was very clear to you and others familiar with Australian politics, but not clear to those unfamiliar with Australian politics. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the title. It just means it’s an overstatement to say simply that it “is very clear.”
  • GwaiGwai Epiphanies Host
    Those of you who did not get it were also not the target audience. My guess is that the ideal title is entertaining to its target audience and utterly clear to them while not too opaque to others.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    As the author of "Simon says...", I take the point. I do think, fwiw, that there should be some leeway -- it takes all of 5 seconds to click on a thread and see what it's about and then ignore it for all eternity. While I don't find it such, I can see how it might be frustrating.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Nick Tamen, point taken.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    Maybe the OP should start; " Oz;Simon says... " That way people would know that this thread is about something Australian.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Moo, only if the nationality is flagged on every new post where it is relevant, which would be tedious.

    There have been a couple from the UK and US that I have wondered about, however it doesn't take long to check it out - besides I like quirky titles - and usually I learn something that interests me, if not I don't follow that thread.
  • LothlorienLothlorien All Saints Host
    Just as you say, Huia. Plenty i have no idea about. I investigate and may keep an eye on things, may not. Would never imagine feeling disadvantaged or similar because I did not know the circumstances behind the post.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    How many new threads pop up every day? Usually no more than ten. How many seconds does it take to click on a new thread to check out if it is of any interest to you?

    I figure that I'm a big girl and I think I can sort things like that out pretty quickly.
  • LothlorienLothlorien All Saints Host
    Lyda wrote: »
    How many new threads pop up every day? Usually no more than ten. How many seconds does it take to click on a new thread to check out if it is of any interest to you?

    I figure that I'm a big girl and I think I can sort things like that out pretty quickly.

    Just so.

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I like the 'recent discussion' option a lot, so you can instantly see which threads have been most recently active. And yes, there isn't a huge number of new ones - I've not counted but I'd agree definitely less than ten a day. I'd have thought usually no more than five a day, but I'm not sure. But for myself, I generally click on all new threads, at least once, even if the title seems dull, because they may surprise me, and I like having a general idea of what the community is discussing. And clicking on a few new threads each day takes a only few moments - though I suppose if you only visit S of F once a week, say, or once a month, it would seem more overwhelming.
  • LothlorienLothlorien All Saints Host
    edited May 3
    Duplicate post deleted
  • Lyda wrote: »
    How many new threads pop up every day? Usually no more than ten. How many seconds does it take to click on a new thread to check out if it is of any interest to you?

    I figure that I'm a big girl and I think I can sort things like that out pretty quickly.

    No, readers shouldn't have to look at everything in case it may be of some interest to them. Hosts do have to read it all, so their view may be affected by this. Those who click on everything will decide if they want to follow a thread but may forget that it wasn't worth it because the title doesn't remind them!

    If I write a (non-fiction) book, I need to find a succinct title which will tell people browsing the shelves what it's about. (At least some hint, even if it's 'clever' or a pun.) It must distinguish itself from surrounding books on the same shelf to 'sell' it. If it has a dull title the book won't sell.

  • But if you haven't got time to read threads, it's no big deal if you don't. There is nothing to say that if a thread looks boring you have to click on the title and read it. Nothing to say you have to bother checking things. If the thread titles are boring you can ignore them entirely, and if enough of us don't bother the thread just dies.

    One of the things you can do on this version of the New Ship™, is if you've found an interesting thread and want to follow it, you can bookmark it.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    To clarify, hosts don't have to read every post on all the boards. Just the posts on the boards we host. I generally clicked on all posts on the 'recent discussions' before I was a host. However, the difference is that once I became a host, I had to keep clicking on the posts that were in my particular board - to keep up with all the updates. I was no longer free to decide it was boring and I wasn't going to click on it again!
  • Furtive GanderFurtive Gander Shipmate
    edited May 3
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    The general policy on links is that posting them on their own without either summary context or quote is frowned upon. Sometimes, however, links explain themselves, or are both too long to be quoted but short enough for relevance. But thanks for the alert and the opinion.
    I'm glad to hear it's frowned on. If this is made clearer with an occasional mention posters will take the trouble to include the pertinent text.

    If the visible link makes something clear as red text which then doesn't need clicking, then ok.
    So far as thread titles are concerned, we normally leave them to the OPer. Allusive titles have been in use for a long time. But I take your point re obscurity. Unnecessarily obscure posting is something Hosts can act upon under Purg Guideline 5 (about courtesy) so I think it could be applied to thread titles. In many ways, because Hosts are expected to read everything, allusive or obscure titles are not a problem we're likely to notice too much.

    I'll be interested in other responses.
    Leaving the title to the OPer seems nearly always the right way to go. I remember on the old ship appealing to you B62 about a thread title and you agreed and changed it to make it clear. Usually, if someone is being clever or funny but the topic is clear to most readers, then I'm happy. I have seen really unhelpful titles (not here but on another board similar to Purg) with titles like "What do you think of this?" which I'm sure would be stamped on here where higher hosting standards pertain.

    Meaningless (to most outside the US) titles like "The 116th" could be so much clearer as "The 116th US Congress" without losing anything, so those interested will still read and those with no interest can pass it by without wasting their time. Brexit is similar (well-understood in one political sphere) but probably no-one in the world will misunderstand or forget when they've seen the word and know what it is but will seem obscure the very first time they see it.

    The thread about the documentary was either lazy or more likely hoping to catch people thinking there was some sort of US civil war by missing out the crucial word "Documentary" and in this case I would have liked the title modified.

  • Here's a complete post from chrisstiles yesterday in Brexit III in Purg:
    "Meanwhile continuity Remain have decided to go for a 'heighten the contradictions' approach to the EU elections. "

    The phrase in single quotes is a link, but I can't tell what it means without clicking.
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    Again, hosts aren't your personal sub-editors. And neither are posters.

    It would have taken you less time, and been a lot more polite, to ask @chrisstiles for clarification, on the relevant thread.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    It would be nice if threads had subtitles so we could have a clever or punny title, and then a brief sentence or phrase that actually describes what it's about.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    But we sort of do whenever we want it--it's the "[pun here] : the 'X' thread" format we see so often. As in "Who'd be a writer? : the thread where we bitch about our jobs".
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    But I believe the threads that are the subject of this thread do not. Hence the complaint.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited May 4
    Here's a complete post from chrisstiles yesterday in Brexit III in Purg:
    "Meanwhile continuity Remain have decided to go for a 'heighten the contradictions' approach to the EU elections. "

    The phrase in single quotes is a link, but I can't tell what it means without clicking.

    ?

    "Heighten the contradictions" is a very reasonable summary of what is in the link, if you have aversions to clicking on it. Giving a link a text title to enable it to be quoted in a post is a very elegant way of saying "this is what the link says, but if you want to read it, just click here." chris isn't the only one who does that; Croesos is a past master of that technique and I often use it myself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
  • One of the things I try to remember to do with links is add brackets to say it's a link, and also warn any readers if it is a pdf. I changed to this method after one of our old Shipmates said he was colour blind and couldn't see where the links were on this new format. Which made me wonder if the elegant approach is less inclusive.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    It would be nice if threads had subtitles so we could have a clever or punny title, and then a brief sentence or phrase that actually describes what it's about.
    That makes them sound like the titles for PhD dissertations. It's obligatory to have two parts to their titles, with a colon in between, otherwise you automatically fail.

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    It would be nice if threads had subtitles so we could have a clever or punny title, and then a brief sentence or phrase that actually describes what it's about.
    That makes them sound like the titles for PhD dissertations. It's obligatory to have two parts to their titles, with a colon in between, otherwise you automatically fail.

    Golly I detect a distinct lack of subtlety here. If someone says "It would be nice" it means that it's a matter of success or failure. Black-or-white thinking much?
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    One of the things I try to remember to do with links is add brackets to say it's a link, and also warn any readers if it is a pdf. I changed to this method after one of our old Shipmates said he was colour blind and couldn't see where the links were on this new format. Which made me wonder if the elegant approach is less inclusive.

    That’s a good point, Ck. I am not colour blind, but I’ve found on some devices, maybe also because of the screen tints I use, it can be hard to see the difference between black and dark red. Easier on this new Ship than the old one - not sure if that’s because the font is bigger or if the red is brighter. I do kind of miss the days when links were all underlined. I often signal I'm doing a link, by saying I found a link, and then putting 'here' as the text for the link - I'm not very subtle! :lol:
  • mousethief wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    It would be nice if threads had subtitles so we could have a clever or punny title, and then a brief sentence or phrase that actually describes what it's about.
    That makes them sound like the titles for PhD dissertations. It's obligatory to have two parts to their titles, with a colon in between, otherwise you automatically fail.

    Golly I detect a distinct lack of subtlety here. If someone says "It would be nice" it means that it's a matter of success or failure. Black-or-white thinking much?
    No, my tongue firmly in cheek!

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Need that font.
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