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I was reading a response on the meta here about how "clickbait" titles are annoying to that user (sorry about this one's title, friend). I find that nonstandard titles are better at getting eyes on a question and subsequently get more and better answers, which has lead me to trying to sensationalize my question titles a bit.

As they are now, some might not make sense without clicking on the question, but after you read the question it (hopefully) makes sense in context.

So, are "clickbait" titles something that is generally frowned upon here?

I can completely understand not having titles that have no bearing on the question, but is there a general distaste for non-question titles overall?

(Just as a note, the title for this one is an extreme example, and I have no weird old tips.)

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    $\begingroup$ Can you give us some examples of what you consider to be clickbait titles? I ask, because I've never noticed this to be a "problem" before. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 24 '16 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I guess thats part of what I'm asking. I'll give you an example of one I was planning to use on my next question "Rock, Paper... Communism?" clearly this isnt obvious what the actual question is, but I think after the reader knows the question, I think it will. $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 24 '16 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ I love that! Although it might not be too useful for others to discern what the heck your question is about. Some other users may have to weigh in at this point. I think the tags should help people find useful questions even if the title is a little .. artistic :P $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 24 '16 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! :) I hope the question will live up to expectations. I personally wouldn't call it "clickbait" but I think it was what the original responder was talking about when he called it that. $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 24 '16 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ I, personally, greatly appreciate wit and humor in a question, and while I suppose that title would be a little click-baitish I certainly wouldn't mind as long as the question was well written, and within scope. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 24 '16 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ So, can you give us a clear cut definition of a "clickbait" title? Is it just a title that has little to do with the question and is used to lure in curious people? $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Mar 26 '16 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'm really mostly concerned about questions with flashy, but non-informative titles without context. That is, the title doesn't explicitly tell you what the question is about; however, after you read the question, the title's meaning will make sense, to at least some degree. Titles with no shared meaning with the question itself are right out. This discussion isn't asking about those. $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 26 '16 at 4:27
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As I feel that I am the "that user" mentioned :), I'll explain my views on the subject.

We all know that reputation is a bunch of virtual points on an internet site. Nevertheless, we all like to accumulate them. As such we want our questions to be popular. Furthermore, as you mention, you want to attract enough people to get a good quality answer. Both of those are grounds to write an attractive title. A clickbait.

We probably all do that to some extend and that's fair game.

However, popularity do not always bring the best for the question. Yes, you get more reputation, yes you get more chance to get a better answer. However popular questions often get on the hot network questions list. And as such will attract many people less used to the site. Again, in itself, it isn't bad. Many/most of us joined Worldbuilding that way.

But, we tend to observe a few drawbacks:

  • heavy upvotes on witty answers in detriment of more thorough ones,
  • amplification of a ranking: most casual users won't bother reading all the answers, so the one with more upvotes... will get even more upvotes, when the other answers are forgotten,
  • attract low quality answers: you accumulate more than 10 answers, often from newer users, who do not bring more to the question.

So clickbait titles are not necessarily bad. But one should not consider that they are always good. To get the best results in term of provided answer, it's best to have the most precise titles, to attract "experts". Quality over quantity.

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  • $\begingroup$ Oh, are you the one? I actually can't find where I read it anymore so I have no idea who it was. :P $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 24 '16 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ "We all know that reputation is a bunch of virtual points on an internet site." <- Of course. Now, your reputation, or your life! $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 24 '16 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ Well, maybe not, but that post: meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/3413/9685 could be where you got it from :) $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Mar 24 '16 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ Oh yeah, that was it, haha! Sorry for the shout out. But I'm glad you elaborated on your stance. I think it's really useful for this discussion! $\endgroup$ – JGaines Mar 24 '16 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ I've dealt with the first drawback on many occasions. $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Mar 31 '16 at 2:24
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I think the best "clickbait" is to develop a reputation for asking well-framed, thought-provoking, and interesting questions. That will lead to people from WB who know of you and your questions to say, "Ah, another JGaines question, this should be interesting!" (click)

That will lead to your question getting lots of views from WB regulars. That will lead to your question getting onto the HNQ (Hot Network Questions) list. That will let users from across all stacks view your title. This is where having an informative title that actually describes the gist of the question well is useful, since all they see is that one line, before deciding on whether to click or not.

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The purpose of the question title is to accurately and succintly summarize the most important parts of the question in order to establish context for the question body.

The title itself cannot cover all the ground that the question text itself does. That's just not practical, let alone that it isn't the purpose of the title at all. This is even more so on a site like Worldbuilding, where we generally expect askers to lay out the background that any answers will need to adhere to in sufficient detail, and ideally also show what research the asker has done in trying to answer the question themselves or at the very least establish their knowledge level.

The title can and should however give a summary, such that (especially together with the tags) you can tell at a glance what the OP is asking about.

I have been known to downvote mercilessly any questions I come across where the title does not accurately summarize the question. In some cases I have also voted to close for the same reason.

Consider the title field placeholder text: What's your worldbuilding question? Be specific.

By all means feel free to write a "witty" or "clickbait" title, but make sure it first and foremost fulfills its purpose of being a summary of the question.

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Although clickbait titles may be entertaining, they don't really get the gist of the question across unless you actually make the effort to read the whole question. By your logic, I feel like you're doing the opposite of what you want to do: you're pushing potentially useful answers with a title that might seem random. Since only your question's title is shown in the Hot Questions bar and on Worldbuilding, you could probably attract more quality answers if you gave a basic idea of what your question was about in the title. I personally skim through new questions reading only the title and a misleading title would cause me to just skim over it, potentially missing a hidden gem.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's the opposite of what I do. I just go to the newest questions and read them all regardless of quality, but to each his own. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Mar 26 '16 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with fi12; I started reading questions from WB because they have interesting titles summing their question and I wanted to know why and how it was implemented. Curiosity killed the cat, and hot questions have excellently framed questions and answers. $\endgroup$ – Marion Apr 2 '16 at 18:34

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