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Looking at a recent, well I didn't ask much lately.., question of mine on butchering dragons, I see again that people often do not even want to read the actual question but just want to react to the first few words without using their brains or anything else..

The original title of that question was "How to cook your dragon", a title intended to be a reference to a certain movie about dragons and vikings, as well as a catchy eye-catcher to gather attention to the question.

The body of the question itself as well as the bold single-sentence question at the end was asking about the single aspect of butchering a dragon, e.g. what cuts to make from which parts of it.


Looking at another question, here on the meta, asking about if question titles need be questions themselves it seems to be a problem having been encountered by others as well.


This discussion is meant to discuss and hopefully find a consensus on why/how/what and other fancy w-questions regarding question titles opposed to the actual question.

Why are people not able to read the question itself, and why do they when you point it out to them insist that you, the question poster, are wrong and they are right?

(Yes, this is a grief-laden subject for me, because I've had some questions that have been swarmed with good answers that were totally off-topic.. and I do not want to have to flag them for deletion if I do not have to.
Every good answer that doesn't handle the question makes me feel that I have failed in writing a clear question :/)

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    $\begingroup$ I hate to break it to you, but SE gets people trained in the arts of Internet. The internet is like a firehose of information. More information is great, but if you stand in front of the firehose with your mouth open, its going to hurt. Better to take a sip of information, or block some of that information with your hand and imbibe. Tortured metaphor aside, people browsing the internet are well accustomed to looking at the title of links before clicking (or else they get viruses). You have to make your title legit to get your content properly assessed. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jan 27 '17 at 3:14
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For the sake of the usability of this site, I think question titles should be the actual questions (or at least a decent summary of what it is that's being asked). If you ask "how to cook your dragon" people expect a question regarding cooking, not butchering.

To provide a possible scenario. Let's say someone is pondering how to cook a dragon. Good etiquette would be to search for such a question first. And once they do, they'll find a question titled "how to cook your dragon" only to realize that the question is not about cooking at all.

This also applies for answering the question. Let's say a person sees the question in the front page and decides to answer it because they know a LOT about cooking, especially exotic meals. But upon reading the body of the question they realize that the question is not in fact about cooking and that they can't answer it. Similarly, for the opposite scenario, someone who might know about butchering but not cooking will not answer the question because they think they can't.

Things such as the similar questions box when writing a question or seeing a posted question would also be affected by misleading titles and will probably also mislead users.

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First impressions count in human cognition. Once we THINK we understand, we assume we DO understand. After that, ego gets involved to correct ourselves. I had an answer that I had to delete yesterday after someone demonstrated that the Internet had changed from when I last looked at it. I really wanted to argue I was right even though I knew I wasn't. The instinct to win is huge and has to be actively repressed to actually get the right answers. Certain People who advocate for winning always are Evidence One for the problem that attitude creates! None of us likes to lose. It takes concentration to let it happen. For something that is a fun hobby, that's DOUBLY hard... it mixes pain into the fun. I could cite specific comments demonstrating that, but I'm not calling anyone out... that is also a problem. :-)

Long story short: put a title down that makes the right first impression!

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  • $\begingroup$ Taking the example I've given - What would be a title that makes the right first impression? $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jan 25 '17 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Something specifically technical perhaps, that clues people in from the start that they aren't experts in this area unless they are butchers already. Like "Aside from size, how would the process for butchering a dragon differ from the process of butchering a deer or cow?" I think that will deflect more people unless they know how to butcher. Make sense? $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 25 '17 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ Make some sense; But that's a) an awfully long title; and b) thanks to it's length a criterium that makes people not even look at the question - in the end we all want our rep, right? :) $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jan 25 '17 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ I answered your question... you think this is a place for solving all the world's problems?! :-) Good luck with balancing act! $\endgroup$ – SRM Jan 25 '17 at 15:48
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I disagree on what the others wrote. As I pointed out somewhere else, while it is the duty of the one who poses a question to clarify any doubt and write in a way as clear as possible in order not to break any rule, it's also the duty of whoever writes an answer to actually read the question before they do.

What's the point of answering if you're not going to read past the first line anyway?

And to whoever argues that a witty title like the one shown as example in the question is bad practice, I'd like to point out that a large portion of the top questions of this site have a misguiding title, and arguably the best questions are the ones that entertain the reader, not just the answerer.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you are refering to a comment I made on one answer of your question. The problem is in my opinion not that you didn't write a question as the title.The problem is that your title vastly differs from your text. Your characters go from "Help me, I'm trapped on worldbuilding.SE" to "Acknowledge me, I'm from the future" which is a huge difference. This lead to the problem that someone wanted to answer your title-question. He still read your whole question $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 31 '17 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ In an ideal world maybe, but what makes you think that misleading and wasting others time is a good thing? When one struggles to formulate the Question, ok we get it, but when it is done intentionally? $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Feb 1 '17 at 15:11
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The title should at least to try to be on the topic of a question.

And yes, as you describe it, yes, you failed to create a clear question.
I assume that not a lot of people hunt for your questions to answer them in a wrong way to dissatisfy your personally or to misunderstand them, and it means you have created a wrong question for a wrong audience.

One part of the problem is creating click-bait title, which makes no good for the situation.(based on your description of your perception, I didn't read the answers to verify possible situation when it might be not only about interpreting of your question but also about your interpreting of the answers)

Avoid opinion-based questions

The Second problem is seeking for popular solutions, seeking for a plot for your story and in general asking highly opinion based question.

  • I was not particularly interested in the question, but I took some time to see its original form and take look also at few other revisions. I have been aware of the possibility to misunderstand your question, I kinda have read the READMEFIRST part. Based on your metaquestion and reading answers and comments here I was aware that the title is not the question and the question is something else. For sure, to decide what the question is about, as I'm not a patient reader of questions which I'm not particularly interested in, I looked at Q thing and assumed that it is the real question, but I was WRONG. The real question was not the title, not the Q section, but a 3rd option which is totally different (in its current 10th revision) from both Q and T.

    Excellent job, next step is to write it in a form of a text riddle.

    So the winner is - Gimme names of meat parts of a dragon carcass(species of dragon is not specified)?

Possible suggestion to avoid such things.

  1. avoid click baits
  2. be more specific in your question
  3. do not ask opinion based questions without any restrictions, which should be relevant to Q.
  4. Test your question, by answering - can the question be answered without any knowledge, based on pure fantasy strength of the brain of those who would like to answer the question? If yes, try to add restrictions of your opinion based question and test it again. If no, then check if you mentioned the reasons which lead you to the conclusion.

  5. try to fit title at least somewhat on the topic of what you are asking (you managed it)

  6. The real question you ask, write it first First - part of de-clickbaiting the question, no one needs to read the 500 words before to discover they are not interested in the question.
  7. Basic clarification(not extensive) second
  8. The backstory story you would like to test it on the free beta reader's and to set up the context for those who need it - the next.
  9. clarification based on the story and other extensive clarification the last.
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