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I recently posted a question in Stack Overflow, and after I got some replies I realized that the title I had chosen did not adequately describe the question I wanted to ask. I got several replies, including some that address to a tee what my botched title actually asks. My dilemma now is that, if on the one hand I accept one of these replies, I close off the opportunity to get an answer to what I really wanted to ask. On the other hand, changing the title of the question (and hence, in a way, the question being asked as well) seems shabby to those who took the time to reply.

I know from experience, both writing and replying to this sort of post, that choosing a good title is often tricky, and not easy to get right the first time. Therefore, I imagine that situations like this one are common in a site like Stack Overflow. What's considered the proper way to handle such a situation?


PS: FWIW, the post I'm referring to is For the title to really reflect what I'm asking, it would have to be something like, "How to salvage either the zip(*[iter(x)]*n) trick or the map(None, *[iter(x)]*n) trick when n % k > 0?" but this title seems to me way too long (isn't it?). Also, I'm sure it would be cryptic to most Python programmers, since these tricks are rarely mentioned in replies to questions on evenly "chunking" a list, but I think I will have to accept this: my question is arcane, so no accurate title could fail to be arcane as well. Therefore, for me now it's a toss up between the following titles:

How to salvage Python's zip(*[iter(x)]*n) trick when n % k > 0?
How to salvage Python's map(None, *[iter(x)]*n) trick when n % k > 0?

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@Al Everett: I wrote the reference to the original post as I did to prevent it to be displayed as the post's title, since I'm quoting the title immediately after, and after all, the question is whether I should change the title. I think that, in this case, the reference to the post should be kept separate from its title. – kjo Aug 10 '11 at 13:34
@Al Everett: I changed the reference to the original post to the way I wrote it originally, for the reasons spelled out in my previous comment. I hope it is OK to do this. (I was not able to find the site's position on rolling back an editor's change.) If not, my apologies. – kjo Aug 10 '11 at 13:43
Easy enough to override and show an URL as the text, rather than having it automagically be changed. – Al E. Aug 10 '11 at 14:39
up vote 8 down vote accepted

If you got answers to the question you actually asked, I think you should keep that one (and the answers).

Just ask another question if want to know more about something similar, like the thing you really wanted to ask. :-)

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The thing is that, in this case the only thing I think needs changing is the title; the actual body of the question, as I asked it, is pretty close to what I would ask if I had to do it again... – kjo Aug 10 '11 at 13:36

Unfortunately, question title is an advertisement for the question it describes. You have to consider who you want viewing the question in addition to how many people you want to be answering the question.

I find that a misleading title will give you bad to useless answers the vast majority of the time. This is especially true if you ask a question in your title which is simple to answer (If you have How do I format xyz in Python? as a title for a question about regex, you can expect that at least one person will want to reply, "format"). This can be mitigated, of course, by the length of the question body (longer question = force someone to read it).

On the other hand, questions with overly specific titles are tumbleweed risks. But, it is far more likely that those who view the question are more specialized towards your answer.

In your case, I think that it might have been easier for you had you expressed it in a different way -- the brain auto-complete saw, break an n-long list into k-long chunks and filled in the rest. The proposed alternate title might be a good one. That said, it looks like your answers seem to all be in the right direction, so you might want to stet it.

(As a note, I've both +1'd and favorited that question. Fascinating)

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I'd say try How to salvage either the zip(*[iter(x)]*n) or the map(None, *[iter(x)]*n) trick when n % k > 0? It's probably more grammatically nice the way you had it, but this way it's shorter, and the reader can get the rest of the info when they open the question. If it describes your question more accurately, then a bit of extra length is worth it, IMHO.

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