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I feel like the majority of edits I suggest are just to focus the title onto the content of the question. For example, the OP titled this question onclick vs. addEventListener even though the question body clearly indicates he really cares about where an event registered with addEventListener is stored (I suggested an edit already).

What steps could we take to help get question titles right the first time?

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Problem: The title box is magic! It saved me from asking yet another duplicate quite a few times. –  Yannis Oct 31 '12 at 11:34
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I don't really think that rearranging the elements is going to fix how much people suck at creating decent titles. I often wonder if they even care. –  Bart Oct 31 '12 at 11:38
    
Maybe SO could create an algorithm that measures how likely it is that the title reflects the content? I don't know if that would be possible, but considering how amazing some of the other SO algorithms are, maybe it is? I'll update the question to be a "how to improve titles". –  just.another.programmer Oct 31 '12 at 12:02
    
I find it particularly ironic that I retitled this question. –  just.another.programmer Oct 31 '12 at 12:33
    
Twice on this page, now, you have asked for a solution involving a magic algorithm. The best thing you could do, I think, is work towards an implementation; none of the other suggestions are promising. –  itsbruce Oct 31 '12 at 13:51

2 Answers 2

I regularly point out to people when their title does not accurately reflect the question. I do this when reviewing or when simply answering questions. If the confusion is particularly unhelpful, I also downvote the question. I'm not sure that there is any better method than this.

Poorly drafted questions attract bad answers, downvotes and (if the questioner is lucky) helpful explanations of how the question can be improved. If the questioner is intelligent enough to respond appropriately, the question improves. If he or she is not that smart or diligent, the question suffers the death that is inevitable from SO's model of social darwinism. This mechanism is core to the SO system; I'm not sure that it is broken. It's not a failure if SO has some bad questions; it's a failure if those bad questions are rewarded and promoted.

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I agree, but I want to clarify a detail you left open: Hints about the bad title should be given through a comment to the question, and not in your answer. –  oberlies Oct 31 '12 at 13:42
    
@oberlies That is, indeed, how I would do it. –  itsbruce Oct 31 '12 at 13:46

Four suggestions:

  1. It seems to me this happens because people have not generally focused their thoughts onto a clear question until they write it out. Only once it's written, they can give it a reasonably brief but explanatory title. You would not title a book before you wrote it, would you? Could SO perhaps facilitate this behavior by moving the title box to be after the question? Or better yet, require the asker to write the full question before the title box is enabled?

  2. Could SO create an algorithm which tries to asses the odds the title reflects the content? I don't know if that would be possible, but considering how amazing some of the other SO algorithms are, maybe it is?

  3. Special incentives for fixing bad titles. An extra point of reputation if you fix one (with similar rules / limits to the +2 for general edits). Maybe some fancy-shmancy badges if you fix lots and lots of titles.

  4. A new review queue for checking only question titles versus their content. Would contain questions from a) users who have a history of re-titled questions, b) questions which the above mentioned algorithm flags, or c) questions from new / low rep users.

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actually, a book is very often titled before it is written, especially so for technical books... –  prusswan Oct 31 '12 at 12:31
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On point 3 and 4, titles are part of the question itself. Editing them separately should not give you more rep points. There's alredy an effort to reduce the number of minor edits in the queue, I don't think granting rep points for title edits goes in the proper direction. But I agree, some titles are horrible, it would be nice if something could be done. –  Laf Oct 31 '12 at 12:43
    
I disagree with point 1. The title belongs at the top; this is how it will be presented, after all. Points 3 and 4 simply add complexity to the mechanisms, for no clear gain. –  itsbruce Oct 31 '12 at 13:49

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