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Seems we are not allowed to inorganically include tags within titles, for example "jQuery: How to append to an element?". When displaying questions, what if the tags were moved to be displayed next to (before the title, inline) or above the title?

Given the example above, the "jQuery" word is an important part of the question context, and context is always important for communication - just as important as the words themselves. So while some people see "jQuery: ..." as a travesty, as if I had typed "Earth: Humans: Technology: Computer Science: Web Development: Javascript: jQuery: ...", I see it as an important part of the context of the question. Especially when sites like StackOverflow have such a broad scope, it seems acceptable to include the one word that completely clarifies the context of the question. (Given that developers generally have a pretty good sense of how to define the context of their question within the scope of programming, based on experience communicating with other developers and/or googling for answers, a lot of times one word is enough.)

Even though I can try to work the context into the question organically, it is still more a description of context than a part of the question. i.e. "How to append to an element using jQuery?" Is not that much cleaner than my original example. Plus context is usually a prerequisite for understanding the communication, and shouldn't appear at the end of the communication. It would be like if I told you a long story using only pronouns, then at the end revealed the nouns (therefore, the context) which the pronouns were operating under.

What if we moved them to the front? Or since they're at the bottom, we could move them to the top? People seem to do it that way naturally. I wonder if there's a reason for that? Maybe they have an easier time understanding each other when they know the context up front. Oh yeah, I'm talking about tags on StackExchange questions. Now you must re-read this entire paragraph in order to understand it.

My suggestion:

First of all, consider whether using "tags" is the right way at all to provide the context of something.

Second, if it is the best way to provide context, can we get them up closer to the question title, or even inline with the question title (before or after) or above the question title? I find the current layout with tags at the bottom to be hard to visually scan & interpret, especially if the question has very little context without the tags. Do I just need to learn to scan SE questions from the bottom-up? Is that really what you want your users to do?

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When browsing questions you get pretty much only the title and the tag. Isn't this enough? –  ben is uǝq backwards Jul 27 '13 at 18:22
    
I get title, then first 2 lines of body, then tags. I still think it's backwards and could be improved for readability / scanability. I think my questions at the very end are valid. Especially if tags have been redefined as "providers of context" as well as linking questions together into categories. –  colllin Jul 27 '13 at 21:27
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1 Answer

I must admit that even after reading the question a couple of times, I still don't really know what you're aiming at here.

First of all, we already display tags in/near the question title:

  • On pages that list questions, all of the tags are listed right there with each question.

  • The system automatically prefixes the most popular tag to the title of question pages (the <title> that appears in your browser window, not the "subject"-style title of the question). This is done for SEO purposes, and is actually a bit more complicated in its implementation than I made it sound. But it still happens.

Second, your request runs counter to the hopes of nearly everyone else who has ever discussed question titles on Meta. We get at least a couple of questions a month from people who seek to prevent people from tacking tag warts in front of question titles. And that's in addition to the major discussions that occurred long ago to hash out our official policy on this. I detailed the history on this issue in my answer here to a recent question about precisely this topic. Definitely worth a read, since what you're asking runs counter to both established site policy and what appears to me to be the opinions of the masses.

So I suppose the question is why. Let's look at some of your claims:

the "jQuery" word is an important part of the question context, and context is always important for communication - just as important as the words themselves.

Of course. No one is contesting that context is important. But you don't have to be bashed over the head with context in order to perceive it. Prefixing all titles with tags like this is distracting (makes the actual question harder to discern) and unnecessary duplication (we already have the tag system for this).

So while some people see "jQuery: ..." as a travesty, as if I had typed "Earth: Humans: Technology: Computer Science: Web Development: Javascript: jQuery: ...", I see it as an important part of the context of the question.

You're trying to make an argument from absurdity here, but I'll turn it around: what exactly is the difference between "jQuery: ..." and "Web Programming: Dynamic: JavaScript: JQuery: ..."? We don't need all the "Planet Earth: Computer Science: Programming" stuff because that context is already provided by the site itself. That leaves you with my example, which isn't nearly as obviously absurd. But it's still bad because it obscures the actual question being asked. Here, context gets in the way of comprehension.

Besides, what's the bright line for how much context to include in question prefixes? Just one word? One topic? Are you sure that's always enough? Again, that's why we have the tag system.

Especially when sites like StackOverflow have such a broad scope, it seems acceptable to include the one word that completely clarifies the context of the question.

Again, why can't the tag system adequately handle this problem? I don't know about you, but I browse the site in three general ways:

  • using the home page, which automatically filters based on my favorite tags and the types of questions I answer,
  • filtering by a specific tag or set of tags, or
  • searching, using keywords and tags to narrow down my results.

I don't even see questions on topics that I'm uninterested in. I'd rather read the title and see a clear summary of the question that is being asked.

Heck, if it's a topic that I'm generally interested in, I'll click through and read the question and answers, even if it's not about a programming language that I would otherwise care about.

Even though I can try to work the context into the question organically, it is still more a description of context than a part of the question. i.e. "How to append to an element using jQuery?" Is not that much cleaner than my original example.

Au contraire! Question titles are meant to describe the problem that you're having. They're also meant to be readable by humans, written in natural language. No one talks the way you're suggesting, except maybe Yoda.

Working the language/technology into the title organically is the only way it should be done. If you can't do that, you should omit it altogether.

Plus context is usually a prerequisite for understanding the communication, and shouldn't appear at the end of the communication. It would be like if I told you a long story using only pronouns, then at the end revealed the nouns (therefore, the context) which the pronouns were operating under.

This seems to me to be a bit of a strained analogy. Question titles don't dance around the language in the first half and keep it hidden until the second half. They describe the problem in the first part, and then contextualize it at the end with a specific language or technology if applicable.

Besides, you don't generally need to know the language or technology in order to understand a problem. Your example is appending an element. Does it really matter what scripting language I want to use to do that? It's going to be the same general process either way. You certainly don't have to go back and re-read the title once you hit the mention of "jQuery" or "Ajax".

Same thing with "C++: Counting the number of bits set in a field". That's going to work the same way in all programming languages, it doesn't matter that I'm using C++.

I guess you could argue that the title should be written: "Bit-manipulation: Counting the number of bits set in a field", but then how would you know that I'm using C++? Oh yeah, the tags.

First of all, consider whether using "tags" is the right way at all to provide the context of something.

Okay, considered. I still think it is. You haven't provided any arguments here for why the tagging system is broken or insufficient. You've just argued why we need them: to provide context.

Second, if it is the best way to provide context, can we get them up closer to the question title, or even inline with the question title (before or after) or above the question title? I find the current layout with tags at the bottom to be hard to visually scan & interpret, especially if the question has very little context without the tags. Do I just need to learn to scan SE questions from the bottom-up? Is that really what you want your users to do?

I guess you're talking about the question page here, where the tags are located underneath the text of the question itself. But I don't really see why they need to be more prominent here: they already served their purpose in getting you to that page.

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