I've seen questions edited to remove the language name from the title. Won't search engines - and folks using search engines - have an easier time finding them if these "tags" are kept as part of the title?
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 31 '09 at 19:50
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Stack Overflow has an extensive tag system which allows users to identify what technology is involved in a question, watch or ignore certain subjects, narrow their searches to a specific area, and even learn about the tag's subject via its wiki.
This tag system works. You can rely on it to notify users who are interested in a tag about your question. Stack Overflow is optimized so that tags are indexed by search engines along with the content of the question. Users are guaranteed to view your tags, and will take them into account when answering your question.
Therefore it is completely unnecessary to force tags into your question titles.
You absolutely do NOT have to use any one of the following forms when composing your title:
The only time you should use tags in your title is when they are organic to the conversational tone of the title. For example,
is an example of forcing tags in order to compensate for a lousy title. The title would be much clearer if rewritten thusly:
Note that the system automatically prefixes the title with the most common tag (unless it's already in the title somewhere) to help search engines find it more easily.
I would like to emphasize for those who are editing questions to remove tags from the titles that there is nothing wrong with including words used as tags in the title when they make the question clearer. For example, converting
does not help anybody. The prohibition is against forcing tags into titles where they otherwise would not belong.
Please do not remove key words that happen to be tags when doing so makes the titles muddier.
Our Fearless Leader even explicitly encourages the use of tag words in titles in certain ways.
If you review the history of this question and answer you will see that the genesis was in people adding keywords to the title in order to help people doing searches and not in order to help people reading the question. Won't's point is mainly that there is no reason to do that, since between tags and other very smart SEO techniques used by the SE software the search engines already get all that information, and since forcibly stuffing tags in the title is annoying to people reading the title, don't do that.
However, despite what Won't asserts, plenty of people do not notice the tags when scanning the lists of questions or, even more critically, when reviewing edits or votes to close. It happens a lot. If the title could easily be interpreted many different ways and is only clarified by words already used as tags then the title is too vague and the tag words should stay.
That said, there is widespread agreement to avoid having tags or anything else in the title that disrupts the conversational tone. So go ahead and remove tags from titles like
This specific example of [question title] in [tag] is more controversial. I feel strongly (and apparently Jeff Atwood agrees) that even if the question is thoroughly tagged, the title
is ridiculously vague.
is going to be much more helpful when "[tag]" is one of "PHP", "Python", or "bash". On the other hand
is probably better off as
since anyone who knows JUnit would infer Java. Still, I'd much rather live with some unnecessary '...in Java' titles if it means avoiding titles like When to use symbols?
I have personally removed many tag-names from question titles. When I do it, though, I try to reword the title so that it still makes sense and may in fact be more specific, for example:
and then I add tags to show which browser the error occurred in, etc.
I think that making the question titles more specific will allow targeted assistance to problems.
Though I totally agree with everything said, I'd like to add:
In my eyes it is not necessary that users, whose edits require peer reviewing, remove the tag from question titles, like:
as long as this is the only editing of the post.
They are are usually considered as "Too minor" and rightly so! (recent example) These unnecessary edits blow up the review queue, and it is a little annoying that there are users out there, which are purposeful looking for those questions, probably don't even read them and just edit the title to get the rep/badge. So it happens that I use my daily 20 Suggested-Edit-Reviews mostly on minor title edits, I think that count could be spend for more useful suggestions.
Tags in the title help digest search results. Google knows nothing about Stack Overflow's tags (or does not display results based upon them). The same probably applies to other search engines like Bing.
A second issue is duplicate questions titles. Below is an attempt to remove the tag "BlackBerry" from the title.
While it makes no sense to put all information found in your tags in your title as well, it makes no sense either to remove all references to any information found in the tags from every question.
Consider the following two titles :
If I ask you which of these you're most likely to click, your answer will probably depend on whatever is your technical expertise. If you're a PHP programmer, you're more likely to click
More importantly, however, is this : regardless of your expertise you'll be less likely to click
Yet, if you strictly apply the principle that (1) the programming language should be mentioned as a tag and the principle that (2) information in a tag does not belong in a title, only the title
Additionally, consider that questions aren't always accompanied with tags, (like the "Linked questions" and "Related questions" on the right hand side of any question). In these cases, all you have to go with to figure out whether a question is relevant for you is the title. Do you really want to waste my precious time and that of so many others on this website by encouraging us to click on questions that involve programming environments I'm completely unfamiliar with, where this could have simply been avoided simply by mentioning a programming language? From a UX (= user experience) perspective, that is about as horrible as it gets!
Or what about search engines? While search engines like Google or Bing probably do include tag information in their search behavior, it is unclear to which degree they do, and I'm pretty confident that titles explicitly referencing a particular technology are more likely to be one of the top results when searching for that specific technology than titles lacking such a reference.
But even if that would not be the case, tag information is not shown in the title or anywhere else in the search results, meaning that I have to assess whether to click a title based on just the title and a tiny bit of additional content :
So, while I guess there are valid arguments to removing content also found in tags from titles of questions, I don't think this should be applied to all questions as a general principle and that some common sense should be applied here to decide whether certain information in a title has a positive or negative impact on UX.
I'm also on the fence about this. When you look at the list of questions on the main page in which each question has a list of tags under it, certainly all those title-embedded tags seem pretty redundant, and even kind of, well, crappy.
I get that, I can see how that could easily send OCD types into seizures and conniptions. And we certainly have our OCD types in I.T., and thank goodness we do, I mean, when a misplaced semicolon can crash your space station, that detail orientation has value, without question. I'm blessed (or cursed) with a certain amount of it myself, and all those title-embedded tags, now that they've been drawn to my attention, are already starting to make part of me wrinkle my nose and suffer an urge to whack someone's knuckles with a ruler:
"I BEFORE E! NO TAGS IN TITLES! BOW TO YOUR SENSEI ! !"
But I don't see any tag lists under the question titles in the "Linked" or the "Related" question lists. And I don't see tags under the question titles that show up when I'm typing a question in and SO is referring me to questions it thinks may be related.
If we avoid using any tags when we fashion question titles, won't that make it harder to tell how relevant these other questions really are?
It may be that those lists of potentially related questions shouldn't serve any useful purpose, because people should use the actual search function before typing in a question, but it seems to me that these peripheral lists do actually serve a useful purpose, and that they shouldn't have tag lists, and if they don't, and the question titles don't have any "embedded tags", or anything that could be called one, then their usefulness will be substantially reduced.
Also, "tags" in question titles aren't necessarily really the same things as tags. When used in a question title, a "tag" like "C#" really narrows the focus of the question and the motivated responses. That question is definitely specific to C#. But when used as a tag, it just means that that question is in some way related to C# or involves C#. It doesn't necessarily mean that the question is really specific to C#.
What exactly is a tag? I suppose a person could argue that a title-embedded tag is pretty obvious and easy to recognize; that most people would probably agree that some particular word or phrase, used in a title, represents a title-embedded tag. But I can imagine that not really being so in many cases (just because a word or phrase is listed as a tag doesn't mean that every use of it represents a use of the tag - words have different meanings in different contexts), and how much argument about these kinds of things do we really want to encourage?
Would we rather piss off question editors, or question authors? Is this kind of policy not a perfect example of the kind of thing you end up with when you engage in the rule of the many by the few? Because we think the few are more deserving than the many? Look at all those reputation points! By golly, you've earned your right to whack knuckles, haven't you!
Anyway, while I understand the annoyance that title-embedded "tags" may produce for a lot of us, I'm not sure I'm convinced that they don't actually serve a worthwhile purpose.