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I had a question which I recently asked on SFF. Pretty much the entire question is a spoiler. I, not wanting to spoil anything for those who haven't seen the episode yet, which probably hasn't aired yet in the whole world.

I had to put a significant block of text in the beginning, so as to avoid getting spoilers in the summary. It would be nice if the text labeled as spoilers didn't get put into the summary.

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See also this meta.SF&F question. –  Keen May 2 '11 at 14:32
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BTW, he was a ghost all along. –  Won't May 2 '11 at 15:06
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@Will NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! –  Keen May 2 '11 at 15:14
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Snape killed Trinity with Rosebud. –  Adam Davis May 2 '11 at 19:43
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Perhaps this needs to be a separate question, but it would be nice if it wasn't in the RSS feed, too. Replacing any spoiler text in the RSS with "SPOILERS HIDDEN" or something, would be fine. (And go to the site if you want to read it). –  Tony Meyer May 6 '11 at 23:56

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

This has been mostly completed and is now active - now, the question summaries on the Questions pages, as well as the summary tooltip on the Front Page will hide any spoiler text that is in the first 200 characters.

It's only mostly completed as RSS Feeds and search results do not cover up spoiler text.

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What's the current status: do RSS Feeds and search results now cover up spoiler text? To what extent will search engines (e.g. Google) ingest spoilered text and make it (i.e. spoilered text, and the topic in which the spoilered text is contained) available on their search results page? –  ChrisW Aug 14 at 16:36

Pretty much the entire question is a spoiler.

Don't do that. KTHXBYE!

Seriously though. You want to be able to post a question where nearly the entire body will appear blank? Where carelessly moving the mouse over to the voting buttons or footer-links will inadvertently reveal the spoiler? This just seems like a bad idea REGARDLESS of what appears in the summary.

It's also somewhat akin to questions on SO that consist of "Help!" followed by a big code block. Yes, it screws up the summary - but it's also a terrible lead-in to the question itself, since readers must either scroll to the end (if there's more question there) or read the code itself (reveal the spoiler...) to figure out if there's actually anything worthwhile being asked.

So yeah, this could probably be fixed... But the polite thing to do is put enough of a non-spoiler question in your question to give folks a heads-up before they're dumped into your shadow land of ruin and despair.

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It's not hard to imagine a question where the third sentence is a spoiler. There's no reason that we need to count characters in those situations. –  user157130 May 2 '11 at 18:25
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@Tim: you don't need to count characters at all. But if the summary happens to contain spoiler text, you may want to re-arrange things a bit... –  Shog9 May 2 '11 at 18:28
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@Shog9: So, either you count characters, or you look at the question after it's posted to make sure it doesn't have spoilers. Oh, and BTW, if you post it in chat, the amount of summary text is a bit longer, so you might want to check that out too... –  PearsonArtPhoto May 2 '11 at 19:52
    
@Pearsonartphoto: sounds like a plan! (But I wouldn't worry too much about chat) –  Shog9 May 2 '11 at 19:55
    
There are cases where the short lead-in is ok, but I can understand you wouldn't encourage short lead-ins (and in fact I might feature-request forbidding starting the body with >! if it happens too much on SFF). However, it would at least be nice to have some feedback that the spoiler text will be visible on the questions page. –  Gilles May 3 '11 at 0:05
    
@Pearsonartphoto: If you hang out on the chat, you have to expect spoilers. Anyone can post anything anytime. –  Gilles May 3 '11 at 0:05
    
@Gilles: Good point. Still, it would be nice... –  PearsonArtPhoto May 3 '11 at 1:07
    
+1 for shadow land of ruin and despair –  Lightness Races in Orbit May 17 '11 at 20:21

If you want to do that, you're probably taking the wrong approach to spoilers. I'm having trouble distilling this into words, so let me give you two examples:

Need help with the final jump in Portal.

SPOILER ALERT ZOMG!

I've reached the end of Portal and I'm having trouble with the final jump of the game, which should trigger the ending cutscene. I can't be more specific without spoiling everything and I haven't put in 300 characters yet, so let me add some generic filler about how this game is totally awesome and you should buy it yesterday.

Phew, here goes my real question! Do not hover with your mouse if you haven't played through yet, because the ending is so totally awesome, if you haven't seen it yet I envy you because it's so absurdly awesomely mindblowing.

I can't reach the anger core. I try to place a portal at the very top, but I always fall a bit short of grabbing the personality core, no matter how hard I tap E.

How can I do this?

There are several wrong things with the above, even when you remove my touch of humor above.

  • The question title just can't be googled for. Stack Exchange is supposed to be write once, read many. Obfuscating the title to skirm out spoilers seriously hampers this. People don't google for "how can I do the final jump in portal", people google for "portal ending boss-fight walkthrough", or at most "portal ending third core."

  • The meat of the question is padded by filler and locked behind JS trickery. If JS is disabled, spoiler blockquotes don't work. If JS is enabled but you can't hover (think smartphones), spoiler blockquotes are a PITA to read at all. Additionally, tooltips, chat and (most importantly) Google do not support spoiler markup at all, and with search engines it doesn't matter if you count letters or paragraphs.

  • The spoiler tag. (Bonus point if the question has "[SPOILERS]" in the title.) The spoiler tag is a poor idea, mainly because it's so generic. It's trivial to have something that is much more specific and is not a meta-tag, such as , or .

    "Wait a second, Gaming does have a spoiler tag!" Yeah, it does. Since we have a non-written policy of writing good titles even if they spoil, I proposed to use that tag to mark spoilery titles so that you can "hide them" easily. Even in this way, however, this isn't really a good idea; it'd be much better to place topics you don't want to be spoiled about in your ignore list.

Compare with:

I can't reach the anger core

I can't reach the anger core. I try to place a portal at the very top, but I always fall a bit short of grabbing the personality core, no matter how hard I tap E.

How can I do this?

The title is clear, googleable, and meaningless if you haven't finished the game (so it cannot really spoil!). The question text goes straight to the matter. The tagging is pertinent to the question. I don't know about you, but I like the second approach much better.

Be aware that most of this actually applies to answers as well. If you have a paragraph discussing the spoilery matter that is at the heart of the question, you shouldn't put it in a spoiler tag; it's redundant. You should limit the spoiler section in answer for spoilers that are unnecessary and tangential to the answer. For example:

To reach for that core, you must fling. Place the first portal at the top, place the second on your feet; while you go through, aim down and shoot the second portal on your feet again; when you go through again, aim forward and you'll be in grabbing range.

Once you have the core, you'll need to destroy it like you have done with the other two cores: place a portal near the incinerator, go in the "room" on the left, place the second portal there, press the button, go through and drop the core in there. You win!

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If you haven't finished Portal by now, you have no one to blame but yourself! :P (Or perhaps your age.) –  badp May 17 '11 at 20:16
    
Jeff wouldn't like your question - it has less than 220 characters in its body :-) –  Hendrik Vogt May 17 '11 at 20:29
    
@Hendrik The solution isn't adding filler text. The amount of content in both questions is the same. –  badp May 17 '11 at 21:32
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tl;dr: write questions that are meaningful without spoiler text. –  Shog9 May 17 '11 at 23:09
    
@badp: I do like your question, and wouldn't want added filler text! I only wanted to let some steam off (see the comments to the question I linked to). –  Hendrik Vogt May 18 '11 at 7:43
    
@Hendrik It's okay :) –  badp May 18 '11 at 8:07

Perhaps if we aren't willing to just omit the text entirely, perhaps a preview could be shown of what the text will look like, so that at least people will know what will be visible...

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