Recently this Mathematica question was posted, Mathematica can't DSolve two-body pro-ble​m? The reason for the odd split in the word pro-blem is there is a filter preventing its use in titles. For the most part, I can see where this is useful, as almost by definition all questions asked here are about problems. But, this filter prevents a legitimate use of the word that is accepted in the physics and math communities.

Is there a way around this, or is the problem so great that its legitimate use must be suppressed also?

  • 69
    There are also several valid uses of "problem" related to algorithms on SO, e.g. the subset-sum problem, or NP-complete problem. I think this filter should either be removed or demoted to a warning. – hammar Sep 30 '11 at 18:00
  • 8
    Now that we have this we probably could just get rid of that restriction. – NullUserException อ_อ Sep 30 '11 at 18:01
  • 1
    @Arjan, apparently there isn't a filter on meta. – rcollyer Sep 30 '11 at 18:02
  • A Unicode Ux200B zero width space might help, but that's a workaround obviously, and not a very nice one. – Arjan Sep 30 '11 at 18:06
  • 43
    I wish they'd stop coming up with these dubious point-solutions for verbiage problems. There are always unintended consequences, and they can always be worked around. – user102937 Sep 30 '11 at 18:37
  • 33
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno, I feel you kind of missed the point with that edit ;-) – Arjan Sep 30 '11 at 22:40
  • @NullUserException, I see you applied a workaround. Just in case you didn't realize it: beware that this breaks searching for the word (at least in the title; not a big issue I guess) and of course: the invisible character will be confusing for others. – Arjan Sep 30 '11 at 22:46
  • 1
    I know, @NullUserException, just wanted to make sure you know what effect it might have. (And few people, if anyone, will use title:"two-body problem".) – Arjan Sep 30 '11 at 23:13
  • 1
    A partial solution might be to ask for verification before posting something with "problem" in the title (but most users will probably just click "yes"), or allow users with a certain number of reputation points to use the word "problem". (Not that I advocate either solution; I'd rather just remove the restriction altogether. Inappropriate uses of the word can always be edited out.) – Keith Thompson Oct 27 '11 at 21:48
  • 2
    The same thing apparently works with "question" and "help". I would like it if the system suggests that I not use those words. But I do NOT like it when I can't use those words when I really mean to do so. – Jason S Apr 2 '12 at 16:52
  • 3
    Then let the community edit the title, not a lame bureaucratic system. Doing so reduces the quality of this site the way those damned voice mail systems do ("Press 1 if you want to check your balance. Press 2 if you want to find the date of the last payment. Don't bother pressing 0 because we've fired all the human operators.") – Jason S Apr 2 '12 at 17:00
  • 5
    Why not make bypassing/overriding the word filter a reputation privilege? Then if it's a legit use, the community can edit the Titles to correct/allow them? – RBarryYoung Apr 11 '12 at 21:28
  • 2
    I'm waking this up with a bounty. Can we get some action here? – Erick Robertson Oct 3 '12 at 11:28
  • 2
    Bountying as I'm having a problem with this. – Andrew Grimm Aug 20 '13 at 2:09

As Jeff himself once pointed out, word filters are an extraordinarily bad idea.

This prevents people who have a legitimate reason (as well as the site's most trusted and privileged users) from using the word "problem" in the title, and people who just don't care will simply work around the filter by deliberately misspelling the word or simply inserting a space or punctuation:

and the pièce de résistance:

This is 100% useless and does more harm than good.

Expanded: The title word filter is one of the worst ideas ever implemented on SO

  • 27
    Presumably a proBLAM is a problEm which causes an explosion. – jscs Nov 19 '11 at 22:51
  • 5
    Oh, ow, apparently plurals are able to squeeze through this too. – Jeff Mercado Nov 20 '11 at 0:49
  • 4
    Googling "The N+1 Problem" brings up stackoverflow.com/questions/97197/… as the first result. Wouldn't be possible under today's wordfilter. – meagar Mar 3 '12 at 17:34
  • 3
    None of your examples make up for good question titles. "Image upload proble in drupal" What image upload problem? "optimal solution to the Knapsack proble?" Define optimal? What problem? What have you tried? Why did it fail? "loops back to the MX pr0blem" No need for pr0blem in that title, it's fine without that word. And the Coup De Grace "Cuda Problam" What problem is he experiencing? – Tamara Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 12:35
  • 9
    @TomWijsman Whether or not they are good titles to begin with is not the issue here. The filter makes them worse titles, that's all I am saying. – NullUserException อ_อ Mar 5 '12 at 19:37
  • 2
    @NullUserExceptionอ_อ: The real question is how much percent are worse titles, if that's just small then the filter is really worth it. – Tamara Wijsman Mar 5 '12 at 19:55
  • @meagar - I see that question has since been edited and the title now refers to the "n+1 selects issue" ! – Martin Smith Aug 18 '13 at 12:27
  • 1
    @TomWijsman The word "problem" in most of those examples refer to known mathematical problems - the "problem" is part of a proper noun, and should not need to be mangled. – Marcin Dec 18 '13 at 14:04
  • @Marcin: You appear to be addressing different examples. – Tamara Wijsman Dec 18 '13 at 14:05

I believe that the team is simply trying to raise the level of discourse on Stack Overflow, and I fully support this decision and applaud their efforts.

In order to contribute to the general sense of erudition, and following the adoption of Greek letters as insignia here on Meta, I therefore propose a grass-roots campaign to substitute the Greek "πρόβλημα" (transliteration: problema) for any and all occurrences of the English "problem", as well as any manglings thereof ("porblem", "pr0blem", etc.).

A should be formed with two tasks: to educate the user base, via comments and in chat,* about this new practice; to perform the necessary edits; and to recruit other members to the posse...

Three tasks: to educate the user base, via comments and in chat,* about this new practice; to perform the necessary edits; to recruit other members to the posse; and to evaluate the expansion of this policy to the web as a whole...

Four tasks: education of the user base, editing, recruitment, evaluation of expansion to the rest of the web, and proposal to the team of technological means of reinforcement...

The posse's tasks should include education, editing, recruitment, expansion, and proposal of technological aids, amongst any others which may be deemed appropriate, now or in future.

As an intermediate solution, the team should auto-convert all instances of the English "problem", network-wide, whether in titles or otherwise, to the Unicode string "�������", i.e., seven U+FFFD "Replacement character"s.

*As well as off-site means of communication (e.g., Twitter) as appropriate.

  • Or, as I found out just recently, you can use "problems". Works quite well. – slhck Dec 9 '11 at 9:12

I've come up against this same issue, with: How to tractably solve the assignment optimisation task

The "Problem" in this case is the "Assignment Problem", another well known algorithmic problem.



May I suggest stackoverflow to tweak the filtering mechanism such that questions containing phrases such as:

  • "a problem" - as in "I am having a problem with this question"
  • "this problem" - as in "Can someone explain how to solve this problem?"
  • "the problem" - as in "Can somebody fix the problem?"

OR beginning with:

  • "Problem" - as in "Problem dealing with this issue"

are filtered (case-insensitive) instead? Going by the number of up-votes on this question, it is quite clear that the word "problem" should not be a problem ;)

  • 40
    Not another filter! Just remove it altogether! – slhck Oct 27 '11 at 13:08
  • 1
    What about the title "Error when trying to foo the bar: "a problem has occured" " or something similar? – Donald Duck Feb 28 '17 at 16:09

I think the devs can turn it off for Mathematica.

It's off for Physics anyways-- half the questions are legitimately titled "problem". The other half usually get renamed. Usually.

Edit: I misread the question, I thought the post was on mathematica.SE (where it should rightly be). In that case, I vote to demote the "problem" filter to a warning.

  • Ah, but the original problem was for a question here on SO. Can they make it tag specific? Also, SO has more intense filters because of the volume of questions. – rcollyer Apr 4 '12 at 3:45
  • @rcollyer: Oh that question is supposed to be migrated to mathematica.SE anyways, right? (I guess I misread the question--I sort of assumed it was on mathematica.SE) – Manishearth Apr 4 '12 at 3:47
  • I'm not sure we want it. It's not a great question, and it is still loosely on-topic here. – rcollyer Apr 4 '12 at 3:50

As someone said, it's better to educate the user base. How about adding a helpful tooltip which asks : Re-consider if you can state your question without using the word "problem" (and follow up the request with a link as to why the word "problem" might not be such a good idea in a title in some cases)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .