This is a feature request to remove the question title filter for problem.

There are good reasons listed in this question, but mostly I'm sick of changing the word to issue. Why is problem considered a word that shouldn't be in question title? I don't see the sense of it, and blacklisting it just makes the job harder, without improving anything. If you have a problem, you have a problem, calling it an issueor anything else doesn't make it any better.

Related request: Let users with sufficient reputation use "problem" in titles.

  • 31
    Great, thanks for asking for the word "issue" to be added to the filter. ;)
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:09
  • 2
    @Anna, yeh, I was a little worried about that, but I'll just go to a thesaurus and find another word, in fact I already picked out a few alternatives for when I need them :) Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:11
  • 10
    The problem is really that you eliminate a way to filter bad quality. Hey, if the title contains problem, just slap an automatic flag on it. Or put it in the low quality queue.
    – slhck
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:14
  • @slhck - anything that is effectively "more work for high rep users to save probably low quality content" is not very attractive at SO scale; if anything, we're trying to increase automation to reduce load on moderators. On the smaller SE 2.0's sure, but we just disable this check there altogether. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:29
  • 6
    @KevinMontrose Your automation shouldn't completely remove humans from the loop without considering the effects of false positives. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:53
  • 18
    So I can't mention the Halting Problem in the title? Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 19:05
  • 12
    @KeithThompson Maybe it's a "Halting Issue". Or "Need help with Halting". Or the "Halting thing in Computability Theory".
    – slhck
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 19:14
  • 2
    Or it is a pro-about-Halting-blem. ;-)
    – avpaderno
    Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 8:57
  • Another example - stackoverflow.com/q/8409822/232593 Commented Dec 7, 2011 at 3:00
  • 1
    I can’t edit “problem” into a question’s title (“Is having too much X a problem?”). Yay. I’m not sure whether the reputation thing has been implemented, but if it has, that’s probably a bug, me having 80k reputation on the site in question.
    – Ry-
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 3:11
  • 1
    What's the porblem? Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 23:00
  • Here are some useful workarounds. Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 15:14

4 Answers 4


If it was determined that a high enough proportion of titles that contained the word "problem" were completely non-descriptive enough that it should be blacklisted, then I'm in favor of leaving it blacklisted, at least until the current crop of crappy titles gets cleaned up. There's enough to do without allowing the problem to get bigger.

I'm a lot more in favor of the related request you linked to: Let users with sufficient reputation use “problem” in titles Just by looking through the "problem with regex" search results, users with full edit and review privileges seem much less likely to post a completely worthless title.

  • 25
    SO needs to stop with this logic, it doesn't work. "A lot of bad posts have characteristic X" does not imply "Blocking X will reduce the number of bad posts". What actually happens is people stop doing X, but still submit bad posts anyway. And often workaround Y is worse than X was, like bypassing low quality filters by copy/pasting the low quality message into the post Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 2:32
  • 3
    @MichaelMrozek You're only counting the failures in that case, not the successes. What actually happens is a huge number stop doing X and a small number do workaround Y. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 3:27
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    No, I said that assuming that everyone stops doing X, since the system requires it -- the question is whether or not it actually helps anything. Posts with "problem" in the title tend to suck, but does just removing "problem" magically make them good? No, but that's all the asker is going to change. If we're lucky they'll just delete it; if we're not they say "issue" or "pr0blem" or whatever; either way, there's little benefit Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 4:01
  • @MichaelMrozek So the solution to low quality posts is to do what? Nothing? Besides, I think your premise of "there's little benefit" is false. I've personally improved a lot of titles that used to have "problem" in them since low quality filters were introduced. All editors are forced to. Commented Nov 20, 2011 at 4:12
  • @BilltheLizard: There's not really a solution; we just have to deal with them as they come.
    – SamB
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 20:33
  • @SamB People weren't dealing with them as they come, which is why we have thousands of questions with crappy titles. A partial solution does exist, which is better than doing nothing at all. Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 20:49
  • 1
    I agree with @MichaelMrozek. I stopped using Reddit because of their stupid automoderator bots that delete the post immediately after you submit it because it isn't in an arcane and niche format for that subreddit. Ain't no one got time for that. People will just stop using the site. It just adds more friction.
    – Chloe
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 18:10
  • @Chloe twitter.com/drob/status/618120713522802688 Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 18:15

+1 to this. The SO team's idea of searching for "Problem" as an indicator of low-quality questions is a good idea, but they using it as a sufficient condition, when in reality it is not.

Instead, it is an indicator of low-quality posts. It should flag moderators to review the question for having potentially low-quality, like all the other indicators do.

  • 4
    +1. I don't have a problem with the system complaining if I use a poor word choice. But it doesn't just complain, it disallows the use of a word. Don't assume that it's OK in all cases to give a computer algorithm priority over a human to decide whether a word use is valid.
    – Jason S
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 18:31

More outlined details, copied from one of my other answers. While specific to SU, it applies generally...

Is problem really meaningful or necessary in the title?

What I expect from a title is that it clearly tells me what problem the user is experiencing, and only that.

I care whether you have BSOD 0xED or 0x124 and their name, but I certainly not care about error messages, descriptions or similar specific details in the title. Looking at your example

there is a problem with the Office database

doesn't significantly mean anything, because it doesn't clearly tell me about the underlying problem.

A title that would literally copy an error message is just lazyness, you don't want titles to be like...

The system has rebooted without cleanly shutting down first?

But rather have a guiding title like

How can I troubleshoot my TDR crash that occurs while watching video streams?

Is problem really meaningful or necessary in your example?

Looking at your specific question, I see the following things:

  • A restore has happened (with TimeMachine)

  • Permission problems are related.

  • The database doesn't appear to load.

These details result in better alternatives for a title:

  • How do I fix my Office database after restoring a back-up?

  • Why does Office report database and permission errors after a restore?

These are more helpful for people scanning the question list and looking for something to answer.

As for search engine purposes, the question body is indexed too so that's not really an issue...

Are titles containing problem meaningless on Super User?

Putting your example aside, in general these titles containing problem are meaningless:

  • Can you solve my problem with my computer?

  • Why does my browser have a problem with visiting Stack Exchange?

  • Please help me with my slow computer problem?

Also note that I have a problem... is a quite commonly used forum title suffix.

Think of MLK saying "I have a dream...". Then question yourself "What dream? How can I help?"

As Jeff Atwood has shown me once; please don't make me read unnecessary text. Thanks.

Where there legitimate uses of "Problem" on Super User in the past?

Check out this search query and this search query. How good I am trying to look there, I don't see any legitimate uses of Problem there. Please note that Reputation, even in the 1st query, doesn't matter.

Here is a solution based on a "low quality" suggestion:

The proper solution is to add a hidden hasBeenFiltered field to the Ask Question page that gets enabled when a filtered word has been tried; which automatically gets the word on the low quality page, that tells on the low quality page what filter triggered. We keep the filter and perhaps add issue. That way, we don't have to edit problem or issue out ourselves in the case of better titles.

This way, it still gets filtered and we get to review them to handle the bad cases.

While Stack Overflow and Math.SE don't have this filter in place, this filter is a necessity on other SE sites as they don't have programming or mathematical problems. I doubt if Programmers.SE is an exception...


You know what would be great, more questions with titles like these:
Error using custom operator< with std::less
Formview Dropdown 2 depends on Dropdown 1
Serialization problem
IsInRole problem
Javascript 'this' Problem
Problem with threads
Linker problem
Variable is not being echoed
Enumerable.Except Problem
Design Problem

It's worth it to make people stop and think about a title that looks like one of those, they might actually improve the title. Of course they might just slap a _ in there, but they certainly aren't going to make any actual improvements if just let them post with a garbage title instead of throwing a road block in their way.

with a vengeance.

  • 9
    So forcing them to use another word is the solution? Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:35
  • 7
    @Lance - forcing them to think is the solution. If they choose to think of ways to work around the filter, instead of substantively improving the title, that's their own (bad) choice. At least they thought, and others will take the latter option. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:36
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    But you must realize they're posting because they have a problem. You listed bad examples using the word problem, but there are probably many good title examples that also use the word. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:38
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    @Lance - there are a great many more examples of bad uses of problem in titles than good ones, that's why it's on the blacklist; we didn't chose words/phrases out of a hat. The question list I chose from is here ; there are 10 or so examples on page 1 (of 15) Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:42
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    @KevinMontrose Could you please provide the evidence that your automation is accomplishing its goals? You've claimed in the past to have done audits on these things, so I would love to see the results of those audits. I'm particularly interested in the false positive rate. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 18:51
  • 5
    Sure the examples you posted are bad, but how is the same with a synonym of problem better? "Issue with 'this'", "Formview issue", "Serialization issue", etc. Just look at this search: stackoverflow.com/search?q=title%3Aissue&submit=search – these are almost as many as there are problem posts. Do you want to eliminate these as well? What about "Help with … XYZ"? Or blacklisting "Error"? You're just spreading out the problem. Most of the people who don't know to write a proper title will just use a fallback.
    – slhck
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 19:10
  • 5
    Reading over that list of questions, it looks to me like the actual test should be 'contains "problem" or "issue" or [list of synonyms] AND no more than two other words, ignoring "with"' I suppose a straightforward blacklist is much easier in many ways, but a longer title, even if it includes word "problem", is more likely to be descriptive.
    – jscs
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 19:22
  • @Ἰησοῦς Caswell - we've done similar tweaks for help, and may do something for problem (honestly, it's not nearly as real an issue as help). Outright removing the filter is status-declined though, for the posted reasons. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 19:26
  • 2
    @KevinMontrose: Have you all collected data on it? It seems like you should be able to record the initial title the server rejects, and then the eventual title the user picks. Then there would be actual data on how much the word filter forces people to improve their titles.
    – derobert
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 1:41
  • Blacklisting a particular word to try to solve a specificity problem is utterly ridiculous, in my opinion. It won't stop bad questions, and besides we have better tools to deal with bad questions. I ask and urge you to please consider revisiting your stance on the issue.
    – Brad
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 2:30
  • Why not simply do the same thing as with "you", that is show a warning saying that it might be closed. Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 15:22

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