Since this feature request was declined, I am proposing something a bit more conservative:

When editing old posts and the title itself is not edited, allow the existing title to remain, even if it does contain a word-that-shall-not-be-mentioned.

While reviewing, I often stumble upon answers that are clearly follow-ups to the question by the OP. My usual response involves moving their content to the question and then flagging the follow-up as "Not-an-answer". Sometimes, though, I am unable to complete the edit of the question, unless I change the old title to something that does not contain a problem word.

I find this annoying for several reasons:

  • While the original title was probably not very useful, selecting a new title properly is not a task to be taken lightly. It requires clear understanding of both the question and its context. Moving in the contents of a follow-up is relatively simple. Choosing a new title, in my opinion, is not.

  • It forces upon each potential editor an all-or-nothing deal. I, for example, have already avoided editing several questions when I was also forced to choose a new title, since I did not feel qualified to do so.

  • Changing the title of another person's question, while generally acceptable in a collaboratively-edited site, is still an issue when it happens months after the fact to retroactively enforce a new rule. I can easily imagine a user using a remembered title to search for an old question of theirs to no avail.

  • I can just feel the urge to play word games with the original title in order to slip through the filter, rather than spend time and brain cells formulating a new title. Even if that means that the new title would be just as bad as the previous one.

I posit that, while leaving the old titles unedited does not reduce the noise ratio, it does not increase it either. So why don't we just let them rest in peace?

PS1: This is the question that sparked this feature request.

PS2: If we really want people to start editing old titles, why not encourage it separately, rather than force it? Perhaps with a new "Clean-up" tab in Review? Or even a "Janitor" silver badge?

  • 1
    99% of the time the question title needs to be made more specific if it contains the word "problem." I've run across this too and didn't notice at first (usually retagging). It tells me, I improve the title because it needs improved, and we're all happy again. I don't see it as an annoyance, but more helpful to encouraging (and yes, forcing) people to improve it. Like a "hey, while you're here... this title could use some improvement." – animuson Dec 10 '11 at 2:11
  • @animuson: I disagree with the "while you are here" part. I spend a good amount of time selecting descriptive titles for my own questions and I feel I am doing a disservice for the community when I am forced to change a title without the same amount of attention. For example, I just changed the title of the question I mentioned to IPhone memory management, which is only marginally better than the previous one. – thkala Dec 10 '11 at 2:26
  • Not to mention that by selecting new titles like this we replace the easily-targeted titles with harder-to-detect alternatives that will be harder to track e.g. in a review tab should the need arise. – thkala Dec 10 '11 at 2:29
  • I don't believe a lot of people go to the search bar and type in "problem" as one of the things they're searching for. If I go to Google and type in "help me out in memory management" I get 44,600,000 results. If I change that search to "IPhone memory management" I only get 4,660,000 results. Even changing that one piece still narrows your search by 40,000,000 results. It makes it more detailed and easier for people who are actually searching for that specific information. I wouldn't want something about the IPhone popping up when I was searching for "Android memory management" now would I? – animuson Dec 10 '11 at 2:36