Including the word "you" in the title of a question triggers an angry red-boxed warning saying:

"The question you're asking appears subjective and is likely to be closed."

The highly sophisticated AI used to determine that message's display is:

return Regex.IsMatch(s, 

Which is to say, that including any of the words best, worst, hardest, you, your, or favorite will trigger it.

The highly sophisticated method used to develop that AI was:

... scanning about a hundred closed subjective questions that were not good fits on Stack Overflow.

I'm all for easily understood heuristics, and people have marveled at how good this one is, but "you" shouldn't be included.

There are about thirty-thousand open, unlocked (i.e., probably not subjective) questions with "you" in the title, including:

and the bulk of those were asked despite the angry red box.

As apparent from those questions, "How do you X?" is a perfectly natural way to formulate an objective question. It may not be ideal question title format. It may be more likely than "How do I X?" to be subjective, but it's perfectly proper English and nowhere near a reliable enough indicator to always be flagged as subjective.

Flagging every "How do you..." question as "appears subjective" causes too many false positives and looks sloppy. Please stop.

While this issue has been raised before in above-linked questions, this is the only clearcut, specific feature-request and thus not a duplicate by my reckoning.

Note that this fix is literally a single character change to a single regular expression. By and large the subjective filter works well, but flagging any use of "you" is overkill.

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    "How to <do something>?" is another way to write the title without tripping the filter. I don't have any comment on whether it is subjective or not to have "you" in title, though. – nhahtdh Oct 2 '12 at 17:50
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    @nhahtdh There are plenty of ways to write titles that don't trip the filter. The problem is perfectly reasonable titles that still trip the filter. – blahdiblah Oct 2 '12 at 17:50
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    "How do you" at the start of the question is just wasted space. Remove it and change the verbal form and you've got a nicer title without "you" in it. – Mat Oct 2 '12 at 17:51
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    "How to <do something>?" really bothers me. It's a sentence fragment, not a question, and doesn't deserve to end with a question mark. – Pops Oct 2 '12 at 17:52
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    If you liked @Mat's comment, you might also enjoy Preferred title format: gerund or "how to"? and the FAQ entry it's closed as a duplicate of, How do I write a good title?. – Pops Oct 2 '12 at 17:54
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    @Mat There's certainly a case to be made for that, though some folks like titles that are complete sentences (e.g., Popular Demand). Regardless, the right solution to that problem is automatically removing "How do(es)? (you|I|one)" or some other error, not erroneously saying that it's subjective. – blahdiblah Oct 2 '12 at 17:54
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    @PopularDemand Amen. It's definitely a bad outcome that the current subjective filter encourages "How to X?" since "How do you X?" gets flagged. – blahdiblah Oct 2 '12 at 17:56
  • For what it's worth, my point wasn't "everything should be in sentence form," it was "don't be grammatically incorrect, especially in titles." I'm fine with "Fooing bars on BazSQL/Catamount stacks." – Pops Oct 2 '12 at 18:01
  • "How do you..." is subjective. To ask in general, the grammar should be "How does one..." – zebediah49 Oct 2 '12 at 18:24
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    "How do I…?" problem solved. – user149432 Oct 2 '12 at 18:24
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    @MarkTrapp The problem is erroneously flagging things as subjective that aren't (and thus appearing sloppy and discouraging knowledgeable contributions), not finding titles that don't trip the filter. – blahdiblah Oct 2 '12 at 18:25
  • @blahdiblah with you on the first part, but you've demonstrated no evidence of the second part. Given there are so many ways to trivially get around the filter that don't resort to sloppy titles or preventing knowledgeable contributions, it doesn't necessary entail that the ban on "you" in the title is the cause of whatever quality problem that ostensibly exists. – user149432 Oct 2 '12 at 18:29
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    @MarkTrapp Note that I'm only requesting a single character change to a single regex, not some big overhaul of the system. Given the amount of work required for the fix, I didn't think that a huge amount of harm had to demonstrated (plus, there's no obvious way to get at those numbers). – blahdiblah Oct 2 '12 at 18:33
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    Does anybody heed that warning in the first place? I'd rather the system remove it altogether, since nobody actually reads it. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 2 '12 at 18:45

There are well-documented NLP techniques that could be used to do this a whole lot better. Collect a few thousand good and bad titles. Train a classifier. Use that instead of a regex.

  • Something like that is in the works, but in the meantime this seemed like a pretty trivial change to correct a minor problem. – blahdiblah Oct 2 '12 at 18:56

This isn't doing any harm, and may actually be encouraging better titles.

"How do you" and the closely-related alternative, "How to", are content-free appendages, without which the title is better. "How do you skin a cat?", as well as "How to skin a cat" simply have excessive verbiage. They should be rewritten to "Skinning a cat".

Additionally, "How do you make an existing git branch track a remote branch? shows up in a Google search (thanks, admittedly, to their stupid new results format) with the title "How do you make an existing git branch track a remote..." Dropping the first three words would allow the final, much more significant, word to appear.

I don't see anything to be gained from allowing fluff in titles. Granted that this is not the intended purpose of this particular filter, but I don't think that it's hurting.

See also How can we get more people to make their title a question?

  • I'm not a fan of hoping that wrong error messages will somehow lead to correct behavior, but even ignoring that consider a question like "Can you overload controller methods in ASP.Net MVC?" That title will be flagged as subjective, but the gerund form is less informative and other formulations ("Possible to", etc.) are even wordier. – blahdiblah Oct 2 '12 at 19:45
  • I see where you are coming from, but even that one can be rewritten to be better: "Can controller methods be overloaded?", tagged [asp.net-mvc]. (The most significant tag is prepended to the title in search results and shouldn't be in the title.) – Josh Caswell Oct 2 '12 at 19:55
  • Assuming you take the tag outt've the title, "Can you X Y" is shorter by a character, so I'm not sure why I should prefer "Can X be Y'ed" Moving some content a bit closer to the front? Seems like a wash. – blahdiblah Oct 2 '12 at 20:01

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