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I just came across this post on Sci-Fi (well, actually on the Hot Network Questions list):
In Game of Thrones season 2, why do they (possible spoilers)?

Someone edited the title because it contains possible spoilers (which is especially applicable since it shows up on the Hot Network Questions - admittedly "Game of Thrones" should probably be removed from the title, which may help the issue, unless there's easily identifiable content (e.g. names, places)).

On the other hand, this title is now largely useless (though you can still get to the question via search). Additionally, if this behaviour is popularized, you may just end up with a bunch of titles like:

  • Who (possible spoilers)?
  • What (possible spoilers)?
  • In season 2, did (possible spoilers)?

I'm sure no-one can argue that that doesn't look particularly pretty and isn't particularly useful. Not to mention that this makes trying to use any of the question lists (and even, to some extent, Google) to find one of these questions much more difficult.

(I'm not really concerned with this question in particular, just the general practice of obscuring titles to avoid spoilers.)

Is the Stack Exchange model just not well-equipped to deal with this? Are there perhaps any easy solutions that would make it fit into the model (just brainstorming - perhaps a "Display spoilers in title" checkbox, and allow marking of titles / parts of titles as spoilers)?

You may be able to obscure the title to such an extent that it doesn't contain any spoilers any more (like making the above title "Why did they just walk away?"), but this seems like a non-solution, as that makes the title just as meaningless as it containing "(possible spoilers)".


I asked this on here because it seems like it can show up on selective other (possibly future) sites as well (even though it only affects Sci-Fi and Movies and TV at present from what I can see, although more sites with this problem could be added), I don't really want to link my account to either of those, nor am I entirely sure where to draw the site Meta / global Meta line, and I feel that the site Meta might be a bit prejudice, while there's hopefully a more objective outlook here - understanding their point of view, but also understanding that, overall, it might lower site quality.

Yes, I did see this question, but that's not really the same thing (well, this may be considered a more general version of that) - that's just about Hot Network Questions, where this is about the title appearing anywhere, and Bill suggested a "no spoilers in titles" rule, which is largely what this question is all about (not the comment as such, but the practice of applying said 'rule').

  • Gaming (Arqade) is another major site where this is an issue – Mad Scientist Apr 16 '14 at 8:18
  • You think this is bad? When the guys at work found out I watched How I Met Your Mother and hadn't watched the finale, they googled it and dropped subtle hints all day. That was worse than avoiding the internet. I almost booked half a day so I could run away and watch it. Spoilers (unfortunately) happen, it's just a TV show/book though. Shouldn't ruin the overall experience, unless its a final plot twist or something of the like – Joe Apr 16 '14 at 10:01
  • Many movies/series starts with spoiler, and than it's explained how it went to that. I've read many books starting from the last chapter. If you watch the whole movie only for ending, what's the point of watching the whole movie? But yeah, there are many people playing the same game in many ways :P – Danubian Sailor Apr 16 '14 at 12:00
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I make a rather large distinction between major spoilers and everything else that might spoil some aspects of the future plot. Major spoiler would be something like Darth Vader being Luke's father or the final twist in The Sixth Sense. Age also plays a factor, the Star Wars spoiler I just mentioned is old enough and ingrained in popular culture that it doesn't count as a real spoiler anymore in my opinion.

Minor spoilers is everything else that gives away information about the future plot development that you otherwise wouldn't have. The reason I make this distinction is because it is practically impossible to avoid these kinds of spoilers if you read any site that covers this topic or talk to people about the series/movie/game that are further in the plot than you are.

The linked question is a good example of this kind of spoiler, the original title did spoil that a specific character is still alive in season 2 just by mentioning his name. This kind of spoiler is almost impossible to avoid unless we would make all GoT titles almost useless as you couldn't mention any character in the title anymore. All questions titles would have to be something like "Question about episode 4 in season 2" to avoid this problem entirely. I don't think that is realistic.

I expect that people are careful with major spoilers in places that are visible by casually browsing the site. Being spoilt that a major character dies in this episode just because I'm not in the US and see it a day later or so would be rather annoying.

But if your spoiler tolerance is that low that you don't want to know anything about the future plot you have to pretty much avoid the entire internet and other people until you're up-to-date. Someone that concerned about spoilers simply has to view or read new episodes or books the moment they're available, if you're a year behind it is almost inevitable that you'll encounter minor spoilers for anything popular.

So I'd avoid major spoilers in titles in general, but I wouldn't go too far with this. A certain amount of minor spoilers is inevitable and we shouldn't ruin our titles completely to avoid this.

3

Ah, this is an interesting one. My take:

If people genuinely don't want their next viewing of Game of Thrones to be spoiled, then why are they on the Internet doing Google searches for Game of Thrones?

  • The problem is that if people are putting spoilers in the title then it will discourage some users from using the sci-fi site and others like it in order to avoid spoilers. – Joe W Apr 15 '14 at 22:24
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    Well, it could show up on Hot Network Questions when visiting another site, one could encounter it (the title) simply while innocently browsing Science Fiction & Fantasy, one could look for a specific (different) Game of Thrones question, and end up seeing this title in the results. – Dukeling Apr 15 '14 at 22:24
  • @JoeW: For a day or two. Or, until the person can watch "Game of Thrones, episode six." Seriously, if you really don't want to be spoiled, you shouldn't be on sites that talk about your favorite TV show. – Robert Harvey Apr 15 '14 at 22:25
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    /Shrug doesn't do much good if you are on Stack Overflow for work and happen to see the question title with the spoiler in the Hot Network Question section. – Joe W Apr 15 '14 at 22:31
  • @JoeW Yes, but that's a different problem, specifically mentioned in the OP (see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/224108/…). – Robert Harvey Apr 15 '14 at 22:32
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    @RobertHarvey I think it's interrelated (this can probably be seen as a more general version of that post) - that's just about Hot Network Questions, where this is about the title appearing anywhere, and Bill suggested a "no spoilers in titles" rule, which is largely what this question is all about (the practice of applying said 'rule'). – Dukeling Apr 15 '14 at 23:41
  • It would be an easy rule to apply (I daresay non-controversial), were it not for Google searches. – Robert Harvey Apr 15 '14 at 23:45
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    Yeah, the problem with title spoilers is that you often see them on hot questions, or on the the home page when you're not going to anything GoT (or whatever) related on purpose. I'm a big proponent of descriptive, stand alone titles, but I also don't want to have to avoid the entire sci-fi site until I've seen every show and read every book that might have major spoilers. Secrets are hard. – Jaydles Apr 16 '14 at 1:57
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    @RobertHarvey - there is problem: if we are going to accept your point of view, then anytime you are watching a show you should avoid the sci-fi board. Even if you just wanted to post a reply in some other post. And while you are at it, avoid SO also. You don't wont to be spoiled by the "hot questions" list while you are replying to some jquery question. – SPArchaeologist Apr 16 '14 at 7:53
  • @SPArchaeologist: The Hot Questions problem is adequately covered here – Robert Harvey Apr 16 '14 at 15:22
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    @RobertHarvey - I will keep an eye on that. Anyway, even without the Hot Questions list you would have the problem "watch one, avoid all": you can't take the risk of browsing the whole board while you are following a shown - basically you are keeping the users who follow the series out of the site, preventing them to answer to other question too. To answer a question on a serie you should watch it, but if you watch it you don't want to look at the questions. – SPArchaeologist Apr 17 '14 at 7:31
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I register in Meta just to comment on this. I think the best solution may be how the subreddit /r/gameofthrones deals with it. The thing is that people can post both content and question, so when they post question they post something like this in the title "Question regarding the Second book", and the rest in the body or content, so people that haven't read the second book wont even bother to enter.

I love Game Of Thrones (non book reader), and also like very much going to some Stack Exchange community including SciFi, but since people start asking question about the books I became very careful when reading a question, I first read the tag and if is not Game of Thrones or A Song of Fire and Ice, I check it.

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    The downside is you now have a mostly useless title. How do you start distinguishing between the dozen "question about the second book" questions without actually going into each question? You trade usefulness to future visitors for spoiler prevention. Not to mention, you can't have two questions with an identical title. – Troyen Jul 16 '14 at 21:01
  • @Troyen you got me with the identical title situation. Besides that I don't really see a problem with that trade. I mean most of the question are about LOTR, HP and Marvel any way. – Guillelon Jul 16 '14 at 21:28

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