The helper text

what's your programming question? be specific.

has shown up as the title of a question a number of times that I have seen, (with this being the most recent one) and it's obviously never ever the proper title for a good question.

Can we just have the submission process detect that they haven't entered anything there and kick them back to the question submission page with a warning that they need to fill out the title?

Note: I understand that in most sane browser implementations that helper text isn't submitted as the default unless you actually type it in, of course, but it's apparent that some browsers do not behave properly with the helper text as I doubt folks are actually typing in (with the exact casing/spacing and proper spelling) the helper text phrase

Update with links:

After figuring out how to massage Data.SE appropriately, I figured out how to find all the questions that had that exact text as their title once upon a time, and it's only been done six times in total that I can tell (all in the last six months):

So, the good news is it's not as bad a problem as I suspected it might be. The bad news is that it does appear to be happening and it's not just one or two problem users, it's six entirely separate users. So I'd certainly understand if this was , but I think it's a pretty easy change and it makes problems go away!

**Data.SE query:**

Data.SE query that shows all the posts that have the placeholder text in their revision history

  • 6
    Good idea. And while we're at it let's change the watermark text to “What's your programming question? Be specific.” :-) – Rick Sladkey Jun 1 '11 at 18:25
  • 1
    On a related note, is there a data.SE query that could prove out that this is a relatively common occurrence? They get fixed pretty quickly so I'm sure I don't see most of them, but I've seen probably half a dozen myself I know. – Daniel DiPaolo Jun 1 '11 at 19:09
  • +1 for data. I wouldn't be opposed to this check, but I've never seen the problem happen. – Pops Jun 1 '11 at 19:20
  • @Popular you mean other than the one I linked, of course ;) – Daniel DiPaolo Jun 1 '11 at 19:22
  • well, yes, of course. I didn't think it was worth mentioning that one explicitly. – Pops Jun 1 '11 at 19:28

Maybe not as big a problem, but I've also seen the following text posted as an answer on several occasions:

Thanks for contributing an answer to {this.sitename} - Stack Exchange!

This is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, so please make sure you answer the question.

Provide details and share your research. Avoid statements based solely on opinion; only make statements you can back up with an appropriate reference, or personal experiences.

Might as well block that too. Otherwise, flag it when you see it in an answer.


The users who are doing that are typing it in. The text is part of a transparent DIV. Can't fix stupid!

  • It doesn't really matter how it gets there, though I don't suspect they're actually typing it in. It's always a bad title, and whatever the placeholder text is, it will always be a bad title and can easily be checked for. – Daniel DiPaolo Jun 17 '11 at 22:27
  • @Daniel: I wonder if it is better if it would simply hide itself when you click or start to type. That would deter a lot too. – Brian Jun 17 '11 at 22:29
  • It hides when you start to type, but not when you click in the field (and I think this behavior is correct) – Daniel DiPaolo Jun 17 '11 at 22:30
  • @Daniel: You are right! It is amazing people are remembering the exact wording and formatting of that one line of text. – Brian Jun 17 '11 at 22:33
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    Couldn't this simply be auto-blocked though? Under the category of extremely low quality? – M. Tibbits Jul 7 '11 at 6:14

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