2

I keep seeing questions that contain only card titles. For example:

And then there are the questions that contain only card titles plus a little something about the specific interaction being asked about. For example:

In my opinion, all of these question titles are very poor, including the last two examples. What's wrong with the last two? Let me show you. Look at the question below, which has had far more hits than your typical Board and Card Games question, despite not being all that interesting (in my opinion).

Originally, the title was "Can lands have..." I later edited it to be "Can non-creature permanents have..." The point is, it never said "Can Mountains have..." or "Can Thassa, God of the Sea have..." or "Can Blinkmoth Nexus have..." Because of this, the community was able to quickly identify this question as a duplicate.

I think that the community needs to be more aggressive about editing the titles of questions that contain almost purely card names unless they are absolutely unable to be generalized.

| |
  • I don't think your third example is necessarily a good one. The question is specifically asking about the differences between those two cards, and I think it matters that the cards have very similar names and texts. I'd be open to arguments to change it, but it's not really the same problem as all of the interaction questions. – murgatroid99 Jul 10 '14 at 3:32
  • @murgatroid99 The asked of that question should think, "What is it about these two particular cards that made me ask a question about them?" Consider "What is the difference between destroy and sacrifice?" or perhaps "Two cards are identical except for the words "destroy" and "sacrifice"". Are these not a huge improvement to the title? I would like to point out that the particular user, neubert, has a long history of poor question titles containing only card names. Look at it for yourself: boardgames.stackexchange.com/users/6542/neubert?tab=questions – Rainbolt Jul 10 '14 at 14:21
  • @murgatroid99 What if there were two other cards that were the same in every way except for the words destroy and sacrifice? Would we want to ask another question about them as well? – Rainbolt Jul 10 '14 at 14:23
5

I agree with this plan in principle, but I think there are a few things we should be careful of.

First, we should make sure we are making titles better, or at least not worse, when generalizing. We can't end up with convoluted titles just to avoid using card names to refer to effects. For example, I think it's OK to change my question How does Kessig Cagebreakers interact with Gideon Jura? to have the title

If creatures enter the battlefield attacking, do they have to attack Gideon Jura?

but not the title

If creatures enter the battlefield attacking, and an ability has constrained what my creatures can attack, do the new creatures have to follow that constraint?

Because while the second title is more general, it's not enough to justify the increase in length and complexity.

Second, I think we should avoid over-generalizing. In other words, we should make sure to avoid editing the title to be more general than the actual question. For example, we wouldn't edit shapesharer and stoneforge mystic to say

Do copies of creatures trigger enter-the-battlefield abilities?

Because the question is specifically about turning a creature already on the battlefield into a copy, and that changes the answer.

| |
  • Nice answer. The transformation should be simple and not lossy. If it is convoluted or loses information vital to the question, then it falls under the category of "unable to be generalized" mentioned in the question. – Rainbolt Jul 10 '14 at 14:28
  • I would like to point out that "shapesharer and stoneforge mystic" could be even further improved to "Does becoming a copy of a creature trigger its enter the battlefield abilties?" Basically, I took your transformation and changed "Do copies ..." to "Does becoming a copy ..." and viola, we have improved the title. Whats even better is that we arrived at this better title together, and that is what crowd moderation is all about. – Rainbolt Jul 10 '14 at 14:33
  • 1
    Oh, I know that most of these can probably be easily rewritten with good general titles; I just needed an example of a title rewritten incorrectly. And actually, I think your title could be further improved to "Does a creature becoming a copy of another creature trigger any enters the battlefield abilities?" – murgatroid99 Jul 10 '14 at 15:52
  • I think this is being taken a little far sometimes, forgetting about the things you said to be careful of. I'd also list respecting the OP's intent as a requirement; transforming their question can be disrespectful. I've even seen claims that too specific questions are off topic, which really pressures the OP to let their question be generalized, even if it's lossy. – Cascabel Aug 15 '14 at 13:27
  • Preserving the meaning of the original question is already part of the Help Center's editing guidelines. I don't think it needs to be restated here along with the specific issues with these kinds of edits. And remember that once someone posts a question here, it belongs to the site, and we should improve it if possible. – murgatroid99 Aug 15 '14 at 15:06
  • @murgatroid99 These kinds of edits are more likely than most to substantially change the intent of the question, and I have seen it happen, so whether or not it's in the Help Center, people clearly need a reminder. – Cascabel Aug 25 '14 at 18:37
  • @Jefromi and murg: I noticed today that questions with card titles get substantially more views than questions without. Check out the ages and view counts on this question and this question. I wanted to throw that out there, since it's an argument for not generalizing titles at all. – Rainbolt Oct 24 '14 at 18:39
  • 50% more with a sample size of 2 is not statistically significant. Granted, the difference in time scales makes it somewhat significant, but there could be any number of reasons for that difference. If you can provide more data that demonstrates a general trend, I'd be inclined to agree with you. – murgatroid99 Oct 24 '14 at 18:43
  • @Rainbolt It's definitely true that people search for things by card name and not by general question title (indeed, as you've seen, even when they come here and ask the question they often don't have the vocabulary to ask the general question). I've always been in favor of preserving the OP's intent as much as possible, so I'm totally fine with leaving card names in the title, and (if necessary) adding a few general terms into the question to make sure it allows generic answers and help us find it later as a duplicate target. The title shouldn't be only card names, but it can have names. – Cascabel Oct 24 '14 at 20:34
  • @murgtroid99 I thought about that earlier, and I think it's actually impossible to generate a statistically significant sample that isn't biased by whomever handpicked it, unless they have a database of card names to query against. I could absolutely find one more sample, but I'm almost guaranteed to find one that suits me. Oh well :-/ – Rainbolt Oct 24 '14 at 21:04
  • @Jefromi You're beating a dead horse. Nobody is advocating the destruction of the OP's intent. Nobody is declaring that card titles are absolutely bad in all cases. – Rainbolt Oct 24 '14 at 21:18
  • @Rainbolt It's a reply to the comment you directed at me, explaining why I agree that it's generally fine to leave card names in and avoid generalization when it requires substantial changes. If you want to discuss it further, fine, but let's be a little more constructive about it. – Cascabel Oct 24 '14 at 21:22
  • @Rainbolt you could always look at the latest N questions. That's a sample that's unlikely to be biased if you choose N first. You'd probably also want to consider views per day and revision history. – murgatroid99 Oct 24 '14 at 21:23
  • @murgtroid99 I will do this on Monday if there is interest. If I could show (significantly) that questions with cards in the title got ten times as many views as those without, would it affect your decision to rename things? That's really why I came here and necro'd this. If I do, I think I'll start a few pages under to make sure I don't grab anything that was recently renamed or being otherwise heavily edited. – Rainbolt Oct 24 '14 at 21:27
  • @Jefromi No, I actually don't want to rehash the points that were brought up two months ago. Thank you for the offer. – Rainbolt Oct 24 '14 at 21:28
5

I do a lot of editing. I edit a lot of MTG questions. I value titles (they're what people see when browsing or using Google), and I edit a lot of questions primarily to give them a better title.

I think that the community needs to be more aggressive about editing the titles of questions that contain almost purely card names unless they are absolutely unable to be generalized.

I do not think we need to do this. I do not think it is a good idea, or that "unless they are absolutely unable to be generalised" is a good rule of thumb. I'll explain.

Should we edit question titles that just mention two card names? Certainly!

When a question title consists of merely "Card vs Card" or "Card and Card" or so on, I'll edit the title to try to capture the interaction between those cards so as to communicate what the heck is going on.

I don't think it'll be contested that either of these retitles is better, because the "vs" says almost nothing about the situation:

  • Aegis of the Gods Vs. Erebos, God of the DeadWill Aegis of the Gods negate my opponent's Erebos, God of the Dead for me?

  • tabernacle of pendrell vale vs. pendrell mistsWhy are Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and Pendrell Mists worded differently?

So yeah, if the question is just card titles, it's probably gonna be a good candidate for retitling.

Should we generalise away the names enthusiastically? No.

So, here's the thing. Magic has a lot of cards, and a limited quantity of mechanics. Each new card combines those mechanics in new and different ways. Two cards using the same five mechanical concepts could put them in a different order and adjust the numbers and wind up not resembling each other at all. On top of that, the combination of any two remarkable cards is often incredibly unique.

We do end up revisiting the same mechanics over and over in Magic the Gathering answers, but that's because they keep getting re-used. That doesn't mean one answer explaining those five mechanics can necessarily answer a question about the other card.

For an example, consider the common mechanic of creatures with a P/T of */*, where that's defined by cards in graveyards. How many cards do that? Not many more than 20, and most of them are subtly different to the rest in some way that's going to be critical to a question. And look! Nighthowler isn't even in that search, because it's subtly different in yet another way.

So, even if I replace a card name in a title with a description of that relevant mechanic, usually the question will still be uniquely about just one card. If a new question arrives about a card with similar mechanics, it often won't be a full duplicate of the previous one, even if we might go into detail on the same mechanics again. Generalising the title doesn't necessarily make it a good dupe candidate, in other words.

Generalising is often gainless

I could ask a question titled What about {thing} when I have Etherium Sculptor out?, or I could title it more generally with What about {thing} when I have a creature out that makes artifacts cost 1 less?, except there's very few cards like that and Etherium Sculptor is one of them. We're not likely to get duplicates on this.

Likewise, we could rename Does Progenitor Mimic create copies of itself even when it isn't a creature? to be more general. But what general title could we have? Something like: Can a creature which clones a creature then keeps creating copies of itself and refers to itself as a 'creature' in the description keep copying itself when it isn't a creature? That's sure more general, but there's still only one card this would even relate to.

As a recent concrete example, What happens when a creature with "Whenever a creature dies" dies simultaneously with multiple other creatures? was recently retitled from Does Marchesa, the Black Rose protect herself as well as others from board wipes that would kill her too?. Sure, we're revisiting the same mechanic again, and we're going to revisit them again another time, but this isn't actually likely to be a duplicate target because of the specific situation being asked about.

Let's just generalise where the generalisation is absolutely helpful.

So, this is overdoing it:

I think that the community needs to be more aggressive about editing the titles of questions that contain almost purely card names unless they are absolutely unable to be generalized.

But this might be more helpful:

... if the situation and mechanic are extremely general and can be safely very generalised.

Like here! We did that: When does Heroic trigger?

And here! I asked about the entire concept, rather than just Nemesis of Mortals: How does mana cost reduction interact with colored mana in a cost?

But let's not generalise just because we can. That doesn't make the site better.

| |
  • 1
    Strongly agree. I've seen an attitude of "generalize if at all possible" which is really concerning; it's not always an improvement and it's disrespectful to the OP. – Cascabel Aug 15 '14 at 13:32
  • But if the change is an improvement, then any "disrespect" to the OP is kind of irrelevant because it's making the site better. So what we really need to figure out is how to make sure these changes are actually improvements. I think my answer hits part of it, with making sure that we get the right degree of generality and clarity in the titles, and I think this answer hits the part about not "generalizing" unless the new question applies to significantly more cards/interactions while retaining the original meaning. – murgatroid99 Aug 15 '14 at 15:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .