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Related: How can we avoid redundant titles?

When you ask a question on the main site, the watermarked instructions say:

state the task that your code accomplishes. Make your title distinctive.

  • State the task that your code accomplishes.
  • Make your title distinctive.

This is exactly the way it should be, because it tells the user that titles such as...

  • Please review my code
  • How can I further optimize this code?
  • Project Euler #1
  • FizzBuzz in [language-here]
  • Linked List Implementation
  • etc.

...are not ideal, because titles should also be distinctive. Distinctive titles are titles that make hot network questions and bring views, and votes. Besides, it seems we're running out of calculator titles.

It seems punny titles work pretty well for the "make your title distinctive" part - some more or less recent examples:

  • "Hooked on Windows" (question involves a Windows message hook)
  • "Go on, mock my IDE" (question involves mocking the VBE API for testing)
  • "It'th wabbit theathon" (question involves regex replacements of S's and R's)
  • "ONCE", "UPON", "A", "TIME" (question involves splitting text into a word array)

These titles are definitely distinctive, but they don't state the task that the code accomplishes - they hint at it instead.

Usually the better the pun, the greater the odds of the question going "hot", and getting tons of views and votes, and generating more traffic on the site.

Is there a line to be drawn between "punny title" and "click bait title that doesn't say anything about what the code is doing"? Should we be encouraging punny titles?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Would it be too noisy to have both? "It'th wabbit theathon - Wegex in Wuby" (Regex in Ruby if you want to be actually clear) \$\endgroup\$ – SuperBiasedMan Dec 9 '15 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry to be the one asking, but... do we really have any data to back up the statement Usually the better the pun, the greater the odds of the question going "hot", and getting tons of views and votes, and generating more traffic on the site. ? Seems to me like a Sales tax calculator - rejected for not being OOP is also able to bring in a lot of views.... \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Forsberg Dec 9 '15 at 17:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Simon my own personal experience and gut-feeling :) \$\endgroup\$ – Mathieu Guindon Dec 9 '15 at 17:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SuperBiasedMan wouldn't that be putting a tag in the title though? (see all wuby posts) \$\endgroup\$ – Mathieu Guindon Dec 10 '15 at 0:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mat'sMug AFAIK tags in title is fine if it's descriptive of what the code is rather than just "Python Sudoku Puzzle Solver", where the title is complete without the language. Just putting "Regex" doesn't say a lot about the code, but it is probably a grey area. \$\endgroup\$ – SuperBiasedMan Dec 10 '15 at 11:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ My personal experience affirms the directly related pun:hotness ratio. \$\endgroup\$ – Legato Dec 10 '15 at 16:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Usually the better the pun, the greater the odds of the question going "hot", and getting tons of views and votes, and generating more traffic on the site. I'm failing to see a problem here. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Dec 14 '15 at 9:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ It'th wabbit theathon was by far the best question I've ever seen on this site. \$\endgroup\$ – 13aal Dec 14 '15 at 14:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Only a half-baked thought, but is it worth considering how punny / idiomatic titles affect those with a weaker command of English? \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Udell Dec 23 '15 at 10:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll just leave this here as another example. My most popular question by far. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Brandon Morris Jun 9 '16 at 15:38
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A pun is only a pun if it relates to something meaningful. Something like: "The trip to the arctic was so cool" is only funny because there's two meanings to the word.

The same has to be true with a punny title. The title has to have relevance to the question at hand, but, if you can make a pun out of it, and the "other" meaning is entertaining, then sure, what's the problem?

Your title describes your question's code.

In addition, exposure to this site, gaining interest, adding reputation, that's what drives a lot of the value here. It's a good thing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd say that "What's brown and sticky? A stick" is a better analogy. "Brown and sticky" may be a good description for a stick, but that doesn't mean a stick is what you think of when you read it. So would it make a good title for a stick-related post? \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Aaronson Dec 22 '15 at 15:07
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I think that as long as these titles reflect what the code does to a certain extent, it should be fine. To go with your examples :

  • "Hooked on Windows" : It's not that clear. The pun's there, that's fine, but the message is a little more hidden IMO.

  • "Go on, mock my IDE" : Considering the tags and the title, I can figure it's about mocking, which makes it fine.

  • "It'th wabbit theathon" : Well, we can't figure it's about regex. If the title's pun included about regexes, then I guess it would be fine.

  • "ONCE", "UPON", "A", "TIME" : Well, not clear. We can't really figure what the code does by looking at it.

We shouldn't allow punny title for the sake of being punny. Yeah, funny titles drag my attention, but I'll be more interested in checking quickly what the pun refers to (and maybe upvote because I'm a bad person), than to check the code for review.

So well, if the pun's clearly relevant to the code, why not? It draws attention of other sites!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Way to be a mood killer. \$\endgroup\$ – 13aal Dec 14 '15 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know right :p I like a punny title as much as anyone else, but I don' think they're that useful \$\endgroup\$ – IEatBagels Dec 14 '15 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, they are useful if you really think about it. It grabs attention and makes people think. Isn't that what the point of programming is about? Making people think? I mean I do understand where you're coming from but this is a site, they want this site to grow, so things like "punny titles" will help a lot actually, you have to have fun sometimes, believe it or not. \$\endgroup\$ – 13aal Dec 14 '15 at 15:28
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We can do better. It is possible to write a title that is both informative and punny.

Compare these two titles:

Now, this wasn't my question, but it had a boring, awkward title (the first bullet). So I suggested a better one. Now, I did remove some information (how they wanted their review: to be compared with other implementations), but all this information was already in the body of the question. It shouldn't have been in the title in the first place, actually. The body of the question needs to have substance, but the title can draw in attention as long as it's not distractingly confusing.

I feel that puns help the question stand out even a little from the crowd. After all, it's part of self-expression and it goes well with the site's fun, laid-back atmosphere.

In other words, go for the pun, but if you aren't keeping the clarity, you're not being punacious enough.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The only problem is, writing good puns that are also informative is hard. Probably as hard as programming, in general. For example, your pun is informative, but doesn't seem very punny, at least to me. \$\endgroup\$ – jpaugh Jun 1 '16 at 15:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jpaugh The word "execute" is the pun. You execute code, and execution can also refer to the way you go about doing something. But the most important defpunition in this case was that hanging is a type of execution, meaning that we are sentencing a person to death. It makes you wonder, does the punishment fit the crime? \$\endgroup\$ – Laurel Jun 1 '16 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ (You're on a roll, and I've clearly paid my punance. ;-) Ok. I misunderstood. I though the first title was the punny one! The second title is perfectly descriptive, if subtle. \$\endgroup\$ – jpaugh Jun 1 '16 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did remove some information (how they wanted their review: Such information shouldn't be in a title anyway. There's no problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Jun 1 '16 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jpaugh I didn't realize you mixed up the titles, so your other comment makes a lot more sense now. I have clarified my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Laurel Jun 1 '16 at 18:39
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Should we be encouraging punny titles?

No

We should keep encouraging users to have descriptive titles which describe what their code does. If one wants to use a punny title, then it is his/her decision.

Reasons

  • A descriptive title tells a lot about the code in question.
  • A punny title can attract more views but that isn't guaranteed
  • If a punny title gets to punny then we need to intervene as well which will double our work

I have only asked 7 questions on CR and out of these questions only one has a somehow punny title "Matrix reloaded … or reversed" which had attracted 212 views which is 5th place in my views ranking.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why would we not want to encourage people to have fun..? \$\endgroup\$ – 13aal Dec 14 '15 at 16:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ekult3k I am the last one who doesn't want me or others to have fun. Its just that encouraging users to have punny titles that I don't think is a good thing. I won't and never will downvote a question because it has a punny title. \$\endgroup\$ – Heslacher Dec 14 '15 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Heskacher Then why are you discouraging others from enjoying programming, and making it fun when they ask a question? \$\endgroup\$ – 13aal Dec 15 '15 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ekult3k Keep in mind: not encouraging != discouraging \$\endgroup\$ – Heslacher Dec 15 '15 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well having said that isn't not encouraging == to discouraging..? Because if you don't encourage someone to do something, they will be discouraged to do it.. \$\endgroup\$ – 13aal Dec 15 '15 at 13:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ekult3k I think this is one for the English Language stack exchange, but my personal interpretation is: Encourage == Take effort to increase occurrence of something. Discourage == Take effort to decrease occurrence of something. I believe Heslacher prefers the middle ground of not trying to get people to use puns, but not trying to get them not to use puns either. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Udell Dec 23 '15 at 10:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickUdell thats exactly what I wanted to say with my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Heslacher Dec 23 '15 at 10:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickUdell I think I'm understanding where you're coming from. The only problem I'm seeing with it is that you think they still shouldn't use them.. For instance: codereview.stackexchange.com/questions/113676/… It gives a clear idea of what the program is about, and also draw attention. The whole point of this place is to draw attention to your question, so that it will get answered, therefore making a giant dictionary of programming related questions and answers that can be found for a later purpose. \$\endgroup\$ – 13aal Dec 23 '15 at 12:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickUdell If you don't allow people to have fun programming, what's the point of even learning to program...? The impression I was given when I first started is that it's fun to build things, it's fun to make things that people want to use, it's fun to create the idea from scratch.. \$\endgroup\$ – 13aal Dec 23 '15 at 12:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ekult3k: you still don't understand me. I do not think they shouldn't use pun titles. I think we shouldn't tell people either way. I'm not sure I can be any clearer than this: I don't think we should tell people to use pun titles. I don't think we should tell people not to use pun titles. As for your second point, learning to program has several points beyond fun, a career comes to mind... \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Udell Dec 23 '15 at 14:56

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