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This is sort of a version of this question.

I just reviewed an edit on How do I apply parameters to specific kernels with GRUB 2? that wanted to remove GRUB 2 from the title, because "tag-like titles should be in the tags". But by the time I had typed out:

Tags are fine in titles. We would end up with some very obtuse titles if we enforced this rule.

Someone else had approved the edit. I then re-edited "GRUB 2" back in since I believe the edit is a bad one that changed the meaning of the question.

I'm trying to imagine people asking shell oriented questions without being allowed to use the word "shell", etc, since that's a tag. I'm hoping we can come to some consensus about this here to help prevent the proliferation of a bad, impromptu rule.

Why this is a bad, improptu rule:

After a bit of dialogue with Braiam, I admit I don't think it is necessarily wrong to remove a tag from a title, it's removing a tag from a title simply because it's a tag. If someone removes or moves a word for the purpose of improving readability, grammar, etc., great. But propagating the idea that tags should be removed from titles just because is a not good -- if you can't justify the edit some other way (e.g., on the basis of readability) then don't do it. If you can, then it's probably fine. This case is a good example of why.

The original title was "grub - How do I apply parameters to specific kernels?", which looks a little like the OP was imitating a style encouraged by S.E. itself, which auto-appends a tag in the page <title>1. Chirp later capitalized GRUB. Then Braiam changed the title to "How do I apply parameters to specific kernels?", which changes the meaning of the question.

I think that is hard to justify if the reason is readability, because thinking about readability implies thinking about meaning -- part of "Does this read well?" is, "Is the meaning clear?". But thinking about a rule, "Must remove tags from titles" does not require thinking about the meaning of the question, and applying it as such will change the meaning of some questions.2

There seems to be some consensus that "How do I apply parameters to specific kernels with GRUB 2?" is fine; IMO that's probably the best choice, and one that would be naturally obvious if the imperative was, "How can I make this read better?" and not "How can I get this tag out of the title?"


1 Which appears in the title bar and is used by search engines, etc. I had not actually noticed this before, and to be honest it seems like "excessive featurism", someone hammering out code for the sake of coding, and not something that serves a real purpose; the tag is simply auto-selected on the basis of it's popularity. No doubt this leads to some stupid looking or inappropriate <title>'s...it also seems to be part of the reason for consternation about tags at the beginning of the user composed title.

2 Removing tags from titles could be done mechanistically, in which case we'd have a bad automated feature (remove tag from question) compensating for another bad automated feature (add tag to page title).

  • On the other hand, applying this rule strictly leads to some awesome titles on Arqade. – TRiG Dec 10 '13 at 13:11
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Bad — titles should be a proper sentence or (usually better) sentence fragment:

GRUB - How do I apply parameters to specific kernels?

The system adds the most popular tag that isn't already in the tag as a prefix, which looks bad enough on its own — here, this leads to duplication:

grub2 - GRUB - How do I apply parameters to specific kernels?

Better, but not great, because it leaves some important information out of the title:

How do I apply parameters to specific kernels?

A question title should uniquely identify the question — there can't be two questions on the site with the same title. This question is very dependent on the bootloader, it would be different with, say, Lilo or Syslinux. So the bootloader belongs on the title.

Good:

How do I apply parameters to specific kernels with Grub 2?

Better, because it doesn't waste words at the beginning of the title (the part that gets the most attention):

Apply parameters to specific kernels with Grub 2

Remember that question titles are titles for the whole thread, not for the title. There is no reason for titles to be questions, and indeed questions are often inferior as they waste words and suggest that the page only contains a question and not a solution.

  • I concur with your thoughts about this particular question title, and about the use of sentence fragments, and that the question title does not need to be a grammatical question. My issue is justifying an edit with the rule, "because tags should not be in titles". I think you are agreeing with me, sort of. – goldilocks Dec 9 '13 at 12:40
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If you skip to the later part, you will know how I will tackle the situation.


Note that the system automatically prefixes the title with the most common tag (unless it's already in the title somewhere) to help search engines find it more easily.

Stack Exchange as a whole doesn't like need in the titles what can be found in the tags. I didn't find anything else in the question that needs improvement but looks weird (if not horrible) how the question appears in the search engines.

Remember that SE strives to be professional (in terms of quality), and I don't see how repeated terms in the titles of the questions helps to reach this. The answer that Jeff gave could apply better to this case:

To be clear, I think it is fine to duplicate the tags in the title, but only when they can be worked into the titles organically and conversationally.

And "GRUB - How do I apply parameters to specific kernels?" doesn't looks too good in my eyes.


Some resources:

Now, let me show how appears in google (beware, your eyes can start to bleed):

http://i.imgur.com/dwB9l5f.png

  • Kaleb answer apply to this too. – Braiam Dec 8 '13 at 18:38
  • I disagree that things in print need or should "appear conversational". Text is not speech. My main concern is that the title be properly informative, no more, no less. The question "How do I add parameters to the kernel?" is a completely different question than "How do I add parameters to the kernel with GRUB?" The "GRUB" is hardly superfluous. As to S.E. appending tags in the <title>, that's another issue, and perhaps it is a poor choice. My focus is how it appears in the question and in the question list. – goldilocks Dec 8 '13 at 18:45
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    Going with Jeff's "conversational text" premise, moving "GRUB" from the beginning to the end is a good correction. There's nothing awkward there. Note that the appending of tags in <title> actually breaks any possibility of a "organic conversational" feel in contexts where it applies, if "FOO -- What do you think?" is "non-conversational". – goldilocks Dec 8 '13 at 18:54
  • @goldilocks ok, at least we agree that the original title was bad(tm) and needed to be fixed. Now for the other part, remember that there isn't just 1 way to do things ;). I remember some modules that accept either kernel parameters or in some mod-whatever file option. So, the broader scope for a simple solution if OP is not dead-set in that it should be done with X, any descriptive and short title will do ;). – Braiam Dec 8 '13 at 19:38
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    I think it's fine to suggest to someone who's said "I want to do X with Foo," that "You could do X with Bar instead". But not by editing their question to change what they've asked. Anyway, I've had some thoughts about this based on our dialogue (TBH, I'd never even noticed the auto-appending of tags to the page title) and added them up top. – goldilocks Dec 9 '13 at 12:37

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