# Should the site have an automatic word filter for titles?

Math.SE has a problem with titles. The percentage of questions with the redundant word question in the title is highest on Stack Exchange, by far. Plenty of titles consist of other mostly useless words. We have a nice meta post on writing a good title, but nobody's got time for meta posts.

On Stack Overflow, the words question, doubt, problem, and help cannot be used in titles. They result in a pop-up message directing user to a post about writing a good title:

On Mathematics, problem has several legitimate uses (e.g., in differential equations), and question is legitimate in questions about Minkowski's question mark function. Some other such cases may exist. In view of the above, my proposal is to issue a non-blocking warning when the title contains one of generally useless words. More specifically:

A question title under 40 characters containing one of the words "question", "problem", "doubt" and "help" is very likely to be bad, and should generate a warning.

Something like this already exists: if the title contains the word you, the following message is shown (it does not block the submission).

The message should be different, though:

The title of your question may be insufficiently specific. See Writing Good Titles.

Clarification: the filter is intended for main site only, not for meta.

• So if I would like to ask something like "Blabla's doubt regarding the solution of Whitehead's Problem" which may be a valid title is going to be banned? – Asaf Karagila Aug 12 '14 at 19:51
• IMHO, instead of a pop-up saying "strong discouraged", it will be more effective if it cost the user 'something' to use certain keyword. e.g. question : 2 point, doubt : 2 point, help : 5 point and homework : 100 points! – achille hui Aug 12 '14 at 19:52
• (I'm all in favor of automatic filtering titles; but I do think this needs to be discussed thoroughly before doing anything.) – Asaf Karagila Aug 12 '14 at 19:54
• What about "problem"? – Asaf Karagila Aug 12 '14 at 20:06
• @achillehui Unfortunately, many of posters of such titles have nothing to lose. (A related idea is to drop the word filter beyond some reputation level, which I think was floated at some point on meta.SO). Asaf: what about "what about "problem""? I addressed this word in the post. – user147263 Aug 12 '14 at 20:18
• No, I meant what about the "problem" problem in my suggested title referring to Whitehead's Problem? Even if you don't use the word "doubt", "Whitehead's Problem" is a name for a mathematical problem. – Asaf Karagila Aug 12 '14 at 20:38
• Other examples can be of the family of "What are some open problems in functional analysis that can be explained to undergrad students?" – Asaf Karagila Aug 12 '14 at 20:39
• Yeah, okay. This is a definitive proof that I am going to sleep. – Asaf Karagila Aug 12 '14 at 20:48
• This is only for the main site, right? For meta, we may need to mention such words in titles. – Bill Dubuque Aug 12 '14 at 22:43
• @900 Thanks. Probably most MSE users have no experience with how it works on SO, so it would be helpful to mention that explicitly in the question. – Bill Dubuque Aug 12 '14 at 22:55
• How would this handle a question about "Minkowski's Question Mark Function," for example? I would not support using the symbol "?" instead of "question mark" because it would be harder to search for and possibly confusing. – Brad Aug 12 '14 at 23:38
• @GerryMyerson Demonstrating that mathematicians are generally bad in writing titles. "On a question of Erdős", "on a polynomial inequality", etc. I would edit those at once if they appeared on Stack Exchange. – user147263 Aug 12 '14 at 23:59
• @900sit-upsaday: Please provide an email address, so I could contact you and make sure none of my titles are bad. – Asaf Karagila Aug 13 '14 at 0:54
• @AsafKaragila Just post the paper here prior to sending it to journal. Or instead of. – user147263 Aug 13 '14 at 0:56
• Please provide me the university you're currently sitting as the chair of the hiring committee, so when I submit my application with only one published paper (the one I published recently, before accepting this great advice), the committee will know why this is the situation. – Asaf Karagila Aug 13 '14 at 0:57

Ok, there's a warning now:

This is triggered by a title matching

^.{0,30}(^|\W)(anyone|difficult|doubt|easy|hard|help|interesting|please|problem|query|question|someone|stuck|very)(\W|$).{0,30}$


...so it heavily favors short titles - Tricky integration/functions problem would've warned, while Least squares problem equivalent to solving Poisson problem for graph embedding given edge lengths would not have.

• Can this be enabled elsewhere? – Braiam Oct 8 '14 at 13:30
• @Braiam You'll probably need another set of words for Ubuntu. The one in Shog9's answer came from a community effort to identify signs of weak titles specific to this site. – user147263 Oct 8 '14 at 14:27
• Please add word boundaries when you get a chance: this warning is triggered by questions about Hardy spaces (matching "hard"). – user147263 Oct 15 '15 at 21:19
• Done, @NormalHuman – Shog9 Oct 15 '15 at 21:27