15
$\begingroup$

Today I changed the title of the question "Interesting Mathematical Induction Series Proof" to the more informative "Induction proof of lower bound for $\sum \sqrt n$". It occurred to me that most titles that contain "interesting" are similarly vague. A search confirmed this. Not every title with "interesting" was completely useless, but most were.

There are 113 of these. I thought that giving them better titles might cause them to appear more often in relevant searches, or make it easier to select them as relevant or irrelevant when they do appear in searches. On the other hand, perhaps they are likely to be poor-quality questions, so perhaps it is a good thing that they have such a clear indicator of low quality in their titles. And perhaps it's not a good idea to bump 113 questions that are likely to be poor-quality.

I don't know. Is there value in trying to change the titles of these "interesting" posts?

(Related: Gerry Myerson asks for More informative titles. Asaf Karagila discusses "interesting" in How should we treat subjective titles?. Peter Tamaroff asks about Subjective titles. T.. suggests that we avoid nebulous adjectives in question titles.)

$\endgroup$
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Too bad one can't edit posts like this. I'd have retitled it to expunge "interesting". $\endgroup$ – Rick Decker Sep 5 '12 at 13:06
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ After that, we can work on the titles that contain the word "tricky". $\endgroup$ – user940 Sep 5 '12 at 16:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are of course boundary cases: How would one address the [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interesting_number_paradox interestinmg number paradox] in the title? $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 5 '12 at 17:34
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @Rick: I did not use the word "interesting" in my title. I used the word '"interesting"'. I had hoped that everyone would be able to tell the difference. $\endgroup$ – MJD Sep 6 '12 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ @MJD Of course I had considered that in making my comment. I had hoped that everyone would be able to tell the difference between " ' "interesting" ' " and ' "interesting" '. [It's too bad that markdown doesn't allow one to insert thinspaces where needed.] $\endgroup$ – Rick Decker Sep 7 '12 at 2:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There may be a correlation-causation difficulty here, inasmuch it is not the presence of "interesting" that makes a question title bad, merely that people who don't know how to make an interesting question will put "interesting" in the title in the hope that asserting it will make it so. $\endgroup$ – Ben Millwood Sep 9 '12 at 1:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Ben I'm really only interested in the correlation. Many questions with "interesting" in the title can be easily improved, so looking for "interesting" is a good way to locate low-hanging fruit. $\endgroup$ – MJD Sep 9 '12 at 1:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MJD: oh, certainly it's useful if there is a correlation, and there seems to be. I'm just warning people not to get carried away with their inferences. $\endgroup$ – Ben Millwood Sep 9 '12 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, what would you think of this question (which I posted earlier) with regards to the title? Should I edit the title? math.stackexchange.com/questions/770763/… $\endgroup$ – Ayesha Jun 2 '14 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Ayesha I'm not sure what a good title would be, but I think “interesting” adds nothing to the title you have. $\endgroup$ – MJD Jun 2 '14 at 19:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Ayesha I agree with MJD: "interesting" does not add anything. Short of putting a formula in the title, you can describe it as Limit of a sequence defined by a two-step nonlinear recursion. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Jun 2 '14 at 19:50
13
$\begingroup$

I continue to ask for, and supply, more informative titles. By all means, edit titles to make them more informative. But
1) don't edit them just to remove the word, "interesting", and
2) don't edit more than a couple of old problems at a time, so as not to flood the front page with old questions.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ In addition, if one does edit a question to improved the title, please leave a comment either pointing the OP to meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/768/1543 or explain how better titles will help them and help the community. Perhaps something like ¨A good title is one way to make your question stand out among the many posted to the front page every hour; an informative title will help you attract the right experts and get an answer quickly.¨ $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Sep 5 '12 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that the OP may have explicitly chosen the title to be not overly specific in order to attract attention to their question. For example, a question titled "An interesting topological characterization of finite dimensional division algebras over local fields" will probably attract more eyes than a more precise title on "non-discrete totally disconnected locally compact topological division rings" (the latter title does exist, see section 9.12 in Jacobson's Basic Algebra II). $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 5 '12 at 16:00
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @Bill, but «A topological characterization of finite dimensional division algebras over local fields» is even better, no? $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Sep 5 '12 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ @MarianoPlease read more carefully. Whether or not "interesting" should be in the title is not the issue that my comment addressed. Rather, my point is that if one does rewrite titles to make them more "informative" (as the OP did), then one should be careful that doing so does not alienate the readers that the OP hoped to attract. In particular, such decisions might involved specialized knowledge of the subjects, so if one does not have such, then one should avoid editing technical details. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 5 '12 at 17:25
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Well, it was the issue of the whole thread... as you probably noticed. My point, orthogonal to yours, was that the inclusion of Interesting in either version of the title does not add anything useful in anyway, whatever the OP intention may be —and no matter how much you throw words like specialized and technical details can change this :-) $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Sep 5 '12 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Mariano The subject of "editing titles to make them more informative" is mentioned in the first sentence of the OP's question, and also in the first sentence of Gerry's answer. Obviously my initial comment addresses only that subject. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 5 '12 at 17:31
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @Bill, I would never consider a title like "An interesting topological characterization of finite dimensional division algebras over local fields" to be underinformative or imprecise. The titles I edit are more along the lines of "A topology question". $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Sep 5 '12 at 23:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Gerry Nor, would I. But Jacobson chose the other title for said section of his textbook, presumably because he thought it was more informative. And that's my point. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Sep 6 '12 at 1:35

You must log in to answer this question.

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