Technically, does that count as putting a tag in the title? ♪ I mean, beyond the actual literal tag in the title.

Jeff consulted me to bring up this subject on Meta in advance. is, by many means, a terrible tag. There are a number of reasons for this.

  1. It's an actual meta-tag. That is, its purpose is to describe attributes of the question rather than the problem in the question. The elements themselves in the games are not spoilers - it's the unleashing of their existence to the unknowing public that makes them spoilers. And that is purely contained within the text on the site.

  2. The purpose is conflicting with the entirety of the tag base. Also explained in the previous discussion, a tag whose sole purpose is to be ignored is unexpected and confusing. Seeing as it lacks all the other utility which a flag is meant to possess, it just is a poor fit in the tag base.

  3. Consequent of the above, it is also not very well known that it is used for this purpose. There are only 28 users across the site who have the tag ignored. New users rarely know about the ignored tag feature, fewer still know how to hide them. We don't advertise this fact, and I've mentioned this. The purpose of the tag only comes up whenever someone asks about it. We never teach anyone, which leads both to its lack of use, and the abuse that I'll discuss in points 5 and 6.

  4. Excepting spoilers inside the title, the existence of the tag is moot. We have spoiler syntax in posts to handle everything outside the title.

  5. The vast majority of the ~300 questions marked with the tag don't have a spoiler in the title. See the following examples:


    This is how the majority look. Titles for questions follow a couple different formulas in general: what happens after X, does X exist, and how do I do X. Very few go about revealing dangerous details, and very few actually lose anything in their titles to accomplish this deed. The largest defense of this tag's existence has been to allow freedom in titles, but in many cases, the freedom isn't exercised largely because it is unnecessary. The titles remain concrete and identifiable.

    As such, the majority of questions with this tag are identifying content inside the posts. Content that can be hidden by the aforementioned spoiler syntax if it isn't clear from the title that it contains spoilers.

  6. On top of point 5, whether or not the majority of these classify as spoilers is extremely subjective. Namely, the degree of what counts. The full gamut of questions ranges from questions about how to fight final bosses and about endings or important plot points, to the location of items in early game dungeons and what rewards are for quests. Extended logically, we're hitting every boss fight, item strategy, dungeon help, puzzle solving... well, logically extended we're hitting the entire content of the site. Which, actually, isn't all that surprising - the entire point of the site hinges on giving people information prior to their in-game discovery.

    We don't have a strong metric for determining what is truly "spoiler" worthy, but a lot of metrics we could make, there's a much better tag. if you're discussion ending stuff, for how to fight bosses (final or otherwise). There's always just a better tag, that most importantly isn't a meta tag.

  7. This actually stacks on point 4 in a different direction than the previous two. Which is, even if people did wisen up and use this to allow a freedom of identifying spoilers properly and only in titles, we're hosing the anonymous visitors if we practice that. Remember, tag preferences only exist for users of the site. If we allow spoilers in title just to allow this kind of tag, we'll spit on the faces of passerby visitors who are bombarded with front pages that may have spoiler titles. It's counter-productive if the intent is to allow people to avoid spoilers if we're going to do it in a way that encourages it being shoved into the faces of the majority of our traffic.

The tag is bad, its purpose is narrow and dangerous, and furthermore it's not even consistently used due to a lack of education about it. If we want to prevent spoiling information, we should have clean titles and use the syntax that we ended pushing into existence. Using the tag system simply isn't going to work.

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The only thing I have in reply to #7 is this. On the rest, there's nothing to be said. Good riddance, spoiler. –  badp Nov 22 '11 at 22:35
    
@badp In response to that, I have my answer, where I note that the continued fact that anonymous users don't have any ability to configure off the spoiler hiding is just as bad. –  Grace Note Nov 22 '11 at 22:39
    
So long as those posts aren't completely hidden I really still don't see the harm... but regardless, there's no point in discussing this now. –  badp Nov 22 '11 at 22:42
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While I agree with all the points made, I am still going to miss this tag. :( –  FAE Nov 23 '11 at 13:10
    
I guess I'm one of the few people using (ignoring) the spoiler tag. I hate ruining surprises so much that I often avoid questions about games I haven't finished, except if I'm experiencing bugs or extreme frustration. In those cases I often get here by searching, as an anon user from a gaming machine; I agree with those below pointing out that it's frustrating to accidentally see spoilers - doubly so when the asker or answerer did try to mark them appropriately. I don't have a solution, but I'd love if whatever spoiler mechanics we end up with work well both for anon and logged in users! :) –  aedia λ Nov 23 '11 at 17:47
    
Glad to see that the site is slowing coming around to my ideals. –  Nick T Nov 24 '11 at 4:00

5 Answers 5

I have no problems with this, except for this thing here:

Should text with the spoiler markdown appear in question summaries?

The other meta thread referenced there says pretty much "write your questions better" but we don't really have control over the questions most of the time - they're contributed by (generally) people who don't read obscure Meta threads before posting.

Agreed that it's a terrible tag whose time has come, but can we work to improve the other spoiler mechanic as well?

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I'm happy to try and push along some sort of "Ignore spoiler text in question summaries" to go hand-in-hand with this. –  Grace Note Nov 22 '11 at 22:34
    
I'd rather not see this happening. There are very rare cases where it makes sense to put a spoiler tag in the question body. Sure, I think I've posted one such case just yesterday, but even then it's such a minor spoiler that I can hardly see somebody complaining because it wasn't protected in the question summary. –  badp Nov 22 '11 at 22:41
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I just find it kind of silly that I can hide text in a question or answer, but if I'm casually browsing I'll still see it. What's the point of a spoiler markup element if I can get spoiled without even clicking on the question? If it's not possible to cut the summary short, maybe a warning about spoiler markup elements if they're too early to be excluded in the summary, when you submit questions? –  agent86 Nov 22 '11 at 22:43
    
@agent86 The thing is, the meat of your question and your answer should not be covered by spoiler tags, ever. If the question asks for spoilers, there's no use in spoiler protecting them. Spoiler protection should really be used much more sparingly than it currently is :) –  badp Nov 22 '11 at 22:46
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@badp I still agree with the original idea of being able to protect yourself from spoilers in question titles. I'd hate to be on the Sci-Fi stack exchange and see questions like "Why did Snape kill Dumbledore?". I'm sure many people don't care, but the tag was there to give people that did care a way to protect themselves. –  bwarner Nov 22 '11 at 23:09
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@badp, I guess to me it's the difference between the intent of the markup and it's result. If the intent is to hide parts of the question, then it should do that. Everywhere. If the implementation is broken, fix it. If there should be help/advice/restrictions for using it, explain it. The SE app/network is all about making it easy on users to use it properly. Having a feature that is hard/obscure/obtuse to use properly is against what I understand to be the goal here. –  agent86 Nov 22 '11 at 23:41
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I saw one the other day. The person had made every effort to cover up the actual spoiler but it appeared on the home page because the spoiler was actually included within the 200 character text summary or so. I find that really frustrating. –  IttyBrittyGirlGamer Nov 23 '11 at 10:02
    
I think as a follow up to this - I think that if it can't be fixed so that spoiler tags actually work properly everywhere and/or it's clear to users how to use them properly, the spoiler markdown should just go. Put it forward that this is an area where you can expect spoilers (like GameFAQs or similar) and you just have to deal with that as a condition for using the site. The way it stands today, it's a broken feature. No feature is better than a broken one, IMHO. I don't like removing it as much as fixing it, but leaving it broken is worse. –  agent86 Nov 23 '11 at 22:33
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@agent86 that is implemented now by me (pending deployment), so I'm going to go ahead and remove [spoiler] as a tag based on consensus in this question and its answers. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 24 '11 at 18:49
    
@JeffAtwood, thanks for accepting our feedback. Your response is most appreciated. –  agent86 Nov 24 '11 at 19:37

If you are going to kill the spoiler tag, at the very least make it more obvious that there is a way to hide spoiler text. Adding a way to easily mark a block of text spoilers via a button above the answers box will make sure more people are aware of the feature and use it.

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We could replace the code syntax button - it's been an oft-discussed option for the variety of sites that simply don't do code. But we only have one button option available. So our choice is we could use it for spoiler but not have it available for any other needs we may have (though, really, the only other one I can think of is youTube and that just really doesn't need special help with). –  Grace Note Nov 23 '11 at 16:09
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@Grace As a gaming site, I think a spoiler button is way more apropos than a code button. I think to date, I've used the code button maybe once? –  z ' Nov 23 '11 at 16:13
    
So do I, yx.. So do I. Besides, code syntax is usually inline here, anyway, and backticks are easy enough. –  Grace Note Nov 23 '11 at 16:38
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Unfortunately the syntax button is the only way we have to do tables. –  badp Nov 23 '11 at 18:06
up vote 4 down vote accepted

And so it came to pass that the Countess, who bathed in the blood of...

Wait, wrong thing coming to pass.

And so it came to pass that [spoiler], who rested itself atop the bodies of 297 questions, did breathe its last on Thanksgiving Day of 2011. At least, if you live in the United States. Those who don't, well, it wasn't Thanksgiving to you. To you, it was just a normal Thursday. A normal Thursday, and the end of [spoiler].

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I'm one of those users that have ignored, but I agree with Grace Note here, this tag should go, as it is anyway not used as it should. Instead, I propose the following policy:

Question titles which contain something which could be considered as spoiler should be edited to exclude it.

As discussed in Proper usage of spoiler tag?, this isn't always simple: deciding what is a spoiler and what isn't is problematic and subjective, and some question titles may become nearly-useless after this sanitation.

Nevertheless, as someone who got burned, this is the policy I believe in. There was some question of "how do I kill X" where X was an ally at that point of the game; a single glance turned out to be a serious spoiler :\

I'd definitely understand if others don't agree with me on this, though, since as far as Google-users are concerned, "how do I kill X" is an excellent title and "how do I kill this character" isn't. So the question is sort of "do we cater more for our users or for random Google users"? I'm usually on the side of random Google users here, but I just hate spoilers so much...

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IMHO the only sane strategy for spoilers on X, if you are really serious about them, is not to go places where X is discussed -- or in the case of gaming.se, always browse tags for other games rather than that one, until you're far enough along that you can't be spoiled any more. It is hard to define what a spoiler is since what is a spoiler to you may not be one at all to me. I guess the only possibly hard definition is major plot points where "obvious" big things happen that are intended be shocking in some way. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 23 '11 at 17:37
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-1,000. We need good googleable titles, even if they're spoilery. How do you ask for help in the boss fight of Portal 2 without spoiling the entire second half of the game, while including the keywords "glados" "kill" "boss" "fight" "incinerator" "second core"...? –  badp Nov 23 '11 at 18:07
    
@Oak, how would you reword (WARNING Deus Ex Human Revolution spoiler!!!)this question to remove the spoiler yet still maintain its usefulness? This question got a lot of hits and I'm sure its because the title is clear and concise. Its probably the first couple of words anyone in that situation will search for. –  z ' Nov 23 '11 at 19:17
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The main problem is "far enough along so you can't be spoiled any more" is usually the end of the game, at which point, you're likely to have way fewer questions about it than before that point in time. :( –  FAE Nov 23 '11 at 20:34
    
@badp +1'ed your comment. It's a real problem and I don't have a solution. Same for you, yx. I think every downvote on my answer here is justified :) just saying what I think. Getting spoiler-ed sucks :\ –  Oak Nov 23 '11 at 20:45
    
@badp those words don't have to be in the title to find a match, necessarily, though I agree that Google will absolutely favor hits to words in the title over hits to words in the body. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 24 '11 at 18:25
    
I think we should try to avoid putting major spoilers in the title (= surpising main plot points), but I don't think we can always succeed. I would be willing to accept slightly worse SEO, but I don't think we should go as far as making useless titles. I don't care about minor spoilers, if I want to remain really unspoiled, I just have to avoid any place where the game is discussed (as Jeff already mentioned). Short of getting spoiler markdown in titles I see no way of reliably avoiding such spoilers. –  Mad Scientist Nov 26 '11 at 9:55

Could we have some kind of automagic flag that puts [spoiler] at the start of titles that contain spoiler text in the question? If the asker is whiting out parts of the question, any discussion is going to be spoilery.

Making 'spoiler' ignored is kind of a bad solution anyway because whether or not someone cares about spoilers usually depends on if they've finished the game in question.

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