|Syntactic Confectionery Delight|
Consider this: What makes a good node title?by sauoq (Abbot)
|on Nov 03, 2005 at 22:42 UTC||Need Help??|
This is essentially a follow-up to Don't Retitle This Node.
Today, someone came along and asked a question about printing line numbers for use with debugging. He titled his node program line&dagger. Before long, Old_Gray_Bear considered the node for retitling with the suggested title "How Do I Get the Line Number In My Error Message?"
Which do you think is better? Why?
I think the original is better. By far. Here's why...
If someone else comes to Perlmonks with the same question, sees the search box on the top left, and puts in the words "program line", he's going to go directly to that node and find his answer. As it seems that search term is a good one for the question, that's a desirable outcome.
If we retitle the node to the suggested replacement, however, the search term "program line" will, as far as I can tell, pull up a big list of nodes, of which none deals with this issue. Not only that, but relevant searches that will find this node, like "error line" or "line number" already turn up nodes in which similar questions are asked and all the right answers are given.
What I'm getting at here is that most nodes shouldn't be retitled... even if you think their titles are too short or too cryptic. Remember, the poster seemed to think their chosen title was relevant, so its likely that someone else will eventually visit with the same problem and the same words in his mind. And when he searches, he'll find an answer.
Keep in mind that monks who have reached the level where they can consider a node tend to have a bit more experience than many of the people who come asking questions. And so, we are likely to think about those problems differently and draw different word associations when describing them. It is precisely because we don't look at those problems the same way that we aren't the best choice to pick a title. Afterall, we're not the ones searching for the answers.
So, please... think twice before considering a node for retitling. Don't do it for aesthetics, to be explicit, or because you think the wording isn't quite right. Don't do it if the title is merely bad. Even misspellings should probably be left as is because if someone misspelled or typo'd it in his title today, then someone else will probably misspell or typo it in the search box tomorrow.
The only nodes that should be retitled are ones that are downright unarguably terrible. Completely generic titles like "i have a problem" or "HELP!!!" are fair game. Profanity should probably be eliminated. Getting rid of excess punctuation might be prudent. There are probably other good reasons but, off the top of my head, those are about the only ones I can think of. If you are considering for another reason, take a moment to pause and consider why first.
† Update: This node has, unfortunately, since been retitled. I'm leaving the original link as a demonstration of yet another reason why frivolous node retitling is bad: it can leave a mess. It also demonstrates that the node doesn't even exist in the results returned by searching on that term now. For those really interested in the original node, it's node_id is 505311.
-sauoq "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";