Code Golf question titles are frequently opaque.

The front page (and Hot Network Questions) hence partially degrades to a list of clickable rectangles. When clicking, I more often think "WTF does that mean" than "This sounds like an interesting puzzle".

Recent beauties, explained:

These are funny. That's a good thing—we like fun. But when titles are more provocative than useful, they become click bait. I think that's a bad direction.


  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Re my mastermind horse battery staple, I thought it would be clear to any who knew of both Mastermind (a classic algorithm study) and XKCD (whose fans/readers are ubiquitous here). I truly didn't think many would be confused or left in the dark by it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Geobits
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 4:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ In addition to the title you can also have a look at the tags. However, those are rarely descriptive - adding a game or ascii-art would be helpful in many cases. \$\endgroup\$
    – Howard
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 8:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ But it works. I am reading your question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dennis
    Commented Sep 6, 2014 at 13:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ A different view on question titles from our friends at Arqade: meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/q/9956/63192 \$\endgroup\$
    – Geobits
    Commented Sep 26, 2014 at 19:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ We can take from this theory on code quality and extrapolate that one measure of quality of a question title here is also WTF per minute. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 0:58

2 Answers 2


(I personally believe that question titles should be kept as clear and concise as possible, no misdirection, but for the sake of addressing my own hypocrisy I'm going to play devil's advocate here.)

Unless you're the kind of SOer that reads everything on the front page all the time, you're not going to click every question. This, by nature, means you're going to miss out on some of the cool and novel ones, especially if they have boring titles and tags that don't immediately convey the coolness-and/or-novelty.

In my personal transgression of potential click-baitery, I titled my question "Has my milk expired?", where the point was to count the ways you can interpret an ambiguous date. Maybe it's not that easy to infer that the question is about parsing ambiguous dates, like the kinds you find on perishable food items, but it's not an uncrossable logical gap, and it turned out to be "8k views"–tier popular in the end.

Looking just at the title, would "Has my milk expired?" have fared worse if it was called "Parse ambiguous dates"? I can't say for sure, but that title definitely doesn't make it seem like something that deserves to be solved. There's no context, so it just sounds like an unmotivated exercise. By letting the motivation infect the title, it gives people a reason not to judge the book solely by its cover.

If the golfer already has the problem placed in front of them, they can decide whether they'll try to golf it. Once you have a problem you know would pass, putting their eyeballs on the problem—getting them to click through to the question and read past the first few lines—is the weak link in the chain.

I've said nothing of titles that are intentionally obtuse. Though it's hard to say whether a question is good enough to "deserve" a beneficially misleading title, I think that the community can and should deal with this on a question-by-question basis for what it deems offenders. Otherwise, I will assert that the coolness-and/or-novelty of your question really does depend on how well you can sell that question to PPCG.


I definitely agree that titles should not be meaningless. It's difficult to set a rule as the level of meaning is subjective, but I encourage everyone to add comments to questions they think could benefit from a more informative title. Titles can be both useful and funny - like this delightful title.

My own personal opinions on your examples:

I think this is enough information that the people interested in the question are likely to click on it, and the people who click on it are likely to be interested in it when they find out what it is about.

I think this one is fine. I would add the word "game" on the end if it was my question, but I think most people seeing this title would guess it's related to the snake game, and even specifying "game" wouldn't guarantee it was about implementation rather than some related calculation.

Although this could be made clearer as "Mastermind variant: horse battery staple", for me this is good as it is. I want to see titles that say enough about the question, not necessarily everything about the question.

Again, this contains half of the relevant words ("terminal", but not "colour"), and although you could add more, I think this is already tailored to attract those people who will be interested in the question, without acting as click bait to people who wouldn't be interested in the question.

This is indeed a vague title, but your first guess at what it's about is probably correct, so I don't think this one is a problem.

Although I think most of your examples are borderline, there are other questions out there which definitely need more informative titles.

Since so many questions will fall in the grey area between, I recommend adding a comment with a suggestion and letting the question poster decide how much detail to include. I would only downvote if the title was completely devoid of meaning, like this. In most cases that bad, there are plenty of other reasons to downvote already.

Question posters can include both a catchy title and a short description if they are efficient with characters (and we should be able to manage that on this site...).

Catchy main title: descriptive subtitle

I wouldn't want this to be imposed though. A descriptive subtitle can just become clutter if it's not really needed. Judge it case by case.


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