Do You Click on Mystery Threads?

My post titles are usually subject headings or literary references. You usually know what you are getting from the title and category, and if you do not care about Champions Online or crafting, you can skip those posts easily enough. I am fond of meta-data that helps us improve the noise:signal ratio.

I frequently see forum posts with titles like:

  • Just one question…
  • Devs, what are you thinking?!
  • ridle me this
  • A humble request

These are just bottles with “drink me” on the tag. There is no indication of what might be inside, and there is a very good chance that it is poison. But there are also some great gems and good discussions. (I just leapt off that metaphor.)

I guess this is a question of how you deal with sources with a middling signal:noise ratio. I like sources near 1:0 or 0:1, because I can track the former and ignore the latter. I am not sure where my cutoff is for willingness to dig through trash in search of gems.

: Zubon

Wow, that last sentence applies pretty broadly, doesn’t it?

14 thoughts on “Do You Click on Mystery Threads?”

  1. I tend to only read posts that the subject is clearly stated unless its a persons name I am familiar with. I find myself clicking on most posts that have lots of replies, and views, but sometimes its just a thread that has been derailed, and trolled so bad it just annoys me.

    On blogs I usually use Werits blogroll to visit most blogs with interesting topics. I find I usually enjoy reading blog posts better than the forums, but as a blogger you have to be visible everywhere, and keep up with what players are complaining about so you have great writing material for your next post.

  2. This only applies to forums. I make enough silly blog titles that I’m not going to judge blogs on em — besides, my RSS reader always gives me at least a snippet to go along with the title. Also besides, the blogs on my RSS list are blogs I enjoy reading, so the whole title issue is rather secondary. Now, as for forums…

    I ignore mystery titles unless they’re evidently intentional. I also pretty much ignore any forum post with “README”, “BIG PROBLEM!” or “DEVS!” in the title, doubly so if they’re in caps. Similarly anything with three or more consecutive punctuation marks (ellipses don’t count).

    Because here’s what it comes down to: forum gems are a dime a dozen, and every minute you spend reading MMO forum posts is a minute you could have spent doing *anything* else more productively, including sawing off your own arm.

    Take it from an old (reformed) forum ho. Forums are the ultimate in contentless disposable pap. Whether you read something or not will make no positive difference to your life even just 5 minutes down the line. What it *will* do is make you sick of your class, your continent, your crafting profession, and your game.

    Move along. Nothing to see here.

    1. Surely I can’t be the only one who reads fora that show you the first line or two of the post when you mouse-over the title? The first few words are usually a decent indicator of how likely the post is to cause bleeding from the eyes and a desire to go up the nearest bell-tower with a high-powered rifle screaming ‘I hate lolcats!’.

    1. But… sometimes they put their credentials in the title too so you KNOW it’s a worthwhile monologue. “An open letter from a lifetimer” is the new one in our modern era.

  3. Depends on the source. Anyone on my blogroll will get at least a cursory read even with a title like “Insert clever or informative title here.” However, Joe Average blogger certainly doesn’t get that kind of leeway, even a lot of the more popular ones.

    @Ysharros: nailed that. When it comes to message boards, a famous Obiwan quote from A New Hope comes to mind.

  4. Ysh and Yeebo expressed it well.

    If it’s a blog I already read, then the title isn’t of concern since I have an expectation that the content will be interesting. Besides, I like to use silly titles in my own blog posts, so who am I to judge?

    If it’s a forum… no bloody way. I confess I do waste time on forums whenever I’m especially into a game, but even then I don’t bother reading stuff with mystery titles. If the author can’t be bothered to title effectively, odds are incredibly high that the post will be complete rubbish.

  5. My threshold fluctuates based on how bored I currently am and how much time I’m looking to kill. Ysharros correctly pointed out that the formatting of that vague title can say a lot about how high that noise side of the ratio is to help decide if my threshold is that low. I end up in those threads more often because I’m following someone (i.e. a dev), than my threshold has dropped low enough to enter them.

  6. Agreed with Ysh, Yeebo and the sage. I’ve written enough vaguely witty/obtuse blog titles of my own to judge harshly (and dry wit goes a long way to get me to click through). Forums scare me, though.

    1. Tesh said, “Forums scare me, though.”

      And well they should! Forums have an incredibly high noise-to-signal ratio, and are overwhelmingly full of negative, ill-conceived, poorly-worded abuses of the reader’s time. Ysh nailed it; it’s incredibly rare for time spent in forums to be better spent than time doing practically anything else.

  7. Most obscure forums I go on have many posts with no replies entitled “Help!” or “please help me” and so on. Sometimes they are years old and still on the main page of the forums… I at least try to say “Please help me with x problem” so that perhaps others will look in my thread if they are having trouble with the same thing. Usually I don’t bother going near forums unless I am having a problem.

    And don’t forget “aaaah the server is down for regular scheduled maintenance but I wanna play naoooooowww!!!!” posts.

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