Writing Good Thread Titles
Posted On: September 23rd, 2010
Posted By: Tolero
Senior Community Specialist
Visitor Note: Even if you don't speak English, you are always welcome to post comments in your own language and I will make diligent efforts to understand you! If you like language, DMB may be for you.
We’ve talked about actionable feedback. We’ve even talked about writing good bug reports. Now let’s talk about another more simple way to get the most out of your posts: Writing good titles for your threads, blogs, and more! Let’s take a look at ways you can improve your thread titles to help increase the odds that your content is being read, and by the right people! At the end, I’ve also included a little game to test YOUR thread reading skills!
Tip 1: Be Topical
If your thread is titled in a way that is too vague or lacks important details, it’s going to get potentially passed by (and especially if it is posted in the hopper of “general” or “server” discussion). This isn’t just true of developer eyes, but of your fellow players. If a thread title lacks the important nouns needed to explain what the thread is about, even another player is less likely to exert the effort to click it. Here are a few examples:
- “I’m confused” is going to get picked up better as “I’m confused about half-elves”
- “These are terrible!” is more likely to be read as “These graphics textures are terrible!”
- “How does this work?” may be glossed over compared to “How does damage reduction work?”
When you include the subject matter in the title, it’s more likely to catch the attention of someone who has knowledge or expertise about that subject.
Tip 2: Go For Info, Not Shock Value
Similar to Tip 1, if you create a thread title that is written to be “dramatic,” you’re more likely to turn away the viewers you want than attract them (and in some cases, you’ll attract the ones you DON’T want). Dramatic subject lines mean subjects tend to get derailed in a way that you didn’t want. Believe it or not, but there are plenty of people who will respond to a thread - before they even read what the body of the post was about - strictly based on the title.
Bad Title: “YOU RUINED MY LIFE”
Body of post: Just kidding, but blind invites irritate me. Anyone have a way to cut down on the blind invites/tells?
Likely peer responses: “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out” “QQ some more” “You’re over reacting”
Better Title: “Blind Invites Are Annoying”
Likely peer responses: “Yeah I hate blind invites, happened to me the other day…” “go anonymous” “I don’t mind them. I just turn off invites in the options panel” “really? I didn’t know you could do that”
Your topic is going to stay on topic if you start off on the right foot to begin with.
Tip 2: Avoid Name Dropping
Including a name in a thread means it could be overlooked by the people you want. How could that be, you ask? Doesn’t including the name address it to the person it’s supposed to go to? Let’s look at an example:
You intend for Eladrin to read your thread about hirelings. But oh wait, it turns out the person who actually would benefit from the information is Phax! This means Phax is likely to overlook the thread because it’s not addressed to him. If he sees Eladrin’s name, he’s assuming it’s something related to the systems team, when it actually could be an engineering issue! This also means you have to trust that Eladrin saw it and remembered to mention to Phax that there was a thread of interest. In a dev’s busy day, it’s highly likely that they’re going to forget about the thread that was mistakenly addressed to them about a topic they don’t work on.
Using direct names is bad because
1. You can never predict what team actually works on the topic… things that appear to belong to our content devs actually belong to our systems devs, or situations that seem like they’d go to the sound guys turn out to go to the content guys, and so on.
2. You never know when a team member has changed mantels! What if Eladrin was systems, and then one day becomes content? Now poor Genasi and Piloto are missing out on threads because they mistake that “Hey Eladrin” means it’s a content thread.
Name dropping at a higher level can still even be a bad thing. There are many times I see a player title a thread with “Hey Turbine”. This can come off as the thread is aimed at Turbine staff, when in fact the topic could actually be answered accurately and quickly by a fellow player. Leaving names out of thread titles invites everyone to view the discussion, and increases the audience reach of your thread.
So it’s one thing for me to describe these things, but I’m a much bigger fan of learn-by-doing. Below I’ve set up two little demonstrations of how titles can be important.
How easily can you identify which of the following links relates to Eberron? Try to guess without actually mousing over the URL (no peeking!). Use only the thread titles to make your judgment call, then click the one you think is right. If it’s wrong try again. Keep trying until you get the right one. Make a mental note of how many clicks it took you to discover which of these was actually related to Eberron…
- The Silver Flame is my favorite
- Seen this yet?
- HEY PLAYERS: Airships frikkin rock!
- Tarrant these dragons are really hard to beat
- You’ve got to check this lama stuff out
- This is the best thing evar. period.
- Have you seen this yet?
- Shifters are pretty important imo
- What about this?
- The combat is my favorite
- No game is complete without this
Time’s up! The correct answer was: #8! So How did you do? Now let’s try the same exercise but with different titles and see how well you do. I’ve taken the same options, but shuffled them into a different order and given them “better” titles. Let’s see how fast you find the Eberron link this time, GO!:
- You’ve got to check these photos of lamas out
- Mortal Kombat is my favorite
- Have you seen Warner Bro’s Homepage yet?
- Tarrant this baseball team is really hard to beat
- Shifters are pretty important for cars imo
- Chipotle is the best thing evar. period.
- The Silver Flame Restaraunt and grill
- Sharn Anethesia!
- This is totally not a Rickroll
- Have you seen the creator of Eberron, Keith Baker?
- What about this other tabletop source material website?
- Historical Airships from the real world frikkin rock!
Time’s up! Think you picked the right one? The answer was: #10! How did you do this time compared to last time? Was it easier to find the link that related to Eberron based on the titles?
Any time you’re writing a thread or a post, keep this exercise in mind. With so many discussions going on, the less time it takes for people to assess the content of your postings by their title, the more of your postings will be read by who you want, when you want!