Is there any way to block some words in question title?

Need help with a equation. Help me please, its pretty urgent :) (now deleted by the OP)

May be blocking some words such as "please","urgent". Is there any way to add some pop up saying this site is not for urgent homeworks or something like that?

This might prevent questions as above.

What does MO think on this?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ We've already seen that the seemingly innocuous act of blocking "Hi" at the beginning of comments had unintented consequences. I think that makes it clear that automated 'dumb' blocks aren't the solution (and probably smart blocks either). It seems to me that volume is low enough that humans can do this job just fine. $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Jul 13 '18 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ On Mathematics there are some phrases which cause a warning when used in the title: Should the site have an automatic word filter for titles? and Which are blacklisted tags and blacklisted phrases?. MathOverflow mods should be able to tell you which words are blacklisted on this site. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ I have added (warnings) tag, since you've mentioned pop-ups and it seems that on other sites they are also used for this purpose. Since it is marginally related (in that it could help to show new users what this site is for) I will mention my own proposal: Should users be shown some basic information before posting the first question? $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 9:18
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    $\begingroup$ I can’t recall when, if ever, I saw “urgent” in the title of a MO post. And it’s not as if homework questions do not get closed swiftly without hassle anyway. To me, this proposal sounds like a solution in want of a problem. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek you can see that post I have given link to, it is with that title saying pretty urgent... I don’t understand what does it mean to say “solution in want of a problem” $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak block listed tags are different from block listed words in the title.. your link only says about blacklisted tags, $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek There are many other words which often indicate bad title (the linked posts from Mathematics Meta can give some examples). The fact there are no questions with the word urgent in the title just shows that such questions have been deleted. I am unaware of search method to find all such deleted posts available for non-diamond users. But simple google search reveals a few questions with this word in the title: $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 9:50
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    $\begingroup$ Aside from the posts linked in the question, among the first results in the Google search there are also these ones: Simple question but URGENT and Urgent concrete question on smooth projective embeddings. (From the results of the google search we can see that they had urgent in the title - at least at some point.) $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ Relevant post on MSE meta math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/25134/… $\endgroup$
    – user69208
    Jul 13 '18 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with others that blocking is a bad idea. One could rather imagine automatic mention of such questions in the review queue. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Jul 14 '18 at 9:57
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    $\begingroup$ There could be a problem if someone mention the "wrong words" in a very specific mathematical content, for example : "Does inaccessible cardinals really HELP in the demonstration of theorem X " , "is the problem of the "URGENT CALL", a NP-complete problem" ; " Can PLEASE as a non-trivial modal operator, be considered as a primitive notion in the X system " , etc. $\endgroup$
    – jcdornano
    Jul 25 '18 at 0:36

This is a XY problem. What you really want to do is prevent questions that are obviously non research level. Martin Sleziak has recently suggested a change that would help, but it has been ignored by the moderators up to now: Should users be shown some basic information before posting the first question?

I think this change would go a long way in solving your problem.

  • $\begingroup$ I now know one more term “XY problem”.. thanks for that.... “but it has been ignored by the moderators up to now”... I do not know what is easy for them.. I am just giving my opinion... $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ I appreciate linking to my proposal. Still, I think that some words in the title might indicate that the title is most likely not very good. Especially subjective words such as difficult, beautiful, etc. I'd guess that the list currently used on Mathematics (see the links in the comments) is quite reasonable. I suppose moderators will let us know what is current setup of this feature on MO. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '18 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I flagged the meta question you linked to for moderator attention a few weeks ago with the comment "Could a moderator perhaps write a response to this question? What steps are needed by the community before such features could be implemented?" and my flag was marked as "helpful". $\endgroup$
    – j.c.
    Jul 14 '18 at 0:23
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson So I take it you're posting these examples to support my point. Such words often end up with a rather non-descriptive title, so warning on some chosen words could be useful (but not outright ban, some of titles containing these word might still be reasonable). This is the system which is used on Mathematics (according to Mathematics Meta). And maybe some words trigger warning also here on MO - only mods and SE staff are in position to check the complete list. (Regular users can at best do some experiments.) $\endgroup$ Jul 14 '18 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin, my point was just that a question could be good even if the word "beautiful" appears in its title. $\endgroup$ Jul 14 '18 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson Thanks for the clarification. (I have posted a separate answer about the warnings based on specific words in the title. So that we do not digress too much from the Federico Poloni's suggestion in the comments under his answer.) $\endgroup$ Jul 14 '18 at 9:10

TL:DR; I support the proposal to have warning for some words in titles. But I do not think it would be good to blacklist them completely.

It is explicitly pointed out in How to write a good MathOverflow question? (the section "Make your title your question") that it is good to make the title describe the question as well as possible. And there indeed are several words which might indicate that the title is very likely rather vague or subjective. There are also words which typically work in a title as unnecessary filler.

I agree that it would be good to have a warning shown to a poster when the title contains some of these words. But I don't think it would be good to outright ban some words in the titles.

I think a solution similar to the one currently used on Mathematics site might be reasonable. See here: Should the site have an automatic word filter for titles? and Which are blacklisted tags and blacklisted phrases?. (The first link is the discussion which lead to introducing this. In both posts you can also see a complete list of words that trigger this warning. This list seems quite reasonable to me.)

The word urgent is currently not in this list on Mathematics, although there is a feature request to add it: The word “urgent” in a title should trigger a warning.

I should add that I do not know whether a similar filter is currently setup on MathOverflow. Probably SE staff and moderators have access to list of blocked words. But at least I can tell that some time ago a moderator (François G. Dorais) confirmed in chat that there is some blacklisted stuff also on this site

we hardly ever blacklist tags. We do blacklist other things but not tags. "completeness" and "untagged" are the only two.

  • $\begingroup$ Since this was mention in comments both under the question or under Federico Poloni's answer, it is probably better to post an answer, so that the discussion about this can be concentrated in one place. $\endgroup$ Jul 14 '18 at 7:14

Charcoal, a community group on Stack Exchange, has a bot called Smoke Detector. Currently, it's operating to detect (the commercial kind) across the Stack Exchange network, as well as reporting detected spam to various chat rooms. It has the existing infrastructure to support this kind of detection/block. Spam posts are currently autoflagged multiple times.

I suppose the moderators of this site could talk to Charcoal HQ and possibly configure a site-specific word filter for the question title.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ While as you say this is technically possible with the Charcoal infrastructure, I don't think it would be appropriate or desirable to flag the new user posts that are being discussed here as spam. $\endgroup$
    – j.c.
    Jul 13 '18 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ @j.c. Indeed. It would be better to simply post them in a chat room with informed members of the community to handle properly $\endgroup$ Jul 14 '18 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ At the moment I think the current manual system (where sufficiently-high-rep users notice such questions on the front page and edit / vote) seems efficient enough without organizing further in a chat room or otherwise. I think the goal of this question and meta discussion is that preventing the posting of low-quality questions / question titles (possibly through automation) would save some annoyance (both on the part of higher-rep users and casual viewers of the site who happen to see off-topic questions before they're removed). $\endgroup$
    – j.c.
    Jul 14 '18 at 0:18
  • $\begingroup$ Very true. I'll keep this answer here in case anyone else has a better argument for it $\endgroup$ Jul 14 '18 at 0:39

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