Should Page Titles Be Questions Or Assertions

I recently started a page called IsProgrammingMath. This is a question, not an assertion, but my opinion is fairly on the "no" side of the question, and I suppose I could've just as easily started a page called ProgrammingAintMath?.

I chose not to because in my refactoring I've been seeing a number of pages titled by assertion, and then there's invariably a counter-assertion. For example, we have both SingletonsAreEvil and SingletonsAreGood, but much of the same issues are discussed on both pages.

Seems to me that although consensus is perhaps a long-term goal, it should be treated as a highly difficult goal. Perhaps naming a page a question (IsProgrammingMath) as opposed to an assertion (ProgrammingIsMath) keeps all the discussion together, without forcing you to pick one or the other. Thoughts?

-- FrancisHwang

To me, either title works; just make sure the title is descriptive. It is the text following the title I care about.
Many page titles are handles for an idea. When the title is part of our SharedVocabulary?, the page title concisely conveys an idea from the writer to the reader. When it isn't (or when our understanding is foggy), we click the link to learn more about the idea. I think this argues for names that are assertions rather than questions.

If page titles are handles for an idea, then pages with opposing names (SingletonsAreEvil and SingletonsAreGood) make sense when they represent two different (presumably opposing) ideas. Wiki does often HaveThisPattern: Pros for the idea appear on its page. Cons may also be briefly mentioned, and the page has a 'Contrast with' or 'See also' link to its opposite.

Page titles should be assertions, for the simple fact that you can then link to them in sentences grammatically. (below)

Hmm. This is a good point. Many pages are some combination of (a) an (expression of) idea, (b) an argument, or assertion, that the idea is good/true, and (c) a recommendation that the idea be followed. SingletonsAreEvil is an idea and perhaps an implicit assertion that the idea is good/true. It isn't a recommendation. But YouArentGonnaNeedIt and RefactorMercilessly are not just good ideas; they are good advice! StopComplaining. SleepToWork. DontBlameTheManager. Etc.

I guess this doesn't help much when trying to name discussion pages.

How about neither question nor assertion, but topic: MathematicsOfProgramming? or ProgrammingAsMath? for example. These sorts of titles are clear without being either a wiki-awkward question without a question mark nor an invitation for simple gainsaying. cf PromptingStatement or EmergentComponentMethod
ShouldPageTitlesBeQuestionsOrAssertions? Not necessarily. Consider WindowSeat?, drawn from the pattern language of ChristopherAlexander. Note the difference to WindowSeatConsideredHarmful?, WindowSeatsAreEvil?, AlwaysUseWindowSeats?, etc. Position statements and questions are good material for opening paragraphs, but constrain titles too much. In particular, placing a judgment in a title ignores the context sensitivity of the topic and tends toward universal law. Consensus isn't necessary; only the development of ideas.
I feel a real temptation to add a page called PageTitlesShouldBeAssertionsNotQuestions? and see if the discussion there reaches the same conclusions ...

Page titles should be assertions, for the simple fact that you can then link to them in sentences grammatically. For instance, "I think your grasp on the problem is wrong because ProgrammingIsNotMath?," is a lot cleaner and clearer than saying, "I think your grasp on the problem is wrong because programming is not math. Please read the argument on IsProgrammingMath to see what I mean." Less text is better than more text.

It's also not necessary to prompt with a question. An assertion is already a PromptingStatement. This is Wiki where everything is wrong, don't forget, so people will disagree with you.

Questions imply a discussion of their answer, and that means ThreadMode. An assertion can be written expositionally (like an essay), in DocumentMode, which is much easier to understand. The countering opinion could then be written again expositionally but on a separate page and then linked to (and vice versa), such as ProgrammingIsMath and ProgrammingIsNotMath?. This argument technique leads to better discussions, I think, because they don't become tied up in their own tongues.

However, many people take offense to the argument bias implied by the assertion in the title. There often is a neutral way to phrase a concept, usually using a noun phrase. Why write GotoConsideredHarmful (ignoring the historical reason) when you could write a page GoTo that describes the pros and cons of using it in one, well-balanced Pattern? This is the technique I prefer for most thing, unless I am outright trying to bias the argument, like VotingIsEvil.

For instance, personally, I think this discussion would be better placed on WikiName, or PageTitle?, since the numbers and types of titles is an flexible as English. -- SunirShah
Page titles should be clusters of words found on other pages. The rules we use when we cluster words to form concepts and cluster concepts to form concept clusters fascinates me.

PageTitlesShouldBeClustersOfWords? FoundOnOtherPages?. TheRulesWeUseWhenWeClusterWordsToFormConcepts? and ClusterConcepts? to form ConceptClusters? fascinates me.


Pages that define a concept contentiously seem unfair and unnecessarily provoke hostility. For example, a "Free Market" page that defines free market as, "A theoretical construct of no applicability in the real world."

Many arguments are fruitless only because the participants understand the terms to mean different things. One argues for, another argues against, and neither sees that their arguments pertain to no common subject matter.

By making a judgment the focus rather than seeking understanding, a new idea cannot be heard. If one posts a devastating criticism, he hopes to be successful in debunking what he understands to be a foolish idea. He doesn't want to hear that he may be attacking something that the other person never had in mind or that his opponent's idea is much more insightful than he has imagined.

Therefore: Put exposition on pages named for a concept. For example, "FreeMarket". Don't argue here, and don't define the concept contentiously. Create no DevilsDictionary pages. Name concept pages in such a way that the name can be used in a sentence. If conversation on argumentation pages yields multiple interpretations of the term, post them all on the concept page.

If the argument is complex, do not try to carry out argument both pro and con on one page. Separate the arguments to pages named for the propositions they support. For example, "FreeMarketIsGood" and "FreeMarketIsBad".

If there are many arguments, list them (possibly as Wiki Names) on a single page. For example, "FreeMarketProAndCon" can be made into pages named after a succinct summary of the arguments, as in "FreeMarketIsTheFairestSystem", "FreeMarketIsTheMostEfficient", etc.

See also: SplitByTopicNotByOpinion, KeepPagesFocused, PageTitlesThatAreQuestions

EditText of this page (last edited February 10, 2006) or FindPage with title or text search