I was trying to edit this question. I just wanted to add a tag and add a link to CamStudio, but I can't save it. I'm being told

please do not use these words in titles: 'Problem'.

Well, I wish I could. But the software the user is talking about is named "Problem Step Recorder" and, if the word mustn't be used in a title, how did it get there?


if the word mustn't be used in a title, how did it get there?

I assume the question was asked before that filter was in place?

  • 1
    Made a few attempts to get around it.. no good. This is a dumb filter :/ Feb 9, 2012 at 20:22
  • Auch, that's a painful one. Guess you'll have to leave it out and abbreviate it to PSR, mention what it is in the question itself
    – Ivo Flipse
    Feb 9, 2012 at 20:27
  • 2
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Feb 9, 2012 at 20:30
  • @DanielBeck Every time when I don't search before posting... Feb 9, 2012 at 20:38
  • The establishment (SE devs) have declared this filter non-negotiable. It's a pain sometimes, but they're pretty staunch about it.
    – nhinkle
    Feb 9, 2012 at 21:27
  • 1
    @nhinkle Yeah, I skipped through that thread on MSO. I find the decision somewhat unsatisfying. I would have preferred if at least moderators would be exempt from the rule. But I can see that the issue was thoroughly discussed. Feb 9, 2012 at 21:31
  • 1
    This is the must stupid thing I've ever come across, and they keep justifying it with "Filters are the same for everyone" – but at the same time, what are privileges for, again? Or what's the point of editing? It's beyond ridiculous.
    – slhck
    Feb 9, 2012 at 21:44
  • @slhck Please undelete your answer. It's only getting worse...
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Feb 12, 2012 at 14:40
  • @DanielBeck Done so, before somebody else comes along with the idea of inventing ɯǝןqoɹd :P
    – slhck
    Feb 12, 2012 at 23:46

3 Answers 3


If you want to keep a meaningful title and it already has a valid use of the word "Problem", you could use one of the following replacements:

  • Ρroblem (with the greek capital letter Rho, Unicode 03A1)
  • Problеm (with the cyrillic small letter ie, Unicode 0435)

This obviously breaks title search, but:

  • the post's body could still contain the keyword, which is indexed by search engines
  • the question's title stays clear and emphasizes a potentially necessary word that helps when skimming titles as a reader
  • you're able to improve the question's body

I've seen this on Stack Overflow, where you eventually want to ask something about the "Halting Problem" or maybe on Super User for the "Problem Step Recorder", which is the name of an actual application.

Further reading and reasoning:

  • 4
    I would not condone doing this - it defeats the purpose if you're not putting the right word in the title. Put an abbreviation, and just explain it in the post. It sucks, but that's how it is. Breaking search and SEO is not a good idea.
    – nhinkle
    Feb 9, 2012 at 22:08
  • 3
    @nhinkle Wouldn't an abbreviation also hurt SEO as it moves the actual keyword into a less meaningful place (given that the question title is a h1)? Feb 9, 2012 at 22:15
  • In terms of SEO, the body could still carry the essential keywords, you're right. It's not always that easy to fix though.
    – slhck
    Feb 9, 2012 at 22:17
  • There is also a pesky filter with the word your.
    – iglvzx
    Feb 9, 2012 at 23:10
  • thesaurus.com/browse/problem
    – iglvzx
    Feb 9, 2012 at 23:52
  • The noise / signal rate on that word in a title is high, see my answer why this is so. Stack Exchange also somewhat stands behind this point of view, and I can really tell you that even though you have a ton of people disagree your view will not change. It's easy to hate censorship without any convincing reasoning. It's hard to actually listen and see why the filter is there, I'm yet to see an use case of problem. Working around the filter is just going to add more noise into the system. Thank you for listing the workarounds, gave them more meaningful titles... Feb 10, 2012 at 0:08
  • FWIW, > you have a ton of people disagree – where, exactly? The [feature-request] has 113 upvotes and 3 downvotes. Of course I know that my view won't change. That's the whole point of being consistent. I also don't hate censorship "without convincing reason". I have plenty of convincing reasons already, and they've been supported by a majority of the audience on MSO as well. I perfectly understand why the filter is there, and for those cases, I encourage not using "problem" as a word, but there are countless good examples of where it should not be put into place.
    – slhck
    Feb 12, 2012 at 23:43
  • @slhck: Exactly those 113 upvotes means that that ton of people simply won't understand. If you have countless good examples, why can't you come up with some (for Super User at least)? Really, I'm yet to see a convincing example (for Super User at least) because none of them have been useful so far and I expect none to will be now or in the future. Please note that on other sites where problem is an useful word, this filter is not in place... Feb 13, 2012 at 2:32
  • We are just talking about one, namely the "Problem Step Recorder". You are absolutely right in the sense that probably 99% of all posts have crappy titles. This one though had an already good title. I wouldn't encourage keeping a "problem"-atic title under any circumstances. Only if it was an already good one before. @tom
    – slhck
    Feb 13, 2012 at 10:40
  • So, I really don't care about that one question (which has a better title now anyway) if all the 700 - 1000 other questions a year don't have a good title. Consider that this filter might be way more effective than other filters that are currently in place, I don't mind this question in the sea of 1400 other question that have been posted with a problem title. Working around that filter, is 99.9% going to introduce bad titles. Feb 13, 2012 at 15:06
  • Yes, absolutely get your point. I believe you should only use the workaround if the title was good before. That's all. If you can find a better one, so be it, but at least if a post's body needs fixing, you don't need to come up with a new title. @tom
    – slhck
    Feb 13, 2012 at 15:15
  • @slhck: You do need to come up with a better tittle, not introduce useless Unicode characters. Even for your "Problem Step Recorder" it wasn't necessary and the question does have a more useful title now while not breaking the ability to search for that. For the same reason we don't place the full "Microsoft Office Word" in a title which has an equal amount of characters. Stop working around a filter that works, because you can get better titles... Working around that filter, is 99.9% going to introduce bad titles. Feb 13, 2012 at 15:19
  • 1
    @TomWijsman I suggest you tell this to the moderators of SO, as they're unaware of this. Check e.g. SO topics 7637714, 7684018, 8423947, 8203395. Very legitimate uses of this term. For an example using Problem Step Recorder, see SO question 8512730, also edited by a diamond moderator.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Feb 13, 2012 at 16:59
  • @DanielBeck: That's Stack Overflow, note that we are on the Meta of Super User. Feb 13, 2012 at 17:04
  • @TomWijsman That's why I posted an example using PSR, which is also relevant for this site. Where SO has names of mathematical/computer science topics that contain problem (Halting Problem etc.), we have verbatim inclusion of error messages (like the example posted by slhck in his MSO topic). So while generally the filter will prevent bad question titles, it will also prevent good titles, as evidenced by these examples. I think that's one of the motivations of slhck's feature request: let users who know what they're doing fix it, like inserting images to new users' topics.
    – Daniel Beck Mod
    Feb 13, 2012 at 17:15

I don't think this is really constructive any more. Kevin Montrose (SE developer) explained on Meta Stack Overflow why we have the filter and why it's here to stay with some pretty hard data.

Yes, there are workarounds. They've also been documented on MSO, and the team has explicitly stated that they're not going to close the loopholes for now, but will if they get continuously abused.

This discussion has gone on long enough and isn't productive, so I'm locking this post for the time being.

  • I think an important thing that was said about it is that in the 0.1% of cases where a problematic word can appear in a title, let people use the workarounds if needed. This has been 12/0 voted so far on MSO.
    – slhck
    Feb 13, 2012 at 20:14

Is problem really meaningful or necessary in the title?

What I expect from a title is that it clearly tells me what problem the user is experiencing, and only that.

I care whether you have BSOD 0xED or 0x124 and their name, but I certainly not care about error messages, descriptions or similar specific details in the title. Looking at your example

there is a problem with the Office database

doesn't significantly mean anything, because it doesn't clearly tell me about the underlying problem.

A title that would literally copy an error message is just lazyness, you don't want titles to be like...

The system has rebooted without cleanly shutting down first?

But rather have a guiding title like

How can I troubleshoot my TDR crash that occurs while watching video streams?

Is problem really meaningful or necessary in your example?

Looking at your specific question, I see the following things:

  • A restore has happened (with TimeMachine)

  • Permission problems are related.

  • The database doesn't appear to load.

These details result in better alternatives for a title:

  • How do I fix my Office database after restoring a back-up?

  • Why does Office report database and permission errors after a restore?

These are more helpful for people scanning the question list and looking for something to answer.

As for search engine purposes, the question body is indexed too so that's not really an issue...

Are titles containing problem meaningless on Super User?

Putting your example aside, in general these titles containing problem are meaningless:

  • Can you solve my problem with my computer?

  • Why does my browser have a problem with visiting Stack Exchange?

  • Please help me with my slow computer problem?

Also note that I have a problem... is a quite commonly used forum title suffix.

Think of MLK saying "I have a dream...". Then question yourself "What dream? How can I help?"

As Jeff Atwood has shown me once; please don't make me read unnecessary text. Thanks.

Where there legitimate uses of "Problem" on Super User in the past?

Check out this search query and this search query. How good I am trying to look there, I don't see any legitimate uses of Problem there. Please note that Reputation, even in the 1st query, doesn't matter.

Here is a solution based on a "low quality" suggestion:

The proper solution is to add a hidden hasBeenFiltered field to the Ask Question page that gets enabled when a filtered word has been tried; which automatically gets the word on the low quality page, that tells on the low quality page what filter triggered. We keep the filter and perhaps add issue. That way, we don't have to edit problem or issue out ourselves in the case of better titles.

This way, it still gets filtered and we get to review them to handle the bad cases.

While Stack Overflow and Math.SE don't have this filter in place, this filter is a necessity on other SE sites as they don't have programming or mathematical problems. I doubt if Programmers.SE is an exception...

  • 2
    I'm sorry for not reading your whole answer, but what I read felt like it didn't relate to the problem I made aware in my question. The term "problem" is not used to refer to an actual problem the user has. It is used to refer to the name of an application. If I should have read your answer completely to avoid this confusion, I apologize in advance. Feb 10, 2012 at 0:11
  • @OliverSalzburg: You can use problem-step-recorder as a tag instead of putting it in the title. There are barely any popular applications that have problem in their name, and I would really disadvice having the full Problem Step Recorder in the title as that doesn't make up a good question. Feb 10, 2012 at 0:13
  • FYI, my answer intents to generally target any use of the problem word in a title. It's a copy from my deleted answer on the meta question Daniel linked, which I now undeleted. It was quite obvious that it would be down voted... Feb 10, 2012 at 0:17
  • I'm absolutely okay with the "automatic filter" solution, since it at least allows to find bad content, the real reason being a logical flaw of "eliminating" bad titles by just blacklisting words, which means that people will start to use other bad titles you can not track. But I've been over this too many times before and won't start discussing again. Also removed my answer below – I understand that it's not constructive to work around the system.
    – slhck
    Feb 10, 2012 at 4:59
  • Just to be clear though: I think we all understand why those "Problem" titles are bad. I really dislike them, just as much as I don't think "issue" is any better. The "problem" starts when you want to look for help with, let's say "Problem Steps Recorder". It's even the name of the software! Or an "Issue Tracker". These things are just called like this. Or the "Halting Problem" with fifteen very good questions on the subject.
    – slhck
    Feb 10, 2012 at 5:19
  • @slhck: Please note that the word "problem" can occur in a tag and in the post itself so it doesn't make it really much harder to search for those questions. Some sites don't have the filter in place because of the problem word being part of a very large subset of the topics on the site, I'm not completely sure which but have said something (I think in comments) on that on the original Meta.SO question. But for many other sites "problem" in the title doesn't really make sense as under the purpose of the original filter. Feb 10, 2012 at 12:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .