On titles

There has been an interesting discussion on micro.blog about handling post titles in WordPress to play nicely with the service.

Micro.blog treats posts with titles as long form and displays the title as a link back to the original piece (even if under 280 characters) - the idea is that microposts (like tweets) do not have titles.

I've previously mentioned three ways to handle them:

  • remove the contents of the item title element in the RSS feed
  • replace the title with the date so that micro.blog ignores it
  • use a custom RSS template that omits the item title element altogether

I originally came up with the idea of replacing empty post titles for microposts because I got fed up with lists of items marked '(no title)' in /wp-admin - it made if difficult to manage.

I also use a custom RSS template so could actually give microposts titles if I wanted and it wouldn't impact anything. Bruce likes to do just that.

But, beyond the technical aspects there are questions about style and convention.

As my approach to blogging has evolved I have put titles on ever fewer posts. With a daily chronological stream titles seem to interrupt the flow. I also think you can limit yourself with titles as they can influence your writing and pull posts in directions you don't intend.

They are still preferable and necessary in certain situations, however.

Manton wrote:

"I do think long posts should have titles. It makes it easier to read in a timeline view."

He's got a point which is why I've gradually adjusted my view to (hopefully) better differentiate between posts: improved spacing, making the permalink hash bold, etc.

With the chronological view, my blog goes against convention anyway. His comment is, however, a handy reminder that the user experience must always be considered.

On titles