Option-level descriptions: sunset time?

This has been one of those see-saw topics for a while, but I think with stats we’re getting close to where option descriptions should start to be phased out. The only other thing that I ever see there is marketing copy.

Stats are still back-end only, but really, if there’s something we haven’t gotten to from the moderator panel it’s no more wrong to list it as a pro/con than add it to the option description. There are probably tons of old options with info in their descriptions that should be preserved until we can convert it to stats, but that doesn’t mean we still need the ability to add descriptions on the front end! (Assuming we can remove them from the back. I haven’t checked. But that’s a small problem.)

With a lot of questions, I end up writing similar descriptions for each option. I think it would make sense to remove descriptions from options and add them to a question as a whole. The description can talk about the significance of the question, important things to consider when comparing options, or anything else that should be noted by users.

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I like this as I often feel the same way that most descriptions for options in a question are repetitive. I could even see it being partially used for notification on what does not belong in the question. I keep seeing Linux window managers posted in a Linux desktop environment question [which I have to notify the user of it not belonging and then wait for a response for deletion(PMs will really help here)]. If there was a question wide description I could put at the end that window managers do not belong in that question as well as link to the appropriate question where window managers do belong, and vice versa.

I’ve brought the question-level description idea up a few times, most recently with Stuart just a couple of days ago. In particular, I think it would be a great place to put default assumptions about the category. The context it came up in was fitness trackers – something like five out of fifteen of the options on that list had “tracks sleep cycles” listed as a pro, but the fact is that all but two of them had that feature, and one of the ones that didn’t wasn’t something you could really wear at night anyway.

This indicates that sleep tracking is a core feature of fitness trackers; listing it as a pro is redundant noise getting in the way of more useful info, and lacking it is a con. I’ve applied that standard to the existing list, but we currently have no way to communicate it for users making future additions.

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Ok. So I’ve long been for removing the option descriptions. There is however a use-case for them not handled by specs.

“Best Android game for playing on the toilet?”

Option 1 Des - Is a FPS

Option 2 Des - is a endless scroller

etc. Basically when the question doesn’t provide 100% of the context of what the options ARE, you need option descriptions. On the summary page, the only context the user would see for a particular game would be the first pro. “Great replayability” is so out of context not knowing if it’s a RPG or a action game.

Although after typing this, I guess that could be a spec “game type”…

That would probably be the best way to do it too as being a FPS is not really a pro in the first place but more just a detail.

I think the option descriptions should stay. And I think they should double as summaries.

Intros are important. There’s a reason they’re ubiquitous. News stories, Wikipedia articles, good presentations, etc all have them. They tell you what to expect and if spending time on reading further is worth it.

And it should make the site more valuable to those that don’t wish to even skim the pros and cons.

I don’t think the option descriptions should be removed because the quality of them is poor currently (repetitiveness among options, marketing copies). If we agree that, if done right, they add value, we should focus on setting a good example, educating contributors, and making the purpose clear in any other way possible.

IMO, option descriptions, if done right, make reading the content more comfortable.

As for question level descriptions. Don’t really see a need for them.

There are rare cases that a question needs further explaining. Like the linux wm/env thing. But I think it should be a notification set by a mod not a description set by a user. The same notification system could be used for deprecated topics, astroturfing warnings, etc.